In Which Thomas Friedman Accidently Reveals the Lingering Angst of the Fear Years

Thomas Friedman is the direct middleman of the NY Times’ Axis-Of-Centrist-Pseuds. To his right is Affirmative Action poster boy David Brooks (would his skills really merit NY Times columnist-dom if he wasn’t a “conservative”) who tried to concisely argue right-wing boilerplate early in his career, only to get picked apart by the Times’ letter writers. Brooks has since enveloped himself in arm chair human interaction “science” and become the slow lovechild of William Safire and Malcolm Gladwell. To Freidman’s left is Maureen Dowd whose modus operandi is to parallel the popular movie or TV of the moment with the latest DC palace intrigue — the sort of PoMo jab that would have been clever in a Freshman composition class at one of those New England colleges that starts with a “B” if it were 1983.

But it is T-Fried himself that is the Centrist Pseuds Centrist Pseud. It is he that will  declare that, look guys, we would get real about global warming and globalization if only there was a “centrist” compromise on the debt and the next six months will be crucial to the outcome of the war in Iraq because I talked to this cab driver in India and the Internet! Not all of T-Fieds ideas are wrong, but he is a bloviator who likes to point out how serious and important big THINGS are without contributing new thoughts or having any actual responsibility for any outcomes. He likes to pretend he’s at the table when the crucial decisions are made. No wonder he wound up being amongst the most egregious and pathetic of the Iraq War II Bush Patsies.

So it was startling and frustrating to read his column shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, but before the perpetrators and their motives were known. “Fortunately,” spake T-Fried, “we don’t frighten easily anymore. You could feel it in the country on Tuesday morning. We’ve been through 9/11. We probably overreacted then, but never again. We tracked down Osama bin Laden with police and intelligence work, and we’ll do the same in this case.”

To which I responded, “Wait a minute Home Slice. YOU may have ‘probably’ over-reacted to 9/11, but I sure as hell didn’t.” Moreover, T-Fried you sure weren’t part of any police work to track him down. Indeed, I believe your advice was “give war a chance.”

Now, obviously I am not part of the “we” that captured and killed bin Laden. But The Friedster is right about the other “we” that “probably” (meaning “actually”) over-reacted to 9/11. I was against Iraq War II and not a cheerleader like Friedman. But Iraq War II was still perpetrated in my name.

Being part of this “we” is likely harder for those that were for Iraq War II or generally pro-Bush, but then changed their minds later. Bush went from amongst the most popular to the least popular presidents in American history over his eight years. But Bush didn’t change. If you went from support to despise, as millions of Americans assuredly did, then you must admit that at best you were duped and at worst your passions were manipulated to overwhelm your reason. Blowhards like Friedman aided and abetted this by puffing up the irrationalization for the war and not pushing back against the dictate that being anti-war/Bush was being anti-American. But at the end of the day the bombs were dropped, the innocents were slaughtered, the WMDs were never found and Iraq War II searched for a meaning like a forlorn hermit crab stalking a shell-less beach, as the casualties mounted.

WE definitely did overreact to 9/11, even if Thomas Friedman is probably too much a douche to admit it, and we all have to own that no matter how much we regret it.

 

The Long Winter of Our Discontent

I like President Obama more than any other political figure in my lifetime. I like the President for the same reason the Conservatrons hate him: he seems like one of “us”. He’s the only major political figure  to hail from the “us” that I recognize myself to be a part of.

Objectively, Obama’s first two years have been a sterling success. The economy was saved from Depression, two Supreme Court justices were confirmed, the auto bailout saved thousands of jobs and three huge companies, fundamental health insurance reform and financial reform were passed, and the ball was generally moved forward on issues from womens’ equity, to green energy, to nuclear disarmament. Unnoticed by most, Obama has also done a tremendous amount of healing beneath the skin by inserting earnest and sophisticated citizens into Cabinet and under-Cabinet positions that were once the province of Bush junta “Brownies”. The Education Department is utilizing venture capital style experimentation through the Race to the Top contest. Steven Chu is the best Secretary of Energy in the Department’s history having oriented it towards resolving cutting edge technological problems while personally participating in small ventures like orchestrating the ultimate capping of BP’s gushing oil well in the star crossed Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s first two years are also a self-evident failure. If you could time travel back to Inauguration Day 2009 and tell an Obama supporter the result of the 2010 midterms, the supporter at first would not believe you and then conclude that the two intervening years were a disaster.

