Belmont Club

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Greece IS Mulling Euro Exit…
Eurozone nations told to prep for Greek departure…
Germany rules out common euro bonds…
In Europe, Time for Plan B, Only There’s No Plan, and No Time…
Markets slump ahead of key EU summit…
Bundesbank says Greek euro exit would be ‘manageable’

“Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?” The WSJ writes, “something concrete finally came out of a eurocrat summit. The Germans said no.” And no means nein.

There have been two main responses to the crisis: austerity, and kicking cans down roads. Austerity, in case you haven’t noticed, is so last year. It’s out. Which means that unless something else is found, some other comprehensive plan, the other main response, can kicking, is going to run out of road.

Just about everybody backed the idea of eurobonds, except for the Germans, and since they’re the ones with all the money, they’re kind of the only ones whose vote counts anyway. So, it’s time to go to plan B. Only there’s no Plan B, and there’s no time, either.

Maybe a new approach will be found and the whole enterprise will draw back from the brink. It is equally likely that “there’s no plan.” This is how catastrophes happen. The Titanic was unsinkable. No lifeboats were necessary. Everything was too big to fail. Hence the words “Nearer my God, to Thee” once again found utterance.

In comments in the previous thread I wrote that nobody can quite believe it when they’ve reached the end of the road. After the President’s political support began to collapse the question should have been, what’s the Plan B? Not for the President, but for everybody. Or is that a question so long unasked that Washington has stopped thinking it?

The next month will be extraordinarily critical. Both Romney and Obama still act as if they were in control, that this campaign will be with variations, just another campaign. But I think the discontinuity that has apparently hit Obama is a real one. Things are changing in ways that both defy his paradigm and outpace his ability to react. The mistake would be to imagine that the discontinuity will only affect Obama.

To me the real question is: what institution or leaders will take the initiative if a number of really challenging crises arrive simultaneously. As one commenter said, a solution to a shipboard emergency predicated on the existence of the ship doesn’t work when the ship itself is imperiled. The question reduces to what is capable of thinking outside the box if the box itself is taped shut?

The biggest weakness of the Obama political position is that it has abandoned the center in favor of the margins. His divide and conquer strategy required it. Yet in so doing he abandoned the center which in a crisis is the high ground. It’s where you can act with broad tacit support. The really scary thing about a crisis is that it will require reversing the plotted course to create two or more or multiple nations. The Big Tent goes down in a high wind.

People are atavistic in a crisis. They want a Winston Churchill not a crank; they will run to the plaza when they are afraid. They won’t flee to nightclubs with dim lights. The center is where people go in a storm. In the event of a really rapid series of changes — a collapse in his support, the implosion of the banking system, a major terrorist incident — the President is in a poor position to govern. In fact he’s done precious little governance.

Oh yes he has the Constitutional power, but he’s relied for so long on the Narrative that he’s undermined the principal source of his own power to do something at a time when he may need it most. The attachment to country, the binding force of the American identity, a faith in the future. All these outdated biases are the very things which he has done the most to destroy and yet will need the most.

In a crisis you will follow who you trust, not the Narrative. And I think the Narrative is about to die or take sick. Power based upon the Narrative — the bullyboy pulpit of the media — is going to vanish in the face of any crisis which discredits it. So, as one cannot count on the ship when it hits the iceberg, so too should one be wary of relying on the Narrative when the Narrative shows signs of failing.

Therefore the significance of the President’s bad week is not fully reflected in the polls. The polls only answer the conventional question. They do not answer the questions which have yet to be asked. And the question, I think is what happens when you have nothing left but the memory of who you are? When Chris Matthews and the New York Times are in Deck D underwater?

But lest anyone break out the champagne, it is well to remember that in a crisis a divided nation is weak; the ideal situation is one where both a President and challenger are near enough to the center to draw together their ends of the tails. When you make a country bimodal to gain power there’s a price to be paid. Ambition is paid for in national survivability.

We talk about preparing for a discontinuity by buying food, fuel and supplies. But the greatest preparation is anticipatory networking among the nation’s leadership cadre. If the leaders can’t think ahead then all is lost. And in that respect, both sides are still not getting it. Nobody is really thinking ahead. Everyone still believes the Titanic is unsinkable. I hope it is, but as the EU is showing everyone, nothing is guaranteed any more, and not because of the Tea Party. The world is changing and the weathers are strange.

Nothing is too big to fail.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll.

And She's Buying a Stairway To Heaven

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