December 8, 2008
Here comes the Great Man complexBy James Lewis
All Great Men intending to make their mark on history need great monuments. For Barack Obama just a single one won't do. No, this is more like a whole country full of shiny new buildings, an Edifice Complex so splendiferous that future generations will stand in awe.
Mussolini began a vast World's Fair project, the Esposizione Universale Roma, but before it could be completed World War II began. The Fascist architecture buildings were built out in the 1950s, leaving a dystopian mix of unfriendly grandiose structures and uninviting modernist plazas, with weeds growing through the cracks in the concrete. Nowadays, it is noted for crime, graffiti, and brawls.
The New York Times just trumpeted the new splendor to come in the Age of Obama:
That headline should ring alarm bells. Where have we heard that one before? "Pledges Vast Public Works"?
As usual, Mr. Obama did not provide specifics, but $400-700 billion was mentioned. (Safe bet: Triple any number you hear.)
The trouble with "Public Works on a Vast Scale," as economist Daniel J. Mitchell just pointed out, is that you're taking money from one part of the economy (i.e., your pockets) for another part of the economy (somebody else's pockets), resulting in a net economic gain of: Zero!
For those who were feeling thrilled last week by Barack Obama's foreign policy picks, like Henry Kissinger, thinking they meant a new, more modest Obama -- here's a big surprise. The Obama of the Styrofoam Greek Temple in Denver is back. The "Citizens of the World!" orator of the Berlin Victory Column is back. The hero of 80,000 fainting fans, promising to end "the riiiising of the oceans!" is here again. And this time it will cost you money. Lots of it.
But it's only the start. He isn't in office yet, but Der Spiegel, the biggest anti-American newsmagazine in the world, has already proclaimed Barack Obama "Der WeltPraesident" --- The President of the World. "Es geht um die Fuehrung der Welt!" (It's all about the Leadership of the World!) They haven't felt this way for decades over there.
Brasília is the artificial capital city of Brazil, ordered to be built in 1956 by El Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira for the great glory of Himself. Its official government name is Capital da Esperança (Capital of Hope). This is not some crummy little Hope, Arkansas. It's a gleaming new modernist capital for all of the vast country of Brazil, located right in the center of the country, far from the oceans, where no sane person would have put a national capital before. El Presidente the Brasil has not just one White House --- no, he has two magnificent Palacios, one to live in, and one for work. This outdoes King Louis XIV of France, a previous winner of the Ego Architecture Award of history.
Brazilia's main architect was by Oscar Niemeyer, formerly the head of the Communist Party of Brazil. Get that -- Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho -- the former Chief of the Communist Party, and no doubt just aching to build his own Stalingrad in 1956, right after Uncle Joe died.
In his caudillisto style, President Kubitschek proclaimed
Ah, yes, destiny. New dawn. City of Hope. Faithfully. El Presidente Kubitschek was a Man of Destiny, like Hugo Chavez, El Jefe Fidel Castro, Napoleon, Stalin, and the next President of the United States -- who has just been inaugurated by the Editorial Page Editor of the New York Times, giving the United States two simultaneous presidents for the first time in history.
The Obama Campaign has turned itself into the Office of the President Elect, just as it created its own Presidential Seal, and began emailing Federal employees even before November 4, when the rest of us just thought we were having an election. Meanwhile, El Presidente Obama is said to be looking for a Muslim capital from which to pronounce his New Vision for the Muslim World, just as he trumpeted his message to Europe from Otto von Bismarck's Victory Column, dating from the Second Reich -- but now mainly a center for gay couples sunbathing. Obama's Citizens of the World! speech came long before he was elected.
You're supposed to do these things if you're a Man of Destiny. No use waiting for the world to go along -- Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France, to the shock of traditionalists and the delight of the vulgar. It is the Prophetic Style of government, you might say.
Brasilia was chosen to be a thousand kilometers from the previous capital, Rio de Janeiro. It is located where nobody can get to it without driving for ten hours, or flying, funded by an endless supply of Federal money. Because Brasilia is not a mere city -- No, Sir, it is its own Federal District, like DC. Spending wildly and printing up money to pay for it, the Brazilian cruzeiro was repeatedly devalued against foreign currency in the five years following Brasilia's founding, while domestic inflation soared.
In his latest speech Senator Obama has discovered a Broadband Crisis in America.
Apparently the internet, which everybody thought was thriving, needs a lot of government subsidies to let every kid get instant access. Well, OK. But what about the iPhone Crisis? I've been hankering for a new iPhone, or at least a Crackberry Storm. Where's my free Crackberry? What's my kid going to do without his or hers? Whatever happened to a new car in the garage and two chickens in every pot? Free pie isn't going to do it, Democrats. Pie is old hat.
What we need is a Really Really Big Public Works project, "to put Americans to work again." So far, Obama has mostly discussed highways, energy, and other mundane projects. How what about the new Dubai Ego Tower, the Burj-Al-Arab? Why doesn't America have the biggest ego tower in the world? After all, America invented the skyscraper. The Chinese are building lots of Egoscrapers, and Mr. Obama has a lot of admiration for the organization of the Beijing Olympics.
We really need a new Chicago South Side Olympics for 2016 (because Americans want to work). The games will be awarded next October to Madrid, Rio, Tokyo, or Chicago, in the first year of the Obama administration. Does anyone really think the IOC will snub the home town of the President of the World?