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No Mulligans!

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Obama's administration has teed off and is headed into the rough and over the proverbial cliff. Certainly the Republican coughing and sneezing during Obama's back-swings are annoying and unsportsmanlike (if not actually treasonous), and certainly the course itself has some built-in hazards and deceptions. Barack's caddy, David Axelrod, the one guy inside that we are depending on for sure-footedness, is instead apparently overwhelmed by the sheer glow from all the talent and ego they have assembled. He also seems to be wedded to a preconception about the economy and its managers that no longer is supportable by the behaviors blatant on Wall Street.

Rahm Emanuel, suspect from the very first moment, has come up empty because his fundamental reflexes are with the Democratic Leadership Conference or, if you prefer, the middle-road way to preserving corporatist America while the electorate is busy with culture wars. The DLC has in effect said that they will not go over to what the far right calls the "socialist side" to save the economy.

Rahm is also dead in the water because the Republicans he was supposed to court and curry favor with have decided instead that their ideology is that business cycles are more trustworthy than the Constitution for dealing with the complexities of modern society, (yet based on a partial and selective reading of 18th century Adam Smith). It is of no consequence to them that this business crisis was brought on by major stupidity, imprudence, and gargantuan greed. They believe it must run its own organic course, shedding the imprudent and unlucky along the way, and by the way gutting the hopes and dreams of 300 million people in America and, oh, about 6 billion elsewhere on the planet.

Tim Geithner has successfully castrated himself by supporting the bonus issue rather than understanding the emergency the country is in and telling the looters how it is going to be in the new future, whether they like it or not. His new piping little voice is beginning, although Obama seems not to listen, to scratch the blackboard both sides of the aisle. He is neutered politically and intellectually, revealed as the financial corporatist most of us thought him to be.

Dr. Summers has put his well-chewed foot in his capacious mouth once again, as Frank Rich notes with disgust, and in so doing given us a clear enough insight into the kind of advice Barack Obama is willing to listen to. The essential piece is missing-a White House culture that encourages differing opinions and nested responses that provide opportunities for success even if one ploy fails. Obama has become hostage to one view and his inability to stay clear of the traps in that view will doom his presidency.

This is not the Ryder Cup team we must have, nor is it likely to be, given that apparently only one view of the disaster is allowed and only one kind of solution. Recovery in the present White House is defined as return to the status quo ante-"restoration"-as if, the mogul-looters of Wall Street were in some way indispensable to the functioning of a productive system of finance in this country and abroad in the world. There are other hypotheses about what Wall Street has told Obama to do, but they are the sort of speculation that fits better with a conclusion that all of Wall Street is irreparably corrupt (and there is scientific evidence that this is indeed possible).

This is real life. You take your best shot and then you live with the outcomes. There are no Mulligans in a national political and economic emergency. If the five iron is letting you down, put it back where it came from and try different clubs. Try a different approach; try Paul Krugman and James K. Galbraith, for instance. Understand the anger of the people over the ruthlessness of the "masters of the universe," these looters of their own companies and the federal government. Understand it to be what it manifestly is-fair warning that the public in despair will drop you, Mr. President, like a hot rock. We elected you, Mr. President, to restore the rule of law in Washington. It is in addition unfortunate, indeed, that your predecessors and the Congress have allowed the economy to be plundered and all but destroyed. We Progressives and Liberals know the way out of the mess and we want that way to be only forward, not a return to the culture of greed, the illusions of deregulation, the lies about empire and grandeur and great personal wealth. We want "reconstruction" not "restoration."

We do not want a return to that gilded lie of an economy. We want a new economy with social and economic justice incorporated in every cell and fiber. We believed that you have the mettle to deal with the situation, to bring the best minds into Washington and to fashion a new beginning worthy of the word "Change." Do not let us down, Mr. President.

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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