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Obama’s Problems — And Ours

We inherited the worst situation since the Great Depression.

That is the reflexive response of President Obama to the troubles from which he has been unable to extract his country.

Even before the inauguration, he says, there were projections of a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009. That deficit is not my deficit.

Presidents are usually blamed for deficits run while they are in office. But, in fact, presidents do not write budgets. Congress does. Presidents sign them. And the mammoth deficits of 2008 and 2009 came from budgets approved by a Congress run by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Did Sen. Barack Obama vote against those budgets?

As for the troubles he inherited, the president has a point. From day one, he has had to deal with two wars, a financial crisis and an economy careening into recession.

But Harry Truman inherited two great wars, an atom bomb and an ally, Joseph Stalin, about to dishonor his commitments and enslave half of Europe.

Richard Nixon came to office a minority president in the year of Tet, urban riots, campus uprisings, and the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. He inherited a war in which 500,000 Americans were fighting, and came to a capital city dominated by a media that detested him and a Congress where, for the first time since Zachary Taylor, the opposition controlled both houses.

Ronald Reagan, too, inherited the worst recession since the Depression, a hollowed-out Army, a Soviet Empire that had overrun Vietnam and Southeast Asia and seized Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Grenada and Nicaragua, and a NATO shot through with Eurocommunism and pacifism.

Undaunted, Truman went on to a historic victory in 1948, and Nixon and Reagan went on to 49-state landslides. Presidents have a way of coming back, and America has legendary recuperative powers.

So no one should write this president or country off. But neither should anyone minimize the problems confronting us.

First is the debt crisis. Federal revenues are running at 16 percent of gross domestic product, spending at 27 percent. Wednesday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that a Greece-like situation, where creditors refuse to buy U.S. debt unless we raise interest rates to cover the rising risks of a U.S. default, cannot be ruled out.

Yet there is no credible plan to get these deficits under control when the economy starts to recover. And this week came news that consumer confidence has plunged to a 25-year low and housing starts have plummeted to the lowest level in 50 years.

Economists at the International Monetary Fund have suggested the United States raise the inflation rate to 4 percent or 6 percent to float out of the debt crisis. This is another way of saying the government should clandestinely steal the wealth of the American people to pay off its debts. Bernanke says that will not happen.

Second is the war situation. Where Gen. Tommy Franks’ Army occupied Iraq in three weeks, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s will require a month to pacify Marjah, a town of 80,000 in a nation of 28 million.

U.S. casualties are rising in Afghanistan even as Iraq’s elections, which are to lead to a U.S. withdrawal, appear to be moving that country back toward a Sunni-Shia and Arab-Kurd sectarian and civil war.

Meanwhile, pressure on the president is mounting for “crippling” sanctions on Iran that could lead to a third U.S. war against a nation with a population larger than Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

A third crisis is political: the perception that President Obama is a weak leader who cannot even impose his will on a Congress where Democrats had, until January, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a near 80-vote margin in the House.

Abroad, America is being defied by Japan on bases, by Israel on settlements, by China and Russia on U.N. sanctions, and by Venezuela and its compadres on everything. Dictatorships and democracies alike seem to be dismissive of American leadership.

While Democrats are despondent, facing almost certain defeat in the fall, Republicans seem united only on what they are against: Obama and Obamacare, cap-and-trade, civil trials for terrorists, socialism.

Perhaps that is enough for November.

But in 2012, the party of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will have to tell the country how it proposes to end these wars without losing them, how to bring manufacturing back and how to cut spending by $1 trillion a year, if taxes are off the table.

That Republicans failed under George W. Bush few Republicans today deny. That Obama and his White House are failing today few Democrats will privately deny.

The question raised by the successive failures is whether either party has a cure for the maladies that afflict America. Or are those maladies beyond the power of politics to heal?

Have we become a people incapable of accepting the sacrifices previous generations made, and of producing leaders with the vision and strength of character that our leaders of old possessed?

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#1 Comment By Adam Rurik On February 26, 2010 @ 2:10 am

“Have we become a people incapable of accepting the sacrifices previous generations made, and of producing leaders with the vision and strength of character that our leaders of old possessed?”

Well, you haven’t really been ASKED, have you?

#2 Comment By Barney Rebble On February 26, 2010 @ 7:21 am

Right on. You have your finger on the problem.

A year ago when I pointed out that Congress ultimately controls the budget, several TAC bloggers flung lib lines at me.

Everybody reflexively says, “When the economy rights itself, and those jobs come roaring back…”, as if it doesn’t matter much what we do in the meantime.

Bruce Springsteen, the ultra-lib lefty, sings good songs. In “My Home Town”, he sings “those jobs ain’t coming back”.

The National Credit Card has already indebted our grandchildren beyond their ability to repay. We will necessarily sacrifice the old people. This will be the front wave of a moral decline that will presage an economic decline settling upon us longterm.

