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November 25, 2008

Obama's "Change": What Is Really Changing?

Here we go in a flung festoon,
Halfway up to the jealous moon!
Don’t you envy our pranceful bands?
Don’t you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn’t you like if your tails were—so—
Curved in the shape of a Cupid’s bow?
Now you’re angry, but never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two—
Something noble and grand and good,
Won by merely wishing we could.

Now we’re going to ...never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

- Road Song of the Bandar Log

Had I been asked, before reading Gail Collins' incandescently asshatted op-ed the other day, whether it was indeed the most idiotic column ever published in the New York Times I'd have been hard pressed to demur. O me of little faith. Never again will I doubt the power of the human spirit to dispel uncertainty with a well chosen word or two. Or better yet, two hundred...

I have a confession and a suggestion. The confession: I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”

Now you know why I don’t get invited out for dinner much these days. If I had my druthers right now we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. Forget the inaugural balls; we can’t afford them. Forget the grandstands; we don’t need them. Just get me a Supreme Court justice and a Bible, and let’s swear in Barack Obama right now — by choice — with the same haste we did — by necessity — with L.B.J. in the back of Air Force One.

Unfortunately, it would take too long for a majority of states to ratify such an amendment. What we can do now, though, said the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, co-author of “The Broken Branch,” is “ask President Bush to appoint Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s proposed Treasury secretary, immediately.” Make him a Bush appointment and let him take over next week. This is not a knock on Hank Paulson. It’s simply that we can’t afford two months of transition where the markets don’t know who is in charge or where we’re going. At the same time, Congress should remain in permanent session to pass any needed legislation.

This is the real “Code Red.” As one banker remarked to me: “We finally found the W.M.D.” They were buried in our own backyard — subprime mortgages and all the derivatives attached to them.

Yet, it is obvious that President Bush can’t mobilize the tools to defuse them — a massive stimulus program to improve infrastructure and create jobs, a broad-based homeowner initiative to limit foreclosures and stabilize housing prices, and therefore mortgage assets, more capital for bank balance sheets and, most importantly, a huge injection of optimism and confidence that we can and will pull out of this with a new economic team at the helm.

The last point is something only a new President Obama can inject. What ails us right now is as much a loss of confidence — in our financial system and our leadership — as anything else. I have no illusions that Obama’s arrival on the scene will be a magic wand, but it would help.

Right now there is something deeply dysfunctional, bordering on scandalously irresponsible, in the fractious way our political elite are behaving — with business as usual in the most unusual economic moment of our lifetimes. They don’t seem to understand: Our financial system is imperiled.

Gail Collins and Thom Friedman. These are not serious people. Let's walk through the logic of this situation:

1. We just elected the least experienced and least well vetted President perhaps in modern history. Even the media are now admitting they competely dropped the ball.

2. Since the media couldn't be bothered to examine Obama's record until weeks after the election, voters were forced to evaluate his campaign promises using nothing more than some indefinable supernatural sixth sense, which perhaps explains the essential vagueness of "Yes, we can". This rather novel method of vetting leaders, in addition to the obvious virtue of never having been tried before (very likely with good reason), breathed new life into the term "faith-based" candidate.

3. Those unwise enough to pay attention to what Obama promised on the campaign trail (Obama pledged, variously, to redistribute 'more fairly' unneeded income from selfish top wage earners to that deserving 40-50% of wage earners who currently pay no taxes; also to resurrect FDR's economic bill of rights) were accused of engaging in nasty and divisive character attacks or harboring paranoid delusions of Socialism.

Who knew that repeating a candidate's actual words (and taking him seriously, much less assuming he isn't lying through his teeth) was vicious, divisive behavior? An attack, by desperate paranoid types? Got it.

4. Now that Obama has been elected, the Netroots are outraged by Obama's 180 degree reversal of the campaign promises we apparently weren't supposed to take seriously. Silly Netroots. Instead of being viewed as evidence that conservatives were justified in their concerns about Obama (much less evidence of Obama's duplicity or of the press's utter failure to question him during the campaign), the new narrative is that "Obama's staunchest supporters were fools to trust him":

Barack Obama isn't even President yet, and he's already angering some of his most devoted followers on the party's left wing. This is the mark of what could be a very successful presidency.

"With its congressional majority, the Democratic Party has refused to seriously try to end the war, to stop the bailout and to stop the trampling of civil liberties, just to name a few off the top of my head," wrote David Sirota on the popular liberal blog OpenLeft, decrying the serial betrayals of Obama and the congressional Democratic majority. The Democratic Party, he wrote, has "faced no real retribution" for its manifold heresies, something that Sirota believes he and his band of angry bloggers must change. "We better understand why this happened," he fumed.

