Well, we're officially a new country. And not merely in terms of having a new administration; last week, we were a country that had yet to be led by an ethnic minority Chief Executive. This is no longer the case, and I hope that whatever an individual's political leanings, we never forget the social and historical significance of the election and swearing-in of Barack Obama as President of the United States. As I expect to have become obvious by now, I'm not a Democrat, and don't expect to ever change that. But I'm willing to give our new president every chance, and want him to succeed- in the truest sense. His success is our success.
A number of things have happened over the last few days, and personal circumstances have prevented me from keeping up on them better. So I'll be sharing a few thoughts, not all of them related and in no particular order.
The first is my prediction for President Obama. As I just mentioned, I want to see him succeed. He has made a lot of ambitious goals, and has already gotten to work on a number of them. Ordering the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and the re-working of our judicial approach to those interred there within a year, ordering a new evaluation of our strategy in Iraq, and freezing the salaries of White House officials above a certain pay level are a few examples. I have a great deal of confidence in Obama's intelligence and his pragmatic approach to leadership. As we have witnessed time and again, personal ideologies have no practical way of becoming policy, either logistically or politically, and the lofty goals our elected leaders set often take quite a beating from the situation on the ground. President Obama campaigned on a promise to have us out of Iraq within 16 months of him taking office. As much progress as has been made in that country, I don't believe that is a realistic goal, and I think he will have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that and adjust accordingly. Such will also be the situation with a host of other endeavors undertaken by our new president and his advisers, I believe. So my prediction is this: I believe that his decisions will truly be based on what he feels is the nation's best interest, but his list of accomplishments won't closely resemble the promises he was elected on. The Obama presidency will, I believe, cast new light on- or even widen- the rift between the Democratic establishment (Reid, Pelosi & co.) and the party rank-and-file. I predict that he will leave office with quite a bit of popular support, but with little love for or from the Democratic Party management, having demonstrated by the actions he was required by circumstance to take that the leftist wish-list he he's got stapled to his shoulder is no more in the best interest of our nation than the supposed right-wing agenda he was elected to roll back. In other words, I think he will be a good president and a bad party-man.
Another thing I thought was interesting was Jill Biden's 'mouth malfunction' a day or two before the inauguration. In an appearance with her husband, now-VP Joe Biden, on Oprah, she 'accidentally' let slip that her husband had been offered a choice between selection as Obama's Vice President and his Secretary of State. Biden's people have denied that he was offered a choice, but acknowledged that both options were discussed. For most of the post-convention campaign season, then-Senator Biden was touted as a good balance to Obama as an expert in foreign policy, having served more than 3 decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as it's chairman at the time of his election as VP. However, following Obama's victory in November and particularly after Hillary Clinton's emergence as the front-runner for Secretary of State in the new administration, Biden took a backseat. Jill Biden's 'slip' was really Joe's attempt to re-assert himself as an influential figure in US foreign relations and to reaffirm his elder-statesman role in the administration. He's making sure early on (and I can't say I blame him) that he be taken seriously, within the White House as well as in the eye of the public.
The last thing I wanted to comment on was this bailout initiative. Economics normally isn't my field of interest, but in today's climate, one can't really ignore it and still consider themself a credible observer of politics. It's been going on for a while, and I've put off writing about it long enough. It's taken me this long just to wrap my head around it and formulate a coherent opinion, for one thing. Anyway, President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have been trying to get a mind-blowingly huge financial stimulus package passed. The first thing that jumps to mind is the Dems' rants about shoulder our 'children' with the economic burden of paying for the wars. But now that the financial markets are in chaos, the American people at large and the Congressional Democrats in particular have fallen back on the old habit of thinking of the government as separate and above the people- that 'even though we don't have money, at least the government does.' We're so quick to forget that a representative government is the product of our society. But acknowledging that the solution is likely going to lie somewhere between 'trickle-up' and 'trickle-down,' I can't help but feel like the approach being taken is, um, 'excessive.' If the outrageous number being gunned for- which officials freely admit was not founded on anything factual; they just needed a number- must be approved, I think at least the majority of the funds should be appropriated out to the states, for the exact reason that the founders set up the federal-state relationship in the beginning: the states are closer to the people. They have a better feel for what the problems their people face are, they know what would work and what wouldn't in an attempt to address them, and oversight and transparency would be so much simpler than the bureaucratic nightmare we're inevitably headed for in trying to fix every woe being grappled with in every state, county, city and town from Washington. Governments by nature accumulate power to themselves, and the more power we give the centralized authority to solve all our problems, the more we will suffer as a society. Federalism (the sharing of governing power between the national and state governments) is not dead, but it sure is being ignored. By the time all this is over, there's going to be a lot of regret and confusion, and I doubt many people will realize why. To quote Gerald Ford, "If a government is big enough to give you everything you need, it's big enough to take away everything you have."