We are too addicted to shed ALL POLITICAL INCUMBANTS. The degree to which each locality says, “I will make an exception for my people”, will be the degree to which we will see a long-term national decline.

Ask the Californians. Ask Seattleites. Ask New Yorkers. Or go back to that Union stronghold in Detroit, and ask them.

TAC is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT to oppose our foreign military adventures, and we can’t afford further overseas contingents. Bring our people home!

ZERO INCUMBANTS in 2010 and 2012!

#3 Comment By Jeet Heer On February 26, 2010 @ 10:32 am

Mr. Buchanan: aren’t you being a bit disingenuous here. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, you and your family didn’t support Truman as he dealt with the tough times. Instead you supported those people — Pegler, Joe McCarthy, Douglas McCarthur — who were in open revolt against Truman and sometimes willing to accuse him of being in cahoots with traitors destroying America. So it’s a bit rich to see you now holding up Truman as an example of strong leadership.

#4 Comment By Hunter On February 26, 2010 @ 11:16 am

And why have our ‘leaders’ been so incapable of asking? Could there be structural problems at play?
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#5 Comment By Bill Pearlman On February 26, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

Every president, except maybe Clinton, Who really walked into a great situation,. Has been handed crap from his predecessor. Obama is the only one that feels the need to mention it every time he opens his mouth.

#6 Comment By TomB On February 26, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

Buchanan wrote:

“Have we become a people incapable of accepting the sacrifices previous generations made…?”

I think I disagree with the fundamental idea embedded within this statement. I don’t really see all the spending that we’ve done being the result of our people wildly or even very willingly going on spending binges and lavishing themselves with favors. Instead it seems to me that in the few times people have really been asked we’ve been victims of false promises that … such and such a program was absolutely essential (such as the Iraq war, and lots of defense spending and etc.), or that same would cost no or little money, and etc. and so forth. And in the main probably most of the spending came about without anyone being asked, and was essentially accomplished in the dead of night, via this or that provision hidden in some bill expanding this eligibility for a benefit, or establishing some new program or etc.

Moreover, the crowning proof of my suspicion (to me at least) is the deficit spending: How can one say we’ve over-indulged ourselves when the fact is we’ve quite clearly said X is the maximum amount we are willing to tax ourselves, and our politicians have nonetheless gone and serially spent more than same?

No, we have “sacrificed” already, in the form of being ripped off in a million and one ways. A new welfare benefit for this or that group previously thought to be doing fine? Sure said Pelosi and Reid and the Dems. A new war to satisfy this or that group? Sure, said John McCain and Trent Lott and the Republicans. Ever more agricultural subsidies? Sure they both say; whatever.

With maybe a mere handful of exceptions every single member of Congress ought to be thrown out. For anyone there to now call on us to make sacrifices brands them to me as being nothing less than liars whose willingness to cheat us knows no bounds of ruthlessness. They know the truth. Unlike Bayh, they have no shame.

#7 Comment By Chris Moore On February 26, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

The GOP is facing the same conundrum as President Obama, but vis-à-vis a fracture on the Right. Whereas the Dems are split between their pro-war, pro-globalization neoliberal wing (e.g. the Thomas Friedman postion) and the ostensibly anti-war, anti-globalization socialists, the Right is fractured upon the Wall Street Bushcon/Neocon wing (which is also pro-war and globalizationist), and the Main Street small business, and blue collar, Reagan Democrat wing, which has been manipulated into voting against its own interests by supporting “patriotic” Empire, which in reality is just a massive wealth transfer to Washington-connected elites and their cronies.

It seems to me the Neocons and Neoliberals have captured the elite, globalizationist “center” by controlling the media, and the capitals of Empire and elite opinion in Washington and Wall Street. The irony is that the globalizationists are not centrist at all, but rather extremely greedy, warmongering and radical, and more interested in feathering their own nests and pursuing their own self-serving pet agendas than pursuing what’s best for the country in the long run. Far from creating American jobs, globalizationism is killing them, and fast.

But they’ve managed to create this illusion that those who oppose them are the “extremists.”

As I see it, the best way of countering this is for conservatives and libertarians in the Ron Paul vein to tap further into the populist movement by running against globalizationism and elitism, and portraying the Neocons/Neoliberals as the unpatriotic internationalists and the out-of-touch elitists that they are.

This will have stronger appeal on the conservative-leaning right, but will also tap into the anti-war, anti-Empire, anti-Wall Street impulse on the Left, and into the deep reservoir of blue collar and workaday pink collar Reagan Democrats.

#8 Comment By Steve Hogan On February 26, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

“But in 2012, the party of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will have to tell the country how it proposes to end these wars without losing them, how to bring manufacturing back and how to cut spending by $1 trillion a year, if taxes are off the table.”

Ron Paul would tell you that the surest way not to lose a war is to not wage it to begin with. He was vehemently against them before they started. Can anyone see the wreckage of America’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, and not admit Paul was right all along?

