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Works and Days

The Imaginarium of Barack Obama

November 16th, 2011 - 8:44 am

The presidency of Barack Obama is full of funny things that need not follow any sort of logic. Images and ideas just pop in and out, without worry of inconsistency, contradiction, or hypocrisy. It’s a fascinating mish-mash of strange heroes and bogeymen, this imaginarium of our president.

In the imaginarium there are no revolving doors, earmarks, or lobbyists. So Peter Orszag did not go from being OMB director to a Citigroup fat-cat. Once chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel did not make $16 million for his well-known banking expertise. The more you damn the pernicious role of lobbyists and the polluting role of big money, the more you must hire and seek out both. Public financing of campaigns is wonderful for everyone else who lacks the integrity of Barack Obama who understandably must renounce such unfair impositions.

Those who now vote against raising the large Obama debt ceiling are political hucksters and opportunists; those who not long ago voted against raising the smaller Bush debt ceiling were principled statesmen. “Unpatriotic” presidents borrow $4 trillion in eight years; patriotic ones we’ve been waiting for can trump that in three.

Catching known terrorists and putting them in Guantanamo is very bad; killing suspected ones by drone assassinations — and anyone unlucky enough to be in their general vicinity — is exceptionally good. Tribunals, renditions, preventative detention, and all that were bad ideas under Bush-Cheney, but could become good ideas under Barack Obama, the law professor who often sees no need to follow the law when an immigration or marriage statute is deemed regressive.

A million Iranians protesting a soon-to-be-nuclear theocracy is false revolutionary consciousness and to be left alone; a few thousand Israelis wanting to buy apartments in the Jerusalem suburbs is subversive and worthy of presidential condemnation. And when atoning for supposed American lapses, what better place to begin apologizing than in Turkey, the incubator of the Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish mass killings? We need to deny history to make the case that America is not exceptional, and to invent it to persuade us that the Muslim world is extraordinary.

Twenty-four months of a Democratic Congress, and over $4 trillion in spending, resulted in 9.1% unemployment and near nonexistent growth. Yet the culprit for the current situation is ten months of a Republican-controlled House that has yet to approve another $500 billion of borrowing. In the imaginarium, just a little more of the massive amount that has failed will not fail. But if the Republicans are to be blamed for not wanting to waste the last half-trillion, are the Democrats to be praised for borrowing the first wasted $4 trillion?

In the imaginarium, all sorts of demons and devils can unite to derail the brilliance of Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan. ATMs have for the first time after 2009 begun to eliminate jobs. But then so did the Japanese tsunami and the EU meltdown. The DC earthquake did its part, but then so did climbing oil prices and the Arab Spring. Of course, the ghost of George Bush floats over all the present mess. Economic gurus like Austan Goolsbee, Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, and Larry Summers used to write brilliant essays of what would work if they were to be in charge, and now write brilliant essays about why it did not work when they were in charge.

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