Sunday, January 18, 2009
Obama Report: Please Don't Break My Heart
Regular readers know I am a long-time Obama supporter. However, for the record, with less than 48 hours to go before he takes office, I should warn myself and others that I am fully prepared to be disappointed.
Part of it is my nature. As I mention in my self-description above, I am an "aging skeptic." I haven't seen it all, but I have seen enough. The Wife says I look at a glass half empty instead of half full. I prefer to think I look at life realistically. We can ill afford illusions, least of all after eight years of disasters because our president thought it better to pretend that he knew what he was doing than admit mistakes.
Politicians have repeatedly broken my heart. I was elated when Jimmy Carter was elected, thinking at long last we had someone in office who would not lie to us. After four years, I was ready to vote for a senile actor who could not lie because he could not tell the difference between the truth and untruth. I was elated when Bill Clinton was elected, thinking at long last we had someone in office who could feel our pain; who cared about the little guy and knew how to get things done. I still think Clinton was the best president, by far, since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he could have been so much better if he could have kept his pants zipped. The heartbreak of the Clinton Administration is what could have been if he had only been more disciplined.
Once again, I feel elation with the coming inauguration of Barack Obama. He is even smarter, politically, than Clinton, and that is saying a lot. His heart is in the right place. He doesn't need to tell us he feels our pain, we can see it in his life story. He didn't have a father pulling strings to get him into the best universities, set him up with sweetheart business deals and putting him in touch with the best political consultants. Everything Obama got, he earned. Imagine,just eight years ago, he had trouble making it to the Democratic national convention in Los Angeles because the car rental agency wouldn't accept his credit card. To then raise more money, far more money than anyone has ever raised in a political campaign; to put together a campaign organization smarter and more disciplined, far smarter and more disciplined than even the Clintons could put together is absolutely astounding.
It is tempting to ascribe super-human abilities to Obama because what he has already accomplished seems almost super-human. The problems our country faces after eight years of Bush malfeasance are so deep that it will take almost super-human efforts to save ourselves from further disaster. On top of the record deficits that Bush accumulated during good times, we now have to pump even more borrowed money into the economy to keep it from total collapse. That is a misstatement; we already have total collapse. Everywhere we look, businesses are closing and employees are getting laid off. I am convinced the economists, at least the Bush economists, have no idea whether the measures they are taking will work or not; they just feel like they have to do something; anything.
The world is a much more dangerous place than it was eight years ago. Bush neglected our real dangers in order to spend time and money in places where our security was not threatened. Can anyone fix the mismanagement that has put terrorists like Hamas in charge of the elected government of Palestine; that has made Iran the new best friend of its ancient enemy, Iraq; that has a nuclear-armed North Korea thumbing its nose at the rest of the world; that has a nuclear-armed Pakistan teetering on the verge of being controlled by fundamentalist Jihadists?
We want Obama to have super-powers because he is going to need them to get us through the next four years without further disaster.
I am not pleased with some of Obama's personnel choices. I still think the selection of windy Joe Biden as vice president was a mistake that will bite him in the rear before the next term is over. I do not think the selection of Hilary Clinton as secretary of state is going to turn out to have been a good one. She has not demonstrated the vision to bring creative thinking to solving world problems and she has not demonstrated the management skills to run the vast bureaucracy that is the State Department. Yes, she is a policy wonk, but wonks do best three or four layers down from the decision making levels.
And yet, and yet, I believe in the possibility of Obama to make everything come out all right. He has done so many things right, when the pundits were discounting him. Who am I to doubt him now? His efforts to change the tone in Washington are working. Having a dinner to honor John McCain, who is a very vain man, is nothing short of genius. Having dinner with the conservative pundits like George Will, William Kristol and David Brooks was a smart move. Having Rick Warren, whom I detest, give the invocation at the inauguration is very smart.
If Obama pulls this off, he will have been one of the greatest presidents of all time; on a par with Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt; worthy of a place on Mount Rushmore. I think he can. I am getting to be too old to have my heart broken once again.