I eagerly await D.H. Riley's
response to this week's Thoughtful Moderation while Excusing 30 Years of Republican Rule
by David Brooks, but in the meantime...
President Obama swept into office having aroused the messianic hopes of his supporters. For the past 16 months he has been on nearly permanent offense, instigating action with the stimulus bill, Afghan policy, health care reform and the nearly complete financial reform. Whether you approve or not, this has been an era of bold movement.
But now the troops are exhausted, the country is anxious, the money is spent and the Democratic majorities are teetering. The remaining pieces of legislation, on immigration and energy, are going nowhere. (The decision to do health care before energy is now looking extremely unfortunate.)
Really? How so? Would GOP leadership have been any more cooperative on an energy bill then they showed when it came to health care? Cap and Trade would have still been "Cap and Tax," and Obama's willingness to negotiate on off-shore drilling would, in hindsight, be even more disappointing then it now is, as Deepwater Horizon continues gushing oil.
Health care legislation, Mr. Brooks, was, as Vice-President Biden so memorably put, a big fucking deal. A weak tea, compromised energy bill would likely have proved an embarrassment.
Meanwhile, the biggest problems are intractable. There’s no sign we will be successful in preventing a nuclear Iran. Especially after Monday’s events, there’s no chance of creating a breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Unemployment will not be coming down soon. The long-term fiscal crisis won’t be addressed soon either.
In other words, if the theme of the past 16 months was large change, the theme of the next period will be gridlock and government’s apparent impotence in the face of growing problems.
The party he subscribes to has been the source of gridlock for the past 16 months and we're still waiting for conservative ideas on how to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, which grew only more intense during the Axis of Evil era, or Israeli apartheid, which only grows more self-confident as the country's Only Friend never leaves its side.
Everybody is comparing the oil spill to Hurricane Katrina, but the real parallel could be the Iranian hostage crisis. In the late 1970s, the hostage crisis became a symbol of America’s inability to take decisive action in the face of pervasive problems. In the same way, the uncontrolled oil plume could become the objective correlative of the country’s inability to govern itself.
The plume taps into a series of deep anxieties. First, it taps into the anxiety that the people running our major institutions are just not that competent. Second, it feeds into the anxiety that there has been an unhappy marriage between corporations and government officials, which has had the effect of corrupting both. Most important, the plume exposes the country’s core confusion about the role of government.
No, it's not Katrina. Because, as Brooks bravely skates around it, Katrina exposed the Bush administration for failing to do what was exactly the role of government -- reacting quickly and effectively to a natural disaster that was predicted days in advance. And leading FEMA was an Arabian Horse breeder who was appointed for his political connections, not his competence, after eight years in which FEMA had reorganized itself in the wake of failings during the first Bush administration. And that "marriage" Brooks refers to, I'm not sure it was a marriage as much as it was a three-some.
We should be able to build from cases like this one and establish a set of concrete understandings about what government should and shouldn’t do. We should be able to have a grounded conversation based on principles 95 percent of Americans support. Yet that isn’t happening. So the period of stagnations begins.
A grounded conversation? I refer him back to last summer's town hall meetings and to the intelligent, informed dialog coming out of various "Tea Party" events. What is that "95 percent of Americans" support? That angels exist? That the sun ain't yellow, it's chicken? If there is any consensus on anything like the role of government and regulation then he's yet to identify it.
Labels: Obama Derangement Syndrome, Oh Davey