Wednesday, February 11, 2009

But Is He Ready for Prime Time?

Obama's had his first prime-time press conference -- "prime-time" has been stressed in every report I've seen. I haven't taken the time to read the whole transcript yet, but this (via) has been pointed out to me:

I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that’s the lesson I learned.
Damn. I really feel safe and hopeful with a doofus like this in the Oval Office. Okay, so Obama is inexperienced in politics, but he has a slew of advisors who not only are more experienced, they're supposedly of the slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners variety. (And there's also the question, again, of why he wanted any tax cuts at all, since he knows they're not a remedy for the mess we're in. My not-so-ambivalent Obama-supporter friend reminds me that he campaigned on promises of middle-class tax cuts, and might as well keep one promise. Maybe so, but 1] as 40% of his economic plan, thereby undermining it? and b] he campaigned on those promises before the economy went belly-up, and might just gain credibility by explaining honestly that the situation has changed and other approaches are needed now.)

Obama went on rip Republicans who now lecture about the need for fiscal responsibility. “It’s a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they presided over a doubling of the national debt,” he said. “I’m not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.”
I'm not sure Obama has a lot of credibility either. In fact, given his support for the original Bush-Paulson-Obama-McCain-Frank bailout, he doesn't have any, and he should think about getting some. Don't you think?

Years ago I wondered whether joining the political Right leads to a drop in intelligence, or only the unintelligent would join in the first place. I suspect it's some of both. But now I'm beginning to wonder whether similar factors are involved in joining the Center-Right. Back in 1993 I watched then-President Bill Clinton's move to lift the ban on gays in the US military collapse in disarray before a tidal wave of homophobia. I couldn't hold Clinton himself particularly responsible for his team's failure to anticipate the opposition the move would encounter; rather I blame his much-touted gay and lesbian advisors, who should have known what to expect and helped him work out strategy. But it seems that they were as ignorant as their President, which translates as stupid: stupidity is when you know better, and have every reason to know better, but ignore what you know, probably because you're in power now and think that every knee will bend and every mouth confess your glory.

I just finished reading Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, and was surprised at how good it was. I noticed, though, that in the introduction to the 2004 reprint edition I was reading, his style had slackened, become vaguer and more pompous. I'd decided to read it in the first place because I'd seen some quotations that indicated that Obama had once been smarter about American history and politics, about race, about class, than he has shown himself to be since he began running for the Presidency. And it turned out to be true: when he wrote Dreams from My Father he knew full well that racism is endemic in America, and he'd seen enough of machine politics in Chicago to understand how structural racism and classism work. He seems to have forgotten all that in the past decade. He'd better start remembering, not just for his own sake (unless he wants to be remembered as another Jimmy Carter, a blip on the historical radar before the Republicans come roaring back), but for the sake of the people he's sworn to serve.