I worry about Barack Obama. It’s not that I don’t think his stimulus will eventually have some effect, but by the time it kicks in we may have already weathered this particular recession. And what then will we have to show for the huge outlay and subsequent deficit?
It seems that our major thinkers are always a day late, but rarely a dollar short – rush into war in Iraq because of mushroom cloud delusions, bail out AIG because they insured every bank and bookie without proper collateral, and now pump money across a multitude of schemes instead of building, for instance, a national rail and subway system. But that’s democracy for you: it moves slowly, doesn’t come cheaply, guarantees disagreement and, hopefully, eventual compromise.
That’s why I fear for the man himself – his coolness, competence and logic are an obvious target in a country awash with guns and demagogues who preach intolerance and paranoia.
Although our president displays little of his turbulent passion, Bobby Kennedy keeps springing to mind. Odd in itself, since Bobby was a real agent of change who might have sent the country in a whole different direction.
Barack has no such illusions. As far as I can see, his main goals are to avoid picking new fights halfway around the world while guaranteeing decent, affordable health insurance at home. Oh, and of course, he has set himself the small task of cleaning up the economic, military and social shambles bequeathed him by the previous administration.
Yet all I hear from his critics are old stock phrases such as “socialization” and “Europeanization.” Obama is no more a socialist than Alexander Hamilton. Like the financial brain of the founding fathers he believes in free trade and free markets, albeit with a strong federal government ready to take action whenever market forces lead the country to the brink of economic destruction.
Still, despite his pragmatism, he faces the same demons that put paid to Bobby - guns, ignorance and a shadowy array of hate-filled nuts just dying to leave their mark on history.
I hesitate even voicing this opinion, but the fact is, that despite the US possessing an overwhelming majority of citizens with good will, there beats within the country an unruly heart ever wary of change.
The hatred and sheer illogic that I hear spewed out on talk radio would be comic, if it weren’t so threatening. Of course, the reason that these buffoons exult in distorting any kind of rational argument is that the more extreme their views, the more we listen, which in turn ups their ratings, allowing their corporate bosses to sell more advertising. Talk about ultimate bang for your buck!
Unfortunately, reason and logic fly out the window when vitriol and sensationalism enter. Night after night on stage, for the first three years of the War in Iraq, I listened to robotic slogans about patriotism delivered with the same glassy eyed glare by the same strident hate-filled voices.
You might as well have been talking to Mrs. Murphy’s cow as countering that the US was founded on dissent, that it is indeed patriotic to question the motives of your leaders instead of following them like lemmings, and that not one of the founding fathers advised getting involved in overseas wars.
Likewise it’s hardly worth mentioning that the Second Amendment guaranteeing a “right to keep and bear arms” was initiated by a citizenry that did not wish to maintain an expensive, and possibly seditious, European style standing army. Far better to summon up a well-armed militia should there be a foreign or internal threat.
No one wishes to prevent hunters from knocking off deer to their hearts content, but has Bambi become so ferocious that he needs to be taken out by an AK-47? And, even more consequentially, do we need to make available such a legal array of deadly weapons - more suitable to the Khyber Pass - to any nut with proof of identity?
Then again, President Obama appears to be treading warily on this issue, for despite a blitz of proposed legislation he has made little move to control the ever-increasing scepter of guns within our community. Perhaps, like Michael Collins with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, he has a fair idea what it might mean for him.
And, still, I worry about the man.