Word and Image of Vermont

Brooks’s Prophecies
August 26, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

This morning in the New York Times, David Brooks gleefully assails us with the proposition that a buffoon may shortly become president of the United States. This, Brooks asserts, is because the country is generally moving towards buffoonery -- or, as some would have it, real Americanism -- and wants one of its own to take over the direction of the country.

Brooks has, for quite a long time, held buffoons in deep affection. He appears to believe his impulses in that direction protect him against the reputation of effete urbanity which otherwise would descend on him naturally. Why he longs for such protection is more a matter of therapeutic than political analysis.

In any case, we need to note that the buffoonery Brooks is now almost lauding is of a degree beyond that of a recent president. Even the Bushes regard Rick Perry as a lout (doubtless a residual stain from their once having had connections to New England).

I’m not sure what to make of Brooks’s prediction. A short while ago, I would have thought the idea of Perry’s being elected president was insane. I still think it’s looney (a degree of mental disorder somewhat less intense than insanity). But more evidence for the looniness of swathes of the American public is appearing daily. What percentage of us they constitute I don’t know.

I confess I’m regularly surprised by the American public’s taste for hokeyness. I noticed a headline this morning in the Huffington Post which proclaimed: “Loyal Dog Refuses to Leave Fallen SEAL’s Casket.” It actually wasn’t a joke. You’ll notice that the body inside the casket was “fallen” rather than dead. This sort of thing strikes a vein of American sentiment that opportunistic politicians are always trying to mine. It must run fairly deep or else people wouldn’t spend so much time and money on it. But welling up over a mournful dog is one thing; going giddy about a politician in cowboy boots is another.

Over the past year Mr. Perry has said so many foolish things he formerly would have been laughed out of any campaign by an acerbic press. But no more. Now, we are told by the pundits, with David Brooks leading the pack, we should take clowns seriously because so many of the people love clowns and identify with them.

Brooks warns us not to expect Perry to self-destruct. His message that he will get government out of our lives -- while continuing to supply us with the necessary complement of dead SEALS -- is simple enough that he can repeat it without deviation for the next fourteen months and waft himself gloriously into the White House. That might be credible were it not that there are other people who wish to take up residence there. If it appears that Mr. Perry is gaining the inside track, their criticism of him will become more and more vociferous. Even that might not knock him off course. But he will have to respond to it in some way. His cowboy sensibilities won’t let him defer. And there’s where his troubles most likely lie.

Here’s the thing that might save us. No matter how advisors try to rein candidates in and prevent them from showing their genuine character, they tend, at points of stress and weariness to break out. Even Rick Perry, dumb as he might be, is not immune to ego depletion. That’s why I’m not overly alarmed -- at this point -- about the current bandwagon. No matter how invincible it might appear one month, the next we could see the wheels coming off. All it would take is for Perry to begin speaking his mind.

We are being reminded that Perry has won ten elections in a row, so nobody should sell him short. But he’s won them in Texas. Texans may believe their manner is so universally appealing that once the country sees it for what it is, it will lift Perry to national adulation. But, believe it or not, I have known people who are not thrilled by the Texas sense of things. And I suspect there are more of them than Rick Perry can imagine. Actually, I suspect there are a lot of things that fall outside Perry’s imaginative range.

Brooks is right about one thing, though. The nation has changed over the past couple decades. There doubtless are more people now than there used to be who would be impressed by Perry rather than laughing at him. That increase is a fairly small increment but there are times when small increments can make a big difference. I don’t think they yet have the potential to elect a person as foolish as Perry to the presidency. And I also think their tide is reaching its high point and is likely to recede in the coming years. This may be their only chance to lift buffoonery to the heights in the United States. And should they somehow wash past all the barriers they could do more damage than sensible people could clean up for quite a long time.

So Perry does bear watching even though it’s not time to panic.

