Our Savior Who Art in Washington

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Sat, Nov 29, 2008, 3:33 pm  //  g.h.kirsch

If Warhol did Obama
Again, I'm reminded, the more they talk of change, the more things remain the same. For all the hope and hype that was mixed together to bring forth a savior from the wilderness of Chicago, the picture emerging seems little more than a replay of the Clinton administration.

Of course, for the Demofaithful, that's now remembered as something like a golden age; dot coms, and the nascent housing bubble just a twinkle in Billy's eye. Oh how the lens of history can be refocused. Eight years of Dubya even make Bubba look good.

But did these guys warn us not to repeal Glass-Steagal? Wasn't the relaxation of such regulation a first step towards that slippery slope down which we slid into fictitious derivatives, bogus swaps, and ultimately the demise of a private banking system? Will the call for "change" soon become, "buddy, can you spare a dime?"

What is about to take place in Washington is what Alistair Cooke long ago saw as our national governance cycle. “All Presidents start out to run a crusade, but after a couple of years they find they are running something less heroic, namely the presidency. The people are cured by then of election fever, during which they thought they were choosing Moses. In the third year, they look on the man as a sinner and a bumble and begin to poke around for rumors of another Messiah."

Now I realize it is most unpopular to point out such things at a time like this. With more than half the country intoxicated with the current illusions, it will indeed be awhile before the reality of our predicament returns. Obama and his majority are unlikely to be able to better deal with the social insecurity system, entitlements, defense spending, health care, campaign finance reform, terrorism, gun control, life/choice, or an economic system that has forsaken the employment of its citizens in the production of goods, to protect from harm, and direct the greatest rewards to those investing in snake oil and Ponzi schemes.

This is because changes in these areas require reforms that these would be agents of change will not undertake; changes that would fundamentally affect their future prospects, or jeopardize support from their constituencies. And there are unlikely to be any fresh faces courageous enough for the task.

Let us not forget the old proverb, “change” and “change for the better” are two different things. Have these Clintonians had a come to Jesus moment and seen what was an earlier lack of vision? Have they gotten their minds around the role they played in this tragedy? As Shaw told us, “those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

Or are these folks just making another pass through those golden revolving doors.

How will we change things for the better without changing a system where positions in government are just way points on the road to riches; or where a government job primarily means financial security with a hand forever in the public purse. What ever happened to Eisenhower's quaint idea that, “politics ought to be the part time profession of every citizen.” It has become the full time profession of a group of people who have morphed from being servants to something like a master class. Which reminds me of Phaedrus's observation, "In a change of masters the poor change nothing except their master's name."

So, don't expect to see me there, shelling out tens of thousands to have a ring side seat at the ascension. Old Ike sounded a little like Yogi Berra when he said, "Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before." I think I like Ike more now than I did then.

To all those who think they've done their duty, cast their vote, and will now sit back and wait for a little change; when disillusionment sets in, maybe you'll appreciate a little wisdom once shared on a sidewalk outside the Chelsea Hotel by a goofy painter enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame.

"They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." Thanks Andy.

Bob Aegerter  //  Sat, Nov 29, 2008, 10:08 pm

Perhaps Obama’s contribution will be that more people stay engaged for a longer period beyond the national election.  Time will tell.

Scott Wicklund  //  Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 11:54 am

Mr. Kirsch,  Who did you vote for?  I sense a tone of remorse in your post that I don’t share.  I’m very happy to work with President Obama who is much more likely to listen than the alternative offered by the Republican brand.  I think he will be a good President, and that the Republican Party will take several generations to fool a majority again.
Cheers here! 

g.h. kirsch  //  Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 12:26 pm

Mr. Wicklund,

You apparently fail to appreciate the nuance I attempted, suffering as you seem to be with Demophilia. 

Your vision of the political world being represented by competing “brands” is rich.  You are in fact on to something.  The primary political parties have been reduced to little more than marketing enterprises peddling a product in order to reap the profits of elective victory. 

