Addison Gardner: Always Right
December 8, 2008
It is hard to know where to start, when assessing the transformation in American politics during the month since Obama’s Grant Park election night rally.
The media’s excited score-keeping of Obama’s pre-inaugural jump shots have reduced me to a kid with a glass canning jar clutching at the nearest firefly on a humid Atlanta night.
What is unnerving is Obama’s sudden shyness of microphones: Voting “present” earned him an autographed bat and a pine-tar rag; now it’s time for him to step up and take some cuts at the ball.
After all, lots of Democrats are looking for political cover, including House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, who lisped his frustration last week and complained: “At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he [Obama] says we only have one president at a time. I’m afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have.”
It’s hard to know what to make of Obama’s “Just one president at a time” mantra, now, given the fact that he’s been test-driving a succession of flashy presidential seals since June.
Even The New York Times’ Los Angeles bureau chief, John Broder, expressed pique when he lampooned Barack’s campaign trail stunt in a June 20 politics blog piece, “The Great Seal of Obamaland?”
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A month later, in late July, an un-shy Obama led a network news anchor delegation abroad and met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, President Nouri al-Malaki in Iraq, King Abdulah in Jordan, President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyed in Ramallah, Chancellor Merkel in Germany, President Sarkozy in France, and Prime Minister Brown in the U.K.
Boy George was preoccupied with chaining his boyfriend to the bed, or Obama would’ve met with him, too.
In the midst of popping flashes and tossed roses, Obama took time out to remind his American audience that his consultations with Iraq’s al-Malaki had resulted in agreement on a tentative withdrawal timetable of U.S. combat troops, something the Bush administration felt was premature and ill-advised.
Though Obama’s Great Seal remained behind in Chicago, the Democrat presidential nominee displayed no compunctions about upstaging the Bush administration, or preempting its policy options while campaigning on foreign soil.
So, today, when Mr. Obama recites, “There is only one president at a time,” it’s hard not to wonder: Why the sudden sensitivity to President Bush’s policy perquisites?
Even though Obama’s 16-month troop withdrawal timeline is now campaign trail road-kill, the president-elect hasn’t abandoned his love of Great Seals. In fact, he rolled out an improved version, post-election during his first press conference, and he stood behind his new blue seal ” one emblazoned with “The Office of The President-elect” ” and took command with a firm jaw and wrinkled brow.
You can be forgiven for not knowing about the venerated Office of The President-elect, since the U.S. government hasn’t formerly recognized it, yet. That breach will be repaired, retroactively, by executive order, Jan. 21.
Even as the embers of Bush’s presidency sputter into acrid smoke, the torch of Obama’s “change” refuses to ignite. The stock market is off 1,000 points since Election Day; a massive terror attack has plunged Indo-Pakistan into the greatest crisis since 2002; unemployment escalates amid furious Treasury Department pump-priming; foreclosures mount; and we wait for that stirring voice that spoke to us in revival-like cadences on the campaign trail.
From behind “The Great Seal of the President-Elect” a small voice offers “present.”
Here’s what we know, now, apart from announcements about Mr. Obama’s staffing of his cabinet with former members of the Clinton administration: We know that Obama will not be bringing the troops home in 16 months, or 24 months, or 36 months. That was campaign rhetoric.
We also know that Obama will not be “punishing the oil companies and taxing their windfall profits,” another rhetorical rung on the ladder to election. The evil Exxon executives who drove the price of oil up through mysterious, back-room manipulations have inexplicably decided to manipulate the oil price back down.
The only negative about falling gasoline and heating oil prices is that Democrats can’t blame this trillion-dollar benefit for consumers on Bush and Cheney.
While campaigning, Obama promised to slash defense spending and rebuild America’s infrastructure. Appearing on this past Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Obama proposed a list of “shovel-ready” programs that would represent the biggest expansion of government-fostered work programs since FDR and the New Deal.
Last week ” perhaps in response to Obama’s promises of slashed defense spending ” the Russians sailed a warship through the Panama Canal, for the first time since WW II, and conducted joint-military maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy. Mugging for the Venezuelan press, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised to make Hugo Chavez the head of a nuclear state.
We can be grateful that Obama is the reincarnation of JFK ” and not just some glib, lightweight pretender, as critics have claimed ” because the Ghost of Nikita Khrushchev is pounding his shoe for recognition.
On Sunday Obama also told his NBC host, “We can’t worry, short term, about the deficit.” America is going to spend its way out of bankruptcy. He then told Brokaw, twice, (underscore, exclamation point!) that the recession was going to worsen.
Displaying a sure-footed understanding of the link between consumer spending and economic prosperity, Obama’s predictions of a deepening recession ” weeks before Christmas ” are the first step on the road to economic recovery.
“Shovel-ready programs” are on the way, America. I know this, because I’ve been listening to Obama’s promises, carefully, for two years now.
I’ve got my shovel ready.