I wonder if the folks who voted for Obama expecting “change” -- especially significant, radical change – have caught on as yet to the fact that it ain't gonna happen, not now, not ever. The “business as usual” curse has already fallen upon the Obama administration... he has already stepped, unerringly, in all of the cow pies Bush left behind... and the theme has shifted from “At Last” to “SSDB” (Same Shit, Different Boss) in less than a month after the inauguration. "Honeymoon?" Hell, there wasn't even a wedding night. Consider – although a few have fallen by the wayside, the vast majority of Obama's appointments have sailed through the approval process, and in nearly all cases they are unreconstructed cynics and power junkies from the Clinton administration or the Democratic Congress. What this means is simply that the Obama administration will, indeed, be the third Clinton administration, replete with all of the glowing promise that administration would have had, if only it hadn't been for that silly old 22nd Amendment. Plus two wars and an economic collapse, just to keep things interesting.
Consider also that there has been no “night of the long knives” and that no heads have rolled, with regard to the massive failures of the Bush foreign policy, the erosion of citizens' rights, the mis-regulation of the economic sector, and the mismanagement of the “bailout”. For example:
o KBR, whose specialty is electrocuting our soldiers stationed overseas without benefit of trial, has just landed another fat government contract, to perform – waht else? -- “electrical support services”, among other things. (And how soon can we expect Dick Cheney to reassume his lofty perch atop the Halliburton monolith? The fact that he's even still at large is scandal enough.)
o The plan for troop withdrawal from Iraq is silently morphing from 16 months to 19 months to 23 months, and that does not include “training and advisory personnel”, who will be there until Iraq is buried under a mile-thick layer of ice. The reason for the new “options” is, of course, that pulling out too soon might be “risky”. No one has brought up the risk factors of staying, for which there are plenty of precedents.
o CIA officers who participated in “harsh interrogations” will not be prosecuted because they were “following legal orders”. Gee, doesn't that ring a bell, though? Think “Eichmann” and “Nuremberg” for starters. Besides, the Democrats were adamant, up until January 20, that those orders were not, in fact, legal. Whence comes this change of heart, I wonder? It's funny how being in charge gives people strange new respect for totalitarian methods they used to feign shock about.
o We will continue to practice “extraordinary rendition”, which is another way of saying, when we get tired of beating up on prisoners we'll turn them over to the real experts overseas.
o Have you heard about any part – even one paragraph, or one line – of the Patriot Act being rescinded by executive order? I sure haven't.
o The bank executives who are responsible for a large part of the economic crash are still on the job, still getting outrageous salaries and bonuses, and – guess what! -- are being given even more money – yours this time – to squander. (And notice that the high-end art market is already on the rebound -- one of my favorite "real" economic indicators.)
o The “economic stimulus” money is, or soon will be, earmarked, almost in its entirely, for various sorry-assed projects that could not be funded any other way. Which is to say, they didn't make the cut in the normal budgeting and allocation process, but they can be snuck back above the line and given “emergency money”, regardless of their actual "job-creating" potential, the timelines involved, or their overall usefulness. I'll discuss the dynamics of this at a later time, but suffice it to say that, even if some of the stimulus money accidentally creates jobs right away, it's basically all pig meat and intended for the greater glory of our elected representatives. And as for it serving the long-term economic health of the nation... well, that is about as probable as the bailout money doing that – namely zero. Bottom line – the money will appear, like a meteor, for a few brief seconds, then silently flare out, and no one will know where it went, and no ordinary person will benefit. And nothing will visibly change, except that the government will declare that -- somehow, mysteriously -- it "worked" (the same way Bush's anti-terrorism efforts "worked", I suppose). And the only thing “shovel-ready” about it will be the endless, prevaricating verbiage flowing off of Capitol Hill and out of the White House.
Compared to all the above, the closure of Guantanamo, which hasn't happened yet anyway, is just window dressing... as are those few appointees who have been dropped because of ethical “difficulties”. (Personally, I'm holding on to a list of Obama's cabinet and “inner circle” appointees in order to keep track of who gets thrown under the bus and when. I can already draw a big “X” across Tom Daschle's face, for instance – and yeah, it feels good.) And I suppose in a way this is good news to people who don't want the boat rocked any more than it already has been. After all, it was a Republican administration that, just recently, solidified state socialism as the system of choice for America, now and into an indefinite, but dreary, future; the Democrats are just taking up the baton (with barely-concealed delight, I might add). Thus we have, in addition to the economic “event” of the century, and the greatest scam/act of thievery maybe of all time, the most ironic turn of events of the century – to date, at least. But like the Steelers winning their 6th Super Bowl, the question is not how can you top it, but how can you even equal it? As I've said before, the current economic sea change is of the “one-off” sort, i.e. it would be impossible to repeat, because to do that you would have to recreate all the right conditions, and said conditions are already gone with the wind. The Iraq debacle, on the other hand, could be repeated (just as it repeated Vietnam in many ways), but not right away. For one thing, we would have to get out of Iraq first, and how likely is that? But – as I've also pointed out before – we could only have gone on so long with both twin wars and a humming economy; one or the other had to go. And sure enough, it was the economy that went first. So now we're in the absurd position of, in many cases, providing a better standard of living to people overseas than many of our citizens are enjoying over here – and that with inflating money with no backing, based on loans from countries that are traditionally our enemies. So... how long can a situation this insane persist? Is it measurable in presidential terms? Years? Months? Weeks? Who knows? It's too bad for Obama that all he can do now is manage failure, and try to make a hard landing at least not fatal to all concerned. But hey – when it comes to failure management, he has the most experienced team that he could have assembled. Failure is in their blood; they live on it, they thrive on it. Now let's all sit back and watch them work. It ought to be quite a show.