Name Pollution
August 24, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

A distinguishing mark of any era is the number of names a competent adult is expected to recognize. That number has been rising over the past several centuries and has now climbed to a bizarre level. It’s good to have a ready supply of names in one’s mind, but when the number rises beyond a certain mark it can become disorienting.

In the small notepad I keep beside my computer to record the names appearing in the web articles I read, there are twenty-five names for the just the past few days. Some of them are names I knew previously, but at least half are not. If I try to assimilate say fifty new names every month, that’s six hundred a year, and over the course of a few years I’m up in the thousands. And keep in mind they are added to the other thousands I supposedly already had filed away. Say what you will about good memory, the total is not a manageable number.

Still, each of the names, as a single entity, is worth keeping in mind. I like to know that Henry Giroux and Grace Pollack have written a book about the Disney Corporation titled The Mouse That Roared.

I was interested to discover that Juan Cole is vigorously defending the rebellion and the rebels in Libya, and taking one of my heroes, Glenn Greenwald, to task for saying the U.S. engineered the entire NATO involvement.

It pleased me to find that Maud Newton says that “where craving for admiration and approval predominates, intellectual rigor cannot thrive.”

Fonts have fascinated me for some time, so it was good to discover that Simon Garfield has written a new book about them and that Janet Maslin says it is a highly entertaining and informative discourse.

I was glad to reflect that I agree with Jeffrey Sachs about the mental condition of most CEOs of large corporations.

It fascinated me to learn that Kathryn Wylde confronted Eric Schneiderman after the funeral of Hugh Carey to chide him about his refusal to go along with a federal deal to let the big banks off the hook for their criminal activities.

I was amused to learn that Karl Rove is now attempting to warn America about the dangers of right-wing extremism.

I took an interest in Rachel Maddow’s and Eugene Robinson’s discussion of whether egregious hypocrisy ever hurts politicians.

I was drawn to reviews of Dennis Loo’s new book, Globalization and the Demolition of Society, and in particular to discussion of his argument that we need to reject theoretical models which obscure our ability to grasp what is really happening.

John Grant’s explanation that Special/Ops are becoming the main justifying influence for the maintenance of perpetual war struck me as quite convincing.

And as I have noted previously on this site, I am fascinated by Alice Patterson’s revelation that Jezebel heads an invisible network of evil which is in control of the Democratic Party.

All of this information and all of these names came to my attention over the course of just a few days. Each incident could clearly repay thought, but what of them collectively? Smashed together as they have been over a brief period, do they help me think or do they simply confuse me? I remain unsure.

If I had no social knowledge other than the eleven items listed above, what would they tell me? It’s hard to contemplate the question because trying to imagine such a state of deprivation puts me out of touch with a mind afflicted by it. Yet, in a way, that’s the condition we all find ourselves in. No matter what we know or how much we struggle to assimilate it, it remains no more than a speck in comparison to the flood of contemporary history. We are afflicted nearly with the relation of finitude to infinity; the former can tell us little about the nature of the latter.

The conclusion I draw is that none of us should delude ourselves with notions of comprehensive knowledge. The factors shaping our world are so numerous, one person’s store of names and incidents can hardly be significantly superior to anyone else’s. What can be different, however, and probably superior, is the self we make using what we know. Knowledge by itself is virtually worthless.

Consequently, my advice is to take in what you can use and nothing more. Try to keep clear of thickets. The amount of useful information varies not only among persons but in a single person depending on mood, situation, and current intention. It used to distress me that I was not more consistent than I am, that I would dive deep into the news sometimes, and, at others pull away from it. I’m beginning to see that’s not a bad pattern.

I have an unfortunate habit of feeling surprised when I find that a friend doesn’t know something, or someone, I think everyone should know. But where does that “should” come from? I probably won’t conquer the habit completely but I want to try harder to grant to everyone his own conclusions about the toxicity of knowledge, that is, assuming he’s trying to use what he does know for healthful purposes.

