Sunday, August 7, 2011


Remember that wonderful scene from the Godfather where Michael assigns missions to each of his men and Tom Hagen finds himself standing alone,without an assignment and asks, "Mike, I'm out? Why am I out?"

And Michael smiles and says, "Tom, you have always a great advisor but this is war and I need a war consigliorere."

Almost since his inauguration I've felt President Obama needed a war time adviser, for whatever reason.

Now he has one, in the form of Drew Westen, a professor at Emory, who writes in the Sunday New York Times.

He notes Obama has not realized, as Michael did, that he is locked in combat with people who are not going to be reasonable, who will not negotiate or accommodate, so he has to go to war.

He does not say, "In times like these, the rich should be giving to charity, not getting charity."

Obama fails to identify the villains. He does not say, "This disaster was not a natural disaster but was created by conservative extremists who told us if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. And it didn't work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same disastrous results."

If Westen and Paul Krugman were Obama's advisors, the President would be saying, "You elected me to fix the mess the Republicans and Wall Street have made of the economy. The deficit didn't' exist until George W. Bush and his war Republicans gave 2 trillion dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy and squander $1 trillion in two wars, at least one of which was a total waste."

FDR said he welcomed the hatred of the forces of greed and selfishness and Obama could have said the same, and he could have named names, Fox, Murdoch, Limbaugh.

We needed an FDR, not a Ghandi, in this country in 2008. Ghandi was successful because he was opp posing the British. Had Ghandi been up against Hilter or Stalin, he would have been an unknown dead man, just another statistic. Same for Martin Luther King. To be successful with negotiation and appeals to conscience, you have to place faith in a certain level of integrity and conscience in those you oppose. But Obama is dealing with Mitch McConnell, who has publicly said his only first goal is to prevent Obama's re election That comes ahead fo any national interest, ahead of an improved economy, which would only help Obama.

But Obama compromised, accepted an ineffectual stimulus package and then had to live with the Republicans crowing that stimulus packages don't work. It was like the diabetic who takes a trivial amount of insulin an sees no improvement in his blood sugars and then complains, "This insulin stuff doesn't work!" You need to say, "Insulin always works, if you take enough."

Same with health care reform. Obama accepted a watered down insurance company reform when what was needed was a Medicare for all alternative. That would have made the insurance companies compete.

He never explained why saving the banks was so important, or why no bankers issuing bizarre and reckless loans did not and should not have wound up in jail.

Westen goes on to speculate about why President Obama cannot be the president we "know" is inside. And he is not afraid to list all the possibilities: The first is that he is simply not the guy we hoped he was. He was, after all, inexperienced and we didn't know much about him. "Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence...chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president." He just might not be up to the task.

Westen notes Obama's narratives always lack one vital element every charismatic leader needs: The villain. "Who is always left out, described in passive voice, as if the cause of other's misery has no agency and hence no culpability."

So we have a problem. We may have a President who is simply not up to the task.

The sad thing is we just got through 8 years of George W. who was so obviously not up to the task, and we are faced with alternatives from the GOP who are worse than useless.

Where that leaves us, I do not know. But I'm not smiling.

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