Friday, February 06, 2009

Obama's Naivety

My worst fears, concerning Obama, remain a possibility. He just doesn't understand how the Republicans obtained power, held power and how the Democrats' phenomenal incompetence contributed. Once again the Democrats, and Obama especially, were outspun, outmaneuvered and generally made to look like fools (and maybe they are).

Rarely before has this country been in such need for change - a change from the last 8 years especially. And yet, in a not so deft turn-about, the Republicans have managed to make the Democrat's stimulus plan look irresponsible while they themselves spout precisely the same "remedies" that have gotten us in this mess.

Now that takes incompetence. When Obama stated that he screwed up it should have been in reference to his handling of the stimulus plan, not Daschle.

Obama needs to understand that the Republicans' priorities are not his. They never will be.

He also needs to understand that the Democrats in Congress aren't necessarily going to act in his best interest. He isn't a member of the club anymore. He's the President. It's time he start acting like it.

Right now.

  • We’re happy to see President Obama getting tough with Congressional Republicans who are trying to sabotage the stimulus and recovery bill and bring even greater ruin on the economy...

NY Times Editorial: Getting Tough in Washington

  • A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clich├ęs about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts...

Krugman: On the Edge

  • The irony of President Obama's Blue Tuesday is that the wall-to-wall television interviews he granted were designed not to apologize for Tom Daschle's fall from grace but to fight back against the Republicans' success in tarnishing his stimulus package...

E.J. Dionne: Time to Play Hardball

  • ...At the top of the myth list is the Republican faith in tax cuts, particularly those designed to benefit wealthy investors. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that for every problem, conservatives have a consistent solution that involves reducing corporate or capital-gains taxes, or lowering the top rate, or instituting a regressive flat tax or consumption tax. (They like spending, too, on certain favored contractors, notably in the defense sector, that donate generously to Republican and right-wing causes.)...

Joe Conason: Stimulus Skeptics Wrong (Again)

  • ...President Obama's $825 billion plan is a very good first step to contain the damage. Much of the package would go directly toward maintaining state and local services. The package also would help those hardest hit by the downturn with increased funding for unemployment benefits....

Dean Baker: Pass the stimulus - then help shorten the work week


Anonymous said...


I wouldn't worry too much. Barack Obama is just one fellow. He is mostly a figurehead. Just as Dick Cheney ran the country for the previous eight years, President Obama's team--especially Hillary Clinton--will run the country for the next four years. They're a very good team. However, the forces that have shaped Washington, D.C. to this day will continue to exert their effects.

Behavior only changes when it's too painful to persist on the present course. That applies to individuals, to the Republican party, and to the Democrat party.

I think that you're putting too much faith into a single person. I don't really believe that it would have mattered much who the president was. I thought that President Reagan was great because he knew what he wanted, he was the most magnificent communicator and inspirational leader to ever hold the office, and he executed on his beliefs. He liked and cared about people and the country. People trusted him.

We haven't seen that type of leadership since he left office. While I'm not a Republican, I appreciate greatness. I have no idea what the next four years will bring, but I do believe that we're in a much more rational environment than we've been for decades.

Whether or not that will even matter, I don't know.


upinVermont said...

//He is mostly a figurehead. Just as Dick Cheney ran the country for the previous eight years, President Obama's team--especially Hillary Clinton--will run the country//

The assertion is baseless and idle, but interesting insofar as it reveals your political biases and predisposition.

Aaron said...

The difference is that Obama knows how to learn from mistakes. And he can admit them.

The republican party has been taken over by ideological extremists that know no compromise. They will fight like the Japanese did for the island of Peleliu- for no constructive reason, and to the death.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
upinVermont said...


Try commenting again without the snide comment directed at me.



gail said...

Here's my two cents: I think the Republicans have been fighting back against the stimulus package that Obama and company presented them with, not so much because the Republicans actually *believe* the package needs to include concessions for their rich friends by lowering taxes, but because they needed to show they could stand up to Obama--a purely political strategic move. I think Obama's response to the Republicans initially was to try stroking them because it showed his followers that he'd do what he said he would do during his campaign, which was to negotiate with his enemies rather than lobbing superlatives back at them--his whole 'Why can't we all just try to get along' approach. Again, in essence, another poltical move. Obama shows the country he's going to try changing things, and the Republicans stand up to him, and everyone's constituents are happy. But then, the January stats came out. And we learned that more than half a million people in this country had been laid off from their jobs in the course of one month, and the stats for February, March and April are predicted to get steadily worse if things continue on this course. And so now Obama is changing his tune, and to that I say, thank goodness. To coin a cliched phrase, desperate times call for desperate measures! I hope it works. I hope the assholes in the Republican party wake up to the reality that if some sort of stimulous doesn't get approved and fast, sooner or later, we're all going to inevitably suffer from this mess of an economic situation we're in, no matter which tax bracket we fall into.

upinVermont said...