Two Commentaries
August 19, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

I see that the brightest luminaries in the Republican firmament have been holding forth on the age of the earth and the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

Rick Perry says he doesn’t know how old the earth is but he figures it’s pretty darned old. After all, it has been around as long as Rick can remember and probably even longer than that. On the Theory of Evolution, he says it’s a theory and not only that but a theory with gas in it. I think maybe he was referring to “gas” as liquid petrol rather than as any sort of inflation.

Michelle Bachmann informs us that the people are really worried about the threat of the Soviet Union. If you were of a mind you might make fun of Michelle for saying so. But that wouldn’t be fair. You have to take account of the people Michelle hangs out with. They probably really are concerned about the Soviet Union.

These statements raise an issue of significance in American politics but one that few journalists dare explore. What level of mental acuity do we expect from the persons who direct our national affairs? That’s never been clear to me and I often wonder what my fellow citizens think of it.

I recall that I once had an argument with an educational theorist about whether it is reasonable to expect a kindergarten teacher to know which nation the United States used atomic bombs against at the end of the Second World War. He said that would be a ridiculous expectation. When I asked him whether it was important for every teacher, at whatever level, to present a model of adult intelligence to his or her students, he answered that it was but that adult intelligence didn’t involve knowledge of obscure facts from history. It was at that point I began to suspect he, himself, didn’t know which nation had experienced the explosion of nuclear weapons, but I wasn't brave enough to ask him.

At any rate, we seem to have broadly varying views about these things, and when it comes to politicians the perspectives seem to range even more widely than they do about other functionaries. That may be because relatively few people have much sense of what kinds of issues members of Congress or officials of the executive branch have to confront.

If, for example, a problem concerning Bangladesh arose and the politician didn’t know where Bangladesh was, would that matter? I can imagine Rick Perry saying, “I may not know where it is right now, but I can tell you straight off that I know who I can ask to find out.” Or Michelle Backmann might allow, “I don’t care how far it is. It’s not too far for our bombers to get there!” It seems that’s the kind of “common sense” many citizens expect of our presidents.

What other people know may be the biggest mystery there is.

I’m not sure how it happened but sometime during my growing up I got a rough sense of the kind of knowledge one would expect of a person who was charged with managing the affairs of the nation. If I found out, for example, that an official was trying to sort out a sticky foreign policy question and that he had never heard of Charles Dickens and, certainly, had never read one of his novels, I would be troubled.

A common sense maven might well ask, why? What has Charles Dickens got to do with foreign policy? I guess that’s a fair question. But if I were to supply the answer I think I could give pretty cogently, would it matter? Suppose I said, “Some familiarity with the literature of one’s own language is required to testify to a person’s general curiosity and attention span, and if an English-speaking person doesn’t know who Charles Dickens was, there’s a pretty good chance he lacks the quality of mind required to deal with any complex issue.”

With how many people would that reply register? I doubt very much it would carry any weight with either Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann. Nor do I think it would be persuasive to anyone likely to support either for the presidency (other than people like Ed Rollins, who will sell themselves to any candidate who has a chance to make a splash).

We don’t expect, or want, our presidents to be scholars. That seems pretty clear. But at one time we thought presidential candidates ought to have an inkling of the kinds of investigations scholars pursue. I think we expected that a serious candidate would have read at least a handful of books by scholars.  We wanted to know that the persons who might manage our collective affairs had some grasp of the sort of complexities the world presents.

That may no longer be true. Clearly it is not true for a considerable number of Americans. If that number grows even more significant, as it seems to be doing, we might actually wind up with a president on a mental level with Perry or Bachmann  (leaving aside for the moment where George W. Bush was). If that should happen, I have no idea where we’ll be, and I don’t think anyone else does either.

August 14, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

I see that Alice Patterson, a supporter of Rick Perry’s national political ambitions, has discovered that the Democratic Party is a network of evil which has been unleashed by Jezebel. Furthermore, Alice has seen under Jezebel’s skirt, where she espied Baal and Asherah lurking by Jezebel’s skinny legs (I never even knew before that Jezebel had skinny legs).

