It takes a real artist
to render a crushing majority into a hapless political object.
And Barack Obama is a
He's had quite an impressive
week. At least for an anvil.
Here's one New York
Times headline, regarding the Olympics debacle: "Chicago Is
Rejected in First Round of Voting". Impressive.
Here's another: "Jobless
Report Is Worse Than Expected; Rate Rises to 9.8%". Can you
say "Bye-bye, Barack"?
Ah, but he was actually
just warming up. David Paterson, the governor of New York, bitch-slapped
the president for being stupid enough to lean on Paterson to get out
of the 2010 race. Paterson is a disaster as governor, and Obama
is worried that he'll drag down the Democratic ticket, lowering the
president's majorities in Congress.
The first problem with
that calculus is that there are fifty states in the union, notwithstanding
the natural arrogance of New Yorkers who tend to think they own the
planet. The Democratic Party's problems are far bigger than
New York. They begin on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and end
on the other. As usual, most voters will be using the mid-term
elections as a gut-check on their feelings about the current government.
If the inept, cowardly and inert Mr. Obama needs someone to resign in
order to save the party, that dude in the mirror with the big ol'
grin would be the most efficacious choice. Charlie Cook is now
giving the Democrats only a fifty-fifty chance of retaining their majority
in the House, which is now a whopping 79 seats. Man, you have
to really work at it to blow something that badly in nine months time.
The second problem with
asking Paterson to step out of the race to save Democratic majorities
in Congress is that Obama has them already, in lopsided amounts, and
he's not doing a damn thing with them. Instead of kicking some
butt to line his own caucuses up and forcing them to pass some real
serious legislation that the president demands (see Bush, George W,
for illustration. Also, Reagan, Ronald W.; Johnson, Lyndon
B.; and Roosevelt, Franklin R.), this fool is doing deals with
Republicans who are trying to destroy him, and the very predatory industries
that are precisely the problem with American healthcare. I guess
he must think that the GOP is just kidding. You know, like they
were with Clinton. In any case, why worry about maintaining your
majority if you have no intention of ever actually using it?
And the last reason that
Obama is idiotic for meddling in state and local politics is because
he was sent to Washington to save the country from the sixteen or so
serious crises his predecessor bequeathed him, and about all he has
going for him is the good will of the public who gave him the job.
Spending your time dicking around with who should be the Democratic
Party's nominee for municipal dog-catcher is not exactly what people
had in mind when they gave him this mandate. By going to Europe
to beg for the Olympics, or by immersing himself in local politics,
this chump is spending his political capital at a furious pace.
It wouldn't even be worth the effort if he was getting what he was
asking for. But of course it's far worse that both Paterson
and the IOC slammed the door in his face, as publicly and as emphatically
as imaginable. If Obama taped a "kick me" sign to his back,
he could hardly signal any better his ineptitude and his willingness
to get rolled at every conceivable opportunity.
There's more, of course.
Another headline reports that "Panel Finishes Work on Health Bill
Amendments". The public option, already a weak sister to any
real reform of the predatory wealth extraction system masquerading as
national healthcare, was of course voted down by the Senate Finance
Committee referred to in the title. Obama has yet to seriously
weigh in on any preferences he might have. Apparently he is going
to wait until the end of the legislation process. Assuming that
he actually has any preferences - and I don't, unless you count
carrying water for corporate power and Wall Street - how astonishingly
stupid is that as a strategy? After all the grief and months of
effort Congress has gone through to maybe produce a bill, is it conceivable
that they'd want to entertain some major new change at the last minute?
Then there's Afghanistan,
where the president has his own general running around painting him
into a policy corner with only one option. Any military guy who
tried that under Bush got summarily cashiered, even though they were
actually telling the truth. You know, like maybe 160,000 GIs weren't
gonna be sufficient to occupy a country of 25 million pissed-off Iraqis.
Say that and your career was over, Shinseki-style.
Is anyone else sensing
a pattern here?
Obama would make a great
nineteenth century president. You know, all those guys with names
you can never remember, because they pretty much didn't really do
anything? Back in those days, Congress was king, and presidents
- except during wartime - were essentially glorified clerks, executing
the Congressional will, as per their Constitutional duty. That's
certainly one way to do it. It's just that it pretty much isn't
what people have come to want and expect for the last century or so.
And it sure as hell isn't what Obama promised in the election.
But he has really specialized
in being an acted-upon object, rather than a political protagonist,
despite possessing the most powerful position in the world, commanding
majorities in Congress, an initially adoring public wishing him tons
of good will, and all manner of crises to warrant if not demand bold
action. In his reticence he is not only carrying forward a fine
Democratic Party tradition of recent decades, but in fact refining it
into an art form. The pattern works like this: Republicans
charge like bulls through china shops and grab the mantle of power,
proceeding then to ram their program through, no matter the casualties.
When they reach levels of greed, corruption and failure so excessive
that even comatose Americans can no longer stand it, some effete Democratic
stooge named Carter or Clinton or Obama is called in to hold down the
fort long enough for the regressives to regroup and start the cycle
again. But Obama in action - better rendered as 'Obama's
inaction' - makes Clinton look like a litter full of Mike Tysons
crammed into an overheated pressure chamber by comparison.
It's astonishing how
Democrats can never seem to block anything the hard-right wants to do,
even when they have majorities, while the GOP kills everything the Democrats
supposedly want, even with minuscule minorities in Congress. Gee,
one could almost get the impression that Democrats don't really want
anything much different from Republicans, but just have to adopt a different
alt-persona to hide their intentions from the public. Republicans
use guns, god, gays and Gaddafi as distractions from corporate looting.
Democrats strap on their cardigan sweaters and try really, really hard
to do something, but gosh-darned it, just never seem to get anywhere.
As for our friend Mr.