They have ceased to be institutions refining and improving political philosophies.  They offer a false choice.  Like the choice between McDonalds and BurgerKing, neither offers the alternative of real nourishment. 

And I note that you seem to accept a choice between the lesser of evils rather than lament a system that can not produce healthy alternatives.

Until people like yourself are willing to risk thinking that the system really isn’t working, and we need to actually change the institutions by which we’re governed (not just who sits in the seats), there will not be any real change.

In the meantime, like the lemmings at the drive thru, enjoy your happy meal and be satisfied with getting change back.

Scott Wicklund  //  Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 2:07 pm

Mr. Pontificator, Just tell me who you voted for and I think much more will be explained.  Just let me know.  That is not too much to ask from someone who suffered through your whinning prose.

John Lesow  //  Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 2:35 pm

Greg Kirsch,

With the possible exception of Doug Karlberg, yours are the most entertaining posts on this website.

Your latest, with responses, is no exception.  You manage to deliver advocacy and perspective laced with good humor.  Ralph Nader meets Mark Steyn. Thanks.

I voted for John McCain, but I’m OK with President Obama.  Image sells on the world stage, and Obama certainly delivers the image the world, and the U.S. electorate wants—an articulate, youthful, intelligent leader.  And, like John Kennedy, very good looking. In today’s political culture, looks matter.  If the determinant of transformational political change were limited to color, Obama would have been overshadowed by presidential candidates Al Sharpton (more experience) or Alan Keyes (more articulate).  Instead, we elected someone with arguably less experience than anyone in the history of the U.S. Presidency. (name one with less)

My fears about the state of the economy have been put to rest with the selection of Paul Volcker to sort out the current financial mess. Didn’t he serve as Fed Chairman under Reagan? Carter? Lincoln?  Still, it’s the image that counts.  And having an 81-year old, cigar smoking,  6’ 5”, 300 pound colossus/financial genius at the helm will surely send a positive signal to world markets.

Since I was not an Obama partisan, I am not currently suffering from expectation deflation.

In fact, I am relieved that President Obama is not likely to:
1.  Pull out of Iraq anytime soon
2.  Pull out of Afghanistan anytime soon
3.  Follow up on campaign promises to tax the rich (and that includes the UAW members pulling down $75 per hour)
4.  socialize our health care system
5.  allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons
6.  abandon military support for Israel
7.  take any guff from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi

Barack Obama could be an excellent president.  There is an old saying in politics,  “The people have spoken, and the people are always right”.

I think the people may well have gotten it right in this past election.

John Lesow

g.h. kirsch  //  Sun, Nov 30, 2008, 10:56 pm


I agree with your conclusions.  My concern is, his choices for lieutenants do not seem to fulfill the promise.

And oh how I hope Volcker’s still got the stuff—and lives to be a hundred.

But where’s the new blood?  Anything would have been a change from Bush.  I thought the promise was real change.

John Lesow  //  Mon, Dec 01, 2008, 3:23 am


Rookies do poorly in Washington. Particularly in new Presidential administrations.  Remember Nixon’s team?
Haldeman, Erlichman, etc.  A disaster.
Same for Carter, arguably the worst president of the 20th Century. Turfed out after one term by an aging movie actor.  Ham Jordan and Jody Powell thought administrating Carter’s presidency would be as easy as winning the presidential campaign.  They were wrong.

Barack Obama is not going to make that same mistake.  Unlike Carter, Obama would like to finish two terms. He needs those seasoned Washington insiders with practical experience.  Move On.org and the George Soros crowd expects payback, but they are likely to be disappointed with the centrist administration by a very savvy President-elect Obama. 

John Lesow

g.h. kirsch  //  Mon, Dec 01, 2008, 6:07 am


And there you have it.  Your “seasoned insiders” are that same group of aspirants I suggest would become a “master class.”  What have they been doing the last eight years?

Largely enjoying generous fees as insiders.  Which will again become their occupations when they rotate back into the private sector.  “Centrist” is too kind.  I believe in moderation in most things, but what I expect will be far more slavish to the status quo. 