Hey Gail,

Nice to hear a fresh voice.

Your interpretation has some merit. I talked last night to another friend of mine who disagreed that Obama was being naive. His argument sounded a lot like yours.

I hope you are both right & that I'm wrong.

It's a risky ploy. Support for the stimulus package among Americans dropped considerably during Obama's "bipartisanship". This only helps the reputation of the Republicans at the expense of the Democrats and Obama. If only in that respect, Obama's strategy failed. He lost support for the package and the Republicans looked better.

Anonymous said...


Take a good look at the cover of The New Yorker:

I didn't design it, and I won't even comment on it. I am only pointing it out for your contemplation. Keep this image in mind as the next four years unfold.



Aaron said...

I agree with Gail. As for public perception, it is ever so easily warped by cable and Fox. Consider that Limbaugh, Beck and cronies are on the airwaves all day long every day telling everyone that the situation is over dramatized by liberal media and that we aren't in a financial crisis, and that Obama is trying to swallow the private sector with the government.

Consider this amazing situation- right wing economic philosophy of deregulation led by Alan Greenspan and maintained by every president including Clinton, leads to a financial meltdown. A republican president orders the first stimulus package and every economist both right wing and left agree that another major stimulus is needed to avoid disaster.

And what is the result? Two of my friends telling me that Obama is going to turn America communist because of all this government spending. Ya, it's Obama's fault. It's all the democrats fault.

Limbaugh is all that is left of the republican party. An entertainer. An extremist. He is on the air all day whining over 1% of the money in the package being allocated to things he doesn't like, such as climate research and green energy. He cries like it is the end of the world. I listened to his show for an hour the other day and there was not one mention that we were in a financial crisis.

upinVermont said...

Yeah Steve,

I've seen this cover. Old news.

upinVermont said...

//I agree with Gail.//

That's cool. I'm just disappointed that Obama let the Republicans get the upper hand - intentional or not.

Here's a counterargument, in agreement with me, from the ever sharp-tongued .Maureen Dowd.

upinVermont said...

By the way, Aaron. I think you're right on about the right-wing punditry. This is something Obama is going to have to take into account. His mentioning Limbaugh's name in reference to the Republicans is an interesting strategy. We'll see how it works.

Anonymous said...

PS As you know, I'm not a Republican (or a Democrat, for that matter). I'm not interested in the entertainment theater of American politics, but I believe the following:

1. The economy isn't in as bad shape as would have people believe;

2. The economy is in grave danger of getting into the depression promoted by;

3. Drastic and sustained action is necessary by the federal government to avoid the equivalent of the Japanese "Lost Decade;"

4. I disagree that there will be a steep recovery in direct proportion to the precipitous decline that we've experienced, when a recovery does happen. Instead, I believe that it will be slow and will extend over multiple years: at least two, and possibly more than four (in which case Obama would be ousted from the presidency should a suitable Republican candidate be found);

5. I do not believe that the national unemployment rate will reach 10%.

6. I believe that the boom and bust cycles that the United States has experienced will continue, but at a far greater frequency than before the world was connected via global communications and global economic interdependencies;

7. I believe that the quality of life for Americans, in general, will erode from what it's been in previous decades, and this will remain so for the rest of our lives;

8. I believe that the main drivers for ongoing economic pressure that will cause 6 and 7 above are:

a. The budget deficit;
b. A lack of adequate health care;
c. Not having money to continue social security;
d. Drastically higher energy prices than in previous decades;
e. Not having money to invest in universities and research so that other countries will take the lead in science;
f. Climate change, challenges with food production, and the spread of disease, all of which are interrelated;
g. Ongoing wars and national defense budgets that cannot be funded.

Due to these problems, should terrorism and the continued polarization of wealth between the few and the many (particularly on a national level) continue, the United States will face more enemies than ever before, and it will slowly lose its global leadership on most fronts (including standard of living) to other countries.

