There are days that I really hate politics – days when my cynicism and contempt for the politicians, the process, the whole bloody, unholy mess of spin meisters, pundits, press, bloggers, and commentators from all sides of the ideological spectrum make me want to chuck it all and write about sports, or gardening, or cats.
Readers of this site know that this too, shall pass; that tomorrow or the next day or day after that, I will resume my role as cantankerous curmudgeon railing against the left, the right, and the squishes in the middle as if this feeling of utter, depthless depression about the state of the nation never existed.
Part of it is, I’m sure, the coming slaughter of conservatives at the polls in November. The ignorant, smug, self-righteous liberals who visit this site (as opposed to most lefty visitors who are thoughtful and eager to engage in dialogue) who keep telling me to “get used to it” haven’t a clue themselves what is about to transpire with this coming election.
We are about to hand the presidency to the most ill-equipped, shallow, unschooled, and naive candidate in American history. Less than 4 years ago, Barack Obama was an obscure Illinois state senator with a paper thin record of accomplishment and a work history that included organizing inner city residents by bringing their resentments against white America to the surface thus motivating them to vote and put pressure on city hall.
If one asks the question how he rose so quickly to the heights he finds himself now, all you have to do is look at his sponsors in the Chicago political machine; state senate Majority leader Emil Jones (who helped pad his non-existent resume by putting his name as a sponsor on bills he never worked to pass), the as yet unfleshed out Tony Rezko connections to the operators and moneymen who were invaluable in his 2004 senate run, and Mayor Daley himself whose brother Bill, former cabinet official in Clinton’s administration and the man who ran the Gore 2000 campaign, an unpaid consultant to the Obama campaign who possesses one of the most valuable Rolodex in the Democratic party.
And let’s not forget the man who has brilliantly packaged the Obama message of “change” and “hope” by obscuring the candidate’s unabashed liberalism with enough amorphous, non-ideological platitudes to pave the road to heaven twice over. David Axelrod has many gifts. But perhaps his most valuable contribution to the Obama campaign has been in message discipline. Never before has a liberal Democrat stayed on point through appearance after appearance, debate after debate, talk show after talk show.
And, of course, the candidate’s own numerous political gifts have rounded out a campaign that looks unbeatable at this point.
Given all of this, just how bad (or good) would an Obama presidency be?
I have written previously how this election reminds me of 1980’s debacle for the Democrats. And while I still think this is true, there is a major difference between then and now; Democrats today are much less united (outside of the Iraq War) on what needs to be done to “fix” things than Republicans were a generation ago. Back then, the mantra of “lower taxes, less regulation, higher defense spending” was an easy sell and GOP candidates from top to bottom embraced the themes that Reagan hammered home day after day on the campaign trail.
But the left today is not in as much agreement as to what needs to be done although the outlines of some programs will see broad acceptance among Democrats on Capitol Hill. There will no doubt be a primal thrust at the beginning of an Obama administration for some kind of national health insurance. All depends on whether Obama insists on his own plan (that does not include mandated participation) or whether he breaks down and realizes there is nothing “national” about what he is proposing unless people are forced to sign up and pay into the insurance fund.
Some of the more entertaining moments during the debate occurred when watching Hillary criticize Obama’s plan for not covering all Americans while twisting and dodging about the draconian mandates contained in her own plan that would force Americans to buy health insurance – even if they don’t want it. And if they don’t buy it, enforcement provisions will almost certainly involve the IRS. What other government agency is set up to do it?
Will Americans feel the same about national health insurance once they realize what it means – what it really means – as far as forcing citizens at the point of the IRS gun to pay up or suffer the consequences? We’re an independent minded citizenry and don’t like to be told what to do but my guess is we will meekly submit to this massive intrusion of our liberties because citizens are convinced only the government can act to supply them with competitive insurance rates. Regardless of whether that’s true or not it doesn’t matter. We’re going to have national health insurance by the time the cherry blossoms are blooming in the tidal basin next year.
On the surface, it appears that Democrats are united in their desire to end the Iraq War. However, here too, you have a wide range of options being pushed forward by Democrats that almost certainly guarantees there will be token withdrawals of troops from Iraq and little more.
