Tuesday, June 02, 2009

All The President’s Crises

Bob Woodward, author of “All the President’s Men” and several other political bodice rippers, is at work on a book about President Barack Obama. The White House, according to a story in the New Republic, is understandable nervous.


Well, because Woodward has been in the habit in a few of his books of introducing unverifiable dialogues and other Balzacian devises to pad his narratives.

Woodward’s books are only incidentally historical narratives. They are, in reality, narratives that prove a thesis, sometime foreshadowed in their titles – “slants,” in Emily Dickenson’s luminous phrase, that tell a poetic truth: Nixon was a crook; Bush was befuddled; Obama was...

Some in the Obama administration no doubt are thinking : Who needs this?

As we all know, the Obama administration has enough problems to contend with – what with the great mess he has inherited from former President George Bush: two wars , one of which, thanks to Bush, is winding down; a collapsed capitalist economy; ownership in huge chunks of what used to be called the free market; Israel’s refusal to be pushed into the sea by its enemies and its frigid response to friendly offers recently made by the friends of its enemies; a nut job in blacked-out North Korea who is in the process of building nuclear devises that could conceivable destroy Japan; Amadinejad over in Iran, waiting and plotting for the second coming of the Mahdi; the bibliophile in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has become Obama’s newest literary lion; Danny Ortega calling on the phone all the time...

All this and more – now Woodward enters the stage!

It is one thing not to let a crisis go to waste – and lordy knows, this is an administration that know how to make lemonade from lemons.

But to invite the crisis into your bosom may be more than Rham Emanuel, the Disraeli of the Obama administration, will be able to bear.

As Obama’s recent trip to Egypt demonstrates, this is an administration perfecting willing to bear and beat its breast in public -- in exchange for empathy, roughly understood as a willingness on the part of political business associates and enemies to walk a mile in your shoes. There are no permanent enemies in the Obama administration, other than the permanent opposition, programmatic conservatives and media gadflies such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Woodward is not much in the habit of letting administrations write their own tickets: His book may not be about change, or hope or charity. He has a way of burrowing into the compost pile and coming out with the one pearl of price that defines administrations. Nixon was too crafty for his own good; former President Bill Clinton was too charming for his own good, an updated version of Hugh Long without the porcupine quills; former President George Bush was too much the pigheaded frat boy.

And Obama?

For all the braggadocio of the Obama administration, we are living in a time in which events are in the saddle and ride men. Europe is a spiritual wasteland; Russia is what Russia always was -- meddlesome; China is inscrutable; Latin America, when it is not under the fists of drug gangs, is in the grip of petty tyrants infested by outworn ideologies; the Middle East has been revisited by a resurgent jihadism, always running like a vein of fire through the Western World; and America is in a dangerous pause.

Obama’s apology tour through what is left of the Western World has not produced the response he would like. Europe will not send troops to Afghanistan. Neither is Europe convinced that a massive Euro-American stimulus will halt the financial meltdown. Castro, Chavez and Ortega are irredeemably obtuse. Putin has called for the end of the primacy of the dollar. Obama's speech in Cairo, however groveling, is not likely to win the affection of Iran or North Korea.

That is the real world. Whether any of it will figure in a book on the Obama administration written by Woodward is, some would say, highly doubtful.

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