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February 03, 2009

Reality Bites

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say, but if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend
That you can build them again.
Look around, the grass is high
The fields are ripe, it's the springtime of my life

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won't you stop and remember me
At any convenient time
Funny how my memory slips while looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka and lime

But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Funny. This is precisely what I thought when I read this:

Here’s a clue, Mr. Gibbs - unless you clear the bar it really doesn’t matter how high you set it. Setting the bar at 10′ but only being able to reach 6′ doesn’t really impress anyone.

Normally I'm not big on harsh judgments. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't see scores of news stories that I pass up because I wouldn't have appreciated the other side beating on George Bush for something he couldn't help.

But when a politician someone presumes to lecture others about a job he hasn't performed himself and then is full of excuses when reality bites him in the ass, I don't have a lot of patience.

There is something to be said for humility, and if you expect people to give you the benefit of the doubt, a bit more humility and a lot less bombast might just buy you the time to figure out the daunting job you've taken on:

To hear Mr. Obama speak now on matters like the national defense is to recognize that the leader now in the White House is in every respect the person he seemed on the campaign trail: a man of immense moral certitude, prone to an abstract idealism, and pronouncements that range between the rational and the otherworldly.

That's not counting the occasional touches of pure rubbish. Having, on the second day of his presidency, issued executive orders effectively undermining efforts to extract (from captured al Qaeda operatives) intelligence essential to the prevention of terror attacks -- and in addition seriously hampering the prosecution of terrorist detainees -- Mr. Obama argued that it was just by such steps that we strengthened our security. In his own words: "It is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world."

What can this mean? What moral high ground, exactly, would have enabled us to deter the designs of the religious fanatics in search of martyrdom and the slaughter of as many Americans as possible on September 11?

So much had happened in Washington that week -- so much speechifying and celebration -- it was easy to tune out that pronouncement, particularly since we'd heard its like so often during Mr. Obama's presidential run. It was of a piece with those assertions, emphasized the length of his campaign, that it was not our strength in arms but our principles that had made us a great nation.

During his grim inaugural address -- never has the promise of a nation's rebirth sounded so cheerless -- he was similarly emphatic as he touched on the issue of our defense, proclaiming that "we will not give up our ideals for expediency's sake." It was a line that evoked a loud upsurge of applause from his audience.

They had heard in it again, Mr. Obama's most dramatic and familiar campaign charge, delivered now in shorthand that needed no spelling out: The day of the Bush administration's machinations against our sacred ideals, against democracy itself, all in the name of our security, was now over. In this new day of our national salvation, then -- in a post 9/11 America that had seen 3,000 of its inhabitants murdered by terrorists -- it was now acceptable to characterize strenuous efforts to avert more such catastrophes as "expediency." It was not only acceptable, but proof of a higher moral intelligence.

The generation of Americans who had faced down fascism and communism understood, Mr. Obama further explained on Inauguration Day, that power alone could not protect us. They understood that our security came not just from missiles and tanks but from "sturdy alliances" and "enduring convictions" -- it emanated from "the tempering quality of humility and restraint."

It's impossible to know what kind of history Mr. Obama has been reading but this much at least is true -- the generation he describes knew the importance of sturdy alliances all right. There was that one, for instance, between the American leader, Franklin Roosevelt, and the British, Winston Churchill. Both of them, along with their countrymen, were driven by one enduring conviction -- that fascism should be eradicated from the face of the earth and a total war of destruction waged on Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany until their surrender. It would be hard to find, in their pursuit of that purpose, any hint of that tempering quality of humility and restraint. Not that it isn't entertaining to imagine Roosevelt extending the hand of friendship and conciliation to Hirohito, or Churchill proposing to raise a glass and talk things over with Hitler.

