A Very Interesting Next Three Years
Up is Now Down, Down Up
If one were to collate the public statements and actions of many in the Obama administration, one would conclude that the most conciliatory past language masks the most divisive, polarizing administration in recent history -- a fact born out by most polls. Surely this is one of the most radical turnabouts in memory: in a mere ten months the mellifluous voice has become a siren that charms and hypnotizes the voters as they are lured onto the partisan shoals.
There is a strange fascination with strongmen of history, particularly mass murderers and mass enslavers like Mao and Julius Caesar. That may explain the effort to deify Obama in such Olympian terms — the “speech” at the Prussian triumphalist Victory Column in Berlin, the faux classical temple backdrops at the convention, the Latin motto vero possumus, this is our moment when the seas recede and the planet shall cool, or the appellation by journalists and rock stars (Sting is the latest) that Obama is some sort of “god.”
Good or bad and nothing in between
The Obama world appears divided in Manichean terms, between good and evil, the anointed and the reactionary Neanderthals. The evil doers include doctors who cut out tonsils only for profit, greedy insurance companies that jack up health care costs, the heartless Chamber of Commerce, the Mob/astro-turf/nazi-like town-hallers and tea-partiers, the “stupidly” stereotyping police, the “do what they’re told” and “asshole” Republicans, and the fake news outlets like Fox News and the demonic Rush Limbaugh. Let us put their pictures on the screen and scream out two-minutes of hate at these illiberal enemies of the people for their harming millions without health care.
On the other side is the saintly White House advisor Valerie Jarrett who “speaks truth to power,” the now martyred real truther Van Jones, the framed ACORN, the legions of purple-T-shirted SEIU unionizers (as I said, they even wear these to work in California, as I can attest from a recent visit to the DMV where there was a sea of purple on the other side of the windows), and the sober and judicious like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who suffer so much for the oppressed
There is an Animal Farm taste to this administration: on the barn wall there are plenty of “thou shall not” rules -- Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, wiretaps, intercepts, Predators, Patriot Act -- that are crossed through and now rewritten as “thou shall sometimes.”… Taxes are good for us, but bad for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee or the Secretary of the Treasury. Campaign financing laws, C-Span-aired health-care debates, and no-lobbyist rules are essential for the republic -- sorta, kinda, maybe .
FDR did it!
The more the talk of togetherness, hope and change, and healing, the more the daggers come out: it has been ten months and still Bush is blamed daily by the President for all his assorted ills. Imagine had a Harry Truman every day lamented, “Damn that FDR—he left me with WWII, the bomb decision, a traitorous Stalin, a Europe to be rebuilt, a Korean powder keg, a worldwide communist ascendancy, Greece and Turkey about lost, and colossal debts — and I’ve got to hit the reset button on him every day.”
What is there about dissent that drives the Obamians crazy? He goes after Fox. He whines about Rush Limbaugh. The town hallers are the mob. He provides Sean Hannity with his pre-show sound bites. His team ponders handing out NEA grants on the basis of being a toady. School girls sing his praises. What is next? Green "yes, we can" scarves and tiny little Audacity of Hope books to wave at rallies?
We’ve only just begun
Remember, all these are just the preliminaries. The Bush tax cuts have not yet expired, but will soon. Inheritance taxes will soon skyrocket. The promised end to the FICA caps on the “wealthy” is coming — along with surcharges on energy and health care. For some, that could easily mean a combined 20% hike in FICA and income taxes, tacked onto state tax hikes, not to mention more property, sales, and local taxes. Given that Obama got 56% of the vote of those who make over $200,000 it should, well, be interesting. (e.g., “Surely, Buffy, Barack didn’t mean us, did he?) Then there is the 2,000 page health care bill that your family doctor will have to sort out.
Which thug abroad will first draw the sword?
In about 18 months, the tab also comes due on the apologies and “reset” button lectures. That’s when an Ahmadinejad, Assad, Chavez, or Putin decides to see what might happen should anyone seek some readjustments in the regional order. If China sends missiles over Taiwan, if North Korea does the same over South Korea, if India says “enough is enough” and decides to unload on Pakistan (or along the Chinese disputed border), if Putin moves on Georgia or the Ukraine, if Iran boasts it just got the bomb, if some Islamists, trained in Waziristan, take out a few hundred at a U.S. mall, if Chavez carves out a little of Colombia, if Turkey readjusts the Cyprus borders, or does a little more overflying in the Aegean, what would the laureate Obama do? UN resolutions? Lectures? NATO is outdated anyway shrugs? Bush did it? Apologies on spec?
