Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is it all over for Barack Obama?

OK, the title is a joke, a wry (I hope) attention-getter. But you know—and maybe it's just my cynical natureI do see little clues here and there that America isn't quite as far from a return to right-wing governance as you'd think. What's that you say? Dammit, guy, the election was just a couple weeks ago! Can't you relax a while and bask in the afterglow?

Hear me out.

First, I still can't get over the fact that with all that's gone wrong during the past eight years
particularly the perfect storm of fiscal turmoil that developed in the run-up to November 4, with practically every major corner of the economy suddenly in need of a bailout58 million of my fellow Americans voted Republican anyway. ("Yeah, give us more of that!")

In the same vein, there's the Ted Stevens debacle. Granted, Alaska's (very) senior senator lost out in his bid to come back for a seventh termbut only by the proverbial razor-thin margin: 3700 votes out of a total of about 300,000 cast. This, despite corruption and misconduct on a Grantian scale, and the fact that he'll be 164* on his next birthday. On the other hand, this is Alaska, which also elected Sarah Palin governor, and boasts a pretty well-developed secessionist movement (with which the Palins have had varying degrees of involvement, depending who you listen to). So that must be taken into account as an indication of the overall mental health of its electorate. Still....

Then there's the fact that I see very little "give," contrition or even meaningful soul-searching on the part of the GOP punditocracy, at least for public consumption. Sean (DMoTV) Hannity is seething with resentment, as bombastically brain-dead as ever, while Limbaugh's rage clearly has cost him whatever tenuous hold he once had on sanity. (Among other things, he blames Obama for America's financial woes. No, really. He does.) Another raging right-wing hack I found while scanning the dial in New York over the weekend, Mark Levin, came very close to stating outright that voters have now handed over the White House to a black supremacy-minded domestic terrorist whose real agenda is to undermine America. Finally, while it's too soon to tell what history will make of Palin, I have to admit that I thought you'd see more GOP types peeking out of the closet to admit they were embarrassed and appalled at having her on the ticket. Maybe it's still too soon for that, too. But they seem to be holding firm to their vision of Palin as a legitimate player, if not the party's Great White Dope for 2012. If you listen to people like former GOP contenders Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, the real answer for the party is to move even farther right, towards the Palin end of the spectrum. "We need to return to our conservative roots." I don't think these people are stupid, necessarily. They believe that the party lost its way when it tried to out-Obama Obama instead of sticking to its right-wingish guns. And who knows, they could be onto something. A number of polls show that America, in its core values, remains basically a center-right nation, not a center-left one,** even though millions of normally Republican voters were profoundly angry at George Bush and their own party this time around. Anger wears off. The tough-love has been administered, and Americans might begin to think it's time to start dispensing hugs again.

Then there are the early omens about Obama's own political mood. I was not heartened by his first two announced picks, Rahm Emanuel and Eric Holden. Such choices fly in the face of all this talk about Change and Healing. These guys are tough political operators, as plugged-in to old-style hardball as anyone inside the Beltway. I don't look at them and think "healing." (Holden in particular gives every indication of being Obama's Alberto Gonzalez.) Early though it may be, this suggests to me a more ham-fisted approach to politicking than I'd hoped for. If it works out that way, it will only perpetuate, if not further inflame, the partisan polarization that was universally bemoaned during the campaign.

I guess what I'm saying is, despite the encouraging look of the political landscape in the wake of Nov. 4, I don't see all that much margin for error for Barack & Co. I think the nation will keep its shiny new chief executive on a very short leash. We shall see.

* actually, he just turned 85. On the day he found out he lost the election.
** which maybe explains how close the election was, despite all?


Anonymous said...