Gosh! I guess things are getting pretty serious.

I confess, I’ve always had a certain sympathy for Jezebel because I think it would be awful to be killed by being thrown out a widow and then have the dogs outside eat your body -- though I suppose if you were dead you wouldn’t care what happened to your erstwhile important body. It might just be that this misplaced sympathy was what led me to support Democratic candidates in the past. Also, Bette Davis played Jezebel in a 1938 film and that may have caused me to lean a bit towards her also.

In any case, it seems that the Jezebelian conspiracy, or some slightly masked version of it, is destined to play a major role in the presidential campaign of 2012.

As far as I can tell, if the Republican candidates have their way, the campaign won’t be much involved with prosaic issues, like how to stimulate the economy, but instead will focus on the forces of God finding a way to defeat the legions of primal evil lead by the Anti-Christ Obama. I’ve been a little fed up with Obama myself, lately, but I’m quite ready to write him off as the Anti-Christ.

I haven’t been in the habit of thinking of Texas as the center of any sort of reformation but that just goes to show how out of touch with Texas thinking I’ve been. Evidently, quite a few of its citizens see their state as the nucleus of a godly take-back of America. And their governor appears not to mind that notion at all.

It’s interesting how easily the national media falls in with this sort of dramatic juxtaposition. It wasn’t all that long ago that claiming God had chosen the Governor of Texas as his chosen instrument for restoring the earth would have been seen as utterly nuts. But now we’re beginning to see it written about with deep sobriety.

The main lesson this political season seems to be teaching us is that nothing -- and I mean that literally -- is out of bounds. The straw poll in Iowa has set Michelle Bachmann at the head of the Republican presidential pack. Despite what Joe Scarborough says about her being a complete flake, she seems to be taken seriously by the national media. If Michelle Bachmann can be a credible presidential candidate, is there anything the nation might not entertain? Under these circumstances, nothing can be considered safe or certain.

I suspect that realization, more than anything else, is shaping public fears and attitudes. Madmen feel they now have a chance at anything. Ordinary people are worried that their most mundane expectations might at any moment unravel. Who knows what could come marching down your street tomorrow?

Maybe I’m exaggerating but I think it is the case that the guarantees of yesterday seem to many people to be crumbling away. Under those conditions there actually is no telling what the people might do.

Some continue to say that the wise heads will step in and put the Michelle Bachmann- Rick Perry nonsense to rest. But where are these wise heads? Who are they?

Already the notion that we have a reasonably accurate grasp of our own history is fading. Political candidates are not restrained, in any way, from reconstructing the past for their own purposes. Ms. Bachmann can substitute the 19th Century for the 18th, and scarcely anyone bats an eye. If you can put one century in place of another, why not theorize -- or even say -- that you have witnessed  a conspiracy to undermine the nation led by a 9th century B.C. Middle Eastern queen? May the opinion that such propositions are fantastically insane not be merely plots of the educational elite to keep God’s truth from the people?

I can’t predict how deeply non-evidentiary fears can penetrate the vital impulses of the nation. But I think I can say that the concept of evidence itself is waning among most of the people. Very seldom, when a politician makes an inflammatory charge, does anyone -- journalist or not -- rise up to ask, “How do you know?” When we have turned as far away as we have from discourse based on the examination of evidence, no possibility seems to be ruled out. We actually might elect Michelle Bachmann president of the United States. And if we were to do such a thing, there is no way to estimate what might happen then.

I’d just as soon not make the experiment, but perhaps that just marks me as a fuddy-duddy.

Obama Underwhelming
August 8, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

There have been a unusual number of thoughtful essays lately attempting to assess what’s wrong with the Obama presidency. They all suggest elements of weakness but more prominently they point to a kind of adolescent idealism focused on our all being Americans together and all wanting what’s best for our country. It’s as though Obama never saw a Western movie. The bad guys, mean as snakes, were virtually all home-born products.