Allow me to provide an answer. You don't matter.

5. So let's have a recap here:

We have Barack Obama, a candidate who ran on a "Change is coming" mantra, who relentlessly pounded John McCain and the Bush administration with the tagline: "Eight years of failed Republican policies"....

One wonders whether those eight years include policies like these?

Would "failed Republican policies" include the 2005 reform bill the NY Times called the most sweeping reform of the banking industry since the savings and loan crisis? The one that was blocked by the Democrats?

6. Does "failed policies" include the Bush tax cuts it now looks as though Mr. Obama will allow to stand?

In light of the downturn, Mr. Obama is also said to be reconsidering a key campaign pledge: his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. According to several people familiar with the discussions, he might instead let those tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2011, effectively delaying any tax increase while he gives his stimulus plan a chance to work.

7. Do "failed policies" include "staying the course" set by Secretary Paulson?

Geithner has worked closely with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to devise responses to the most critical events of the market turmoil, including the bailouts of the investment bank Bear Stearns and the insurance giant American International Group…

Under Geithner, the Treasury would not be expected to alter its approach to the financial crisis — or how to spend the $700 billion in emergency rescue funding approved by Congress last month, though skepticism is building among lawmakers about whether Paulson has devised the right remedy to the problems.

8.Or following a "seriously weakened administration's" lead on Iraq policy instead of withdrawing the troops at the rate of 1-2 brigades a month with the end goal of having them all out by 16 months, as he promised?

A continuation of the Bush tax cuts, a contination of the Paulson bailout under Tim Geithner (after Paulson, the man most responsible for designing the bailout), a continuation of the Bush troop withdrawal schedule, no big hurry to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell ... in all the most important respects, it's hard to see much daylight between Obama's "Change" and George Bush's "failed policies".

Does this guy have an original idea in his head?

And just what are we to make of Obama's claims that our current troubles are the result of "8 years of failed Republican policies"? If that is so, why on earth aren't we changing course, and why do Collins and Friedman want usher in what is essentially only more of the same ahead of schedule?

These are not serious people.

Posted by Cassandra at November 25, 2008 07:57 AM

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> it's hard to see much daylight between Obama's "Change" and George Bush's "failed policies".

Ah, but you see the "democratic" glow around Obama's saintly head? That makes all the diffence in the world. All that matters to Democrats, anyway.

Anywho. Wow. I might have to scale back on the doom I've been predicting if he's not actually going to be so stupid as to change policies which have been massively successful for the last 20-odd years...

Posted by: Obloodyhell at November 25, 2008 10:37 AM

Well, what cracks me up is the utter mindblowing doublespeak coming out of the mouths of so many of his supporters.

I like Juan Williams.

I really do. But this weekend the man was going on and on about how Obama's supporters have "a right to be angry" about the fact that he has reneged on his campaign promises on the war and on the economy.

O-kayyyyyyy big guy.

And then not TWO SECONDS LATER old Juan is giving conservatives crap about "paranoid fears of an Obama socialist paradise"!!!

Whoa! Juan! What about all those campaign promises? Did you forget those?

Ohhhhhh yeah! I guess we were just supposed to blow him off.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 25, 2008 10:45 AM

This whole mantra is really pretty funny when you think about it.

It's very authoritarian: the media isn't supposed to ask questions because it's impertinent, the taxpayers aren't allowed to ask questions because it's a "divisive character attack" to confront The One with his own campaign rhetoric... we're all supposed to just close our eyes and trussssst The One.

Yeah. Right. Run that one by them and substitute George W. Bush's name and see how it flies.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 25, 2008 10:48 AM

There’s much of a “feel good” aura about Obama. What it is, where it comes from, who knows. Who knows if there’s anything actually there. There’s no denying that others have a visceral reaction to the man, from tingling legs to the vapors and no doubt much more. Such reactions are completely without reason and there’s no use trying to figure it out. There isn’t much Obama could say or do that would dissuade these people from their emotional shudders. The cult of personality isn’t a cult until you get some true believers first. He has them.

Posted by: GeorgePal at November 25, 2008 11:09 AM

Consider Obama's past. His father abandoned him at an early age. His mother did not give him a stable childhood, and he finally lived with his grandparents.

He never really fit in, and he had to alter his presentation to fit a changing audience of classmates. Obama reminds me of Air Force brats we knew. They were forced to form superficial relationships quickly before they moved on. Obama became a transformational figure because he knew how to become what his audience wanted.