Free the Guantanamo 200 something…
After more releases, we soon expect about 200 left for the widely publicized trials of Guantanamo killers. Imagine: change of venue requests to Madison or Cambridge. Demands that juries have at least one or two Muslims for “diversity.” How many pro-bono ACLU, on the make radical lawyers can we expect each night lecturing to the cameras about all those evil CIA interrogators? Are we going to hear soldiers cross-examined about the conditions under which the poor detainees were originally apprehended: “Do you mean to say, major, that you did not read Mohamed Jabar his Miranda rights in the Hindu Kush?” “Am I to understand, colonel, that there is no video tape of your battlefield interrogation outside Kabul?” “Did I hear you correctly, private, that you shoved Mr. Sadr at Bagram, and made derogatory remarks about Arabs?” So it should be an interesting OJ-trial-like couple of years.
Secretary of What?
I’ve been following Hillary’s disastrous Pakistan trip: she seems nearly incoherent -- sermonizing to the Pakistanis to do this or that, bragging that we Americans tax anything that moves and so should Pakistan, always blaming George Bush for all her challenges. (Her “Bush did it” spin is different from Obama’s: he blames Bush for leaving him hard decisions instead of vote-present easy ones; she does too, but adds that “her husband” had once upon a time done it right -- nothing about the damage from Monica, the pardons, and the serial appeasement of the embassy bombings, the first World Trade Center attack, the USS Cole, etc. -- but Bush then undermined their legacy.)
If Hillary were Sarah
What if you took everything Yale Law School Hillary has said abroad the last week and put it into the mouth of Idaho BA Sarah Palin?
The press would have gone ballistic about her ignorance of the Middle East, her sermonizing, her scapegoating, her factual errors, etc. (What is it about Palin that drives the elite, especially elite women, crazy? Great looks? That Middle-America accent? The 5 kids and he-man husband? The lack of a powerful father or spouse who could jump-start her “feminist” career with money, contacts, and influence? That Idaho BA? The wink? The charisma and, indeed, sensuality so lacking in her angry critics?)
An incredible shrinking Secretary of State
I used to think Obama, in brilliant fashion, had miniaturized Hillary—Bill as spouse of the Secretary of State now can’t get his mega-lecture fees from foreign dictators, Hillary is surrounded by regional czars in all the action places and has little avenue to show executive gravitas or exercise power, Obama’s primary rival is shackled in his administration jail rather than intriguing in the Senate as his polls dip below 50%.
But now? I think Obama instead thinks, “My God, she is more inexperienced than I am, and can’t be turned lose without some disaster ensuing"—ergo get me some czars in Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq, Pakistan, etc to whom to carve up and outsource her job. What's next? Tutorials with Ms. Albright? For the safety of the world, let us pray for no cackling during summits.
I think very soon the triangulating Republicans of 2008 will fold up and quietly distance themselves from Obama as his poll numbers stay around 50%. On almost every issue that they contrasted Obama favorably with Bush, Obama has bitten them: Bush deficits? Obama quadrupled them? Bush unemployment? It climbed to nearly 10% after trillions were borrowed and spent. Bush polarization? He never tried to politicize the NEA or give a nut like Van Jones or Anita Dunn free rein. Bush the too easy “decider”? His "let’s roll” snap decisions were no worse than Obama’s Hamlet indecision. Bush’s mangling of words? No worse again than mangling of basic facts. So much for supposedly rightist pundits being gaga over a Niebuhr-reading Obama.
All we can do in these times when up is down, down up, is to stay constant, forget polls, and remember the ancient ways. I keep Horace 1.22 close to me at all times these days, a long poem about the need to ignore the depressing world about; the first line:
Integer vitae scelerisque purus non eget Mauris iaculis neque arcu nec venenatis gravida sagittis…
He who is upright in his way of life and unstained by guilt, needs not Moorish darts nor bow nor quiver loaded with poisoned arrows …