The Beginning of the End

Two articles languishing in my “to be read later” folder make a strong case for what appears to be the “beginning of the end” for the Obama Administration.  In a New York Times op-ed column titled, “The Agony of the Liberals.”  Writer Ross Douthat tells us, “They doubted him during the health care debate.  They second-guessed his Afghanistan policy.  They’ve fretted over his coziness with Wall Street and his comfort with executive power.  But now is the summer of their discontent… From MSNBC to ‘The Daily Show,’ from The Huffington Post to the halls of Congress, movement liberals have had just about enough of Barack Obama.  

The catalyst, Douthat tells us, was Obama’s June 15 Oval Office address on the BP oil spill.  He complains, “Many liberals look at this White House and see a presidency adrift – unable to respond effectively to the crisis in the gulf, incapable of rallying the country to great tasks like the quest for clean energy, and unwilling to do what it takes to jump-start the economy…”  But, true to form, Douthat fails to say what he means by the term “clean energy.”

In his Oval Office address, Obama spewed forth his standard “pro-clean energy,” anti-oil, anti-lobbyist diatribe.  Without assigning blame where it belongs… to radical environmentalists and congressional Democrats… he said, “For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. 

“Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.”  He concluded by saying, “Even if we’re unsure exactly what (our energy future) looks like… even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there… we know we’ll get there.”

Obama’s climate bill (cap and trade) makes clean energy “profitable?”  For whom, and at what cost to the consumer?  Obama’s cap and trade bill is the worst possible prescription for jobs and the health of the economy.  Listening to Obama’s pronouncements on “clean energy,” one visualizes a large box labeled “Clean Energy” being delivered to the White House.  Inside the box is a message saying, “Mr. Obama.  Enclosed herewith is a supply of clean energy to help you heat and cool the White House.  If you decide to take another trip on Air Force One, just let us know and we’ll send a larger box.” 

The box, of course, would be filled with… absolutely nothing.  Perhaps one day our Republican friends in Congress will find the courage to ask Democrats how windmills and solar panels are going to help us propel our cars, trucks, buses, trains, and planes across this vast country. 

The Times op-ed continued, “This the same Barack Obama, after all, who shepherded universal health care, the dream of liberals since the days of Harry Truman, through several near-death experiences and finally into law.  It’s the same Obama who staked the fate of the American economy on a $787 billion exercise in Keynesian pump-priming.  It’s the same Obama who has done more to advance liberal priorities than any president since Lyndon Johnson.  Yet many on the left are talking as if he’s no better for liberalism than Bill Clinton circa 1996 – another compromiser, another triangulator, and another disappointment…

“But it’s here, with the looming fiscal crisis, that the more legitimate liberal fear comes in. Liberals had hoped that Obama’s election marked the beginning of a long progressive era – a new New Deal, a greater Great Society.  Instead, from the West Coast to Western Europe, the welfare state is in crisis everywhere they look. The future suddenly seems to belong to austerity and retrenchment – even, perhaps, to conservatism.  In this environment, the rage against Obama for not doing more, now, faster, becomes at least somewhat understandable.  It’s not that he hasn’t done a great deal for liberals… It’s that liberalism itself may be running out of time.” 

The second article is a most biting appraisal of Obama from Canadian poet and essayist David Solway.  In an article for FrontPage Magazine, Solway had this to say of Obama:  “In thinking of Barack Obama’s presidency, I can’t help recalling the Comte de Lautréamont’s definition of Surrealism as the quintessence of the Absurd: ‘the encounter of an umbrella and a sewing-machine on a dissection table.’  For this is certainly the most surreal presidency since Jimmy Carter’s, or even Andrew Jackson’s – or more likely, the most implausible and Absurd administration in the entirety of American history.

“Let us see how Lautréamont applies.  It is raining debt and joblessness on the United States, but Obama and his crew are protected by an umbrella so vast it resembles Muammar Gaddafi’s tent.  Obama enjoys the top job in the country and avails himself lavishly of all its perks, posting as well an annual income in the millions of dollars, over five million in 2009 alone…  Home foreclosures and job terminations are not an issue for people who are good at theoretical empathy and not much else… apart from making the situation even worse than it already is.  