It's been tempting to ascribe Mr. Obama's orders on terrorist detentions, interrogations and Guantanamo to his campaign promises. Not to mention the pressure of that political constituency whose chief enterprise has been these many years to portray the war on terror as an illicit enterprise, conducted by agents of government bent on robbing innocent Americans of their constitutional rights and instilling baseless fears -- and that has succeeded, with the invaluable aid of a like-minded quarter of the media, in presenting a picture of Guantanamo as a hell on earth akin to Auschwitz.

Mr. Obama, who has always been much better than his vocal supporters on the far left, better than the cadres in MoveOn.Org, is no extremist. Still, there is no reason to think that his views on security issues and Guantanamo and interrogations, his tendency to minimize the central importance of armed might, are not deeply rooted. They are clearly core beliefs.

And that, along with those trumpeting declarations to the world that new leadership had now come to the United States, that we were now a nation worthy of the world's trust -- those speeches suggesting that after years of darkness America had now been rescued, just barely, from the abyss -- will be in the end this president's Achilles' heel. Those are not, Mr. Obama may discover, tones that wear well in the course of a presidency.

Posted by Cassandra at February 3, 2009 09:21 PM

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Fred Wertheimer of Democracy21...called Obama's executive order "unprecedented and almost revolutionary in nature" and "a direct attack on the culture of Washington and the way business is done here. A few waivers will not undermine it," he said, provided they are justified and limited.

Well, so far Obie's had to sign seventeen waivers for lobbyists entering his administration.

I guess it depends on how limited your definition of "limited" is...

Posted by: BillT at February 3, 2009 11:26 PM

So much bat$#!+, so little time.

Posted by: MathMom at February 4, 2009 12:06 AM

I have been using this every day, asking about why people are still freezing and dying in Kentucky, but no one from FEMA or the Obama Administration has been there to feel their pain. Pres. Obama just cranked up the thermostat, ordered the $100/lb steaks, and had the guys over to watch the Super Bowl.

Dude! It looks bad to be chillin' and swillin' when the rubes in flyover country are dyin' and sh!t.

The thing that really kills me about the Contact Us page, is the topic list. They are:

I have a policy question
I have a non-policy question
I have a comment, no response necessary
I just want to know if it's difficult being nearly perfect

(oh, I might have transcribed that last one wrong)

I mean, what sort of emotionally needy people can ascend to the fargin' Presidency of the United States and still need a category "Congratulations" on their contact form? Wasn't 170 million bucks worth of Inauguration partying, like, enough congratulating?

I am heartily sick of the Obama Administration. But I might have mentioned that before.

Posted by: MathMom at February 4, 2009 12:18 AM

"To hear Mr. Obama speak now on matters like the national defense is to recognize that the leader now in the White House is in every respect the person he seemed on the campaign trail: a man of immense moral certitude, prone to an abstract idealism, and pronouncements that range between the rational and the otherworldly. "
Unfortunately certitude ain't what it used to be. POTUS #39 by any other name would smell as fetid...

Having seen this play once before, I'll keep my yap in check, as much as possible anyway, and wait on bended hope for the fireside homilies.

Oh that's right, the thermostat is set on a green 80°. Belay fireside and make that hanging in the bathhouse with the unicorns homilies.

Posted by: bthun at February 4, 2009 07:06 AM

Posted by: bthun at February 4, 2009 09:25 AM

Well, we gets what we bargained for. For all the "hope and change" that was promised, who really thought a 46 year old man with the thinnest political resume of a President ever elected would get off to a bang-up start? This guy is the archetype liberal-left Democratic Party demagogue. It will take about 9-12 months for the sheeple out there to start to realize just what they bought.

I predict a great deal of remorse on the part of about 10% of that 52% part of "52-48" that elected Mr. Obama. A hard core of the Democrat Party (~40%) would vote for a head of cabbage (or arugula) if it was running, but all the knashing of teeth and rending of clothes will not change one whit of what's going to happen in the next few years.
Buy gold, buy guns, buy beer and keep your head cool until the next election. Getting mad helps no one. Votes are the only thing that really matters.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 4, 2009 10:29 AM

Well, we gets what we bargained for."
If you run the numbers, we get what approximately 30% of the voting age population bargained for. 53% Obamatons of 57% of those of voting age who bothered.*
Which makes it all the more frustrating but less of a mandate... Unless one is numerically challenged, or willfully deceitful.

