February 10, 2009
Obama's Busted BubbleBy J.R. Dunn
Barack Obama's bubble has been burst. Over the past three weeks, he has learned a primal conservative lesson, one on which all else is based. As put by the noted political philosopher Clint Eastwood: "A man's got to know his limitations." O now has a vague glimmering as to what his limitations are. His followers, as yet, do not.
All of us live in bubbles of one size or another. Bubbles that encompass what we know, what we have experienced, our prejudices, our illusions, and our manner of thinking. It would be strange if it were any other way -- as was once written, "Humankind cannot stand too much reality".
Some bubbles are more transparent than others, some are more open. Some of us are aware of our bubbles, some are not. Those who are aware attempt to compensate when judging events occurring outside the walls. Those who are unaware as a rule tend to take their bubble as identical to the universe at large. They judge the great world solely by what's within reach. This state of affairs can distort the workings of democracy, on occasion to a serious extent. We are now living through such an occasion. This past election the bubble people elected one of their own, the consummate dweller in dream reality, Barack Obama.
Obama's current woes derive from the fact that he has hit the real world head-on. His bubble now lies shattered around him. Absolutely no single decision or effort by the new administration has worked out as planned. With two months to prepare, unparalleled cooperation from the preceding administration, full control of the government, and an almost disturbing level of public support, Obama has misfired more completely than any other administration in history.
Clear evidence of this lies in the fact that no one is speaking of Obama's "Hundred Days". But the complete story can be traced through a close examination of the various delusions upholstering the interior of the Obama bubble.
! This administration will hit the ground running -- Well, it hit the ground, all right. Geithner, Kileffer, Daschle, all victims of a belief that Article 1 of the Constitution contains a clause reading, "No Democrats need pay taxes." Richardson -- well, who remembers what that was about at this point? Solis is reaching a boil due to assorted "spousal problems". David Ogden, a porn lawyer, has been chosen as deputy AG. And, in the likelihood of Justice Ginsberg's retirement due to illness, Jennifer Granholm, a Canadian with that special northern perspective on American jurisprudence, is being considered for the seat.
Proving he's just as bad at rejection, Obama turned down Gen. Anthony Zinni, the one competent official who shares his particular vision of the Mideast, as ambassador to Iraq. Zinni had already been notified of his new post by Hillary Clinton. A nonentity named Christopher Hill got the job instead, which Zinni had to learn about over the news.
All in all, a performance that puts the previous champ at a fumbled transition, Bill Clinton, in the shade. And all this without much opposition at all from the GOP, which is apparently following Napolean's dictum, "Never interrupt your enemy while he's making a major error."
! The War on Terror is easy. So why not take the enemy combatant imbroglio (aka "Gitmo") already distorted to the point of delirium, and toss it into limbo on the grounds that you'll get around to doing something about it eventually? O has singlehandedly returned the situation to where it stood in 2002, without the least notion of where to go from there. The sole opposition came from one courageous officer who continued the prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the man behind the USS Cole attack, on the basis that no one, not even a certified messiah, has any right to interfere in ongoing legal proceedings. (Remember that one, constitutional law fans?) O sidestepped that problem by arranging to have the charges against al-Nashiri dismissed, a move that will undoubtedly sow panic and consternation through the ranks of Al Q and other Jihadis. Any bets that they'll ever be reinstated?
! Gun owners have a friend in Barack Obama. Which is why there's a bill in preparation setting up a universal federal gun registration system, contradicting a clear campaign promise and making permanent enemies of the country's vast middle.
! Foreign policy is easy. As revealed by his effort to begin negotiations with Iran with no preconditions (one campaign promise kept to the letter), releasing a torrent of contempt from the Iranian theocrats unheard since prior to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Next on the agenda is an attempt to create what amounts to a global renunciation of nuclear weapons. So we're getting rid of ours at the same time that the mullahs a acquiring a batch. He's smart, all right.
! This country yearns for a new FDR. So we come to the stimulus bill, O's shot at being a transformational figure. With no clear idea of how to go about it, Obama allowed Nancy Pelosi to draft the bill, a action similar to allowing Jack the Ripper to oversee the girl's school. Unsurprisingly, Pelosi has produced what amounts to the ultimate loot and grab bill, where any concerns for the country's economy have taken second place to Democrat wish lists of the past four decades. A bill consisting of multiple tens of billions spent not on earmarks as much as the entire animal, hoof to tail. A bill so flawed that many Democrats have turned against it, unwilling to take responsibility for the consequences should it be passed. (Among those consequences is a repeat of the single action that turned the recession of 1929 into the Great Depression -- the Hawley-Smoot Act of 1930, which destroyed the international trade system through vindictive tariffs. The "Buy American" clause of the Obama stimulus would have the same exact result. The appalling thing here is that Obama appears to have no understanding of this fact.)
