The 2012 electoral pageant begins
It looks like next year’s presidential election will be a beauty contest.
Electors aren’t likely to get a Lincoln-Douglas debate. Voters might reasonably have hoped for something approaching that given the domestic financial crisis, young Americans dying in three wars overseas, a host of other difficult domestic and foreign crises, all against a general conflict over traditional ethical values.
But by launching his campaign with outrageous demagoguery, Pres. Barack Obama “made it clear” he will avoid fundamentals. He counts on emotional appeals to self interest – private and corporate welfare recipients, elderly who make old age a profession out of human tragedy, all interests vying for favor at the public trough.
Mr. Obama obviously counts on adulation rather than cognition – from naïve youth addicted to “change-whatever”, the gold-laden Hollywood glitterati, guilt ridden intellectuals obsessed with race, Washington’s enormous public and private lobbies, and minority voters blindly following media created leadership.
That, in turn, will make it difficult for his opponents to respond with a candidate and a campaign based on issues.
Mr. Obama’s opening speech, supposedly presenting a new economic program, was the tip-off. Clichéd ridden, it was rhetorically a u-turn on his own free-spending budget proposals announced just weeks earlier. Without so much as an apology, he “welcomed” the trimmed 2011 budget – halfway through a fiscal year during which Democrats had held all the three Washington power centers and as though his
Democrats had not opposed every cut only days before.
The verbal turnabout permitted Mr. Obama to jump aboard what his counselors obviously see as the Republican Party/Tea Party/conservatives’ bandwagon appeal for renewed fiscal discipline. As an old friend often warned me, never underestimate the role of fads in American life: “deficit reduction” is now “in”, whether understood or not by recently acquired advocates.
Mr. Obama’s teleprompter readings were as golden as ever – a “gift” he once said — even if one tires of a speechwriter obsessed with “xxx let me be clear xxx”, always prelude to another muddled concept. But there were no specific proposals for reining in government spending. In fact, expanding the liberals’ hallowed welfare state would solve problems of debt and unemployment, he reassured us, not surgical systemic reform as his own investigating panel suggested.
But the program to spend the country’s way into new prosperity had crashed, however slow he and his advisers were to acknowledge until the voters told them so first in November 2010, and now with sagging opinion polls. Scarce jobs and rising food and fuel prices are the reality masked by his cooked statistics.
As always it is likely to be the unintended consequences, partially resulting from his own habitual indecision, and unanticipated events dictating the November 2012 outcome.
But some critical facts on the ground are going to be all too obvious.
Mr. Obama’s intent to give the Libyan situation a hit and a miss and bow out to our allies is doomed, as any military observer worth his salt could have predicted. His stand-in, “NATO”, relies overwhelmingly on U.S. initiative as well as hardware and alone cannot dislodge or even modify Qadfaffi’s regime. Despite Sec. of Defense Robert Gates’ repeated pronouncements, American fighterplanes – the only ones capable of doing the job –continue as close air combat support for Libya’s incompetent and suspect rebels. And they will eventually need ground assistance if Mr. Obama’s announced aim of ridding the world of Qadaffi is to be achieved.
As Mr. Obama uses presidential fiat to cancel another pipeline from Canada, the energy fiasco escalates – in all fairness only partly due to his misbegotten policies. But if gas is at $5 a gallon or more Labor Day 2012, as seems likely, voters may look to their credit cards again before entering the polling booth.
There is no dearth of Republican candidates. But with the emphasis on bling-bling rather than legislative and executive experience, the spotlight is all too likely to fall on those matching the incumbent’s “glamour”. That apparently explains the boomlet for Donald Trump, surely the unlikeliest candidate for the presidency in decades.
That’s a sad thought as we enter the electoral season. One can only hope the good sense of the American people which has held us in good stead for so long will reassert itself and demand more substance and less glitz.
Obama’s foreign policy: Look the other way to avoid disaster
Whatever the motives by all parties behind the Libyan intervention, the worst fears expressed in the UN resolution “authorizing” the use of force are coming true.
