Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 07:14:18 PM EST
Obama's redefining centrism, walking a tightrope between the plangent wails (free health care for all, yesterday!) and brassy challenges (legalise weed!) of the extreme left, and the immense forces invested in the status quo, brittly unwilling to give up their perks under the old, dying system.
So he throws bones to both sides so they quit yapping and snapping. No more missile defence, but bases, no more Iraq, (eventually), and more Afghanistan. Yes on FISA, yes on greening the grid. Close Gitmo, expand Baghram, etc.
It's not pretty or safe, driving in the middle of the road, but he's already won the popularity sweeps, now he has to pull the rabbit of recovery out of the wolf-jaws of inflation and deflation, moving quickly and decisively, without losing his grip on the public imagination as doler of mojo extraordinaire.
Unfortunately for the more thinking, feeling types, (and even more unfortunate, innocent Afghani civilians), Obama can't force the pentagon, big pharma, big banking, the agri/food
scandal 'policy-makers', coal/oil/nuke companies, homeland security, the cops/prison business and compagnia bella to go cold turkey. As it is, the course he's taking as a centrist in times like these, with the likes of Limbaugh whipping up the hate, and many very powerful people who stand to lose what they're most attached to, makes his enterprise enough of a life-risk, such as only very few would have the courage to make his mission.
Just undoing the damage of the Bush years would be an Herculean challenge for any leader, then when you think he has to also uproot attitudes that have been embedded in the US psyche since practically its inception, the more extreme practitioners of which will stop at nothing to obstruct this (beginning of a) redistribution of wealth, screeching 'socialism' and the 'death of the American dream', 'family values' and the rest of their musty catalogue, to increasing ridicule, as more and more thinking, sentient people are grateful for a leader who can string three sentences together, keep cool under pressure, and dole out hope to the desperate like soup to the hungry. With self-possession of that calibre, no-one has used the 'flip-flopper' tag that was thrown around so freely back and forth, thankfully!
The continued frenzied destruction of neocon hegemony as daily horror show seems like a near-death experience/nightmare we've just awoken from recently, (unless you're looking at Gaza) but even though his election has downshifted (some of the most execrable parts of) that nightmare for the moment, Obama knows he only has one shot at doing the dauntingly near-impossible, uniting the most disparate collection of people possibly ever to collect under one flag, shepherding them through the valley of shadow of economic depression, maintaining relatively civil society into a new era where Americans can feel more proud of their government, and travel even the Moslem world without feeling hated.
If he puts the brakes on the juggernaut too hard, it'll catch fire. Being more (to scary levels, I find) pragmatist than anything else, neither utopian, nor authoritarian, he will have already done the moral math, and calculated he'll (maybe just) squeak out ahead, if he can keep the rhetoric abreast of the unwinding economic reality, and if Americans who previously thought themselves as candidates for Wall St. hijinks, or some such tomfool chicanery, can get their heads around being happy they have a job at all, even if it is weatherproofing houses, laying rail track or looking after old boomers. The soaring rhetoric is the sugar to help swallow his advice to lower expectations of an easy or quick fix.
He's got quite the challenge cut out for him. Nothing short of epic, in fact. That tightrope is strung so tight it's fraying, and the rope itself is covered with ground glass, like an Afghan kitestring.
And the winds of change pick up speed more strongly every day. To make them well winds that blow good, they'll need a lot of new turbines for that shiny new grid, so our interests don't have to include fossil fuels under someone else's sand.
Good luck, Mr President, you are the best hope we have! Speaking as a European, may I say that we need change almost as badly as America did under Bush, especially as way too many of our 'leaders' thought his lap was the right place to be. We don't want you as leader, but we earnestly hope your actions as most powerful human being on the planet will inspire movement towards more caring, equitable and transparent forms of government also here, on this side of the Atlantic.
Please, reread your history, and reconsider your plans for Afghanistan. That hatred of America over there was engendered by policies of an old, failed administration puffed up with hubris-as-policy and in bloody love with some messianic biblical-era concept of 'smiting', and certainly doesn't need any more petrol on the fire. Clean your own hearth, and foreign relations will certainly take a mighty turn for the better, sharing in the downwind benefits of that overdue set of actions.