If Obama really thinks the Republican leadership want what’s good for a majority of Americans, he’s suffering from a mental problem considerably worse than unrealistic idealism.

The best analytic essay I’ve read comes from veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew, appearing in the New York Review for August 18th. She sees Obama under the control of men like David Plouffe and Bill Daley (I recall groaning when Obama made him chief of staff), who think only in political terms and believe they can win elections by carefully studying polls regardless of conditions in the country. Furthermore, winning the election is actually all they care about, the country be damned. As Drew points out, even if Obama does manage to scrape out a victory he will be so paralyzed by his subservience to the Republicans -- all done in the name of centrism and moderation -- his second administration will be a drawn-out mess.  As she puts it:

In the end, the President had made the Republicans look bad, but what did he get for it?
He ended up agreeing to new restrictions that will hamstring his policies for as long as
he serves in office. His own actions will have led to new laws that forbid him to borrow
money for any government policy—unless, at some time, he goes out and campaigns
hard for raising taxes in any form. His actions so far shed light on how likely that is.

The most spirited critique comes from Drew Westin, an Emory University professor, who has specialized in the psychology of politics. It appeared in the New York Times yesterday. Obama has failed, Westin says, because he has refused to use the most potent strategy available to a president, the ability to lay out a story which will gain the people’s attention. From the day of his inauguration, Obama held back from telling the country what had happened in the previous eight years. If he had done it, he would have hurt the Republicans’ feelings and that would have got in the way of his notion that he could win them over to sweet reason. The truth is, the nation is in its current pathetic state because of foolish, unfunded wars and virtually insane appeasement of the super rich. Stop those two looney processes and there would be no financial crisis. There would be problems, yes, but they could be managed by sensible policies.

That story has been told many times by others, but in the face of the president’s abandonment of it -- you know, he wants to look forward not backward -- it has been marginalized as simple partisanship. If the nation can’t assimilate the story of what happened to it, then it can’t think intelligently about how to address its difficulties. And Obama doesn’t want the people to grasp the story, despite its truth, because that might ruffle some feelings.

Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast points to Obama’s enthrallment with the idea of being a transformational leader who brings American politics round to “civic republicanism,” meaning the rule of leaders who are motivated by the good of the whole but who recognize that the people are usually too uninformed and too impulsive to know where their own good lies. The trouble with that notion is that the most powerful people, and in particular the richest people, are not themselves civic-minded. They want what’s good for themselves regardless of its effect on others. The notion that any single person, no matter how great his talents, can persuade rapacious hustlers to take up the civic task is silly. Tomasky’s argument fits pretty well with my own reading, which I’ve alluded to on several occasions, that Obama’s prime problem is his arrogance. There could scarcely be a more egregious case of arrogance than the belief that one has the ability to convince Mitch McConnell to become a civic leader.

Obama’s performance over the last year has been, perhaps, the biggest disappointment in American political history. I can think of no leader who has turned out to be more different from what his supporters anticipated. Obama’s thought that he can betray and openly scorn his followers and nevertheless retain them in his camp may be as arrogant as his expectation that he will win over Republicans.

The followers of Hillary Clinton are saying all over the country now, “We told you so.” Mrs. Clinton is being asked to mount a challenge to Obama’s second nomination. If she were as ruthless as she has been portrayed, that’s probably what she would be doing. But somehow I doubt she will.

I’m afraid we’re stuck with Obama, which doesn’t mean we’re stuck with supporting him. Some may think that Democrats have already pushed him too hard. But truth is he hasn’t been pushed half hard enough. If he’s ever going to learn anything, which perhaps is still possible, his former followers have to express their disappointment ever more forcefully.

Can he be saved from himself? No one can know.  It certainly won’t happen unless somebody ejects him from his adolescence.

