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Works and Days

President 40/60

September 27th, 2010 - 8:14 am

5. Obama has been lucky but it won’t last. You say, “No, wait a minute! After all he inherited two wars and a near depression!” Not quite. His bad war he campaigned against is essentially over in Iraq, and was by the time he entered office. The good war he wanted at in Afghanistan heated up when we turned our proverbial eye to it, largely because the president made it clear he did not wish to meet Stanley McChrystal for months, imposed artificial deadlines of withdrawal, and divided up responsibility between a feuding Gen. McChrystal, Amb. Eikenberry, and Richard Holbrook who apparently hated each other as much as they did the enemy.

The financial panic of September 15 was largely calm at the end of 120 days, and before Obama took office. The recession officially ended in June 2009. What then happened is that we took a deep downturn and turned it into something akin to European stasis by borrowing trillions more dollars and investing in redistributive schemes that destroyed incentives while terrifying entrepreneurs. In other words, had Obama done nothing, we would have been far better off as the natural cycles of recovery kicked in. But threaten business with higher taxes, more regulations, new health care mandates, energy surcharges, all the while conducting a psychological campaign against the morality of private enterprise, and you get the present push-back as banks, corporations, small businesses, and investors sit on trillions in cash, neither hiring nor spending until this Brussels bureaucrat leaves.

The point? The usual narrative that Obama is a victim of circumstance is unfortunately not true. Aside from the fact that all presidents make their own destinies (Reagan’s inheritance from Carter was not good; nor were FDR’s, Truman’s, Eisenhower’s, Nixon’s, or Bush’s), Obama has had it about as bad or good as had others who entered the presidency. A recession and 9/11 were not easy in 2001. And 18% interest, 18% inflation, 7% unemployment, and gas lines by 1981 greeted Reagan. Truman took over with a war, a supposed friend Stalin turned enemy, allies soon to be enemies in Russia and China, and enemies in Japan and Germany soon to be rebuilt and rehabilitated — amid a wrecked Asia and Europe, a groundswell of communism, a climate of panic at home, and a soon to be nuclear Soviet Union under the genocidal murdering Stalin, capped off soon by a war in Korea.

What’s ahead? I am afraid a reckoning in world tensions: China-Japan, North-South Korea, Iran and its neighbors, another Mideast war, Russian expansionism, a crack-up in the EU — to be fair, not just because of Obama, but in part accelerated by the sense that Obama either does not care or tends to be more sympathetic to those who voice grievances such as his own against the U.S. than to our allies who traditionally give us the benefit of the doubt. There will be a lot of jostling as nations seek to make readjustments in the new climate of anything goes.

One-eyed Jack?

So, yes, Obama really can hit 40%. To preclude that I predict the most vicious midterm election in memory and some sort of October surprise abroad. Both will fail to arrest the decline.

The one-eyed Jack has been flipped over.

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