15 – Two Takes on Obama’s Position, and a Third (13 Feb 09)

    Martin Wolf writing in the Financial Times asked a couple of days ago whether Barack Obama’s presidency has already failed. He concedes that in normal times, such a question would be ludicrous. But by now most politically thoughtful people have concluded that these are times, as Wolf puts it, “of great danger”. “Today, the new US administration can disown responsibility for its inheritance; tomorrow, it will own it. Today, it can offer solutions; tomorrow it will have become the problem. Today, it is in control of events; tomorrow, events will take control of it.” Wolf, along with many other economists not mired in ideological or Republican Party received opinion, is afraid that Obama will do too little to stave off a worsening of the economic crisis.
     Norm Schreiber in The New Republic warns against hasty conclusions on this score, and goes into the manner in which the political maneuverer Obama appears to manage potential opponents very well, also in this case. He does not bring it up, but Obama’s history in Chicago is witness to that as well. There are few American places in which the political wheeler-dealing is more vicious and corrupt than in that city. But in that critical earlier phase of Obama’s career he seems in a roundabout manner to have managed to make the toughs of that world give him what he wanted.
     The prospects of what Obama inherited in the realm of foreign policy do not against all appear promising, if Vice President Biden’s speech in Munich may serve as an accurate indication. How different is this from what Bush-Cheney and company might have said, asks Jan Sampiemon in his account of events that have disappeared in the shadow of of the financial story. Is Obama making sure that rightwing pols and media are not going to villify him in that area? Is that why in his inaugural address he said that America is ready to lead again? Lead who? And to where? Is that why in the same address he takes the moral high ground with respect to countries that do “not tolerate dissent”?