The Democratic Party
August 4, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

I can see only one bright spot in the absurdity over the debt extension. More people now than before are aware that the Democratic Party is a fraud. The party leaders make brave noises about protecting the American people, but when it comes to action they surrender to what the Republicans are pushing. They say they didn’t want to do it but they had to, which is nonsense.

When you look at where the Democratic Party gets its backing you find mainly the same sources the Republicans rely on -- the monied interests of the nation. The Democrats are in thrall to Wall Street just about as much as the Republicans are.

This leaves those of us who would like to have a party which cares about the well-being of the majority of citizens asking ourselves what to do. There aren’t a lot of options.

We could try to recapture the Democratic Party, to support the democratic wing of the Democratic Party as Howard Dean used to say. That was my preference until recently. Now I’m not at all sure.

We could lend ourselves to a third party which might, eventually, drive the Democratic Party out of business. That would be an enjoyable process if it had any chance whatsoever of success. Trouble is, I’m not sure it does.

We could retreat to local affairs and let the nation spin its course towards disaster. That doesn’t seem overly practical.

We could form ourselves into guerilla group and try to pick off the most egregious of the faux-democrats. That may be, under these circumstances, the best course. If even a half-dozen Democratic leaders were driven from office because of the their betrayal of the democratic process it might plant a thought in the remaining party leaders. The downside is that it would place the Democrats in a minority for a while. But since, as we saw in 2009 and 2010, having nominal Democrats in power doesn’t do us much good anyway, I can’t see that the risk is overly great. After all, what’s the alternative? To be simply doormats indefinitely?

Picking off fake Democrats raises the question of Obama’s re-nomination. Until a month ago I would have been opposed to a challenge but now I would like to see one come about. The trouble is, I can’t think of anybody who could do it. It’s an indication of the state of the party that there are no leaders of integrity who have raised themselves to a position which would allow them to be considered a credible presidential candidate. There have been some brave Democratic members of Congress, but when you run through the list of the Democrats who voted against Obama’s so-called compromise with the Republicans, though they deserve praise, you can’t find anyone who could seriously challenge Obama. Who’s going to do it? John Conyers? Emanuel Cleaver? Elijah Cummings? Dennis Kucinich? Henry Waxman?

The rebuilding of the Democratic Party is going to take considerable time. It will require years of wandering in the wilderness. And Democrats are not known for braving dangers, much less wildernesses.

I have friends who say the situation is hopeless, that the United States, as a political culture, is on the way to an inescapable degeneracy. The reasons given are multiple but the conclusion is firm and unitary. You’ll notice, if you pay attention to sources outside the mainstream media -- and even a few inside -- that many voices are speaking of the United States as a banana republic in the making. The most persuasive writer I’ve seen who takes this stance is Morris Berman, and I have to admit that his books are pretty compelling. Chris Hedges is also fairly far in that direction, and he too has intelligent arguments. When you add Andrew Bacevich, Chalmers Johnson, David Swanson and Bruce Fein warning about the disintegrative impact of the American militaristic empire, you have strong case for serious national decline. They may be right. We may be too far gone to avoid a prolonged and deep trough. And once you go that deep there’s no guarantee you’re going to get out.

Be that as it may, dismal evidence is no reason to stop trying. And when we think about a possible turn for the better, towards a strong, vibrant and decent national state, we have to face the truth that it’s not going to happen without a healthy political party. We don’t have one now. The Republican Party is hopeless. It is the cache for the nation’s sociopaths and as long as it exists it will continue to function in that role. That leaves the Democrats. If they are going to be either replaced or transformed, the first thing that has to happen is widespread recognition that at the moment they are worse than a mess; they’re little better than a garbage dump.

I think that understanding is growing. Polls indicate extremely low respect for an Obama -led party. It is seen as weak, vacillating, and corrupt. And those views are valid. Now they need to get stronger. The Democrats as they now exist are both a roadblock and a delusion.

They have to be made over -- pretty completely -- or got rid of.

