Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Après Le Deluge

Campaigning, the New York Times notes in its after campaign coverage, is not quite the same things as governing: “Whatever collaboration there may be in the short term, [President elect] Obama represents the end of the Bush era in the long term. Yet he will find himself dealing with the Bush legacy for years to come. He promised on the campaign trail to close the detention facility at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but analysts in both parties expect that to be more difficult than he imagines. He will inherit a deficit that could approach $1 trillion next year, which could curtail his ambitions, like expanding health care coverage.”

During his campaign, Obama promised to withdraw troops from Iraq and commit them to fighting the war in Afghanistan. There are problems. The war on terror is borderless. Many of the terrorists Obama would like to neutralize are operating not in Afghanistan but in the badlands of Pakistan. During his campaign, Obama said he would not hesitate to rout terrorists from Pakistan even over the heated objections of the Pakistan government, which sounds suspiciously like a unilateral decision to invade a sovereign state. One doubts the writers at the Huffington Post will be comfortable with the notion. But supposing that Obama makes good on his campaign promise to prosecute the war in Afghanistan in earnest, success in war involves the neutralization of the enemy. You either kill or capture the enemy and hold on to the territory he once occupied. Where does Obama propose to house captured troops, the holding pens at Guantánamo having been closed? Shooting them would certainly put the new president in Dutch with powerful senators such as Chris Dodd, not to mention the US Supreme Court, which has effectively, at Dodd’s urging, conferred citizen’s rights on terrorists taken on the battle field.

According to the Times: “Mr. Obama has been conferring with Congressional leaders about a possible package of $100 billion for public works, unemployment benefits, winter heating assistance, food stamps and aid to cities and states that could be passed during a lame-duck session the week of Nov. 17. He has also been talking regularly with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. about the economic environment and hopes to work closely with him during this interim period as Mr. Paulson makes decisions about how to invest the $700 billion given him by Congress to shore up the financial system.”

These Carterite solutions are old-time fixes, not the sort of thing that sends a tingle up the leg. And any long term solution – say, tipping the economy on its head to allow a transference of wealth from entrepreneurial capitalists to the folk on Main Street, a measure not without consequences some economists would consider dire -- may be inhibited by the looming $1 trillion deficit, a real bummer.

It looks like the frat-boy ex-president and an eminently bribable congress have liquidated our patrimony.
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