*The registered voter percentage is not available at the site I used for a quick reference.

Posted by: bthun at February 4, 2009 11:03 AM

The Obamessiah would be well advised to keep his words sweet. It will make them more palatable when he ultimately has to eat them.

A pattern is developing in His Obamaness' speaking patterns. HE comes down from the mountain of babble and tosses some bones to the lefty loons. While the lefty loons busy themselves sucking what little marrow is on the bones The ONE then states the Bush position while they are distracted.

What a circus. How long before HE understands that the position makes the man not the other way around? Realpolitik is a cruel master.

Posted by: vet66 at February 4, 2009 11:49 AM

One observation on Simon & Garfunkle. While writing and singing during the heady days of the 60's I remember the haunting lyrics from one of their songs; "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence."

They broke up shortly after that and some of us got drafted in 1966. The 'prophets' are always on-site first to greet those who take the time to marvel at their words.

Posted by: vet66 at February 4, 2009 12:03 PM

Heh, vet66, you have reminded me of the only "brush with greatness" that I ever had really mattered. (Deep breath, everyone.)

Back in '66 (or '67?, who cares) Paul Simon and his buddy Art Garfunkle played a Sunday gig in the gym of a local university located (at relevant rates) about a ten buck cab ride from the Queens neighborhood where these troubadors grew up. Although "the times they were a-changing," one thing that didn't seem to change was the ability of my best bud, Bobby, and I to crash whateverthehell was going on anywhere. We were about 12, and completely without any regard for tickets, rules, or social formalities. Access to an unlocked door or drain pipe was as good to us as a bona fide ticket to a front row seat. In those simpler days, our youthful resoursefullness and well-practiced, irrepressible, cuteness, meant that Bobby and I had a pretty good chance of either evading or explaining (teary-eyed) our way out of any challenge presented by those jack-booted under-grads that hoped to thwart us (appeal to the girlfreinds, folks). Bobby and I were professional pre-teen con men of the worst order, and we milked every second of it.

Which brings me to the Simon and Garfunkle concert. Bobby and I decided that we were going to get into that gynasium for the show, no matter what. I'm pretty sure that we didn't do anything felonious in the process, but I wouldn't rule out ill-advised scrambles across roof tops and death-defying slides down drain pipes just to be there. Eh, we were kids, and history will note that neither of us died in the process.

What DID happen instead, that Paul Simon and Art Garfunckle invite Bobby and I back to their *cough* dressing room, which was, in reality, just some poor schump assistant athelitc director's 9 x 10 office. Bobby, Paul, Arty and me shared bottles of Orange Crush soda, and then Paul signed a pack of his Marlboro cigarettes in dedication to "Linda," my then juvenile heartthrob.

She was not impressed, but then she wouldn't have ever understood "The Sounds of Silence," either.

Posted by: spd rdr at February 4, 2009 05:11 PM

Eh. Womyn :)

They're never happy.

Posted by: Cass at February 4, 2009 06:46 PM

Heavily baited, but even a dope like me wouldn't rise to that worm.

*the toungue stinging out emoticon thingy*

Posted by: spd rdr at February 4, 2009 06:59 PM

...even a dope like me wouldn't rise to that worm

Heavily baited, indeed :)

Posted by: Cass at February 4, 2009 07:39 PM

Pretty damn good Macbeth for a couple of kids from Forest Hills, Queens.


Thanks for stirring the pot, vett66.

Posted by: spd rdr at February 4, 2009 10:52 PM

Giving Linda a pack of cigs was a brush with greatness?

Ummmmm, granted that twenny-nine cents was a lot of money for a 12-year-old to spend on cigs (you *did* give him fair market value, right?) 'way back then, but still...

Posted by: BillT at February 4, 2009 11:00 PM