Mr. Cave-in
August 1, 2011
[Comment or Respond]

I said I would give up on Obama if he caved in on extending the tax cuts for billionaires. He caved.

I said I would give upon Obama if he caved in on Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer protection agency. He caved.

I said I would give up on Obama if he caved in on the debt-limit extortion. He caved.

Is there any reason, whatsoever, for me to think he won’t cave on everything, forever? More important, is there any reason for the Republicans to think so? I can’t think of one.

Might an Obama presidency be worse than having a Republican do these obnoxious things directly? Then the Republican would have to take the blame for the consequences. As it stands now, Republicans can loot the country and then blame Obama for the bad outcomes.

I read an interesting essay by David Atkins in Hullabaloo this morning titled “To Fight or Not to Fight.” He points out that progressives have generally opposed fighting fire with fire, have taken pledges of non-violence, have celebrated figures like Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s true, but for the life of me I can’t see that any of these progressive principles applies in this case.

Obama wouldn’t have to behave like Republicans in order to oppose them. He could make some gestures in their direction and still stand up for his basic beliefs -- if he has any. In the case of the budget extortion he clearly could have used the powers of the presidency to extend the limit, pointing out that Congress had approved every expenditure that requires further debt. In the case of Warren, he could have appointed her a White House aide on consumer affairs, left the head office of the consumer agency vacant and told her to run it. On the tax cuts for the billionaires he could simply have refused to sign a bill for extending them, and let Republican intransigency result in tax hikes for everyone, which wouldn’t have been a bad outcome and would have blunted subsequent Republican demands for reducing the deficit.

My point is not to push any particular strategy to get round Republican insanity, but to argue that the president has many strategies at his command, and he refuses to use any of them. Why? He seems to have some deep-seated aversion even to thinking about thwarting the Republicans.

Three explanations are running through the political commentariat.

He’s actually a Republican himself, or so close to one there’s little difference between him and the GOP.

He’s convinced that if he tries long enough to reason with the Republicans they will stop being who they are and become sensible people.

He’s fixated on the notion that refusal to fight will paint him as a centrist and thereby propel him to victory in 2012 and he is far more concentrated on his own re-election than  on anything else.

I confess, I don’t know how to explain Obama. If I had to pick one of these hypotheses, I’d go with the third and add that Obama has chosen to surround himself with extremely timid advisors.

The issue for me, however, is not Obama’s thought process. I have no way of knowing what it is and certainly no way of influencing it. So far as my reaching out to him is concerned, he might as well be living on another planet. My problem to decide what to do on the planet I inhabit. Here’s what I think is the best thing for me.

First, get over my disappointment with Obama’s performance. Yes, I was thrilled by the atmosphere in Grant Park on the night of his election. Yes, I hate to face the emptiness of what I thought was a grand moment. Yes, I deeply regret the opportunities that have been thrown away. But Obama is who he is and there’s nothing I can do about it. Continuing to delude myself is scarcely an answer.

I won’t make any effort to support Obama’s campaign in 2012. I will give no money, make no telephone calls, write no word in support. He has to get along without me and, I suspect, without many others of my frame of mind.

If a creditable opponent for the Democratic nomination should arise, I will support him or her, with time, effort, and money. That’s the least I can do to voice my belief that the kind of false promises Obama has engaged in should be shown to have consequences.

I won’t allow myself to led back to hope by speeches. Obama has made too many such efforts and they have all been hollow. He doesn’t stand up for what he says he will support. If he surprises me by action, then I guess I’ll have no option but to be surprised. But I’m not going to expect it because I don’t believe it’s going to happen.

When the time comes to vote, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I may throw my vote away on a third party candidate if there is anyone who seems decent. I may not vote at all. And, I confess, I may vote for Obama. But if I do the latter, it will definitely be with a bitter taste in my mouth, and a conviction that in the United States politics has become essentially degenerate.

©John R. Turner

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