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Works and Days

More on the New Horizon

February 10th, 2009 - 10:05 am

Such a Strange Malady

A strange thing, this Obama worship (cf. the New York Times op-ed on Sunday where the columnist imagined having sexual relations with Obama) and Bush hatred (cf. the Will Farrell Broadway show trashing Bush, and showing images of his purported penis). They are flipside manifestations of the same sickness that has taken hold of a large subset of the population. Millions seems to think by demonizing A and worshipping B, then once intractable problems (that transcend both A’s faults and B’s merits) suddenly, magically will disappear. But the apocalyptic style is quite dangerous, and the 20th century should have told us that answers are not found through fixating evil on “them” and seeking a “He” to address it. In the meantime, civility is prized, and one should criticize Obama in a spirit and tone that are the exact opposites of the way in which Bush was demonized.

That said, stranger, read on:

Change You Can Imagine

Americans know that Obama announced his candidacy on certain principles and positions on the issues that are now, well, “problematic”— 1) campaign financing reform, 2) coal burning, 3) nuclear power, 4) off-shore drilling, 4) NAFTA, 5) hand-gun control, 6) capital punishment, 7) the surge, 8) withdrawal from Iraq, 9) FISA, 10) the Patriot Act, 11) renditions, 12) talking with Iran, 13) Jerusalem, 14) lobbyists and ethics and on and on. Most are silent about this metamorphosis, since the change from his initial positions was in many cases for the good. I agree that the newer Obama is far more realistic than the 2006-7 version. Some welcomed common sense I guess trumps the charge of hypocrisy.

Three observations about such flexibility:

a) Yes, all primary candidates shift positions in the general elections and then often shift back in the first year or two of office (until they get burned and need to return to triangulation). So even Obama’s breath-taking flip-flop-flips have some historical precedents. (Still, I do not understand why Obama didn’t Morris-like triangulate against the Congressional Democrats and the Republicans—something like “x gave you this mess, and y wants the same old, same old pork rather than my z-way out.”)

b) That said, I think a number of Americans are not quite sure what the current Obama position is on tax cuts, the future of publicly financed Presidential elections, rendition, ethics in government—or really on anything. Everything, in contrast, seems in play on any given day. Any position can be hoped and changed with soaring cadences, so the question is what position will fit today, but perhaps not tomorrow?

c) That said again, I think from the first three weeks in office, and the rhetoric of the base, and a few solid facts, we can assume there are about five areas in which Obama really will break from the past, and these issues will prove contentious in the next year or so. Here are examples.

1. Big Brother. In the past eight years there was great acrimony about “shredding the Constitution”. Some of us did not think the Patriot Act, FISA, renditions, or Guantanamo had, by historical measures during the exigencies of war, damaged the civil liberties of Americans, but in toto had made it much more difficult for radical Islamists to repeat 9/11.

Many disagreed. But recently Obama has mentioned a number of things that suggest the government or private concerns might in other areas be quite intrusive—and they will be so without the watchdog Left that was once keen to any perceived intrusion of Mr. Bush’s administration: A) We hear that the President wants “eyes and ears” to monitor the stimulus bill, as in reporting those to a website who supposedly stray from proper conduct (do we really want a nationally-sanctioned, electronic vigilante group reporting to the White House each time a nebulous “they” purportedly takes away their “fair share” of government “stimulus” hand-outs?);

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