I’ve been trying, as loyal readers know, to cast my eyes heavenward as the world economic crisis deepens. Yet an appointment with our tax guy earlier this week (i.e., a hard look at our finances), plus a read through the posts linked here, by The Anchoress, and especially this just-the-facts-ma’am analytical one from a more-often-right-than-not prognosticator at the ever-sober Forbes Magazine, led me to this:
Forty five days into his presidency, there are only three logical explanations for Obama’s actions with regards to the economic crisis. (There are actually two others, that I’ll touch on briefly at the end, but one is by definition, irrational and the other extra-rational, and so I will treat them lightly, and separately.)
1) Bad Timing and/or Bad Luck
Leaving aside the philosophical/theological question of whether there is such a thing as luck (a term I am increasingly loathe to use as my faith in God deepens), one thing we haven’t seen as much of as I’d expected, from Obama and his sycophant media, is use of the blame-it-all-on-Bush narrative. Oh sure it is there. It positively imbued the campaign. Yet I had expected it to be the main plank of his defense once in office as well — an all-purpose shield against everything.
The relative dearth of that tactic suggests several things. First it suggests a high level of confidence in his overall strategy. This is a man with a much larger vision than he is letting on, it would seem. Words like ‘hope’ and ‘change’ are much too simple for a man of his intelligence and demonstrable drive.
It also suggests a level of no-excuses responsibility that his critics would rather not grant. He’s not in the same galaxy as buck-stops-here Harry Truman, don’t get me wrong. All I mean to suggest is that he’s not whining. Much. There are still huge swaths of mis-placed blame, but we haven’t seen the man throw up his hands and claim malaise/victim status — yet. That would be anathema to his kind of apparent arrogance.
Finally, the merely modest amount of Bush-blaming suggests a level of pragmatism. With a Democrat Congress and a still-open window of honeymoon popularity, Obama realizes that looking backwards and blaming the last guy wouldn’t work for very long, especially with a hair-trigger electorate that’s far fickler and independent than those of past generations.
This could fit alongside the ‘bad luck’ theory (if that were to emerge later). Incompetence has been a too-easy explanation for many on the right, including me, because it fits the pre-election facts. A youngish junior senator who got ‘elected’ in Illinois by getting his only opponent excluded from the ballot on a technicality, who regularly stumbles in free-form speaking, Obama lacks seasoning and testing under fire, goes the story, and it makes complete sense. He’s got a tin ear for governing and is making classic rookie mistakes, it goes on. There is some truth to it. For now. That does not mean we should count him out.
But let’s separate two things. There is incompetence in the small, tactical, operational sense of not being able to get anything ‘done’ and there is incompetence in the grand, visionary sense of not appreciating (for example) that socialism has never worked and never will, and that negotiating with terrorists and their state supporters from a position of weakness fails every time.
Obama’s critics have too often lumped these two with a hand-wave. The ‘both-and’ theory (i.e., across-the-board incompetence) may be true, but if so, it leads to some inconsistencies.
It’s difficult to remember, but as recently as mid January, pundits were still speculating about whether Obama would move to the center once in office or veer hard to the left. The latter seemed crazy at the time and was thus dismissed by many friends who, to my great surprise, voted for him. These were folks whom I thought to have been more firmly grounded in reality if not news headlines.
That strawman debate has been mostly settled, it seems. He is pursuing socialist policies and befriending our enemies from a position of weakness. Thus we can conclude that, in adopting policies demonstrated throughout history not to have ‘worked’, Obama is strategically incompetent within a frame of reference for what is generally thought to make up an endstate of ‘goodness’.
Hold that thought, and note, also, that that excludes the possibility of his being both tactically and strategically competent, though some will surely cling to this ad absurdum for other, starry-eyed reasons.
Another possibility can be dispensed with as well. For if Obama is incompetent in both realms, any harm is largely blunted. (His reign would be corrosive and tiresome, but hardly dangerous. I.e., a tactically incompetent socialist never realizes his aims). Similarly, if he is hamstrung by facts in setting foreign and military policy and negotiating (the ‘narrow gate’ theory of international strategy and foreign relations) then how much harm is there, really? The remedy would not be swift but, when it comes, firm and entirely conventional, i.e., an electoral sweep in the near future (if his opponents can organize).
