To my surprise, in his August 2nd address, President Obama expressed a significant degree of satisfaction with respect to the debt-ceiling arrangement he had just signed into law. Given that it leaves too much money in the pockets of the rich and of generals, it is a mere arrangement. Americans need money to create jobs, support the unemployed, make life secure for retirees and the disabled, consolidate health-care reforms, alleviate poverty, etc.
However, having pondered the matter, I believe President Obama did not let anyone down. The arrangement he signed is mostly flawed, but he may have felt that the bigger requirement was instilling within Congress a sense of nationhood. Had hardline Republicans not come up with an arrangement, an executive order would have been essential, but it would not have helped bring more Republicans to the negotiation table in a state of readiness, i.e. ready to negotiate in good faith. Moreover, Americans may have concluded that the President was the solution. President Obama is a dream come true, if not a miracle. Yet, the people are the solution. To elect a President only to put obstacles in his path is absurd. There comes a point where this process is called obstructionism.
There are times when leaders must intervene and there is a sense in which President Obama did intervene. On July 25th, he told the nation that the debt ceiling had to be raised by August 2nd. His message was crystal clear and rather frightening, but he was calm. As well, in his August 2nd address, President Obama was again calm, inspiring confidence.
As I noted in an earlier blog (The Damage so far), CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is right. The damage has already been done. Markets were destabilized and remain so. However if you do not panic, they will rally. Some have begun to show signs of impending recovery and possible growth.
Dr Zakaria is also right in stating that the current arrangement simply kicks the can down the road. Why spend so much money on defense? Fareed Zakaria writes that, where defense spending is concerned, “[…] let the guillotine fall. It would be a much-needed adjustment to an out-of-control military-industrial complex.” (The Washington Post, August 3rd, 2011). Besides, the nation’s worst enemy is an “enemy within.” The Sarah Palins of America and the Tea Party members are the enemy.
Yet, mercifully, a ‘compromise’ does not deepen the rift in Washington, which is important. President Obama is not throwing stones at Tea Party members. Democrats and Republicans have to work together and work in a transparent manner. No President should ever again take money out of the public purse to line the pockets of the rich and then engage in two wars, the validity of which cannot be justified easily.
With all due respect, President George W. Bush did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor did he lead us to Bin Laden. 9/11 should not have led to further destruction, i.e. the death or maiming of hundreds of soldiers: fathers, mothers, spouses, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, friends… All had/have a name.
Let me close by saying that, although President Obama settled for a compromise, he knew there was room for the hardline Republicans to make a public spectacle of their intransigence and, thereby, hurt themselves… It was a circus and a cruel one. At first, I worried, but I soon realized the Republicans were unlikely to allow the US to default on its debt. I knew, moreover, that, in extremis, President Obama would come to the rescue of his nation. But, as they dallied and markets flickered, scaring many of us, hardline Republicans got a lot of exposure and very little was flattering.
How sad it is that in so many countries there should be citizens who either bury their head in the sand: Ostriches, sit on the fence with both ears to the ground, and vote “eyes wide shut.”
God bless America.
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