Friday, 12 November 2010

Obama’s collapse—and ours

Teabaggers and their friends may chortle with glee over the rough handling Obama’s getting in Korea, but they would be well advised to cut the gloating short. Our president seems constitutionally averse to looking decisive and taking charge, but underneath his personal shortcomings is the country’s strategic foolishness budding into full flower.

Trotsky argued in his history of the Russian revolution that the appearance of Czar Nicholas II just as the Russian monarchy was about to collapse was not a coincidence. He is devastating about the incompetence of the czar, but he insists that it was no accident that a dizzyingly clueless bumbler who had no idea how to react to the upheaval occurring under his feet would arise just at that time.
Trotsky said the centuries of isolation and backwardness of the regime made it incapable of producing a leader that would know what to do to save itself, a tendency that finally manifested in simple biology.

Amid the general astonishment at how faithfully Obama is carrying out the bidding of the people we recently threw out of office is plenty of evidence that our governing elite is another kind of Romanov dynasty unable to discover the tools to address its own dysfunction. And it’s the big guys who are going to have to come up with something after the masses mobilized in all innocence and naivete in 2008 to elect an unknown and an outsider who looked like a fresh face who might have a new idea or two. We see how that turned out, and whether it’s a personality failing of Obama himself or something structural that clipped his wings from the start is intellectually interesting but in the long run irrelevant.

It’s actually kind of wonderful to see Obama breeze into the big Seoul summit and be treated like a tag-along kid brother by the Asians and the Europeans both. We need a trade pact with South Korea—oops, not ready yet. Let’s all gang up on the Chinese and make them pump up their currency—um, nope. There should be more fiscal stimulus to boost aggregate demand—actually, no there shouldn’t.

Despite all the hang-wringing about the new flavor at the Capitol Hill Baskin-Robbins, I am inclined to cheer the president’s weakness on the world front as likely to constrict his chances of pummeling us with more ‘bipartisan’ disasters like tax cuts and Social Security privatization. At this point gridlock looks pretty attractive compared to the kinds of Blue Dog-Republican deals that Clinton enjoyed so much, like the wonderful free-trade agreement with Mexico or Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

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