Obama, he seems busy unlearning every lesson of the last three decades.
He doesn't appear worried that the right will challenge his legitimacy
as president 'cause, of course, they never did that to Carter or Clinton.
He doesn't seem worried that they'll happily destroy the country
if necessary in order to wreck his presidency because, of course, there's
little precedent for that. He doesn't much care to use the bully
pulpit and strong-arm Congress to get what he wants because, of course,
that never got Reagan or Bush anywhere.
I can't believe I'd
ever say this, but the question Obama should be asking right about now,
is "What would Bush do?"
I'll tell ya what.
He'd jam his legislation down the throats of the other party, putting
the fear of god in them if they dared to oppose the emperor. He's
rip people's lungs out and stuff them back through their eye sockets
if they looked at him cross-eyed. He'd lie to members of his
own party and carpet bomb their entire home neighborhoods if they dared
vote against him. If any media talking head didn't tell the
lies they were programmed to speak, he'd kidnap their kids and send
them to Gitmo, treating them a good waterboarding for every one of their
birthdays. And, he'd call in Rove to stomp some people good,
the nice Republican way.
What would that look
like? Here's journalist Ron Suskind relating an inside taste
of what he observed while waiting outside the Ol' Karl's office
for an interview, back when he was running the White House political
"Rove was talking to an aide about some political
stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative
who had displeased him. I paid it no mind and reviewed a jotted
list of questions I hoped to ask. But after a moment, it was like
ignoring a tornado flinging parked cars. 'We will fuck him.
Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him.
Like no one has ever fucked him!' As a reporter, you get around--curse
words, anger, passionate intensity are not notable events--but the
ferocity, the bellicosity, the violent imputations were, well, shocking.
This went on without a break for a minute or two. Then the aide
slipped out looking a bit ashen, and Rove, his face ruddy from the exertions
of the past few moments, looked at me and smiled a gentle, Clarence-the-Angel
smile. 'Come on in.' And I did. And we had the
most amiable chat for a half hour."
Why won't Obama do
this? Why won't he unleash all the powers at his disposal, knock
heads together, and smash political opponents to smithereens in order
to get his way? Two reasons. First, he wasn't a complete
personal screw-up for the last half century, acknowledged even by his
own parents to be a total embarrassment. He therefore doesn't
have the burning need to show the world they've been wrong about him
his whole life, like a certain other fellow recently seen roaming the
halls of the West Wing.
The other reason is that
Obama doesn't actually appear to be doing anything that requires any
particular toughness. He's not trying to sell a bullshit war
or dismantle Social Security, like Bush. He's not trying to
end legal and institutional racism in a country where it was as pervasive
as bibles in 'Bama, like Lyndon Johnson did. He's not attempting
to bring the country kicking and screaming into the twentieth century,
even after it was already one-third over, like FDR was.
In fact, he doesn't
really appear to be doing much of anything, including producing the
much-vaunted 'change' we heard endlessly about during last year's
campaign. Unless, of course, you count the nice demeanor with
which he continues the predatory policies of Reagan, Clinton, and the
Bushes. This is essentially George W. Bush's third term.
It's Barry in the Bush with Smiles.
Obama more or less just
seems to want to hang for a while, passively swaying in whatever winds
happen to be blowing through at the moment. That might have worked
in the 1950s, or even the 1970s, but not today. The brownshirts
of the American right have been playing for keeps for some time now.
And, while it's true that they can be their own worst enemy in normal
times, these are hardly normal times. Failing to address the real
economic pain people are feeling, failing to provide remotely meaningful
healthcare reform, failing to clean-up the corporate predators slamming
the public with bad mortgages, sky-high credit card interest rates and
bailouts of the already rich - all of these are an invitation for
some change Obama can believe in, especially in 2012. If he insists
on being a political object, the right will gladly turn him into one.
It will be a freakin' anvil too, not the fifth face on Mount Rushmore.
This is not kid's stuff.
These mobsters are possessed of insatiable greed, and they are clever
beyond belief at mobilizing the anxieties and inadequacies of a public
already dumbed-down to a level of political immaturity that can barely
keep pace with the amped-up fires of their personal rage to which it's
dangerously coupled. How many re-run episodes of this mini-series
do we need to see before we get clear on how it turns out?
The right is wrong on
nearly everything, of course - the elites because they lie, and the
shock troops because they're frightened of their own shadows and therefore
find blessed relief in every possible palliative from the pope to Palin.
But they are correct about Obama being a complete patsy. They
like to bring that up in the foreign policy context, because it's
good for scaring voters, and because it doesn't remind moderates of
just who is actually rolling this punk here at home (a very fine example
of which was provided by the cheers that went up from our nice super-patriots
when America lost the Olympics bid). But the truth is that a movement
that should have been discredited to the point of annihilation by its
very own actions is now instead setting the agenda in Washington, and
the guy who won the landslide seems busy trying to push the mud back
up the hill so that he can be buried by it himself, instead of the people
who pretty much literally want to kill him.
I really don't know
what to say or think about this dude anymore. The way democracy
is supposed to work is that his desire to hold office and the public's
preference for certain policies should reinforce each other and impel
us toward a mutually satisfying presidency. Instead, though, he
trucks along seemingly oblivious to the fact that the exact opposite
This country is sinking
in every way imaginable, and he will be held to blame in 2010 and 2012.
And so he should be.
It's just that that
will also mean the return of the monster set, absolutely foaming at
the mouth after four years in the wilderness not holding the presidency
to which they believe they're fully entitled to own.
And then Obama will join
Clinton, running around the world making speeches and writing books.
Maybe they'll even do joint appearances.
Thanks for that, Barack.
You're a real patriot.
Oh well. At least
you got the important stuff right.
You won't have ruffled
any feathers while being president.