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Works and Days

Obama—Making it up as we go along.

January 9th, 2011 - 2:40 pm

Being There

Gone is Bush the great Constitution-shredder. Tribunals, renditions, Predators, wiretaps, Iraq, Guantanamo, preventative detention—these are now either embraced or expanded. Iraq (“the surge is not working”) is Obama’s “greatest achievement.” The public I think believes Obama demagogued all those protocols for political advantage, then as commander-in-chief looked at the intelligence, and quietly adopted them all. OK, politicians do that. But how can one “virtually” oppose all that he embraces? Does he just make things up as he goes along, assuming we all have collective amnesia?

The Candidate

The same thing has happened to Keynesian economics that gave us near 10% unemployment and $3 trillion more in debt, taking a bottoming-out recession and turning it into near European-like stasis. Suddenly, the Bush tax rates are critical. There is talk of budget cutting. Red states, not blue states, are proper fiscal models—for liberals as well as for conservatives. Do we believe that a Gov. Paterson had more answers than a Gov. Christie? Government apparently cannot create jobs by printing money. Christina Romer, Larry Summers, and Peter Orszag are gone back to either academia or the big money on Wall Street. Was early 2009 all a dream? Is all this what we call “moving on”?

Elmer Gantry

Ditto what happened to Obama the healer. Was that too just a convenient façade that was to come and go—and come?

Are we no longer all purple state friends, but to be at each other’s throats—and quite literally? Thus the great healer Obama just warned of impending “hand-to-hand combat” if the Republicans take over. He once declared of Sean Hannity that one of his supporters would “tear him up.” He thought he was a Chicagoan Sean Connery in the The Untouchables boasting that “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” He advised Latinos “to punish” their Republican “enemies.” Not long ago candidate Obama pontificated that his supporters just had to confront Republicans and Independents and “get in their face.”  We remember his “whose ass to kick” or his relegation of Republican opponents to “hostage takers” and suicide bombers: “Here’s the problem: It’s almost like they’ve got—they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up.”

Obama clearly likes the tough guy imagery of metaphorically slicing, shooting and bombing: “We can’t have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” So are we back to the Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Bill Daley Chicago style? What happened to our new president as Deepak Chopra?

Cyrus Vance redux?

I know Obama has a liberal agenda, but more recently he seems to have no agenda, as he flits about, trying this and trying that, in the manner of a forty-something academic who found out his faculty utopianism does not quite work outside the quad. Is Putin now “on our side” or snickering at our naïveté? Should we try a fifth threat to Iran to stop proliferation by a particular date or else? Are we bullying or not bullying or sort of semi-bullying Israel? Did that outreach to Syria and Venezuela bring dividends yet? Do national security bureaucrats really employ “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters”—do their foreign counterparts laugh when they receive such memos? Do our anti-terrorism experts really refer to Guantanamo thugs as “detainees” and forbid the use of “jihadist” in discussion of radical Islamic terrorism? Is that still operative?

“Energy Independence”

When gas hits $4 a gallon, will we still stop new offshore exploration, table oil and gas leases in the west for more Van Jones “wind and solar and millions of green jobs” and inflating our tires to avoid the need for new oil drilling rigs? Or is that too all inoperative? Suddenly will Obama claim he was always for nuclear, gas, oil, shale, coal—any and all energy to get gas and power prices back down to tolerable levels?

Let me be perfectly clear and make no mistake about it!

Obama reminds me of a lot of graduate school professors who had no syllabi and no plan of instruction. Instead they would wing it, and lecture, sermonize, and remonstrate until about week six into the semester when the students started to rebel, wondering whether there were any real reading assignments, any tests, any papers, any rationale to grading—as they waited for an intervention from a senior colleague to inform us that our professor really did have a course plan somewhere, really did know what he was doing.

I also saw an Obama sort once in farming. To up his production on his weak vineyard, sometimes he used manure, sometimes calcium nitrate, sometime winter rye grass. In each manifestation, he swore that he alone was onto the proper way to fix nitrogen to the vines in his particular sort of soil—no other formula would do except the one he was trying at the time (and he tried a lot of times).

Pruning was the same. In a four-year period I was told that the secret to good harvests was leaving 4, then 5, then 6 and finally 8 canes. Irrigation was similar: he lectured as time went on that a Thompson vine needed water every week, every two weeks, every three weeks, every month—and had to have all water cut off before raisin harvest at least by July 4th, July 15th, or August 1st. One O-mite spray was all one needed. No, two were essential. Yes, in fact three gave complete protection—no matter that his vineyard seemed to burn up with red-spider mites each July.

Come harvest only natural paper trays worked, only rain-resistant, only new fast-dry waxed ones. No concession was made either to the ideas of other farmers, or even to his own prior ones that apparently had failed to achieve his loudly proclaimed prognostications. There was no failure; each failed strategy was the logical and requisite precursor leading to the final successful protocol—endlessly so.

The wonder was not that he needed to experiment in remedying such a poorly producing vineyard, but that with each new therapy he sounded as self-assured as during his last incarnation. He never worried about hypocrisy or inconsistency, much less was he humble enough to suggest that his own lack of experience and knowledge might account for his inability to fathom the mysteries and complexities of grape production. Indeed, there was never any self-doubt or even self-reflection; that was the stuff of his listeners, never his own. I add here he looked fit and trim, with nice belt buckles, clean cap, polished boots, and an immaculate truck. Surely one who presented so in control, who spoke so assuredly, could not be so inept?

I was 30 when I finally was done with him. I remember now that I had wasted a lot of time listening to his mellifluous lectures and constant chiding. A crusty ditch tender, old Harold at 80, finally cleared my silly head and the spell ended with, “Oh, him? He just likes hearing himself talk, talk, talk to you fools since he knows everything—and nothing—about growing grapes. He’d been better off had he just housed himself up—and not as broke either had he just let his vines grow on their own.”

Ditto that for Obama and running this country.

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