when past behavior is a better predictor than hope

S B Lewis
Essex, New York

Our president came to office without military experience, without executive experience, without business experience, without any of the experience needed for his office. His primary and extraordinary accomplishment came in achieving his office in a nation wracked with racial issues since its founding. Barack Obama won. Our problems were over. Hope over skepticism.

We are learning again how important experience is. Experience is the great teacher. And the man has none.

Nothing in President Obama's past, absolutely nothing, qualifies him to make the decisions he has had to make - and he has made a number of them in such a way as to lose the congressional balance so critical to making them without rancor.

We are now asked to believe that changing the entire management team at defense and at each of the armed services is a plus for the nation - when the man leading that change has never served a day, and his policy in Iraq and in Afghanistan is essentially a bust.

Remember: Iraq was the bad war, Afghanistan was the good war. What war is good? The man has never fired a 22 rifle. He has never been drafted. Would he have dodged the draft as Clinton did?

Dwight David Eisenhower said a few things on point - and was a 5-star general with a record in management: he ran SHAPE, Columbia University, D-Day, Allied forces in WW 2.

First, beware the military industrial complex. Toss in the medical industrial complex, another place where our president has stubbed his toe and created a building disaster. Between the military and the medical, The United States is bankrupt.

Second, Ike warned us against war where the supply chain or distance was on the other side of the planet. So, JFK and LBJ ignored IKE, and buried the nation in its first defeat in war. JFK remains a hero. This is rubbish.

Dwight David Eisenhower ran the last administration where the U S government long bond traded at 2 5/8th yield to maturity, as set by market forces. IKE was furious with a $7 billion deficit - and put an end to it.

JFK, son of an unprosecuted criminal of incredible wealth - ended the balanced budget, started a war in Cuba, ramped the war in Vietnam - accomplished nothing in his senate career, and was little but trouble in his time in The White House. It's been straight downhill ever since. LBJ took the wreck of JFK's presidency and build on the Kennedy legacy of failure and gave us Guns and Butter - and lost his office in disgrace.

Strangely, JFK's seduction of the nation and the press - plus his assassination and his disastrous marriage - attracted a romantic support that could not have been less healthy for our nation or our children. Jack was the opposite of Nixon. He was Catholic. He was young, supposedly honest. Son of a bootlegger, from a family of the addicted, their history has played out... since.

Now, this president, from a family of no balance - with a history that offers nothing to give confidence - is running things at a time when the nation has rejected his judgement and tossed 560 members of his party from office - and The New York Times offers reasons why those tossed should be considered in the upcoming effort to staff the largest part of the nation's government, and the most important part of our nation's defense profile - second only to our ability to pay for it.

The 'reforms' brought by this administration to Wall Street are pathetic. There is not a word about market structure - nor has a single important person in the debt crisis stepped forward to say what he did. None have been prosecuted.

The management of the defense department and the armed services is vital stuff.

How can the nation have confidence that the messed up senate, the confused White House - and the military industrial complex will do any better than the medical industrial complex has managed to do with the nation's scandal in health care?

Is there one intelligent person who can explain why medical costs rise - and rise - and rise - and the government and 3rd party pay drive that cost - and all we can do is put more and more government and more and more insurance to the task of lowering that cost? Medical and military cost so much because government drives that cost. It's that simple.

And we are at war, in two losing battles, because these complexes want that war, and congress does what money wants it to do.

This president lacks what it takes to run his office - and he lacks what it takes to confront the run away congress.

Who in Washington has the public's trust? Name one person, any person.

2011 and 2012 are going to make 2006 - 2010 look easy.

The people cannot fix this at the ballot box. And there is no sense conveyed in Washington can do it. Where is the talent?

The parties would rather fight about it - and position themselves for 2012 and beyond.

This is a disaster - happening, right before our eyes.

And there is no sense in Washington that any of them want to fix it - or can.


Anonymous said...

Louis Anthes
Long Beach, CA

Rereading Halberstam's "Best and the Brightest" this past month helped me put the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in context. Especially Afghanistan.

President Johnson heard his generals put to him what would happen even if Hanoi had surrendered to the South Vietnamese: the United States would have to remain in Vietnam for twenty or thirty years. That would have been 1985 or 1995, back when Johnson received that advise.

The problem is that both parties "waive the bloody shirt" on 9/11 and thereby find a never-ending justification for war in Afghanistan. It doesn't matter what the Karzai government is this or that, or whether the Taliban is in Pakistan, or whether NATO is in or out.

The United States has made the fateful decision to remain on permanent wartime status in the name of anti-communist, er ah, anti-terrorism. Afghanistan is a theater of experimentation, and most importantly, like in Vietnam, an ever-present warning to China.

It's almost as if we're reliving Halberstam's narrative, but the writer is tweaking the story along the way, learning from the past to change the future, as if the United States MUST be a global military power, at all costs, and regardless of failure, which will always be narrativized away.

Why? Because most Americans, numb, simply don't care.

Forty years after Vietnam, the children of the hippies and veterans now teach at Cornell and Columbia, at Berkeley and Kent State. They feel morally superior to their parents. They want nothing to do with war, and have no faith in sustained, active protest. This young generation has put all of its eggs into the centrist basket. We must save abortion at all cost, fight for gay rights, but war is the permanent right of the Right. It has been conceded.