In the area of the economy particularly, the last sixteen years have seen an extraordinary manipulation of government to intercede in the economy for special interests.  The last eight being a wholesale repudiation of basic conservative principles; in the last three months we’ve witnessed the <i>coup de grace<>.

So will it be this cadre of insiders with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads who force the needed changes? 

These folks expect to retire to the Hamptons and enjoy seven digit incomes as consultants to and lobbyists for their fellow elites.  (At least the Treasury won’t be run by a Wall Streeter!)

Will it be our 80 year old Lazarus?  Or will it be our savior himself who throws the money handlers out of the temple?

“Moderation in <u>all<> things” just will not do Mr. Emerson.

g.h. kirsch  //  Mon, Dec 01, 2008, 12:20 pm

Oh, and Mr. Wicklund,

If you were unable to deduce it from my writing, I did not dine at McDonalds or BurgerKing.

Scott Wicklund  //  Mon, Dec 01, 2008, 10:59 pm

Mr. Kirsch (“pontificator”), I find some irony reading your comments.  In ‘68, I voted for the Socialist Workers Party and shunned the Democratic Party nominee after the bloody Convention in Chicago.  We got Nixon!  After that, I decided to go with the Democratic Party candidates even if I did not accept every position in the interest of winning and the hope of better government policy.
Here I read of social conservatives who now claim to have sat this election out or maybe voted for (Nader? Larouche? Ron Paul write-in?) and the Republican Party lost.  Maybe they should have worked harder for the Republican candidates who might have won, ha ha.
I learned my lesson long ago and now faithfully work for my candidates who are most likely to provide good governance and policy.  Your “concern troll” type post leaves me deaf because of what I learned long ago.  Try your thread on dailykos.com if you want to attempt to get progressives to cry about Obama’s choices.  Most of us who backed a winner are happy we got change from the last eight years which we would not have got if we had sat this election out….

g.h. kirsch  //  Tue, Dec 02, 2008, 1:16 am

Mr. Wicklund,

You clearly miss the point of the article.  It is not so much critical of our savior as it is advice that the problems we face require more change than your hero seems ready to bring. 

Democrats, who really have achieved office by something like default, will soon wish they still had Bush to blame.  If we have two more years of your party groping for a direction your nemeses will, unfortunately, soon rebound. 

It was not that long ago the D’s were destined for the dustbin of history.  Oh that both parties would be gone and smaller parties would organize around more singular principles.  You have hopefully picked up on my frustration with and disdain for the two party system.

What I hoped thoughtful readers would consider, is the magnitude of the challenge presently faced by this nation and the minimal probability that a reheated Clinton administration would be up to the task. 

We are on the brink of real pain and suffering for very real people.  Half measures, and little steps will not do.  If we are to suffer let it not be to preserve the status quo. 

In the interim I tire of debating dogmaniacs and other breeds of pedestrian ideologues.  If you believe the apostles he has chosen will save him from being crucified, who am I to question your faith.

You acknowledge you are, “deaf because of what I learned long ago.”  This reminds me of an old Greek’s observation, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.?

John Servais  //  Tue, Dec 02, 2008, 2:22 pm

Actually, Scott, this is the place for such opinions.  Your suggestion that Greg’s comments belong on the Daily Kos is quite misguided.  Seems like there are a lot of screwing ideas out there about what this site is all about. 

Briefly, this site is not trying to garner lots of approving visits.  It is not trying to be progressive.  It does reflect the perspectives of those who write here - and makes no apologies.  Links on the right give you other options for other perspectives. 

Personally, I share the concerns with Greg.  Democrats are adept at losing sure winner races - and, having won, Obama almost seems to me to be trying to screw up the victory.  We voted for change - not a return to the past.  Obama says he will be in control and will direct change but that seems a bit naive to me when he is choosing people who have more vested interests in their own futures than the success of his administration.  Time will tell and I remain hopeful and optimistic. 

Greg’s comments are right on and appropriate to this website.  And how he voted is none of our business.

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