The rapid passage of the bailout bill however, gives me the strong sense that Obama is not nearly as incompetent tactically as he would like us to believe and that, furthermore, he is aware that this perception of him is a useful ‘rope-a-dope’ foil to some kinds of criticism. Which leaves us with the frame-of-reference problem and, along with it, the question of…
The majority, though hardly all, of the mainstream articles and blog posts I’ve read criticizing Obama allude, in one way or another, to how incompetent (i.e., stupid and/or blind) he seems to be in not grasping the fact that socialism doesn’t ‘work’, and/or that negotiating with terrorists and their supporters doesn’t either.
Hasn’t this guy read any history? Doesn’t he get it? Where has he been the past thirty years?, they all exclaim. (Well, Indonesia and Pakistan, to name just two, but let’s leave that aside for now, shall we?
What very few allow themselves to consider (because it just sounds too crazy, and because its full implications are almost too horrible to contemplate) is that Obama’s frame of reference for what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘progress’ and ‘change’ may be anathema to everything, and I mean everything – right, left and center — that this country has stood for since its founding.
He may have, all along, intended to pursue far more than mere 70′s style progressive tax policies or slightly different tactics in the Middle East. He may have intended, from the very murky beginnings, and with clear malice aforethought, to create the revolutionary conditions for a the very thing Bush was criticized for: a totalitarian state with far-reaching powers over the very fabric of society (economics being but a small piece of that). Only this time, instead of pushing it, he’s betting on pull, i.e., What must we do to be saved, Oh Dear Leader? Pray please, do tell us!
Given his dalliances with Iran, Hamas, Russia and others, persistent rumors as to his real religious leanings and worldview, and the possibility that he is, after all, not a natural born American, we have to add to the basket of well-worn Bush-bashing adjectives (now directed, with more truth, at his successor) the kicker of abandoning Judeo-Christian values — something which, ironically, Bush’s critics thought him too fond of.
In other words, his entire world view — his idea of what is most ‘good’ and ‘progressive’, including what must be ‘changed’ and how to go about it — is sweeping in ways very few were willing to contemplate until recently, and most still haven’t yet. It is strategic competence attached to a semi-private vision which, fully flowered, would horrify 80% or more of the American electorate. By which point it will be too late.
And that was his edge. If your vision is so radical that nobody but the nuts would give it credence, you can dismiss the nuts as nuts in public discourse and everyone will believe you. For awhile.
I know, I know. It sounds conspiratorial. That’s actually not what I’m suggesting. Much of this was done in the open and that’s what has made it stick. It preserves the illusion, the pull (oh dear leader…). I’ll also be the first to admit that this is not yet a compelling case, much less a closed one. I sincerely hope it’s NOT true. Yet more and more facts fit the theory, as this post points out. Read it carefully. If I’m correct, there will be more and more like it, coming from more ‘centrist’ sources.
Two quick, final points, as promised:
Theory four says that Obama is pulling a first-term Reagan in reverse. It says his worldview is consistent with, a) free-market capitalism (more or less), b) U.S. autonomy (more or less) and, c) Judeo-Christian values (perhaps less than more, but hardly sharia) and that he is, like all of us, living through unique times beyond his and our control, doing his flawed, human best to right the ship called America in very rough seas. Under that theory he has cause to believe that the measures he’s taking will bring us back. Perhaps not to Reagan prosperity but to a kind of grudging, Democrat-style FDR/LBJ/Carter version of normalcy.
Not only does this not fit the facts, but it requires illogical faith in the idea that socialism will “work” to save capitalism this time (and not ‘ratchet’ to irreversible, draconian levels) and that talking to our worst foes without condition from weakness will placate their designs on us and our closest allies. Thus, I dismiss it out of hand, even as (in fact, because) every word out of Obama’s mouth seems designed to create this impression.
Theory five is extra-rational. I can’t prove it. I only intuit it. Theory five says that our time has come and Obama is merely one of several hammers (if not the anvil) for our long-delayed divine punishment. As Billy Graham once said (I am paraphrasing): If God doesn’t punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. He meant that, as I recall, in far more than just the cultural sense (though it applies even better there now than it did when he said it).
Theory five says don’t over-fixate on the actor (Obama). He is but a pawn (albeit a free-willing one) in God’s plan. He will get his due, just like all of us. His and our time has come, and we must bear it. Quietly? Not necessarily, but not without humble self-reflection either. After all, we got what we asked for. If theory five is finally true, there is no political solution, but only wind and the plans of the One who made it and us.