I think he is smart enough to know he is an empty suit, and he is surrounding himself with advisers who know more than he does. He is a fast learner, and he will take their lead. Obama may be a socialist at heart, but he has few strong attachments. He will abandon anyone or anything which is no longer useful. In our current crisis, tried and true Clinton-Bush policies are Obama's new friends.

Posted by: James at November 25, 2008 12:10 PM

I think that may be one of the most accurate descriptions I've read. One can only hope that he *knows* he's an empty suit and never feels the need to *fill* the space around his socialist heart with his new-found power.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 25, 2008 12:33 PM

"Obama's staunch supporters were fools to trust him."


I always hoped he wasn't serious, but I didn't dare hope it very hard. This past week, I'm actually feeling a little better.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 25, 2008 12:49 PM

Hey. That didn't work. Anybody know how to do a strikethrough?

Posted by: Texan99 at November 25, 2008 12:50 PM

Sorry, Tex, the Princess is the only one with the ability to strikethrough on this site.

The wench.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 25, 2008 12:56 PM

Barry Hussein is a joke. An unaccomplished left-wing lawyer who's only skill is TALKING AND TALKING AND TALKING, who also harbours some anti-American feelings and ideas.

He acts like a little boy...."Office of the President-Elect" - there is no such thing Barry boy. ANd the fawning media who revere him so....sickening. The news media today act like the PR Dept of the government.

The USA is kaput.

Posted by: RSSG at November 25, 2008 01:03 PM

After GWB and Cheney resign just to make Gail Collins' Thanksgiving Day, [t]hen House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. Obviously, she’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.

Thereby assuring the rainbow unicorns will prance into her kitchen and turn all her cabinet fixtures to gold -- and just in time for Christmas, too...

Posted by: BillT at November 25, 2008 02:06 PM

NYT editors & columnists want to talk about the financial crisis--okay, let's talk about the financial crisis. Although there are many causes, one of them--and one that hasn't gotten much attention--is the role of the media.

Until pretty recently, there have been VERY few stories in newspapers/magazines/TV which challenged the notion that house prices would go up, forever, at 10% per year or so...an obviously impossible thing. Rather, the media did what they always do in bubbles, which is to throw gasoline on the fire, creating a positive feedback loop or a vicious circle with teeth.

Posted by: david foster at November 25, 2008 04:51 PM

They didn't want to challenge the 10% mantra, David. It was in the markets they live in.

In *my* market, the people assuming a 10% rise in home values was the county assessor.

And he lost every time.

This year he assured us that "Home values have not decreased, but in fact increased."

Heh. Not according to the "For Sale" signs sitting for months in front of new and used homes.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at November 25, 2008 05:19 PM


*grabs guacamole, chips and beer*

There are going to be some seriously pissed off *believers* if this report turns out to be true.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 25, 2008 06:12 PM

So what is The Messiah's policy on Ruskie ships in South America? Anybody know? Maybe he can load up a Feadship with Kos Kids, give them ARs, and send them down to shadow the Russian Navy. Heh! Now there is a mental image that'll have you on the floor laughing!

GW will be leaving office fairly soon so The One better learn how to rule. Quick!

At least he's keeping Gates. That alone proves to me the guy has no clue and is probably sitting back right now going "Oh Sh*t! What did I get myself into?" :-o

Posted by: JHD at November 25, 2008 10:17 PM

I hope I am wrong about the characterization of Obama as Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes. In an updated version of "I see nothing! NUUUTHING!" I fear Obama is now saying to Michelle "But, I know nothing! NUUUTHING!"

Now that is change you can believe in! Are the lefties going to shift gears and treat us to 4 years of ODS?

Posted by: vet66 at November 26, 2008 05:58 PM

What this means is that he'll have to throw his fans a few bones on issues like gun control. You know, things that only persecute right-wingers.

Posted by: SDN at November 27, 2008 12:27 PM

I find it hysterical that the pirates are starting to loot as prices go down. Or is it just me?

*refreshes Sly's bowls of chips and guac.*

Posted by: Cricket at November 28, 2008 08:21 AM

But then again, it may not be about the oil, it could be about the tankers...

Posted by: Cricket at November 28, 2008 08:23 AM


Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 28, 2008 08:52 PM

Some of my comments were filtered by VC for moderation, Cass. Or so says the message I got.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 28, 2008 08:53 PM

As well they should be. It means you're trying to cut into *my* turf...

*slithering toward the bunker*

Posted by: BillT at November 29, 2008 04:30 AM