January 20, 2009

So How Will He Do?

Justin Katz

Fans of our new president perhaps imagine us non-fans as scowling through the day today, embittered by all that hope and rueful of the change to come. Me, I'm just going about my business, as I have on every inauguration day within my lifetime. That said, Andrew Stuttaford's suggestion is an attractive one, although I can't afford any of the Obama-branded merchandise that he subsequently lists:

It's better, I think, to borrow a few ideas from the Orange Alternative (Pomaranczowa Alternatywa). Fearless prankster surrealists of the Polish sort-of-Left from the 1980s, they used to taunt their country's crumbling Communist regime with cheers, not jeers, their specialty being sporadic displays of unsettlingly enthusiastic loyalty. These included a reenactment of the storming of the Winter Palace and a procession through the streets of Warsaw by 4,000 people chanting their love for Lenin. Now, I would not want to compare Obama with that other community organizer—no, not for a second!—but the cult of personality now surrounding our next president suggests that hosting an Orange Alternative inauguration dinner would be a perfect counterpoint to the pomp, sincerity, and cynicism on display in Washington. It'll also be an ideal opportunity to treat friends of all political persuasions to a confused, confusing, and almost certainly annoying celebration that can be read, as Obama has said about himself, in any way they like.

With a little more notice, a Long Live the King party might have been a pleasant way to spend this evening. Indeed, we could have begun with an extolment of a newly introduced bill from U.S. Representative Jose Serrano (D, NY) to repeal the 22nd Amendment and enable a longer reign for the One. Several party games involving the national debt and antes of coolness also come to mind.

The levity does raise a serious (if unanswerable) question, though: How is President Obama likely to do? The variables are infinite, and the wildcards too many to count. Not the least of the unknowns is what Obama will do, because his past is like a novelist's thumbnail sketch of a character. He's all personality.

The economy will be the irreducible determinant of his level of success, and there's little a president can actually do to affect it. Within the degree of economic influence that the government can be said to have, the general approach suggested by Obama and the Democrat Congress (with complicit Republicans, to be sure) does not give reason for optimism.

In order to escape recession and surpass stagnation, the economy requires an open field. That running room can emerge with a new technology that creates whole new industries. It can open up literally as new space to fill. Innovative financial tools can create economic activities as if out of air (or, as was the case with the recent bubble, make future income the open field). Where the government has built artificial walls, knocking them down in a spell of deregulation can free the economy. A newly opened national market can bring a burst in demand.

All of these possibilities are of like form — involving the creation, development, or discovery of voids that the economy can surge to fill — and none look likely in the near future. Put what hopes as we may into the everything-green movement, nothing new is being created; energy is still energy, and more cost-effective ways exist for creating it. The emphasis on government spending and "shovel ready" projects as stimulus may run the economic engine, but with nowhere to go, and eventually we'll run out of our borrowed fuel. New financial tools and deregulation are probably out of the question in the short term. And the international market is fraught with nations acting in their own interests.

Dealing with those foreign bodies is another variable. I believe the major players will postpone testing and challenging Obama for a while — not because the world sincerely wishes to see if the new U.S. president will govern in a way more to their liking than his predecessor, but out of strategy. If he takes his foot off the accelerator in the War on Terror, terrorist groups won't attempt an immediate strike; they'll regroup and rebuild, taking into account lessons learned since 9/11. Foreign powers such as Russia and China will want to see how sympathetic and manipulable Obama is. They'll begin to test him in ways so minor that it won't be immediately apparent that that's what they're doing.

In the meantime, once the elation of a new presidential face subsides, domestic turmoil may simmer as economic frustration spills over into the culture war. The left has its wish list out, and with Democrats controlling two branches of government, it will expect results. For its part, the right is arguably enlivened when on the defensive.

So in all of this, how will President Obama do? I won't hazard to say, but I will offer a three-part generality: Liberalism is a recipe for disaster; centrism is an inadequate approach when the economy requires inspiration, foreign affairs require a set jaw, and the sides refuse to let social issues balance; and powerful institutions have installed constructs to make conservatism a very painful option. Obama will probably shoot for a leftish centrism until circumstances knock over the fulcrum.