The Left is dead, having done even worse than their parents: assert their limited agency over sexuality and pretend politics can be carved off from war.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Rothstein
Oceanside, New York

If President Obama lacks the will to fight for the American people then perhaps he should announce that he will not be seeking a second term as President, and allow what remains of the LINO (liberal in name only) wing of the Democratic Party to find a successor. Our President has revealed himself to be a poseur, a "nice" guy who did the right things, went to the right schools, lived the American Dream, but is still a puppet for the corporate ruling class who the Democrats sold their soul to going back to Truman. No politician, of either party, will reduce defense spending, and close most of the hundreds of military bases we have spread out over almost 200 countries. No President, of either party, will do anything to eliminate the criminal corruption of defense contracters, lobbyists, and career politicians who year after year, plunder the wealth of the nation on useless weapons meant to fight battles never fought from the prior century. That is the real hidden story of our "democracy", and until it is properly addressed, we will continue our death spiral into insolvency, and possible civic unrest when the people finally wake up and realize that the American Empire "has no clothes".

Anonymous said...

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

I was recently reading the biography, "The Three Roosevelts" by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn - when I was almost knocked senseless by the following paragraph which appeared at the top of page 310:

"Not only had the president [FDR] attacked the motives of the financial and industrial elite, assailing 'a decade of debauch, of group selfishness,' he had also battered the foundations of their self esteem. Following in the footsteps of [Theodore Roosevelt], FDR had exploded one of the most popular and deeply entrenched myths in America, he had dissociated the concept of wealth from the concept of virtue. Not only did he refuse to portray business leaders as virtuous men, he compared them to the fascist menace abroad. While countries dominated by 'aristocracy and aggression' threatened the United states from without, he charged that the nation was threatened by its own "resplendent economic autocracy" from within - economic autocrats who wanted nothing but 'power for themselves, enslavement for the public.'"

Therein lies the tragedy of Barack Obama. He has tried to maintain an appearance of being "above it all". He has tried to be too much of an amiable gentleman - when he should have been fighting with these hideous thugs with all the rhetorical thunder he could muster - a lesson that President Roosevelt learned over seventy-five years ago.

Late in campaign of 2008, Senator Obama's handlers made much of the fact that he was in the process of reading "Team of Rivals", the recently published biography of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. He was reading the right author but the wrong book. The book he should have been reading was her bio of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, "No Ordinary Time". Let's hope he has the chance to read her upcoming book on cousin Theodore.


Tom Degan

Anonymous said...

New York

The President was "humbled" by the elections. Humbled? How about furious? How about angry that the Republican nut-jobs and pundits who spewed garbage and the Tea Partiers who think anarchy is a good solution to everything had bested him? What about some anger at the people in his own administration who gave him such terrible advice. What about some anger at his own failings?

I'm just an average person, 61, female, self-employed, not much involved in politics, except that I always vote and I read and watch. I knew the President's plan to give the banks money no strings attached was dumb, why didn't he? I knew the plan to "rescue" Wall Street while allowing the people who caused all the problems to walk away, not only free, but still getting ridiculous bonuses, was also dumb. I knew that saving the car companies but not the people who work in the car companies and not sticking to restrictions on off-shore drilling was not what we needed. If I can figure that out, so can most people, but not anyone, it seems, in the administration.

What the president needs is not Ivy-League advisors who are cozy with corporations and Wall Street, in not such a different way as the other party's leaders, but a council of average workers who sit and talk to him, right there in the White House. A nurse, a house painter, a bus driver, a short-order cook, a barber, a kindergarten teacher, a musician, an administrative assistant, a waiter, a postal worker. Ask those people what they think should be done and listen to them. No, they may not have doctorates, they may not have traveled to Europe or India, they may not send their kids to private schools, they probably don't speak three languages, but they know what it means to work for enough money to make a life. They know how hard it is and they will tell him. Their advice might be smarter than any other, even though most of the educated people surrounding him wouldn't think so.

As long as we have the best government money can buy, and that is absolutely what we have, we can't expect that anyone is going to fix things, but Mr. Rich is correct in that no one person or group is actually making practical, nuts and bolts sense. You do not create wealth by printing more money. You do not get solvent by continuously going further into debt. You do not "stimulate" something that isn't asleep, it's dead, you just bury it. If they treated the economy more like we have to treat out own paychecks and bank accounts, we wouldn't be in any trouble. Economics, especially of a country, is different you say? I say, if that were true, we would be in great shape and we are not. The economists are just as clueless as everyone else, even Dr. Krugman.

You stop the stupid wars and cut the military budget. You spend money on infrastructure, on alternative fuels, you make the banks give out mortgages and business loans at very low interest rates immediately and with long lead times to pay them back. You PUNISH the people (mostly men) who broke the system, and who mocked the Constitution in the previous administration, you stop the obscene bonus giving, you make it very hard to out-source jobs to China and India, you funnel money from every possible source into schools but include in the schooling how to eat, required exercise, and job training in the inner cities. You build up the Peace Corp and the Job Core and you find money for the arts and humanities (because some of our citizens think that watching "Jersey Shore" is an enriching cultural experience).

Obama was the great black hope and so far, he is looking more like (forgive me, as I know this is disrespectful) the great black dope. Being smart is picking the right people to give you guidance. Being smart is knowing when to be "cooperative" and when to take a very firm stand. Being smart is doing what is good for the little guy and letting the rich fend for themselves.

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