Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Of The Capitol Hill People

40 years ago M.L.K. said these immortal words. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their sonorous yet empty rhetoric."

Say what? That's not how you remember it? Well if the quote is amiss I hope to be forgiven due to the peculiar and disconcerting events surrounding the recent election. Even the truly saintly Martin might squinch his brows in confusion over the fact that 90 plus percent of African-Americans voted for the orotund O-man. This is the post-racial era we've been hearing about? Anyhoo the One is slated in a few months to take up residence behind the massive concrete security bollards on Pennsylvania Avenue having triumphed in Park Place, Marvin Gardens, and on Baltic Avenue. I note, not merely in passing, that the 2008 revised Monopoly game increased the income tax from 75 to 200 dollars. Whether this reduces investment in hotels on Atlantic Avenue remains to be seen.

It was a rather intense season of alarm in conservative circles as Obama's Chi-Town connections were more and more illuminated. Reaction to this was the expected dissembling and denial by the campaign and extensive yawning and exxagerated eye-rolling by much of the main-stream press. That young Barry did in fact truckle with sundry fading 60's radicals and Black Liberation Theology firebrands was not particularly in question. What was in question is to what extent his ideological synthesis was formed by his associations with this putrid brigade of cultural bomb throwers.

If it did it rarely showed in his senatorial performance which was standard issue Democratic partisan water-carrying throughout his short tenure and it's not hard to see why this was so. There was little or no political need to vote with any remotely controversial majority Republican supported initiative and every reason to stick with the Dems on virtually all issues so as to not abrade the sensitivities of any potential support for his White House run. Political need is the key.

I'm fairly sure that he isn't an advocate of Bill's or Bernadine's antiquarian anarchist histrionics nor Rev. Wright's conspiratical frothing race hatred. What is becoming clear is that Obama simply used these folks to jumpstart his political career. He then had the forbearance to sit through years of Wright's sewer mouthed ravings to establish his sincerity and cultivate the profitable ideo-electoral bona-fides seen as desirable in the relevant Chicago districts. Ayers and Wright were hardly the only individuals curried in this single-minded quest but they rather stand out in the crowd. He cynically exploited a goodly chunk of the Chicagoland radical political scene in his effort to insert himself into ever higher positions of political authority and it worked beautifully. That he may be a cynical manipulator of the body politic is obvious but it equally obvious that he does subscribe to any of that rash radicalism or anything much contrary to standard progressive political tropes. Not that to many, myself included, that isn't cause for genuine alarm. Someone in the White House who is a near perfect exemplar of what Thomas Sowell calls "the unconstrained vision" of goverment interventionism is a depressing enough prospect on its own even if we ignore sundry cynical and tawdry past associations.

The further criticism that he has not had any meaningful executive experience isn't exactly true. For upwards of two decades he has been CEO of Obama Inc., an organization dedicated to establishing a viable political brand and which used whatever resources were available, regardless of ideological bent, to push the product towards ever higher political retail sales. Manipulative and cynical as it may have been a more spectacular success for a corporate strategy is hard to imagine than what has just happened.

It is hardly an original observation that since the beginning of the last century, with the tendency accellerating in the past 50 years, that the Establishment Left has become less uncomfortable co-existing with its radical fringes while the opposite tendency has obtained for the Establishment Right. Progressive intellectuals have edged ever closer in tone to the fever swamps of the Socialist antiwar radical left while conservative intellectuals have edged steadily away from the equally putrid swamps of the Klan Bircher White-Supremacist radical right. This has had the effect of dragging the center of political intellectual discourse sharply left and has distinctly redefined the "center" of the overall political discussion.

There is still a sharp divide to be sure however one of the results is that the left tends to characterize many current convervative political tropes, which would have been deemed quite mild and centrist half a century ago, as examples of "right wing extremism." Conservatives have become somewhat constrained in their ability to essay nuanced characterizations of Progressives due to the bunching up of the political spectrum therefore accusing a Progressive of being a Socialist is rather like accusing water of being wet. The line between current progressive orthodoxy and outright textbook Socialism has shrunk near to the point of invisibility and successful denial of this situation depends entirely on an advocate's fancy rhetorical footwork.

The POTUS-elect prooved to be non-pareil in this regard. He successfully swaddled economic redistributionism and statist cultural interventionism in the warm fluffy comforting robes of "fairness" and "economic justice." This is sleight-of-hand worthy of David Copperfield but Obama Inc.'s advertising campaign of soothing measured rhetoric was up to the task. Mis-direction is the stock in trade of political campaigns of course but clearly a new standard has been set. So we have elected what is clearly the most left-of-center chief executive in history, Wilson and FDR included, and now we will wait and see what maturing effects, if any, are conferred by getting to sit in the Oval Office's big chair.

I would like to be a fly on the wall when the newby POTUS receives his first serious and comprehensive security briefings from the NSA and the CIA. I cannot think that he will be sobered by the level of antipathy that exists toward the U.S. regardless of who sits in the White House at any given time. Further he will perforce discover that he isn't the only master of misdirectional rhetoric and that the world's abundant thugocrats are experts in dissembling, dodging, stalling, and outright lying about their true intentions. All the good intentions and understanding in the universe are insufficient to dealing with that motley crew. Many of them, most probably, understand only one thing--power. It's what they wield most enthusiastically and what they respect most thoroughly. It's not just in the Middle-East that the Strong Horse is respected but also by sundry tin-pots around the globe and all the coalition building efforts and heartfelt diplomacy imaginable have an infinitesimal fraction of the impressiveness of a locked and loaded carrier battle group.

On the home front it is sincerely to be hoped that he will soon run up against enough stark economic reality to be forced to shelve some of his interventionist fantasies. It is my Hope that much of his misguided Change will be held in check by the parlous state of the country's checkbook. This faint Hope is the only leaven of my depression in the face of the incoming Change in leadership. Pass the Prozac please.


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