Well, I am waiting for Obama to take office. I do not remember any other president-elect in my lifetime more scrutinized than Obama. He is considered a failure before his first day on the job. That is a bit unfair to me. He is human (no matter what some people think) and will make mistakes. He is not going to please everyone, but one thing about Obama, he thinks things through quite well. There could be good reasons for his picks and everyone is going through extensive background checks. Obama wants no surprises ala John Edwards or Bill Clinton. Obama can get rid of members of his cabinet too if they don't pan out.

The GOP is going to do Palin in! She was not too welcomed at the Republican governors'convention and has not made too many friends. She does not know when to keep her trap shut and that is not good for any canidate of either party for a national political life. It might play in Alaska, but rest of the country has other ideas.

The GOP is getting old and the young are getting away from the conservative right. 2012 is four years away and I doubt Palin can keep people that interested for that long. The MTV generation is now the YouTube generation and it is only going to get faster. I am sure SNL and Tina Fey hope she stays around though.

By the way, the Alaska pipeline has problems and Alaska may have to pay state income tax for the first time in its history. Palin better be watching her own back yard or she won't be governing anything by 2012.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I would agree that Obama is walking a razor's edge. Were he to populate his staff only with those who share his perspective and style, he would set the stage for an inverted mirror-image of what we've seen these last 8 years. And if he chooses too many individuals whose style is diametrically opposed to his own, he would run the risk of having an administration in disarray, whilst simultaneously losing the support of those who brought him to the presidency.

However, if he fills key posts with people from all sides of the political spectrum, as he seems to be doing, he will be making a gamble that will either result in true progress or stagnation. The key element in deciding what happens will be his own leadership. my own inclination is to believe that he will lead effectively. Had I not been convinced of that one key element, I would not have supported him.

History alone will determine whether he has been brilliant or reckless. Given the multi-faceted and perilous situation facing him, and the incredibly high stakes involved, I can understand why he feels it necessary to take the risk and put his own abilities (as well as the well-being of this country and the world at large) on the line. When the situation is as dire as it has become, timidity will not suffice to reverse the tide. I - and the majority of humankind - might ultimately be proven wrong in our decision to place our trust in the man's judgment and abilities, but I still see those qualities as our best (and perhaps last) chance to reverse the perilous and costly course we have taken of late.

The man has earned a chance, and the country has spoken clearly its desire to give him that chance. As you say, we'll just have to wait and see. And yes, he will be on a short leash, but we owe it to him and to ourselves to allow him to do the job we've hired him to do, to the best of his abilities. I, for one, will hold him in my prayers (such as they are) and wish him - and us - well.

roger o'keefe said...

Joke or no joke, I can easily see him being a one term president, Steve, and for all the reasons you mention here. He swept in on an aura of charisma and the need to believe in something, and if it becomes apparent that he's just another mortal politician the honeymoon will go really sour really fast. Especially since there is no evidence for anyone to think he can actually do what everyone expects from him.

Verif word = fiersalle

RevRon's Rants said...

Actually, Roger, there's plenty of evidence that he will do what I expect of him. My expectations, however, are realistic, in that I don't expect him to be an omnipotent, omniscient messiah... Just a decent, intelligent man who will do his level best to improve conditions.

I am also enough of a realist to recognize that there will be people whose primary agenda is that he fail, and who will take delight in any misstep, regardless of the cost to the country or the world at large.

I am encouraged by his acknowledgment that he *will* make mistakes, and will try some things that don't work. We haven't seen such an admission of human fallibility in years. And judging not only by his words during a campaign, but by his actions, I feel comfortable that when he sees something isn't working, he will revise his course appropriately, rather than stubbornly "stay the course" until the situation becomes altogether untenable.

As I said, I'm willing to give the man a chance. I also gave W a chance. Many chances, as a matter of fact, and in each occasion, he gave me cause to regret having done so. I have seen nothing in Obama that would leave me any less inclined to give him the same chances. I hope others will put aside their own agendas long enough to give the man the chance to do the job that the majority of Americans hired him to do.

Elizabeth said...

I've gotta admit to impatience with the Obama-related hand-wringing. We can hear it from both left and right, though for distinctly different reasons and with different emotions behind it. It is, frankly, amazing, the scrutiny Obama is facing with his every move. It seems that pretty soon will be dissecting his lunch choices, offering our critical opinions about his sandwiches and soups. By golly, I don't remember such lamentations when Bush was to take office -- and talk about questionable cabinet choices!

Obama is a politician, not The Messiah (remember?). That Change and Healing is all good and pretty, but in reality he is facing a mess of apocalyptic proportions (if we are to stick to the biblical language) and he cannot do miracles. Whatever he needs to do, however, can only be accomplished with the help of skilled, experienced, and yes, tough political operatives who will have his back, so to speak. We may be surprised by his choices, but we trusted him enough to vote for him, so perhaps we can trust that he chooses appropriate people for the tasks he needs to accomplish. And I think it's the bottom line. His job is not to make us hold hands and sing a collective kumbaya, or inspire warm and fuzzy feelings in all (not that there is anything wrong with that), but to govern the country facing an unprecedented combination of really tough challenges, domestic and international. He needs the right people to help him -- and "right people" does not necessarily mean nice and/or likable people. IMO.

In many respects, Obama reminds me of... Gorbachev. Seriously (bear with me). When Gorbachev came to power in USSR in mid-eighties, we watched him with our mouths wide open in shock and awe. He was so different it was unthinkable that this person could be the leader of the other half of the world. He was young, charismatic, articulate, intelligent, independent-thinking, and talking about such unheard of things like change and openness (perestroika and glastnost). But his rise to power was partly (in a large part) responsible for the fall of Communism. He did not single-handedly remake the world, but his presence and his policies were instrumental in bringing about the change (for the better or the worse, as opinions are now divided, of course).

Obama has a similar potential, though of course he will fail in many of his endeavors -- nobody (nobody) can turn around the disaster caused by Bush&Co. in four years (or eight, or twelve, or... sigh).

So my advice would be, just calm down, y'all, and let the man do his job. Pray for him, too (yeah, Rev, I'm with you on that; some atheist I am...).

Elizabeth said...

On a somewhat related note, Bush is clearly the least popular preznit on the block -- painfully so. See this video of the G20 summit where he is shunned by the world leaders:


Elizabeth said...

Roger, my friend, you gotta ease on those verif words, they can wreak havoc with your mind. (Trust me, I know. One of mine was dirtshat [sorry! please blame the Blogger!])

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I'm a little surprised they don't just throw up on him and get it over with, the way his dad did the Japanese ambassador that time:

What's particularly funny about this video of the event, which I hadn't seen before, is the gravitas in the newscaster's voice as she intro's the segment--as if she were talking about an accidental nuclear launch or at least an attempted assassination, not a mere case of presidential projectile vomiting.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Btw, your comment of 11:43 didn't arrive for approval until well after your comment of 12:08. That's why I don't address it in my own comment of 12:17. Weird.

Anyway, once again I find myself saying "I don't disagree" with anything you said. I do, however, go back to the question I raised a few posts ago, which is: Why was he elected? Was it because people weighed all of the issues with due diligence and decided he was the best person to tackle the job? Or was it because of the Messiah Effect? If it's the latter, in this I find myself in basic agreement with Roger: We're going to have an awful lot of disillusioned people, awfully fast. (Since you brought the Bible into it: Remember how the crowd turned on Jesus at the end there? We like our Messiahs to be appropriately...messianic.)

Anonymous said...

Roger, I got this feeling that if Obama was the second coming of Christ and God came down from heaven to tell everyone he was the second coming, you would still find problems with Obama and say he was the spawn of Satan instead. Let's face it Roger you are never going to be happy with Obama and the country voted him into office.

Roger, what if Obama is the next FDR or Lincoln? They two came in under some horrible circumstances and were considered unable to help the United States. History remembers them differently and Bush II is up there with Warren Harding for worthless presidents. Harding got lucky and died in office though.

