March 21, 2011
Obama in Exile
For centuries exile has been the most popular strategy for kings and dictators to escape hanging, whether it be Charles II, his brother James II, Idi Amin, Ferdinand Marcos or the Shah of Iran. Exile also has been a preferred choice for those seeking political asylum from persecution such as Albert Einstein and Bertolt Brecht fleeing the Nazis, or Salman Rushdie finding safe haven from the Ayatollah's fatwa death sentence.
No US president has ever been exiled. For high crimes and misdemeanors impeachment is our cure. For lesser sins, a second term denied is punishment enough. Until Barack Obama came along, a president imposing one's own exile would have been unthinkable.
Self-imposed -- or voluntary -- exile is a contradiction of course, a contorted pretzel twisting our sensibilities. Exile historically is an act of banishment and shunning; punishment by forcible removal from one's beloved homeland. I suppose there can be a form of self-imposed exile under duress, the fugitive on the run, like Whitey Bulger -- South Boston's notorious mobster on the lam for some fifteen years, unlikely to return to his old neighborhood except in handcuffs or a funeral procession.
Yet self-imposed exile is a safe, even respectable, haven for those escaping high taxes, disagreeable politics, writer's block and boredom. As long as one doesn't renounce his citizenship, of course.
James Joyce profited well enough by a self-imposed relocation from his dear Dublin to Paris and Zurich. George Santayana abandoned tenure as professor of philosophy at Harvard to take up residence in a convent in Rome to be reunited with his Continental Roman Catholic roots.
Other self-imposed exiles are simple acts of running away from duty. In the military, abandoning one's post or desertion is always met with court martial and sometimes death. In urban legend form, it is the Wall Street investment banker weary of the endless commutes from suburban Connecticut, a nervous wreck from making multi-million dollar bets, losing most but winning only a handful more, retreating into the Grand Central Station tunnels under Park Avenue joining the ranks of the homeless, never to return as a captain of industry.
How to reconcile the optics of president Obama on his latest trip to Brazil? Being feted on the tarmac in Rio De Janeiro and later joining the dignitaries reviewing a Brazilian military parade, all while a new war has been started in Libya, our Asian ally lies in ruins, and federal government insolvency threatens our republic. This juxtaposition can only be seen through the lens of a self-imposed exile.
Obama is being chased by his own incompetence, forced to face it, unable to stare it down. Privately he must admit he is over his head and no one -- not in the legislature, in the labor unions, in the deep pockets of George Soros nor the salons of liberal media apologists and sympathetic academics -- can save his doomed presidency.
Obama is in full retreat. Disengaged and decoupled. A pathetic creature, soon to be deserving of mercy rather than scorn, if only his hubris were in lockstep full retreat. Is he guilty of desertion or mere dereliction? Desertion would be a harsh claim, but dereliction not so far fetched.
A president who voluntary withdraws -- or at least sidesteps -- from the duties of the office, is derelict, period. Even his own party faithful anxiously look for any sign of leadership coming from Obama, only to be turned away empty handed, yet again. Bereft of personal responsibility towards his fellow Americans, Obama has neither resigned nor renounced his citizenship. Yet through his apology tours has made us wonder whether renouncing his affinity for America and the leadership imperatives due the office would only be a public formality.
A president whose complete disregard for substantive political discourse in addressing the nation's fiscal woes is derelict. Whether he is lazy, irresponsible or just overwhelmed, the signs point to a man bringing disrepute to the office for which self-imposed exile is his only way out. A president with enough time and energy to fill out a NCAA Final Four basketball tourney bracket but can't find the time to attend to border security or assemble a meaningful budget incorporating the recommendations of his own deficit commission, is derelict.
A president who refuses to address the nation on the crisis in Libya and the humanitarian catastrophe in Japan, instead giving fourteen rogue Democrat state senators from Wisconsin directions to Morton's Steak House in Chicago, is derelict.
The US Constitution doesn't provide for succession if a president has imposed his own exile while still in office. Article II Sec 1 Clause 6 provides for succession if the president is unable to "discharge the duties and powers of said office", yet the test for effective abdication, short of outright resignation has never been addressed. Temporary incapacity due to illness or surgery has been addressed -- but what to do if the man refuses to get out of bed or simply walks away leaving no forwarding address?
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 requires the White House to be swept clean with all papers and records of the president leaving office be turned over to the National Archives. In an ABC news story upon the departure of Bill Clinton entitled "Law Requires Empty White House: Everything Must Go", Ed Meese counselor and Attorney General under Ronald Reagan is quoted "When I walked in (post Jimmy Carter), there was not a piece of paper in the drawers. I think the only thing I found was a paper clip in one drawer,"
Someone needs to check the drawers in the White House right now to see if Obama has already gone.