Going, Going, Gone
January 17, 2009 § 5 Comments
I imagined that now I’d be feeling excitement about Obama taking office but I don’t. I’ll probably feel it Tuesday. What I’m feeling now is a deep happiness that Bush is going. I’m not even worked up about how he got away with everything. I disagree with Paul Krugman about the importance of inquiries into the Administration’s crimes. It would be fine if we could do that without stopping Obama’s momentum but we can’t. And if that’s always gong to be the case, if no President ever wants to give up his momentum to punishing the last guy—well, maybe that should teach us to start fighting sooner. I know his damage hasn’t all been done yet. More lives will be lost, jobs and homes will be lost. But he’s going. He’s not our president. Most of us made it through. And all you guys who wanted to have a beer with him—start a petition. Maybe he can spend the rest of his life passed from saloon to saloon like the parrots and chimps sailors used to bring home and set up as mascots in the local watering hole. You can teach a chimp to drink beer; what you can’t do is teach George Bush how to be—what did he say he is now? A citizen. Not even. He just lives here. Might as well let him entertain the drunks (but they have to really want him).
In Michael Kimmelman’s obituary of Andrew Wyeth in the Times, he refers to the painting “Christina’s World” as dark, humorless and morose. The first time I saw a reproduction of it, as a young teenager, it comforted me that there was a man somewhere who knew about the loneliness of girls in fields. (Cristina was 55 at the time of the painting, but it never occurred to me she wasn’t a teenage girl.) I knew the difference between, say, Degas and Wyeth, but had room for both, and more, and all the art I could find. I suppose my quarrel with Kimmelman is about the word ‘morose’…although if I were to using my teenage self as a measure of normal, it would be hard to find anything that would qualify as morose. The painting doesn’t do much for me now, but I’m grateful for the memory of what it gave me. And for the memories that come with it, all the hours roaming in fields and woods in New Hampshire, the trees and snow and mud and rocks, the bay and rivers…the great gorgeous weight of it all…I was dizzied by so much beauty; I didn’t know what to do with it; I wanted to talk to it; I thought it was trying to talk to me. And none of that would have been so astonishing without loneliness.
I was angry at first, about ‘looking forward’ and not punishing crimes, especially when there are relatively harmless petty criminals doing long stints for much smaller stakes.
But one of the pundits switched my mind around on the presidential crimes. He said it would take months and years of public hassle, committees, Senate speeches, and judicial wastes of time. Better to leave it to the research journalists, writers and legal historians. They’ll do a good job of dredging it up, coming to conclusions, and then eventually publishing the results. It will be on their dime, and not the taxpayers. The story and facts will be told. If it’s told right, we’ll get our revenge in all the books, magazines, TV shows and movies. (Bob Woodward and John Dean, are loading up their guns for the next round. There’s no Deep Throat, but Scott McClellan’s pistol is still warm)
I really don’t get this reluctance to make the Bush administration face the crimes it has committed in a very public way. You have not responded with any argument to Krugman’s contentions, which is if the criminals are NOT prosecuted the message is clearly: don’t worry, you can get away with it. It’s a greenlight to criminals of the future . Do you really think allwoing these criminal to be above the law will help Obama’s momentum? Do you really think Obama can singlehandedly prevent the recurrence of the lawlessness of the powerful that has been endemic in this country.?e The only analogy I can think of (and it’s not very clever, admittedly) would be insist that a man accused of brutally beating and maiming his wife should be let off the hook because prosecution would disturb the momentum of the children.
Why does being an Obama supporter seem to along with total suspension of critical thinking? Is critical thiniing a threat to Obama’s momentum? Yikes.
Anyway, nice picture of the farm
The reason I am reluctant to insist on prosecution is because I think Obama faces an extraordinary opportunity to effect great changes in health care and alternative energy development, among other things. The combination of the economic crisis, his huge support. the public’s trust in his competence and anger at Republicans offers this rare moment. People are so reflexively scared of the idea of ‘socialism’ that a great deal of delicacy is needed. Prosecutions would alienate members of Congress whom he needs—people someone like Clinton couldn’t persuade to his cause anyway, but Obama might be able to. Or if not persuade, defang. When LBJ got into office he rammed through all his famous civil rights and medicare/medicaid, anit-poverty, creation of the NEA. etc Great Society legislation very fast because he knew the goodwill he had as a result of the assassination wouldn’t last. He was also good at pushing through legislation, sure, but the speed spoke to his awareness of the small window he had. Obama might not be willing or able to do as much, but I have more hope of that than I do concern that Bushes’ excesses will become an accepted tradition. That’s a danger but by no means inevitable. In regard to your analogy, if a woman had to spend so much time and money pursuing a prosecution of her husband that her children would face a possible loss of their home or ability to go to school, I know what most women would choose, assuming that particular man was no longer on the loose, or to stick to the analogy, if he was free but no longer had the physical wherewithal to attack. It’s not the best of all worlds. I wish Bush could be prosecuted as a completely separate issue from Obama’s Presidency but that’s not how it works. My position on this assumes Obama has the ability to become a paradigm-changing President. You may not agree. I’m certainly not convinced he will become such a President, but I think there’s hope. I also think we’re about to run out of time on things like energy and climate change; this is a risk we have to take.
Bush and cronies DO still have a lot of power. That force is not disappearing just because Obama is in office.
Yeah, let’s hope Obama will come through on some of what he promised, I do have some faith in his preventing oil drilling, and maybe some good stuff direction on energy policy and green politics, and hopefully, some relief for people who are suffering from this economic crisis. But I do have doubts about his policies, for example, will his energy policies support grass-roots or will they be subsumed into a corporate profit-making industry that will continue to slow down the best solutions? (See last week’s nation for a really great proposal on effective Green agenda). Obama was at one point a big backer of corn-based biofuels, which are just another corporate smokescreen.
Some other bad signs:
Obama said nothing about the massacres in Gaza, which would not be possible without U.S. support of Israel. Nothing to counteract all the lies in the media about the turkey-shoot of civilians abetted by U.S. Who broke the cease-fire, anyway?
Obama suggested tax breaks to be had at the expense of social security funds…. to me looks like a set up for then later saying there is not enough social security to continue to pay benefits.
Dianne Feinstein at inauguration talking about this country as the bulwark of the ballet vs the gun (this is really disgusting, all the violence and overthrowing of democratic forces that US supports)
Followed by: aChristian preacher talking about how everything is attributable to God, and a Christian God at that –what happened to the separation between Church and State?
Obama assuring us that U.S. will not decline–that’s just great for the rest of the world!
“When we feel our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us”
I read this as: When U.S. capitalists, backed by the State and international institutions, loot other countries, force them to destroy their ways of life, ruin their agricultural infrastructure, force millions across the globe into misery, support child labor, etc. etc.–who should “we” forgive for that?
that’s when I tuned out in disgust. Maybe he said some wonderful things after that.
But PLEASE, let’s not go along with patriotism and nationalism that disguises the truth about who throws what weight around the world. The inaugration that I saw was a self-congratutlatory pat on the back to American imperialism.
Again, I hope you’re right about Obama, and I hope you be willing to call it if you’re not.
I’ll have no problem admitting Obama’s failures, when they happen. And yes, I would have preferred less religion and self-congratulation. What I feel is hope, not blind idolatry. Obama’s got charm and charisma and I respond to that, but it doesn’t make me stupid. I want him to use it wisely. But for you to not feel even a LITTLE excitement at the first black president strikes me as perverse.
Yes, I would have preferred less religion and self-congratulation.