As for what to do now, the answer is simple: Bring the troops home. End the empire, which could comprise most of that $1 trillion dollar spending cut you’re looking for. Voila!

#9 Comment By JK On February 26, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

I find it incredibly disingenuous on the part of “conservatives” to foist the massive deficits we now face on Obama’s shoulders. If any one of them had presented an option for pulling this country out of its financial crisis without plunging it into another Great Depression, I’d take their criticisms more seriously. What people don’t understand is that we have a corporatist system now so our only option was a Keynesian-inspired government bailout of our financial sector. If the Federal Reserve had not kept interest rates artificially low to spur paper “growth” and mask massive federal deficits and debt, we simply could have dropped interests rate to spur lending. But, with interests rates already hovering near zero, that wasn’t an option. Thus, the government became the consumer of last resort. Bottom line, the last thing you want is hungry armed mobs in the street. The world is very different now… there won’t be people lined up orderly at soup kitchens in the next Depression, they’ll be at the throats of the elites.

As for the deficits and the national debt, Bush II left office with a 1+ trillion dollar budget deficit and a 10 trillion dollar national debt. That debt didn’t explode suddenly when Dems took over the Legislature in ’06. Bush didn’t magically tack on several trillion to the debt in his last couple of years in office. We started maxing out the credit card under Reagan and have been doing it ever since. This double talk that Republicans have somehow been more fiscally responsible over the last 30 years simply doesn’t hold water when it’s easy to show that our deficits and debt increased at a greater pace when Republicans have controlled Congress.

It’s time to accept that both Dems and Republicans are running the same long con, one that will insure that the majority of the population becomes serfs. Notice I didn’t mention becoming “slaves”… you have to pay for slaves by providing them food, shelter and clothing. A serf is given a plot of land and taxed so heavily as to spend his/her entire life working to pay off those taxes and eke out a meager living on whatever is left. If those taxes aren’t paid, s/he is forcefully ejected from the property and, often times, imprisoned. Sound familiar?

#10 Comment By Paleoconservative On February 26, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

I’m not sure why anyone has any faith in Mrs. Sarah Palin, as it would appear as though her neocon advisers are filling her head up with nonsense, just like they did to Dubya. Same goes for Mr. Mitt “Socialized-Medicine in Massachusetts” Romney.

#11 Comment By tz On February 27, 2010 @ 1:38 am

Israel, Japan, and Europe defying us? OK, then lets close the subsidy purse – no more cash to Israel; Japan can handle itself, and Europe bought mortgage and AIG default swaps and such things, let them go to bankruptcy court. They can get a nice house in an inner city, or 1/1000th of 1000 houses depending on the structure.

In Chess, there is a “stalemate”. Calling it “losing” for someone to not want to make a futile effort of moving his king and maybe one other piece around is a misnomer. But that is what our troops are doing in over a hundred countries. Europe was so incapable that we had to take care of Serbia? And the ingrates (and neocons) want us to fix the Georgia problem.

The rest? End the Fed and a lot of problems would go away – there would be a crash, but the zombies would de-animate.

And I think manufacturing would come back naturally if we didn’t have the ninny-nanny OSHA, NLRB, EPA trying to prove they are doing something. Add our tax system which Reagan fixed partially, then has been reversed.

How to fix it? Repudiate and reverse everything Clinton, Bush, and Obama did the same during their terms.

#12 Comment By Adam Rurik On February 27, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

Steve Hogan: “Ron Paul would tell you that the surest way not to lose a war is to not wage it to begin with. He was vehemently against them before they started. Can anyone see the wreckage of America’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, and not admit Paul was right all along?

As for what to do now, the answer is simple: Bring the troops home. End the empire, which could comprise most of that $1 trillion dollar spending cut you’re looking for. Voila!”

I agree, sir. The only caveat I would insert is that America has to be more militarily active in Pakistan, which has, of course, replaced Pakistan as bin Laden’s home turf. I still believe there remains value is killing this utterly horrid man and his inner circle.

Iraq? Get the hell outta Dodge at warp speed: And it isn’t your fault if the indigenous Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan. It is high time for America to take care of its own damn interests rather than those of Israel.

#13 Comment By Adam Rurik On February 27, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

“…Pakistan, which has, of course, replaced Pakistan as bin Laden’s home turf.”

An obvious error on my part. Of course, what I’d intended to say is that Pakistan has replaced AFGHANISTAN as bin Laden’s base of operations!

#14 Comment By Gifford Roberts On February 28, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

This a little off subject, but I think I heard somewhere Pat Buchanan was writing a new book. Does anyone know what it will be about or when it will be coming out?

#15 Comment By Richie H On August 20, 2010 @ 8:32 am

That’s awful! I need to show the democrats my spiritually themed Digimon decks and cartoon lessons.