At this writing, half a million civilians in Libya’s third largest port-city of Misurata feel the blast of Muammar Qadaffi’s only half-crippled firepower. Pitifully, they include tens of thousands of Black African illegal migrants trying to get to Europe –hostages like oil in Qadaffi’s blackmail games with the Europeans. Two Western journalists’ deaths dramatized what could well turn into the kind of humanitarian catastrophe the UN trumpets but repeatedly fails to prevent. [A harbinger of a coming catastrophe, ignored by the media, was loss of 200 souls on a refugee ship in early April.]
Misurata is emblematic as the rebels’ outpost in the west close to the Libyan capital, 500 miles from their Benghazi stronghold in eastern Cyrenaica, proof Qadaffi rules largely by terror.
But the Obama Administration has failed to hand off to NATO the dictator’s ouster for which Washington itself along with the Europeans and most Arab states repeatedly calls. Half-hearted attempts to arm the rebels – first with “non-lethal” equipment and later with armed drones – are too little and too late to end what Washington admits is stalemate.
At the UN Security Council, opposition from China and Russia [and hypocritical India] always ready to sabotage Western initiatives, blocks expanding sanctions, including tens of billions Qadaffi’s family still dispenses. They help bribe African states – long on Qadaffi’s dole — who call for a negotiated settlement to rescue the regime. It also whets Russia and China’s appetite for reinitiating lucrative weapons sales to Qadaffi.
This fiasco is only the most flagrant in a growing list of Obama foreign policy disasters. Granted most crises are long in the making, nevertheless, Mr. Obama’s indecisiveness in all but his adamant refusal to fulfill the U.S. role as leader of the Western alliance aggravates every Mideast problem:
• Washington’s obstinate pursuit of accommodation with Syria, perhaps the Arab world’s bloodiest regime, has come a cropper as opponents test whether Dictator Basher al-Assad will escalate current dozens of killings against peaceful demonstrators to the tens of thousands during his father’s reign or abdicate to proliferating Muslim radicals.
• The Obama Administration’s insistence on pressing the issue of outposts in the West Bank, putting the Jewish state’s security at risk, has brought a near Washington-Jerusalem breakdown, endangering the U.S.’ only stable alliance in the region, further negating Israeli-Arab compromise.
• Washington’s indecision in fostering a Mubarrak transition opened the floodgates to the Moslem Brotherhood [whom only Mr. Obama’s Arab experts characterize as “moderate”], weakening Cairo’s military leadership and jeopardizing Egypt’s opposition to Iranian regional expansion.
• The Administration’s belated tepid support for Tehran’s dissidents has not only emboldened the mullahs to strengthen their terrorist tentacles to the Mediterranean and into Afghanistan, but encouraged the Germans, Indians, and of course, the Chinese, to continue flaunting economic sanctions.
• The President’s pretentious “outreach” rhetoric only strengthened the Arab/Muslim “victimization” complexes and symbolic bows to the Saudi monarchy have soured with what Riyadh sees as sabotage of its interests in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen resulting in its noncooperation on boosting OPEC quotas thereby hiking petroleum prices.
• Everywhere U.S. prestige is taking a shellacking, not only from its opponents, but increasingly becoming suspect to European allies who suddenly have been set adrift without their traditional recourse to American leadership and firepower, in the midst of their own Euro/EC crisis.
The approaching electoral season’s probable concentration on domestic concerns is likely to give the Obama Administration some respite from foreign policy critics. Grounding his campaign headquarters in Chicago – to mask his dependence on its political base among the chattering classes on both coasts – may help obscure international issues. Indeed, American foreign policy since its emergence on the eve of World War I as a major player on the world stage has too often been piquancy for violent fluctuation between withdrawal and forced engagement.
But in the 21st century the digital revolution has sounded the death knell of many older perceived choices with instantaneous communication, globalize economics and space age weapons of mass destruction missilery. And, in the end, what may well be building is a new and unforeseen crisis – at the level of Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
Turning away may not be a real option the American public will have this time.