In brief, we are on our way down into a slow decline, and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it. Discussing Rush Limbaugh and political entertainment theater is merely a distraction from the realization of the inevitability of the demise of the modern Roman Empire.


Anonymous said...

Aaron, Pat,

What do you suppose the probability is that Barack Obama will win a second term?


upinVermont said...

//I believe that the quality of life for Americans, in general, will erode from what it's been in previous decades, and this will remain so for the rest of our lives;//


First, good post. Second, all of your predictions may be correct. The only prediction I question is "quality of life". Quality of life is a highly subjective standard. I think you would have to define exactly what you mean by that, unless you're equating quality of life with wealth.

It has been demonstrated conclusively (by some sophisticated sociological studies), that happiness and wealth are not directly related. In fact, the current crisis might propel innovations that will drastically improve our quality of life - cleaner energy, less dependence on foreign energy, improved health coverage and infrastructure.

It all depends on our political will. There are even voices among Republicans who recognize that healthcare *must* change. Currently, they are being drowned out by the dimwitted old guard who have decided that the lesson of the 2008 is that they weren't conservative *enough* - read "just plain stupid".

upinVermont said...

//What do you suppose the probability is that Barack Obama will win a second term?//

It all depends on Barack Obama.

My own view is that, based on his run for his office, he will succeed. He doesn't seem to be very good at throwing the first punch, at framing debate in anticipation of his opponents' arguments, but he is astonishingly and astoundingly good at counter-punching.

If the past is any guide to the future, the success of the Republicans' sucker punch will be short-lived. Unlike Bush, who was single-mindedly incapable of learning new lessons, I doubt Obama will make the same mistake twice.

That's my hope, at least.

Anonymous said...


By quality of life, I mean access to clean air and water, safe food, sanitation, preventive health care, allopathic medicine, higher education, meaningful employment, affordable housing, non-abusive parents, rationality in political discourse, the eradication of false and dangerous beliefs and institutions such as Scientology and other cults, and most importantly, sane, safe, fulfilling, and inspiring relationships. We need real communities. As far as I can see, these are all in decline.

I think that the world and the United States, particularly, has gotten so complex on so many levels that it's getting impossible to predict what effects and side-effects any type of intervention might have, whether it be economic, biological, or even memetic.

I'm not sure what political will means, or what it entails. What specific actions are you suggesting? I just read an article in the New York Times that suggests that renewable sources of energy aren't renewable because they necessitate the use of rare earth minerals and face other difficulties that make deployment on a large scale currently impossible.

Even if we only faced a single threat--less oil, ever higher prices--I think that that would be enough to cause collapse.

Historically, the United States keeps squeaking through, somehow, but that history occurred during a time of land expansion (e.g. the Louisiana Purchase and the spread from coast to coast) and isolation from the rest of the world. Now that we're interconnected with the rest of the world, and a ripple in just about any place will cause tremors to be felt everywhere, there's no telling what will happen.

However, I subscribe to an economic Newton's Law of Cooling: the rich countries will become poorer, and the poor countries will become richer, until a state of equilibrium is reached.

Wherever you shift money, you also shift power. We are pouring enormous money into China, and it is gaining power. Eventually, just as Britain before us, we will no longer be able to call the shots. There will arise another global bully. Perhaps Hegel's concept of history is, essentially, correct.

As a recent writer wrote, we are literally watching the unfolding of Atlas Shrugged right before us. Humans are highly adaptive, by and large, and we will continue to survive and change our expectations.

As for happiness, it's not something that comes from material wealth, although that's necessary to a point, since its absence certainly will cause suffering. It's determined half by one's genetic set point, and half by what actions one takes. Psychically, I don't think that much will change, regardless of how we do externally (materially).

But I do think that our material environment will change, and that the remainder of our lives will be more difficult--perhaps much more difficult--than the first halves were.


Anonymous said...


I hope that you're right about President Obama. Since we're not in a local recession, but a global one--and remember that the Great Depression was a primary contributor to World War II--it will take a global effort to find a way perhaps not necessarily out, but forward.

Things are faster than ever before, and they're more connected than ever before. What that means is anyone's guess, but I suspect that there will be violent swings: economically, politically, socially, and so on.

The luxury of the future will need to be redefined from a large amount and high grade of material to a high quality of ideas.

We had the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Information Revolution. I predict that in the future, we will have a Scholarly Revolution, the latest expression of the Enlightenment.