There are two obvious horseshoe-and-hand-grenades failures from Obama’s first two years. The first was the Stimulus that was too small, but advertised as being just as right as the Third Bear’s bowl of porridge was for Goldilocks. Paul Krugman, who has only been correct about almost everything since the daisy brained days of W’s 2000 presidential campaign, has written extensively about this on his blog. The second would be the bonus imbroglio with AIG and other bailed out Bankster Rats’ Nests. Yes these bonuses are just a goofy form of delayed compensation, and maybe there is little legally that the government could have done about them. But gut feelings are not always wrong. The sense that the same corrupt Master of the Universe nimrods that caused the Great Economic Collapse only to be bailed out by the serfs were then somehow deemed to important to risk losing, and were thus rewarded for their destructive errors was logically infuriating. My participation in this blog flatlined after Obama was ineffectual in contending with the bonuses either substantively or through oration. Of course I argued, donated a few dollars and voted early in 2010, but my enthusiasm was deflated.

It’s not clear how Obama could have given voice to this populist fury or exactly how Obama should have played the Stimulus. Maybe he chose one of the best possible courses in each case – perhaps alternative actions would have turned out worse. Regardless, the 2010 elections are proof positive that what he did do failed. It’s even possible that he wasn’t the right man for the job. Obama’s Hope message resonated in the early rounds of the Democratic Primary because it was the antidote to the low morals and manipulations of the Bush regime and the agony of the Fear Years. Clinton seemed to “connect” better on the economy after the Ohio primary (whatever that means), but her foolish vote in favor of Generalissimo Bush’s Iraq War II cost her the Democratic nomination and, with it, the Presidency. Would HRC have succeeded in these two make-or-break areas where Obama didn’t? Who knows, but the “spiritual thirst” of America was far more meat’n’potatoes in the fall of 2008 then it was in the summer of 2007 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina finally obliterating Generalissimo Bush’s string of fooling all of the people (or at least a preponderance of them) all of the time and the agony of deceit began to permeate workaday life.

Maybes, wouldas, couldas, and who the hell knows? Oh well. Whatever. The tragedy is that we are where we are and it is hard to see how Obama’s failures leave America any real way to get out of the Great Economic Collapse. There was a fluffy tech bubble in the 1990s, but computers, the Internet and cellphones were also tangible improvements that created wealth and new businesses. The Web 2.0 Facebooks and YouTubes of the 00’s also added real economic development to the empty calories of the housing bubble. Today, corporations are sitting on heaps of dollars like hens atop an egg, but what is it that they should spend it on? Who is going to buy the products that corporations create with their ample capital in sufficient quantities to generate self-sustaining wealth and jobs?

Obama’s able Cabinet and their underlings can still heal beneath the skin, the Fed can give the Market more quantitative easing hand jobs, and Obama can surely make his mortgage program more effective. Still, the huge Stimulus spending that must be done on infrastructure, the smart grid, and a bevy of other initiatives; the Stimulus spending that objectively would end the Great Economic Collapse will not get done. America is settling in for a long long winter of meager growth, diminished expectations, and near-feudal wealth concentration, meanwhile the Conservatrons and the junior varsity fascists in the Tea Party will use the resulting disorder to pit dispossessed groups against each other while distracting them with fake issues (Ground Zero Masque!) and phony scandals (Obama’s a Muslim!). Obama and Progressives will be playing defense, stopping the barbarians at the gate and keeping them from smothering the infant recovery in its oxygen tent.

I Hope We Can….