07 December, 2010

I'm not an actor, but I play one on television

I'm almost out of school. It hasn't been easy, and I haven't been outstanding, but it's almost done. I'll probably write more about it later when I have free time. As long as I show up on time in the right uniform and shave, I'm good.

The President just crumbled. Seriously. I've been expecting this outburst for more than a year now - although for some reason I assumed he'd be blatantly drunk (who wouldn't be?) - and it's still not a pretty picture.

Yesterday he made a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for 13 months. Maintaining spending for people the taxpayer is already carrying and allowing everyone else in the country to have an idea what they'll be paying in taxes next year. Remember, this Congress didn't even pass a budget - which can be reconciled between the two Houses - so even the IRS would be unprepared for the massive clusterfuck that awaited next 15 April. You don't seriously think Tim Geithner has spent his time in office preparing the bureaucracy for the changes in their daily operations that awaited them, do you? Millions of forms and tax manuals would be different next year.

Anyway, first genuinely bipartisan action in this administration. Obama had to prove that he needed the other side a lot more than they need him, or something like that. Right at the start of his administration, he told Republicans "I won" in a meeting. Ok. Fair enough. He also has large majorities of his party in charge of both houses of Congress and gets to appoint not one, but two Supreme Court justices in the first two years of his administration. So one could say he came in with a handful of strong cards.

None of this has stopped North Korea from firing off missles or attacking South Korea. None of this has stopped Iran from moving closer to destroying Israel. None of this has stopped the administration's own insistence that they are not to blame for any of the negative things that have happened under their watch. At some point, he has to accept full responsibility. "The buck stops here" is a memorable phrase for a reason, and not because of the racist implications of the word "buck" either. Is Obama really going to make everything wait until he gets his hands on the money of rich people he doesn't like?

No, not this time. He has some sense of self-preservation after all.

Or maybe not. Today he gave some sort of statement to the press where he spent the first half comparing Republicans to "hostage-takers" and "bomb throwers", and the second half complaining about his leftist base, telling them how ungrateful they were. Which is fair, he got Congress to stay in session and work nights and weekends, "deeming bills passed" using ridiculous interpretations of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution and the role of reconciliation to get that health care bill passed. The people who never said "stop!!!" to any of that are now whining about how it didn't give them everything they wanted. A good internet line in the last couple of days whose source I am too lazy to look up pointed out that 'taxes go up and down, but a new entitlement never leaves' and is absolutely right. This is what the left has wanted.

What kind of leader does this sort of thing? Ok, a bad one. To trash-talk the people he's just made an agreement with doesn't speak well for his negotiating skills or an agreement made in good faith. To deliver such slams to the people who voted for him, wow.

I haven't yet read a transcript (which I usually prefer to a video for a few reasons, not least of which is that it takes fewer mb to read a transcript) but one thing that I've gathered from snippets is that he was making a legitimate attempt to open the eyes of his own base. There are other valid points of view that one must accept even if one disagrees. And the supporters of those valid points can vastly outnumber the people who are complaining that he hasn't fought hard enough.

To someone like me, who's disagreed with Mr. Obama since before he'd won the Democratic nomination for President - a moment he celebrated by saying "This was the moment when the oceans began to rise and the planet began to heal" - this is a later development of the same mentality that led him to construct a Greek temple on a German stage while campaigning. I thought those Soviet wall poster-style "Hope" and "Change" posters were neat looking, but also blatantly derivative of socialist propaganda, and adjusted my opinion of Obama supporters accordingly.

What do the people who voted for him think about him doing that now? What does "We are the change we've been waiting for" say to them? Does it still resonate in their hearts the way it did less than two years ago?

To the people who voted against him, those looked like really bad ideas, and still do. They were not ideas one could govern by, and only pandering to enough fools who believed otherwise was the only way to win power. To the people who voted against him that is.

Ok, found it: "This is a big diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate the nation."

Reportedly the White House switchboards are currently lit up like Times Square on New Years. Wow.

Obama has no reputation for taking criticism well. In the long run, I remain cautiously optimistic, or at least willing to fake it. In the short run, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better, but I believe a turning point has been reached where things will begin to improve economically.

As far as the war goes, things are still as ambiguous as ever. The most immediate casualty will be Obama's sense of self-perception. The war is actually taking a very odd turn. A series of missle launches, both from North Korea and from just out in California, that go unanswered. The Stuxnet virus which, hopefully, has crippled Iran's computer system and nuclear program. Wikileaks, where a traitorous PFC has led to the reveal of thousands of highly-classified documents. Chinese naval maneuvers. Hillary Clinton's campaign had the brilliant ad that asked "Who do you want answering the phone at 3AM?" to compare her experience with Obama's. That's still a valid question.

With the Wikileaks scandal on top of everything else, she said today that Secretary of State would be her last public office. This effectively leaves the field for Sarah Palin as the country's alpha female, whatever term there might be for that. Palin has recently said that she'll run for President if no one else will do it. Also a consensus on the Republican side seems to have emerged that can be summarized as "they like her, they agree with much/most of what she says, they think she has been treated very badly by the media and they don't think she should be President now." That sounds about right to me. She'd be the first female President on roughly the same basis as Obama was the first black President, and look how that's worked out.

Yesterday I saw an article that she had been offered the position of head of the RNC, to do fundraising for the party and (presumably) have a large say in the party's position. She's turned it down, saying the position would better fit people other than her. I can imagine the guys in the back room going "I figure that leaves us with Chief of Protocol, Official Hostess or Junior Advisor." And someone else saying "Maybe if we just combine all three and give her a hat with a whistle." [/Cerebus the Aardvark reference]

The question they undoubtedly face is how to exploit her assets well without diminishing them or her in the process, as well as what she and her family want. Resigning at the governor of Alaska was a perfectly sensible move but it means she doesn't have the requisite experience. Arguably she could fight her way to the Veep post again, but the concessions both she and the party machinery would have to make would outweigh the benefits gained. She won't be the one the party puts on the ticket, but she can be the one to approve and (possibly) veto during the choosing process. Of course if she and her family would rather be rich celebrities and probably living in Alaska, how can that be used? Hope it works out well for you, we'll call when we need your services.

Anyway, Palin is interesting, at least as a celebrity. Otherwise, both parties are looking at various amounts of vindication and humiliation in their recent memories, and actively challenging their own conceptions of leadership and the role of government in the process of looking at who's willing to step up to the plate. Because there have to a whole lot of people who grew up dreaming of being President (including the current holder of the office) who are suddenly looking at the Oval Office with horror at the idea of occupying it. Again, including the current holder of the office.

It's getting late, and I'm not done with school yet. Here's the original video for Meat Loaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" and the Michael Bay-directed video, many years later, for its sequel, "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)".

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