The whole treatment of Obama raises my fairness hackles. It's like hiring a guy for a job and saying he is worthless before his first day. It is just not fair in my view, whichever side you are on.

Steve Salerno said...

Yes, in retrospect I have some misgivings about writing this post. But it's done, and here we are, and if nothing else, the feedback has made it worth it, at least to my mind.

The Crack Emcee said...


Elizabeth said...

I think my computer was out of whack this morn, Steve, thus the delay.

go back to the question I raised a few posts ago, which is: Why was he elected? Was it because people weighed all of the issues with due diligence and decided he was the best person to tackle the job? Or was it because of the Messiah Effect?

Well, those who look for The Messiah will be disappointed, I'll give you that. Obama is only human.

But my question (for you, Steve and others) would be, why such relentless scrutiny and criticisms already, before the guy is even in office? What is behind it -- distrust? Fear? Both Anons have good points here, on the fairness hackles 'n all.

I know why the right-wingers criticize him now and forever, but the scrutiny from the left and center, with all the hand-wringing and relentless advice, is puzzling. Indeed, it suggests, to me, that people have blown their expectations of the man out of proportions and are anxious to see him live up to the hype they themselves created. The bad news is, nobody can live up to such high expectations.

But the good news is, nobody can live up to such high expectations. ;) So we may as well chill a bit already and let the guy just do his job.

RevRon's Rants said...

Eliz, it's also true that nobody could live DOWN to the low expectations his most rabid detractors have of him. They have formed a cult of hatred for the man, even as they scream about the dangers of what they perceive to be the worshipful cult of his followers.

Barring the actions of some crackpot who has so little faith in the American system that he (or she) would attempt to cancel out the will of the people with a criminal act, I don't think the whiners, hand-wringers, or worshippers will have any measurable effect on Obama's efforts.

They'll likely spend the duration of his administration huddled with like-minded folks and share their stories of disdain or worship, much like misfits in other groups do to compensate for their inability to function in a larger society. And some, who discover that their expectations are not realized, might even venture to the opposite extreme. The rest of us can go about our lives, hoping for (and realistically expecting) his success, while always looking to the results with "hunter's eye." The whiners and worshipers can do as they will; the only power they will ever have arises from those deluded few who give any credence to their extreme stances.

RevRon's Rants said...

BTW - The delays are on Blogger's end. One of my comments got delayed for hours. No big deal.

Elizabeth said...

THE news item of the day: Joe-The-Non-Plumber has its own website!

Where he peddles his yet unwritten book (pre-order now!), sells his unspecified as of now merchandise (plungers? fake plumbing licenses? tax liens on his house?) and invites you to become his fan and/or BFF.

And if you register (it'll cost ya, but hey, Joe has to eat too -- and being a fake plumber don't pay much), you get a subscription to JTNP's blog where he can share the latest on the fight for preserving Americas freedoms.

Isn't this, like, awesome?

RevRon's Rants said...

Eliz, I'm sure that pipes all across America are leaking in antici

pation! :-)

Mike Cane said...

All of you know that I was the guy screaming for all of you to vote Nader (who got only less than 700,000 votes!).

All of you know that I never liked Obama.

But now he's the Prez and I wish him luck.

Rahm seems like the kind of guy he needs. Someone experienced, with a mean rep that precedes him when he walks up to someone. Obama can speak softly while carrying the big stick of Rahm.

I've heard talk of other Carternistas and Clintonistas popping up. Eh. That's who's in that party.

My advice for you Steve is this: The election is OVER. Take a frikkin BREAK between now and the Inauguration.

And stop listening to those twits on the Right on radio & TV. They're scared to death the Fairness Doctrine will be revived. That would be the end of their reigns. And radio, at least, would be back to having to put on guests who actually *do* something.

Elizabeth said...

Ahem... is all I'm gonna say, Rev. ;)