Just what it says…on a variety of subjects
Tag Archives: Barack Obama
The term “American Exceptionalism” has taken a real beating in our political discourse in recent years, primarily being used by the right as a club to beat the left for believing we should work with other countries and not seek international situations in which to involve ourselves militarily if we can solve the problems with other countries through diplomacy.
The idea of American exceptionalism has a real history. It is well to know it and to know when it is being perverted or turned to partisan use.
“It’s also important to keep in mind that the president—and politicians generally—have limited control over economic growth. Though Obama and other contenders tout job numbers or GDP growth during their time in office, ultimately those indicators reflect more about the normal ups and downs of the business cycle than any one politician’s economic prowess.”
I’ve been waiting for some media source to say something like this for years. It is one of the most understandable of things that the public, politicians (at least those of the party out of office) and presidents seem determined to deny.
The president doesn’t have enough influence over the economy to make it obey his will. All the forces of the government, including the Federal Reserve cannot make it do what they might want it to do (even if there were agreement among all parties to the conversation about what is desirable).
Whether we like it or not, we live in an international economy which is “free market,” because all the other players, whatever their internal economic systems, are free to respond in what they see as their own best interests, to whatever we do.
Politicians would have you think otherwise; when there is good economic news the party in power is quick to take credit for it; when there is bad news, the opposition party is quick to point it out. There is not enough truth in most of these assertions to take them very seriously but many among us do.
This kind of talk deserves not just a grain of salt but with a block of salt, no matter which side is talking.
Obama was in Alabama last Friday. He was followed on Sunday by five cabinet members. FEMA workers and federal assistance were not yet there helping.
If an active combat operation of the kind that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden over the weekend can be monitored live in Washington at both the CIA and the White House and drones fired in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be actually launched and guided by people sitting in the United States, surely the Federal Government‘s activities in the wake of Katrina and last week’s tornadoes in the South can be monitored at a distance. The first and most important step is not for officials from Washington to go to the scene. This is pure political grandstanding and a distraction for the victims to deal with when they already have more than they can handle.
Yes, I’m saying that George W. Bush’s Air Force One flyover after Katrina was better than if he had found a place to land and then put the local officials through the elaborate operations required for a presidential visit.
I understand the need for politicians to be seen in important settings doing important things. But there is also some need for the public to see them exercising judgement consistent with the circumstances. Their first priority after Katrina and the tornadoes ought to have been getting help to the affected people. If visibility is desirable, they can go back after help is underway to see how things are going. This might actually serve some function rather than just being a voyeuristic publicity stunt.
Apt restraint is a virtue, even for politicians.
I really don’t want to be unsympathetic to Barack Obama, or any president, yes, including his predecessor, for having a strong ego and lots of self-confidence. Deciding to run for a major party’s nomination, securing it and then running for election against the nominee of the opposing party are not for the short-winded, weak-willed or those racked with self-doubt. In fact, I don’t want a president who lacks self-confidence. But some explanation of things done or left undone at odds with campaign commitments, whether they be apologies for personal failings in key areas or simply thoughtful expositions of why one has chosen a path other than that proposed need not undermine a healthy ego or a self-confident character.
A cynic might think Obama would rather run in 2012 against the background of a Republican Congress than with a Democratic one that had failed to meet public expectations and thus isn’t going to do more than the minimum to rally Democratic voters in a year when he is not on the ballot. But that’s like deliberately choosing to enter the second half of the game behind rather than ahead of the other team. It may be the modern political calculus but it takes some getting used to to accept that being in the lead the whole game isn’t better.
Glenn Greenwald (I know, him again) makes a list of items in which Obama has not only failed to live up fully to his campaign pledges but has either failed completely or has adopted the very policies he criticized when practiced by his predecessor. Sometimes he’s gone farther than Bush did to make these latter policies unacceptable.