First Year Assessment: Obama is Nixon in Foreign Policy, Gorbachev in Domestic Policy; Plus the Republican Conundrum, and Why The Side Effects of Long Term Drug Use Is Reason for the Disfunctional Political Dialogue and the Economic Crisis.
Obama’s first year in office is over. Like Richard Nixon, he came into office inheriting an unpopular war. Like Richard Nixon he is Vietnamizing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning he is trying to win the wars by supporting indigenous forces and bringing the Americans home. He is in a race between a collapsing economy with soaring debt, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no hope of turning the economy around unless the $900 billion defense budget, not to mention the domestic security budget, can be brought under control. So, on the big issues, Obama is doing a good job, which is why his job approval rating is still in positive territory.
In domestic policy, Obama is Gorbachev. Gorbachev thought he could save Communism by reforming it. Obama is trying mightily to save the two party system. That is why he is insisting on including Republicans in the political coalition that reforms health care.
The rules, however, have changed. In the past, the two parties could work together in the national interest, if not in domestic affairs, then certainly in foreign affairs. Michigan’s Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously said, “Politics stops at the water’s edge.” Now, Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, is heckler in chief of Obama’s foreign policy. This is from a guy who was on watch when the country was attacked on its own soil for the first time in sixty years, criticizing someone who has, so far, kept the country completely safe. Why?
The Republicans are in a difficult bind. They need to choose between their survival as a political force and the country’s survival. The Republicans know that if they cooperate with Obama on anything, they will lose their right wing to a Tea Party cum Third Party movement. So, the Republicans have to oppose everything Obama does if they have any hope of surviving. But even if they survive, they have no program. So, basically, the Republican Party is dead. The voters will try to save it by electing a lot of Republican Governors this November. Then, maybe the Republican Governors, who actually have to balance budgets and pay bills, will force the congressional Republicans to cooperate enough with the President to keep the world economy from collapsing.
But the real reason for the dysfunctional political dialogue is that there is now a critical mass of long-term drug users, of both illegal recreational and legal prescription medication, whose side effects of paranoia, emotional instability and impaired judgment is becoming a major force in the public forum. The 9/11 conspiracy theorists are mostly pot smoking leftists, while the right-wing birthers, the fear and hate monger Rush Limbaugh, a convicted criminal who filled fraudulent prescriptions for pain medication, and Dick Cheney on heart medication, have had their judgment impaired while their manias are empowered. Just as the sports world has been fueled by steroids and performance enhancing drugs, Wall Street has been run by cocaine addicted maniacs for the twenty years of the boom markets.
The United States has become a nation where people who are faithful to their spouses, who spend time with their children, who work honestly to provide for themselves and their families, who have no family connections to wealth and power have absolutely no chance of becoming the top dog in their field. It is almost as if the country has created a system to save its most important jobs for those least qualified to fill them. Obama, who represents the outsiders who never had a chance, is the exception that proves the rule.
The damage is real. Political dialogue is the software of a society. If drugged people with narcissistic personality disorder, which is the definition of most of the people who have bullied themselves into positions of power in our society, can not be stopped, then the country will collapse from within. Jerry Rubin famously advocated that all public officials ought to be required to tell what drugs they were taking. Just like people are not supposed to drive while on certain medications, public disclosure of pharmacological impairment should be attached to any public statement, like a warning label. Maybe the Moslems know what they’re talking about when they oppose the use of alcohol and drugs.
Note: The author of this article, Joshua Leinsdorf, occasionally takes 81 milligrams of aspirin to diminish his risk of heart attack. (He is supposed to take it every day, but doesn’t.) He stopped drinking fifteen years ago, and stopped smoking thirty-six years ago.