So great has Congressional opposition been to this bill (Obama succeeded in unifying House Republicans in their vote against it, a feat unseen since the heyday of Newt Gingrich), that the President decided to "to take it to the people", even though the people, according to polls, are only 37% in favor.
With the help of Collins and Spector, king and queen of the RINOS, Obama will likely get at least a truncated version of his "stimulus". But at the cost of public trust, congressional good will, and any reputation for political alacrity. Anything Obama wants from here on in, he will have to fight for. Did anyone notice they're not talking about a "honeymoon", either?
As it stands, the bill is not yet a certainty, with plenty in the way of tinkering, reworking, and collation of the House and Senate versions remaining. Then will come the hustlers, the bureaucrats, the state and local politicians, the embezzlers (or am I repeating myself?), The bean-counters, and assorted other incompetents and grifters. It's safe to say that the economy will be well on its way to recovery (which, according to Lawrence Kudlow, is already is progress), before a dime's worth of "stimulus" finds its way into circulation.
So that's it. The best will in the world, nearly universal support, a hard core that views him as something akin to the second coming, control of both houses of Congress, along with the media, near-hysterical international adulation -- and this is what happens coming off the bench. And all this comprises only the first three weeks of the Obama presidency. Three out of 208 -- just over 1% of the time allotted to his first term. (And let's kindly put aside claims that it's too early to judge -- George W. Bush was tried, convicted, and had a bounty put on his head within hours of his election.)
What's the alternative? The same as with his cabinet choices. Obama needs to wind everything -- every last thing; stimulus, Gitmo plans, negotiations, and so on -- back to zero, precisely the way it was on January 21st, and start over again, without the ideological blinders and with intelligent input from people who know what they're talking about.
But the odds are that he will do nothing of the sort. Because O has a vision. He has image of himself as a world-historical figure, a Washington sans periwig, a Lincoln without a stovepipe hat, an FDR with two good legs, a man who will leave nothing unchanged, whom the age itself will be named after, whose passing the very nations will mourn.
A man who thinks like this does not look back or learn from mistakes. At least not until he's forced to, until the realization dawns that his first two weeks have dictated the actions of the rest of his first year, his first three months the balance of his entire term. Namely, that he'll spending his time desperately fingering through the handbook trying to figure out how to change things back the way they were in the first place.
Such a situation has its good points. We will endure no New New Deal. There will be no transformation of the country, no four-term millennial FDR, no socialist makeover. The "tipping point" feared by such thoughtful figures as Thomas Sowell is not on the agenda.
But there are no lack of drawbacks. Pelosi and Reid are now unbound. The unbalanced Pelosi has been given a taste of total power and will not back down. For his part, Harry Reid will not allow himself to be outdone. Here is where the major upcoming political battles will occur. Not only involving the GOP, but Obama himself, who is going to have his hands full putting these two back in their kennels. (He's obviously never heard the story of the Sorcerer's Apprentice.)
But neither is the world going to stand still. Sometime in the next few weeks or months, one of our enemies will decide to take advantage of the situation, much as Khrushchev did in Cuba in 1962 after Kennedy fumbled the Vienna summit conference. Perhaps Kim Jong-il will move to fulfill his father's mad dreams by heading south. Perhaps the mullahs will scratch the Straits of Hormuz itch. Maybe Putin will get some idea of how he looks in Czar's robes by moving in on Ukraine. And how will a president trying to find himself handle that?
We stand on a blasted heath, a world that in many ways comprises the Great Wrong Place. A world full of trials, dangers, and nightmares. A world that contains nothing easy or simple, one that requires vigilance, knowledge, and cunning. We need leaders who acknowledge this and can deal with it, leaders of the caliber of FDR, Truman, Reagan, and George W. Bush. Leaders who know their limitations. Leaders whose bubbles have been broken - by a bout of polio, a stillborn child, a drinking problem - who have seen the great world outside in all its terror and potential, who know they are not messiahs, and that the worst dangers are those closest to home.
We do not have such a leader today. We have a man who still has some growing up to do.
Democracy let us down this time around. We must ride it out, and do better next time.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.