Oct 06 2009
The Pitch-man in Chief, the new POTUS.
Prior to last fall’s election a lot of people warned about how inexperienced and naive candidate Obama was, especially when he kept pretending to wave his magic wand during the campaign, promising to make everything beautiful. His promises were so simple they bordered on fiction. He was going to fix everything, he was The One. And he did not need any executive experience to pull off all this magic, he was – of course – The Community Organizer! (queue the super-hero theme music).
Candidate Obama sounded the simple messages a naive and self absorbed America wanted to hear. After years of fighting the evil in this world, America wanted to go back to their little cocoons, wrapped in modern sensory couches, denying reality. Why couldn’t things be as simple and neat as in the movies? Why does there have to be war? So we fell for easy promises on complex issues.
Of course we could extend health care coverage, lower health care costs and save money – who couldn’t? Of course we could set up make-work programs in the government that would quickly stimulate the country’s economy back into forward gear (forget the fact it takes the federal government almost a year to put in place any program and the specialized government contractors to start the work). Heck, we even believed we could tax ourselves into sunny, cools days. We were so powerful we could control the weather (and even the climate!! – queue the super-hero music again).
It was a vote of exhaustion and wishful hope for better, easier times. What we got was no surprise: Clark Kent without the super powers (does that make him Jimmy Olson???). Except the POTUS does have one trick – stagecraft.
President Obama yesterday rolled out the red carpet — and handed out doctors’ white coats as well, just so nobody missed his hard-sell health-care message.
In a heavy-handed attempt at reviving support for health-care reform, theÂ White HouseÂ orchestrated a massive photo op to buttress its claim that front-line physicians support Obama.
A sea of 150 white-coated doctors, all enthusiastically supportive of the president and representing all 50 states, looked as if they were at a costume party as they posed in the Rose Garden before hearing Obama’s pitch for the Democratic overhaul bills moving through Congress.
Sorry, I guess there was no substantive points made on the fiction of how government rationed health care can lower costs, not reduce options for seniors and allow us to keep the current plans we have and like. It seems POTUS believed we could be duped by a bunch of campaign supporters dressed up to play doctors on camera (yes, I know they are doctors, but who cares – it’s all imagery because they are also campaign supporters).
Richard Cohen, on the other hand, wrote a provocative and serious article about our young POTUS and his biggest challenge: Afghanistan. Cohen rightfully notes that the Afghan-Pak situation with the Taliban, al Qaeda and other regional Islamo Fascist groups in the area is winnable. It is winnable if we try to win – but it will cost us:
The stakes in Afghanistan are great. But they are not ours alone. Russia is nearby. So are China and Iran. So why Americans have to shed most of the blood for a Taliban-free Afghanistan is just one of the questions Obama will have to answer. Another is why Americans have to die for a set of possibilities that seem remote to most people.
The war in Afghanistan is eminently more winnable than was Vietnam. The Taliban are far from universally liked or admired. Still, the war will require more than a significant commitment of troops and, of course, money.
I have talked to a few people who work in Afghanistan for the US and NATO. The ‘war’ is won. The requirement now is to provide enough security so that the Afghan people can build their new nation (this is not nation building, but giving the people the space to stand up and build their own). They are being threatened and cowered by Taliban and al Qaeda remnants, who have a shrinking sanctuary in the Tribal Regions of northern Pakistan. The situation requires a final push to get it over the top.
But Cohen notes a real problem in this fairly obvious and straight forward cross roads we face:
But the ultimate in realism is for the president to gauge himself and who he is: Does he have the stomach and commitment for what is likely to be an unpopular war? Will he send additional troops, but hedge by not sending enough — so that the dying will be in vain? What does he believe, and will he ask Americans to die for it? Only he knows the answers to these questions. But based on his zigzagging so far and the suggestion from the Copenhagen trip that the somber seriousness of the presidency has yet to sink in, we have reason to wonder.
It is coming tragically clear that we may have promoted Barack Obama too soon. He has simple minded solutions to complex and dangerous problems. He ignores and shuns those with opposing opinions, many of whom have the experience he needs to make the right decisions.
The trip to Copenhagen, the late night comedy show tour, the beer with the cop and the belligerent citizen – these are all staged events of no substance. But maybe that is all the POTUS can do well?
Update: Another liberal opinion writer comes out questioning the seriousness of the POTUS:
The big question on the domestic front right now is whether President Obama understands the gravity of the employment crisis facing the country. Does he get it? The signals coming out of the White House have not been encouraging.
The Beltway crowd and the Einsteins of high finance who never saw this economic collapse coming are now telling us with their usual breezy arrogance that the Great Recession is probably over. Their focus, of course, is on data, abstractions like the gross domestic product, not the continued suffering of living, breathing human beings struggling with the nightmare of joblessness.
Nearly one in four American families has suffered a job loss over the past year, according to a survey released by the Economic Policy Institute. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans is officially unemployed, and the real-world jobless rate is worse.
Weâ€™re running on a treadmill that is carrying us backward. Something approaching 10 million new jobs would have to be created just to get back to where we were when the recession began in December 2007. There is nothing currently in the works to jump-start job creation on that scale.
I agree. Just look at how bad the numbers are once you dive into the details: