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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Words VS Deeds

Since I am forging along in the extremes of exhaustion, you've been getting no words from me. I have been working hard. The Chief is doing pretty well.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have been specializing in tokenism and words, but neglecting the deeds. I suspect that's part of the reason why they have been losing Independents in such numbers.

Bob Herbert can't figure Dems out:
Jobs and freedom. In America, you can’t have one without the other. Democrats are in deep trouble right now — just a year after their giddy celebration of Barack Obama’s ascendance to the presidency — because so many millions of Americans are out of work, unable to find the gainful employment that would unlock the door to a stable future for themselves and their families.

The president and his party may be obsessed with health care, but unemployed and underemployed Americans want a job. Why this has been so hard for the Democrats to realize, I can’t say.
I can't figure it out either! Unless it is because almost all of their current policy agenda amounts, in practice, to a job-killing agenda, and they are loathe to recognize that. Herbert wants the government to launch job creation programs, but the government is awful at creating jobs. Businesses have to do it. In order for businesses to grow we should cut business taxes to a lower rate to be more competitive with international tax norms. That is the complete opposite of the Democratic agenda.

As Betsy points out, Obama hasn't really done much:
He hasn't been up to the task, and why should we expect that he would be? He has never run anything. He had not been in politics that long and only as a back-bencher. He can blame Bush all he wants, but he should have known what the job was going in. And campaigning through four years while blaming his predecessor and the Republicans for all his setbacks and handing over governing to Pelosi and Reid is not going to allow him to maintain the fantasy that was his campaign.
I have spent most of my functional time since last Thursday dealing with SuperDoc's computer problems. To my amazement, his Symantec Endpoint managed to convert itself into a virus. Sadly, due to the Symantec products' design, which is intended to prevent trojans and viruses from knocking the product out of commission, when these installations go bad they convert themselves a Super Virus. I deleted over 75,000 files generated by SuperDoc's virus protection, which was blowing up his computer and shutting it down.

The Democrats might want to think about this. I used to really like Symantec's products, but in the push for total control, they overshot and now prevent the fixes to problems when they fail. So they're a heavy load drawing a disproportionate amount of resources when they work, and when they go bad they go very, very bad and cost a lot of skilled time to fix.

I know nothing about Massachusetts politics. It was only Saturday evening that I figured out who Martha Coakley and Scott Brown were. I also suspect that many people writing about this election don't know anything about Massachusetts politics either. But one thing is probably significant, and that is the huge margin for Brown among MA Independents shown in the polls.

And as for Obama, he should know that the health care bills in Congress are not going to help economically, and have major flaws. The push to pass something CALLED health care reform has won over the idea of reforming health care. So his support for this is really proof that he believes in tokens and not action.

SW still has hopes for Obama. I hope SW is right. But I find I gave up on Obama this weekend, when it became clear that once again his Haitian policy was more words than deeds. It was inevitable that the more the US did in Haiti the more controversial it would become, and there are real sovereignty issues. But Obama - the Nobel Peace Prize laureate - could have gotten on the phone with various heads of state and the head of the UN and brokered an agreement rather than waiting around for the UN group on the ground in Haiti to get itself together and tell us what they needed. For one thing, the local UN group's two top leaders were killed, so they had a significant leadership deficit.

Instead Obama has outsourced this again, and tens of thousands of Haitians have paid the price with lives and limbs. And who but Obama could do it? This is one area in which a major government action could have worked and would have saved many lives, and we really did not do what we should have done. A week is far too long. I believe that if Obama wouldn' t throw his weight around in such a noble cause, he has no intention of ever emerging from his professorial, rhetorical womb to become an effective president.

So the way I sum things up to myself is this:
A) The Republicans had control of Congress and they blew it.
B) The Democrats had control of Congress and they are managing to make it even worse.
C) Either we need to split control of Congress or we need a third party. We are going to have to get some competition and debate back into the system. A good president can't do much with a bad Congress, and the 98-0 vote in the Senate for the unemployment/major tax giveaway bill (to some of the worst offenders causing the current crisis) seems to be proof positive that neither the GOP nor the Democrats care at all about good government or rational policies.
D) We might as well face it, we have a bad president from whom we can expect no help in the fight to get Congress to be a viable instrument of functional government instead of a graft-taking organization. For three more years.

