Belmont Club

From One to Forty Four

Tigerhawk wonders whether Barack Obama’s declining political fortunes have any connection to the spate of investigations launched against Bush-era officials. “Call me a cynic, but I am not in the least surprised that a couple of weeks after Barack Obama’s strong approval/disapproval ratings took a turn to the unfavorable and Obamacare is looking less like a lead pipe cinch it is suddenly time to investigate the Bush administration.”

I think that as the political impetus which drove Obama into power abates,  it will become evident how many really unsavory operations have hitched a ride on the running board of Hope and Change Express. They have been ignored until now, but they won’t be for much longer.  For example, those following in Waxman-Markey might start asking questions about Science “Czar” John Holdren, who has apparently said many strange things about population control and global warming. Front Page called him, “Obama’s Biggest Radical”, and the toned down Wikipedia entry features such quotes maintaining that fixing the planet requires “partial surrender of sovereignty to an international organization … if this could be accomplished, security might be provided by an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force.”

As jobless numbers rise, Obama’s economic policy may also come under further scrutiny. In spite of all the rhetoric about fixing the crisis,  it may be embarassing to find what Michael Lewis, writing in Vanity Fair is amazed about: the lack of official interest in discovering what really caused the financial meltdown. It is as if financial forensics were unimportant because the answers to the problem — whatever the problem turns out to be — are already known. Lewis writes:

Here is an amazing fact: nearly a year after perhaps the most sensational corporate collapse in the history of finance, a collapse that, without the intervention of the government, would have led to the bankruptcy of every major American financial institution, plus a lot of foreign ones, too, A.I.G.’s losses and the trades that led to them still haven’t been properly explained. How did they happen? Unlike, say, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, they don’t seem to have been raw theft. They may have been an outrageous departure from financial norms, but, if so, why hasn’t anyone in the place been charged with a crime? How did an insurance company become so entangled in the sophisticated end of Wall Street and wind up the fool at the poker table? How could the U.S. government simply hand over $54 billion in taxpayer dollars to Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch and all the rest to make good on the subprime insurance A.I.G. F.P. had sold to them—especially after Goldman Sachs was coming out and saying that it had hedged itself by betting against A.I.G.? Since I had him on the phone I asked Jake DeSantis for what Congressman Grayson had asked Edward Liddy: names. He obligingly introduced me to his colleagues in London and Connecticut, and they walked me through what had happened—all of them speaking to someone from the outside for the first time. All, for obvious reasons, were terrified of seeing their names in print, and asked not to be mentioned by name. That was fine by me, as their names are not what’s interesting. What’s interesting is their point of view on the event closest to the center of the financial crisis. For while they disagreed on this and that, they all were fairly certain that if it hadn’t been for A.I.G. F.P. the subprime-mortgage machine might never have been built, and the financial crisis might never have happened.

And I’ve been hearing from private sources that there is considerable unhappiness over the release of five Qods agents to Iran and that not everyone is convinced the Obama administration had nothing to do with it.  Obama’s Grand Bargain is a black box. One day the public may even get to peek at what’s inside and who can say what their reaction will be. The dilemma facing the administration’s political strategists is that once the administration begins to lose political momentum, a hundred niggling points will suddenly start to catch on the previous Teflon-coated surface with all the tenacity of velcro, which they can’t let happen. On the other hand, how can they speed up to conceal the blemishes unless the critics can be silenced or at least misdirected? Unable to slow down to the point where the details become visible and yet unable to fob off questions any longer the administration becomes like a man pursued who dares not ease off on the accelerator while his vehicle is being buffeted to pieces by potholes he can’t avoid because of the speed he traveling at. Slow and you’re doomed; speed up and maybe you’re doomed as well.

None of these problems are unanswereable if Obama decides to address them, as his predecessors did, point by point, detail by detail. But it will mean a reversion to a style of governance that has so far been relegated to the past. Yet can it be avoided for much longer in the face of growing skepticism? Once the Messiah is required, like everyone else, to submit his expense claims then he stops being the Messiah and simply becomes the President.  The problem is whether Barack Obama can survive a demotion from the being the One to just being the plain old 44th President of the United States.


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