The real change, that brought by the tectonic forces of history, could be serendipitous or calamitous. Which it will be and how the president will react are questions sure to bring silence to the party.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Is it over yet? ;)

Just kidding. I [generally] wish him well.

Posted by: Will at January 20, 2009 12:16 PM

As much as I wanted McCain to win the presidency, I sincerely hope that Obama is the greatest president ever and takes this country to new heights. I can't understand people who say they want him to fail and look forward to it. Good things don't happen to the country when the president "fails". He's a member of our team. That's like wanting your own quarterback to fail, just so you can giggle and say "told ya so".

That being said, I will be critical of Obama's missteps, and there will be some. Not a single president has made it through their term(s) unscathed by criticism.

But from this day going forward, "I just wanted to say good luck, we're all counting on you."

Posted by: pitcher at January 20, 2009 1:13 PM

He spent decades listening to Reverend Wright, and then for the invocation chose Rick Warren.

Was the latter choice mere symbolism?

Who is the real Obama? That is still an open question.

For the sake of our country, let us hope that he indeed becomes one of the great Presidents.

Given his past associations, I am extremely skeptical. I hope that the skepticism proves misplaced.

Posted by: Tom W at January 20, 2009 1:56 PM

I've always enjoyed reading Jim Miller and his post hits all the right concerns. Enjoy.


Posted by: mac1 at January 20, 2009 2:52 PM

Obama's success will be America's undoing. Perhaps you guys will FINALLY realize that when he and his socialist buddies declare that your right to free speech is just being "childish", and they tell you to stfu, under penalty of going to jail

America, wake up!

Posted by: SamIAm at January 20, 2009 5:38 PM

Those under 40 won't get the joke but here it is:
"Welcome to Carter's second term."

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2009 7:29 PM

Mike strikes again!!Carter Part 2 is a likely scenario.
There will be a serious attempt to shut down talk radio and conservative blogs.
I didn't watch the circus(I never watch inaugurations),but I heard some of Joseph Lowery's speech,or prayer or whatever you want to call that crap,and it was hate speech directed at White people.Lowery is still full of bitterness from earlier years and becomes like those who kept him down.How nice.He has sounded angry and hateful ever since I can remember.
The same might be said of me,but I don't pretend to be some kind of holy man.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 20, 2009 8:46 PM

Shutting down talk radio and conservative blogs: not a good idea, for two reasons.
1: Freedom of speech is a valuable principle, no matter which party is running the government.
2: We'd miss out on enjoying Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's conniption fits. And oh, can you imagine Michael Savage about now?

Posted by: rhody at January 20, 2009 10:14 PM


Don't think of Lowrey's remarks as hate speech. Think of them as the Reggie White Memorial Benediction.

Posted by: Andrew at January 20, 2009 11:10 PM

Joe says

"There will be a serious attempt to shut down talk radio and conservative blogs."

You may be right or wrong, Joe, but I'll be counting on you to inform us, both here and on RIF, when it happens.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at January 20, 2009 11:45 PM

If public perception is the basis with which Obama is judged then he will fail miserably. Not because he won't do a good job, but because no one man can possibly live up to the ideals and expectations placed on him by the people here and abroad. We all need him to do well and make sound decisions, but he can't eliminate the deficit, create jobs, pull troops from Iraq, fix social security, and put a chicken on every table in his first four years. I'll celebrate his efforts (hopefully) at the end of his term not before it.

Posted by: Steve A. at January 20, 2009 11:45 PM

Thomas-I am no conspiracy theorist,but Nancy pelosi is making those "fairness doctrine"noises again.that term is right out of 1984 if you get my drift.
You're a political scientist-the "We Are One"slogan is reminiscent of what kind of regimes?The USSR,North Korea,Enver Hoxha's Albania,Turkmenistan,Iran,Nazi Germany,etc ad nauseum.
We should always be a country of opposing ideas,or we will become something really bad.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 21, 2009 1:31 AM

But joe bernstein,
Obama's ideas are in opposition to Bush's. What are you saying?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at January 21, 2009 6:04 PM

What I am saying is very simple-I have no use for either of them.There ARE more than two choices in politics.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 21, 2009 6:44 PM
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