The Talking Dog

August 10, 2011, Donut hole at the top

"Wow!" is all I can say about this Drew Westin takedown of my college classmate, Barack (he was "Barry" then) Obama. The money paragraphs come way at the end of the long piece, but more or less re-state what I have said occasionally:

As a practicing psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I will resist the temptation to diagnose at a distance, but as a scientist and strategic consultant I will venture some hypotheses.

The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.

Or perhaps, like so many politicians who come to Washington, he has already been consciously or unconsciously corrupted by a system that tests the souls even of people of tremendous integrity, by forcing them to dial for dollars — in the case of the modern presidency, for hundreds of millions of dollars. When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors that today cripples both parties’ ability to govern and threatens our democracy, or both, is unclear.

A final explanation is that he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.

But the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise. It does not bend when 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans. It does not bend when the average middle-class family has seen its income stagnate over the last 30 years while the richest 1 percent has seen its income rise astronomically. It does not bend when we cut the fixed incomes of our parents and grandparents so hedge fund managers can keep their 15 percent tax rates. It does not bend when only one side in negotiations between workers and their bosses is allowed representation. And it does not bend when, as political scientists have shown, it is not public opinion but the opinions of the wealthy that predict the votes of the Senate. The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks.

Alrightie then. The stock market has tanked. The bond market has tanked. London is agrip with riots, and mass protests have broken out from Madrid to Tel Aviv, as conditions of insane wealth and income disparity and ever more pressure on working people continue to mount. Here, we are about to enter the second dip of a recession [that most people believe hasn't ended] with over 9% official (and over 16% real) unemployment, virtually zero interest rates, and thanks to Barack "I'll capitulate to extend the Bush tax cuts without a pre-set debt-ceiling agreement BECAUSE IN MY HEART I KNOW MY NOOSE CARRYING AND HOOD WEARING COUNTERPARTS WILL BE REASONABLE TO THE BLACK MAN JUST AS SOON AS THEY HAVE MORE CONTROL" Obama, the government is officially dysfunctional and increased government spending in the midst of a depression deep recession is now against the law. We are now engaged in big-time hot shootin' wars in at least six different countries (for the record, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pock-ee-ston, Yemen, Libya and Somalia). We've hit peak oil, peak credit and thanks to industrialization-caused climate change, declining arable land and fresh water and massive droughts and storms domestically, just as pressures on food and energy prices were hitting anyway.

And in charge of the world's most powerful nation is a man who was a mediocrity-at-best back in college, who ain't done much since beyond self-promotion, who, if anything, has not only not grown into the job of President, but as noted by Drew Westin above, seems to have receded even from what he was.

Having uncritically accepted the advice of his backers in the "FIRE" [finance, insurance and real estate] sector that "just go with us kid and you'll get that second term," because, of course, he has no actual life experience that would lead him to believe that fundamentally dishonest and ruthless people who made their fortunes by being dishonest and ruthless might sell HIM out too, the President now finds himself sitting atop a smoldering wreck of a nation, trying a bit of happy talk as if that's going to work... even though, the smart-money of reality says that "the tea-party" is just a sight-gag set up by the real money to force their real interests, and if they want, the real money is going to put up a REAL candidate against him... I leave it as an exercise for the reader [and given my current traffic levels, that's about right!] to tell me how "Obama-Biden" (or even "Obama-Clinton") can defeat, say, "Huntsman-Rubio" in 2012.

My advice to you'all remains the same. America-the empire's best days are, of course, behind it, though the people within the country's borders can, at least, make ourselves fine, fulfilling lives even amidst the declining imperium (if not BECAUSE of it). My own grandparents (whom God saw fit to keep around long enough to let them attend my college graduation from Columbia, at which, of course, Barry Obama and presumably his grandparents also attended) happened to live to ripe old ages in a modest house in Yonkers, NY with one old-but-reliable vehicle, with a minimum of tchotchkes (and none of it made in China!), always surrounded by family and friends, financially comfortable but never remotely "rich"... but they led happy, satisfying, until the very end, HEALTHY, FULFILLING LIVES. DO YOU GET IT, PEOPLE?

Alrightie then. Eat-- and grow-- your vegetables, damn it. You don't need the freaking i-phone or the SUV.