Belmont Club

The Natives Are Restless

Tom Friedman reporting from Davos says the “elite” gathered at this august forum are worried about “political instability” in the United States.

“Political instability” was a phrase normally reserved for countries like Russia or Iran or Honduras. But now, an American businessman here remarked to me, “people ask me about ‘political instability’ in the U.S. We’ve become unpredictable to the world.”

The source of this worry appears to be the reluctance of the American voter to follow the leader. Friedman writes “You can understand why foreigners are uneasy. They look at America and see a president elected by a solid majority, coming into office riding a wave of optimism, controlling both the House and the Senate. Yet, a year later, he can’t win passage of his top legislative priority: health care.” What they would prefer to see, in Friedman’s words is a ‘Confucian-Communist-Capitalist’ consensus.

under the umbrella of a one-party state, with a lot of government guidance, strictly controlled capital markets and an authoritarian decision-making process that is capable of making tough choices and long-term investments, without having to heed daily public polls.

Not that Friedman is necessarily buying it. But he does get the sense that less than a dozen Republican senators stand between the nation and a negotiated consensus that will allow America to go forward. And he’s not alone in wanting to see Obama lead Washington out of the wilderness to the new promised land of Hope and Change. Frank Rich at the NYT says John McCain is unpatriotic for refusing to hold out his hand to the President. Rich writes: “How satisfying it was to watch him [Obama] provoke Alito into a “You lie!” snit.”

One year into Obama’s term we still don’t know whether he has what it takes to get American governance functioning again. … John McCain epitomizes the unpatriotic opposition … Perhaps McCain was sneering at Obama because of the Beltway’s newest unquestioned cliché: one year after a new president takes office he is required to stop blaming his predecessor for the calamities left behind. Who dreamed up that canard — Alito? F.D.R. never followed it.

Tell ’em Frank, tell ’em. And while you’re at it, bring ’em back alive! Anna Quindlen of Newsweek exhorts her leaders to “Follow the Leader”.

The Democrats are in danger of learning the wrong lessons from their Massachusetts defeat. After all, they seem to have learned the wrong lessons from their electoral triumph just a little more than a year ago. They are the majority, and they should act like it—boldly, decisively. Let the Republicans filibuster, and be confident that the sight would irritate, then enrage, most of the American people. …

A very smart man once said, “Telling the American people what we think they want to hear instead of telling the American people what they need to hear just won’t do.” That man was Barack Obama, and that attitude is one reason he got elected. He should stick to that position, and the American people should embrace it.

Too bad they all haven’t embraced it. And that’s called ‘political instability’ in Davos.

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