Saturday, August 22, 2009

Obama Update

by Richard Crews

It has been 214 days since Obama's inauguration. How's he doing?

The financial meltdown seems to have been averted; the Second Great Depression seems to have bottomed out. Moreover, he used those economic crises to launch revolutionary initiatives in infrastructure repair, green energy, and revitalized education. He has reintroduced international diplomacy and initiated a rebirth of civil rights and of scientism and intelligent, open discourse in public affairs.

Some libertarians object that he has moved too slowly on restoring civil liberties.

Some naturalists object that he has moved too slowly on green matters--on counteracting pollution and on restoring the protection of our parks and wild places, and of endangered species.

His most aggressive and impressive initiative has been toward cleaning up and rebuilding our health-care system.

His most striking failure has been in the lack of bipartisan cooperation. The Republican (conservative) philosophy has some potentially useful perspectives: that changes should be careful and gradual, and spending should be limited. Unfortunately no sensible Republican leadership has emerged (please, if you know of any, name them); moreover the catastrophic effects of deregulation and the historical failure of trickle-down economic stimulation have become evident. The Republicans have reduced themselves to obstructionism--including distortion and deceit. They have simply read themselves out of the governing equation.

I believe Obama has gotten off to a strong start on--
(1) building his team(s) based on brains and pragmatism
(2) initial rescue from inherited economic and diplomatic debacles
(3) laying foundations for infrastructure and education reconstruction
(4) expending his honeymoon gloss to break the health-care log jam

I believe he has honed his Washington political-manipulation skills (having carefully studied Lincoln's, Teddy Roosevelt's, FDR's, Reagan's, and Clinton's strengths and errors). He has added to his community-organizing and rhetorical skills--plus his experience as a Constitutional scholar and then a struggling worker-bee-drone in the Senate--toward development of a Washington leadership style--
(1) get the best academic and scientific advice available
(2) make a show of consulting all stake-holding power brokers--early and loudly
(3) but--and he has only just learned this through getting burned a bit on the health-care thing--design and shepherd specific legislative initiatives through Congress (almost LBJ-like, but hopefully never that savage)

The philosophic visions that have become evident are wonderful--
(1) grabbing the technology tiger by the tail (Twitter- and nano-power)
(2) rebuilding social conscience--widespread (though we see it mainly domestically) and popular (though we see it initially in the bourgeoisie)
(3) green-ness, wisely tempered by scientism and political pragmatism
(4) Constitutional and civil-libertarian values
(5) good, old fashioned international diplomacy, frustrating and reptilian as it may be

And his sense of pace is inspiring--
(1) economic salvage work must be done immediately, but developing effective re-regulation of the financial industries will take years
(2) one can chip away at wealth redistribution--taxes on the superwealthy, curbing exorbitant pay and bonuses, etc.--but this, too, is a change in the social structure that must evolve over many years
(3) reconstruction of infrastructure, education, energy, internationalism (political and economic), green-ness, etc. will take decades, but one must get the first shovel into the ground.