“As for the sewing-machine, it is busy at work stitching a fabric of lies and subterfuges, from global warming to Green energy, to cap-and-trade, to socialized medicine.  And on the dissection table an entire nation is being cut to shreds to the jubilant disbelief of America’s dedicated enemies.  The borders are porous, military spending is being reduced, terrorists are Mirandized, geopolitical adversaries are regarded as aggrieved friends-in-waiting and real friends are given the cold shoulder.  On the domestic front, genuine popular movements (Tea Party activists) seeking beneficial change are slandered as an army of thugs and seditionists…  

“What many have failed to recognize until recently is that Obama is no wonder-worker, no farsighted statesman, no honest broker, no competent chief executive, no bipartisan healer – and in point of fact, he is simply not presidential material at all.  Obama has absolutely no idea of how to go about running a country.  But it would be a mistake to assume that he is nothing more than an untalented bungler, for he is blessed with thespian aptitudes that none of his predecessors could have mustered.  Obama is a man with a résumé so thin it would look sideways head-on, but he is unexcelled as a performer.

“Obama is essentially an actor in a kind of Brechtian drama promoting a neo-Marxist ideology, say, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, mixed with robust elements of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. As with Brecht, Obama believes in the redistribution of income as the central program of the welfare state…  At the same time, there is a sense in which Obama resembles Beckett’s elusive Godot who is eagerly awaited but never actually arrives.  He intends to show up later in the day, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, but the promise is never realized… Obama also mirrors the character Estragon whose trousers fall to his ankles without him noticing it, a fitting end to the play in which the character’s naked ineffectualness and perpetual dithering is finally exposed.

“America is now living under the simulated presidency of an impressive actor for whom all the world’s a stage and all the people in it merely suckers.  Displaying the quirkiness and ostentation of the inveterate ham, he soliloquizes in Cairo, postures in Copenhagen, preens in Oslo, orates in Washington, warbles “Hey Jude with a merry sing-along gang in the White House… awarding Paul McCartney the Library of Congress Gershwin Award for Popular Song ‘on behalf of a grateful nation,’ while the real, neglected nation groans… looks fetchingly troubled when examining oil slick on the Gulf coast, relishes photo-ops, and relies on a teleprompter the way actors depend on the souffleur (prompter) beneath the planks.

“As president, he manifests on the one hand the futility and ineptitude of Jimmy Carter taken to the nth degree, in particular with regard to the Iranian threat, and on the other the idiosyncratic behavior of Andrew Jackson—though it must be acknowledged, without Jackson’s native gumption and profoundly held convictions.

“Indeed, Obama is a weird bird.  To be fair, he does bring a parcel of convictions with him, albeit of a distinctly socialist stamp, which he seems determined to impose on a once-largely unsuspecting public… It is as if he needs to have something controversial, something startling to say in order to convince himself, as well as others, that he exists, and requires a platform on which to exercise his repertoire of roles.  An utter prima donna, he is so consumed with his own histrionic self, and his ability to adopt whatever pose the situation demands, that he seems nothing so much as an absence made concrete, a flamboyant nullity inadequate to the problems he confronts, adept only at speeches, monologues, and striking gestures.  

“… the time inevitably comes when he begins to look inauthentic and faintly ridiculous, and ultimately as… as a character in an Absurdist play who faces alarmingly incomprehensible predicaments before which he remains helpless and unbuttoned.  Such, of course, is the nature of the genre, as it is of this presidency… Obama’s tenure in the White House will be remembered as a national aberration, a piece of avant-garde theatre and a surreal installment in the far more serious drama of unforgiving realpolitik.  Meanwhile, the umbrella is open wide, the sewing machine keeps humming away and a country is laid out flat on the dissection table.” 

November 2, 2010, Obama’s day of reckoning, has finally arrived… and not a moment too soon.

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1 Response to The Beginning of the End

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