Unless a President Obama is willing to fire Gen. Raymond Odierno (who will be top commander in Iraq this time next year), CENTCOM commander Petreaus, and a host of lesser lights and replace them with generals who will tell him what he wants to hear on Iraq (don’t put this past Obama – Bush did it, why not him?), it is likely we will have virtually the same number of troops doing pretty much what they are doing now in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Obama’s on again-off again advisor Samantha Power said the same thing and common sense alone makes Obama’s “plan” to reduce troops by a brigade a month little more than a pipe dream.
The reason Obama will give – Bush screwed things up so bad that the troops are needed to prevent catastrophe – will be close to the truth so all but the Dennis Kucinich wing of the party will probably cut him some slack.
The real test of Obama’s leadership will come when dealing with the economy. Whether we are in an official recession won’t matter as much as the fact that economic activity will almost certainly be sluggish with most vital sectors experiencing slow or no growth. There will also no doubt be considerable slack in the labor market as well. The question is will the Democrats and Obama take actions that will help spur growth or will they give into their worst impulses and raise taxes, gut NAFTA, and take other actions that might exacerbate the situation?
I have zero confidence that anything the Democrats propose will make the situation better. Overall, the Democrats are unfriendly to the idea of a globalized economy and given the opportunity (or forced into it by their masters in the labor unions), they will find a way to throw a monkey wrench into free trade agreements while perhaps making it illegal to “outsource” goods and services to other countries. This will force other nations to react to what we are doing and the entire edifice of global trade will be threatened.
This will almost certainly mean slower growth and more difficulty in getting the economy back on track. Of course, the blame will successfully be placed at the feet of Bush and the Republicans where some of it belongs but without the inconvenience of having to own up to policies that have actually made the situation worse.
As far as foreign policy, I am actually less nervous about Obama than I was a few months ago. The reason is I don’t think Obama as president will emphasize foreign policy the first few years of his presidency but rather keep his nose to the domestic grindstone. Allowing things to float at this point – with the exception of Iraq and Afghanistan – wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will go nowhere as will negotiations with Syria. Pakistan is already a lost cause. Russia will continue to be a thorn in our side as will China but there might be areas – nuclear nonproliferation – that would benefit all countries and where Obama might actually do some good.
The Iranian situation will resolve itself with or without President Obama’s help. If he actively tries to prevent Israel from removing what they believe is an existential threat, his presidency will be over. And since the US is going to get blamed for anything Israel does anyway, my guess is he will tacitly support any Israeli action against the Iranian nuclear program.
Would he attack Iran? Despite his bellicose comments about not allowing the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons, since there will likely be no evidence that the Iranians are constructing nukes, it is extremely unlikely that a President Obama would greenlight any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel, of course, doesn’t have that luxury and once it is clear that Iran could enrich uranium on an industrial scale to the 85-90% level, all bets are off and US support or no, they will hit the Iranians with everything they’ve got.
Admittedly, the fallout from such an attack could be extremely serious. But Syria won’t commit suicide for their Iranian allies by starting a war they can’t win and Iran’s military is something of a joke – outside of some rockets that could hit Israeli cities with conventional explosives. The fact is, for all their bluster, Syria and Iran can’t do much damage to the Israelis and they know it.
Diplomatically, it might be a different story. It would almost certainly cause the Arab street to explode – Jews attacking Muslims – and it would almost certainly cool relations between us and our “moderate” Arab allies. But as I’ve mentioned previously, the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia aren’t looking to expand their own “peaceful” nuclear programs because they need power plants. They fear Iran and any action taken by anyone – even the Israelis – to remove the nuclear threat will be greeted by outrage on the outside but relief behind the scenes.
How Obama manages all of this – and I fear it is a virtual certainty he will have to face it – will test both the man and his presidency. Is he up to the challenge? I am of the school of history that believes great leaders are sometimes born but more often rise to the occasion having given little indication they were up to managing great happenings. Think Lincoln. But also think James Buchanan who sat paralyzed in the White House while state after state seceded from the union. Buchanan had great experience in government having served two terms as a senator and 4 years as Secretary of State. But all that experience went for naught when he froze during the greatest crisis the union ever faced.
The next 4 years will see the US tested as perhaps it hasn’t been since the end of World War II. Our alliances, our security, our leadership in the world – all will present enormous problems for the next Commander in Chief. Couple that with a moribund economy and a restless citizenry searching for a unity of purpose and you have perhaps the most daunting challenges a new chief executive will have faced at least since Reagan and possibly since FDR.
I know one thing. Obama will be the only president we have. Doing everything we can to support him – at least as far as our consciences allow – could make the difference between success and failure.