Saturday, February 21, 2009


Is it too soon to assess the progress of the Obama administration? While it may be too early to form an enduring opinion, it is obvious to most of us that the first month of the administration has traveled a very rocky road. While Obama had formulated his "team of rivals" very early on, it was quickly realized that the "team of rivals" turned out to be a "gang that couldn't shoot straight," leading to a series of gaffes and embarrassments, especially considering many of Obama's candidates propensities to avoid paying their due taxes, and warranting federal investigations.
Recently, Obama was quoted as saying "sometimes during the campaign, the rhetoric gets heated and magnified." And while he was referring to his views on global trade, and specifically NAFTA, which he tore to shreds during the campaign, his quote can be applied to many areas where the "most liberal Senator in Congress" has backed away from his campaign stump speeches.
The closing of Guantanamo Bay talk during the campaign has all but gone away, since the only alternative is to transport the criminals and try them on American soil, with calamitous potentials. AbuGhraib is back in operation with a new name. "Getting our troops home" has morphed into "ship their asses to Afghanistan." Even his call for bi-partisan support was abandoned when it came to the stimulus package. Instead of seeking compromise on a recovery package the conservatives could support, he found three conservatives willing to support him, and rammed home the largest socialist package in the history of the nation.
Are all these of these observations necessarily bad? Clearly the answer is no, but it does mark a beginning fraught with issues, which hopefully will not symbolize a pattern of behavior on the part of the administration. Karl Rove came out in the Washington Post expressing worry that the Obama administration seem to be making it all up as they go, a quasi "shoot from the hip" gang, and he does bring out some valid points to support it.
Is that fair? Should we really expect him to be proactively navigating the country through an enormous collection of Bush / Clinton landmines he has inherited? No, but he has produced his share of Clintonesque circus like drama for the first 40 days.
No need to panic, he has done some very intelligent moves in his first month. For good or bad, he has responded to the economy with a stimulus package. He has filled his cabinet with a diverse and experienced bunch; at least the ones who could pass the muster. And, he has devoted his attentions to domestic issues, despite his recent trip to Canada. Obviously, the man is aware of his shortcomings.
In my opinion, the best initiative he has adopted has been his foreign policy team of Clinton, Holcomb and Mitchell. And they were deployed to the Middle East and Asia virtually from day one (Ok, day twenty). We are dealing with Israel, we are dealing with Iraq and Pakistan, and for her first trip, Clinton avoided the usual fluff visits to Europe and went straight to Asia. While this doesn't exactly rival Coretta Scott King's visit to Memphis after the death of her husband, it does show where Obama's concerns lie, and his awareness of the correct priorities of the world scene today.
While the Obama first days may not measure up to FDR's legendary (and largely overblown) first 100 days, he is staying afloat. One thing Obama could learn from FDR's first 100 days is FDR's passion for a balanced budget (until a World War forced him into Keynesian deficit spending levels). Although Obama shares FDR's empathy for the poorer classes (and the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor), he has not shown FDR's policies of taking from "one pocket and putting it into another." FDR, fixated on a balanced budget, would not give anything to one sector without taking away an equal amount from another, a redistribution of spending of sorts, a very wise economic policy to be sure.
Do I (we) ask too much from a new administration? Yes, and it will get even more difficult for Obama as he addresses issues in the future. FDR largely had complete control of Congress to the extent they would vote overwhelmingly in his favor, seemingly without even reading the bills. Contrast this with what Obama has inherited, a largely argumentative and divided conservative base in Congress, to the point that many conservatives are not even hoping Obama succeeds (Limbaughism). And this does not bode well on the Obama agenda he must rapidly address.
He has pushed through a stimulus bill, but next up has to be the following....foreclosure preventions, bailing out the banks and making them healthy again, what to do with the automakers, a 2010 budget and beyond, improving oversights on the credit reporting industry and minimizing the risk of these so called "credit default swaps," and most of all, inspire his nation, and the world.
How long will the Obama honeymoon last? So called experts say two years. I don't think so. They don't realize the lack of patience, and fear that has spread across the nation. I give him 6 months before he starts taking major hits from the experts, and the press. Not to mention the conservative base hoping to gain back control of Washington in four years. In many ways, they are already running for office, which will pose a deathblow of logjams in Congress. Lets hope they do what is right for America and concentrate on doing their jobs, rather than keeping their jobs.
And that is the world....."The World According to Kimba." Thanks, as always for reading.

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