I'm suspecting that the national growth of the Independent bloc in polling is a reflection that many share my A and B conclusions.

The irony is that I believe we truly must reform health care. I believe that we have to reregulate the financial system. I believe that the US has to turn its focus to rebuilding our internal, domestic economy on the basis of production and not consumption. The rhetoric is there. The action is not. The Obama administration's current policies are very Japanese, and Japan is on the brink. If we follow them we will be teetering on that edge in just a few years more. Congress doesn't appear to have any policies except to create huge streams of payoff money flowing from companies who want government benefits.

The sole consolation in the last week is that MLK would be pleased that we have a black president and that he will be judged by the content of his character.

We have made progress, but to make more we must turn to deeds. The era of rhetorical flourish is decisively over. Either we go back or we go forward, but our current government is one of our problems rather than being a part of the solution.

Update: See this. Our current dissension is really not between progressives, liberals, moderates and conservatives. It's between those who are interested in real world results and those who are interested in evading the truth about real world results. The divide is present among all political divisions, but not very active among the population, which, after all, mostly is subject to the results. Thus we have an increasing disconnect between our political class and our people and between our goals and our outcomes.

Further update. Every Dem is not clueless:
"Regardless of the outcome ... this should be a gigantic wake-up call to the Democratic Party - that we're not connecting with the needs, the aspirations and the desires of real people right now," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Congressional leadership always seems to be slow to get this sort of message. I remember the GOP after Katrina as the public became more and more disgusted with them. Waaaaay out to lunch.

Outstanding post, with many excellent points. I knew even before he was elected that Obama was going to get us in a lot of problems because he is naive and has little grasp of economics or history. But I was hoping to be wrong. He has, unfortunately, proven me right.

"Thus we have an increasing disconnect between our political class and our people and between our goals and our outcomes."

Just so, MOM. Our politicians are mostly lawyers, professional bureaucrats, and academics.
Few have ever met a payroll or worried where the money was coming from to meet next month's bills.
Most have no concept of how the economy actually works. They have great dreams of equality of outcomes, perfect justice, and Lake Woebegone days. What we need right now are people who know that government is not and can never be the solution. Government's job is to make commerce easier by staying out of the way as much as possible.

The Haiti effort is much like the Katrina tragedy. What is primarily lacking is decisive leadership. Someone on the ground with the take charge ability to organize surviving, able-bodied Haitians to take the lead in getting the food, water, tents, etc. out where they were needed. For three days the supplies just built up at the airport while no one took the initiative to organize the distribution. Another General Honore type individual would have been a great help.

The medical situation is another thing. With most hospitals destroyed by the quake and mass casualties to deal with, medical relief in the form of field hospitals, medical supplies and enough doctors/nurses to deal with so many injured just could not be deployed fast enough. Many who might have been saved will die because of that, but I just don't see how enough medical care could have been delivered in the short window of oppotunity.

The Red Cross bypassed the Port Au Prince airport by flying into the Dominican Republic and trucking supplies into Haiti. It was actually more efficient. Things will be dicey there until the port facility can be put back in some working order. Ship loads of supplies are what are needed to feed, clothe, and start the rebuilding process.
The thing that is scariest to me is that the Democrats and liberals are still completely in denial. "The voters are stupid...we *have* to pass this bill, there won't be another bill for 10 years, yada, yada, yada". This blog epitomizes the utterly clueless liberal disconnect from reality that exists in places like Cambridge and the Upper West Side -see the posts on the MA race http://www.richardbradley.net/shotsinthedark/

The Dems are now talking about some dead of night congressional process to get the thing passed or slow walking the Brown certification for as long as possible, despite the fact that the bill itself was the debate at the center of the MA election. Tone deaf doesn't even begin to describe it.

I heard the first comparison of Obama to Jimmy Carter this morning on CNBC. If he hopes to have a presidency of any consequence, he has to change course immediately and be willing to tell Pelosi and Reid to pound sand.

As several have said, campaigning and governing are two different things. Obama is learning a very painful lession
MoM,it would be nice if we had some degree of real political debate in this country,but a viable 3rd party is almost impossible to establish.As far as judging Obama by his character,it would be beyond my talents since I can not discern one.
Jimmy - there was no way all the needs in Haiti could be covered given the extent of the damage and the area affected. But moving it in as fast as possible was imperative, and I think any reasonable person would admit that the ball was dropped.

