September 25, 2008
Don't Wake the President
Where have you gone, George W?
Our nation rolls dumbfounded eyes at you, woo woo woo.
--Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, Joe DiMaggio and Mrs. Robinson.
I'm a Will Rogers kind of guy when it comes to politicians. I try to find what's best in them, no matter the evidence to the contrary.
I've engaged in this exercise for the last seven years with our President. But here we are in a tectonic financial crisis that is scaring the hell out of the citizenry and the elites and before last night's address he had barely enough to say to fill a tweet.
Not that we're upset. Have you noticed how nobody is complaining that the President is not taking charge? He's like the guy in upper management who you want to appoint as Director of Toner Cartridge Procurement so he can't break anything that matters. Even the White House puzzles over how much they want him involved.
The low point last week was not the bankruptcy of Lehman or the AIG buyout or the huge drop in the Dow. It was when the President said he was going to stay in Washington to monitor the situation. "No!," we all said to our TVs and aggregators. "Please, go to Alabama. Go to Florida. Monitor it from there. Go to Cuba. Have a mojito and read The Old Man and the Sea. Or at least finish The Pet Goat."
Speaking of 9/11, the current financial panic makes for an interesting temporal bookend to the terrorist attacks for President Bush. A lot of Americans, even many who didn't vote for him, hoped for true leadership then. Our need made it easy to be duped.
Some will say that this is exactly what the Republican power brokers had in mind - a completely ineffectual President, a balance-of-powers-tipping coat tree on which to hang executive orders and other actions from the back offices, measures that would never make it through Congress and mostly won't face judicial review.
Perhaps that was the plan. It is noteworthy that in this crisis, as in the other, the strategy seems to be to push through the chosen solution as quickly as possible by using fear as a weapon, thus discouraging review or dissent.
President Bush's speech last night placed the original responsibility on foreign investors, which given the open-spigot monetary policy of the United States Federal Reserve is laughable. Much of the rest of the description of events in his speech was reasonable and useful, so of course it was intentional to start by blaming foreigners. Economic terrorism, I suppose.
Toward the end of the speech he outlined a doomsday scenario for all Americans should we not agree with his administration's plan. So once again, fear. The Bush administration has had nothing to fear but the absence of fear. One could argue that our own White House has generated the true, lasting domestic terrorism with its fear-mongering, its propaganda, its lies. And now we're asked to trust them, for old time's sake?
In any case, what we're seeing now from President Bush is the real gauge of his abilities, his giving of that last full measure of mediocrity. What I've learned and what I'm applying to my decision in November is that mediocrity is lethal. Sometimes it's just a slower demise than others.
You may say that if I insist on insulting the man, at least show respect for the office. I say, tell him that.
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