The fact that needs would go unmet no matter what ensured that this was going to be controversial, though.
Tom - Oh, I think if you look at his words he does. He does not like to lie, which is a cut above most politicians. But the deeds and the policy have been lacking the immersion in reality that for me defines true character.
Anon - they are in denial, to be sure. They are in denial about what their own base is thinking.

I am not sure Obama IS learning at all! Where do you see evidence that he is learning?

Thanks for the blog link. You're right. It does show the disconnect. The assumption is that just passing the bill is going to work. The policy/testing step has dropped out of the equation.

After the stimulus failure, one would think that people would step back and think this over, but no.
MOM, I agree with most of the points in your post, but I strongly disagree regarding Obama's response to the crisis in Haiti. Largely, that's been beyond his control. The response in the first days following a natural disaster depend heavily upon how effective the local responders are. Frankly, the UN is an order of magnitude more inept than the New Orleans local governments, and the Haitian government is almost completely inept. Just as the early response to Katrina was largely beyond Bush's control, so too there's been just about zip Obama could do to improve the response.

It takes TIME for relief on a large scale to move to a disaster area. Large scale relief is going to have to depend upon US Navy and Army efforts to deliver cargo over the beach, because it will take time for the port to be cleared and repaired. Security initially will be dependent on the Marines, who are going to be badly overstretched. Air supplies can help some, but they are tightly constricted by the very limited airfields in Haiti. Bulk supplies (food, especially) will have to come over the beaches and then be trucked to the survivors. The land links from the Dominican Republic are poor, and the DR army is, I am sure, clamping down hard on the border crossings.

For a view of the issues from a professional's perspective, I recommend scrolling through the recent posts at Information Dissemination, starting here.

Where Obama absolutely can be blamed is in how he and the Democrats have been governing (and from current indications, are going to continue to govern). Obama, Pelosi, and Reid seem to be determined to do as much damage to the Democratic brand in 2 years as W did to the Republican brand in 8 years. That's not the kind of achievement the nation needs right now, but it's the kind of achievement we can expect from them.
Obama was elected on a platform of ‘change,' but so far the system has changed him more than the other way around. - Andy Xie, January 19, 2010
John - I agree with you that the UN is ineffective. I realize that there was nothing that Obama could do that would save a lot of these people. I don't blame him for the situation - after all, he does not start earthquakes and he is not responsible for the political situation there.

But I do think Obama had the international political capital to call up the Dominican Republic's leadership and the top UN leadership and gently put them on the carpet. The fact that he doesn't seem to have tried that worries me badly. It was an Obama-type thing to have done.

It was clear when I watched the first Pentagon news conference that they were waiting on the local UN for direction, and it was obviously not going to come in any effective manner.

I know the US is getting criticism now for the PAP airport, but it was only after the military took control that the military started getting much in the way of supplies into it, and of course that did generate criticism.

My reaction is largely based on the fact that Obama didn't try to change the political equation. There are huge areas around the world in which he can do nothing to further his stated purposes. This was one place he could have been effective.
Btw, John, that is a great blog. I wish I'd known this coverage was out there last week.

I pieced together most of what I know from the strangest collection of sources.
Obama is great about talking the diplomacy line, but has neither the experience or instincts to pursue such diplomacy in a timely fashion. I don't blame him much for that, because the last president with that skill set was GHW Bush.

Information Dissemination is a great blog; I also commend to your attention the USNI blog, CDR Salamander, and In From The Cold.
A couple of addenda regarding the DR:

(a) Roads, except for the very newest and/or most major, tend to look like they've been heavily shelled by artillery - the potholes have potholes. 30 mph average speed over a journey is an excellent achievement. I wasn't kidding about how bad the road net is from the DR to Haiti.

(b) The DR has about 1 million Haitian refugees in a population of about 10 million. They are extremely desirous that it not become 10 million refugees in a population of 20 million. Their army has long had one main task, and that's to keep the Haitians on the Haitian side of the border. Add to that the baggage from US occupation in 1965, and it would require more tact and skill than the Obama administration possesses to get them to more than minimally unclamp their border crossings after the disaster.
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