A Glimmer Of Hope

President Obama’s speech today brought smiles to the Bunker. How nice to remember them again.

Admittedly, he gives er, good speech. And his policies to date are more cautious and Warlord-lite than we secretly hoped for despite our skepticisms during the primary and his appellation of ‘Boy King’. So as a summary of his first nearly 100 days it was not earth shattering by any means.

On style, elocution and intellectual presence, he as usual fires on all cylinders. Not only does he explain yet again the Ur Narrative of our economic collapse in accessible terms, but his own internal comprehension of the concepts deployed is palpable.

What we care about most were some of his ad libs. In one subordinate clause describing a post-recovery America (with a ‘c’ and an ‘a’, mercifully) he noted Americans would have to consume less and work harder at earning export currency. A fleeting meme quickly moved away from. Who knows if it was inserted by committee as an intended ad lib and meaningless in terms of actual presidential commitment. Nonetheless, finally, we are seeing someone in American leadership at least *edge* toward speaking an uncomfortable truth: our standard of living necessarily will be lower and debt service obligations onerous.

One Dream

His description of a post-recovery America restructured away from frivolous financial service ‘industry’ parasitism also welcome here — both from an outcome-determinative point of view (ours), but also for its McCain-speaking-in-Michigan “You know these jobs aren’t coming back” faux pas truthiness truthfulness.

It’s just a speech. And like the bank plan, DoJ in some respects and Gates’ DoD pronouncements, Obama’s execution often proves far less insightful, more tinkering at Warlord margins and cautious than his inspired rhetoric.

A useful barometer still might be how much Ron Insana from CNBC viscerally disliked it all. A future not centered on Wall Street ephemera without financial bubbles is unacceptable. A future with a chastened, reduced and even marginalized Wall Street is beyond his frame of reference. And as Insana and others noted, Administration words come and go often within a 24 hour news cycle.

But maybe Obama really does understand there is no going back to the bubble-fueled, foreign-subsidized binge consumer America standard of living. With all of the corruption, narcissism and corrosive effects it portends for a viable, stable liberal democracy. Even in his green techno utopia, Disney-esque ‘World of Tomorrow’. We could live with tacking to tactical prevailing political winds if he knows that’s a reality polestar to steer by.

How nice it would be to believe . . .


  1. Anon says

    We never thought we’d miss David Brooks – but tonight we tune into the PBS NewsHour and hear that the conservative/liberal comment section consists of the incredibly unctous and matchless smug insider duo of M. Gerson and WaPos Ruth Marcus. Both are ‘part of the problem’ in the msm. We don’t think we can stomach it. The level of ooze and shape shifting meaninglessness will be far worse than the greenhouse gas update th epa is reporting. They should have Ann Marie Slaughter host the discussion just to max out the bubble thinking.

  2. Anon says

    To clarify – the mocking pronunciation of Madoff has now become standard — so innocent professionals on Bloomberg and BBC etc innocently or semi innocently misprooune the name – But CNBC revels in it and does it over consciously – and probably contributed to the name forever being pronounced in an insulting style.
    This is no defense of Bernie – and it’s all understandable on a small level – But we think
    the Markopolis/CNBC distinction is symbolic anyway.

  3. Anon says

    YMMV – leo, but you know we have mentioned that making fun of peoples names is pretty weak – Name humor is low on the comedy food chain (ex: DICK Cheney, etc) The teabag thing is being overdone etc. Sometimes it’s all inevitable and asking too much for a higher level of comedy among all the communications and marketing grads that dominate cable.
    However – we do think it is somewhat telling and symbolic that CNBC over and over again makes fun
    of Bernie Madoff’s name (MADE-off).
    You know – they are trying to say – we are cheerleaders. We hate Bernie!
    Meanwhile – Harry Markopolis (despite years of being on the receiving end of juvenile Marco Polo jokes) – the man who was on to Bernie – always is respectful
    and address Madoff as (Mahd-off)
    Not a big deal – just venting.
    But we think CNBC compensates by making fun of his name instead of doing journalism – Just as Tweety makes up for his dissipation and cafeteria Catholicism with cultural tropes like Archie Bunker and claiming to be pro neighborhood and pro bowling.

  4. Anon says

    Leo, do think a rather sweaty numbskull (pretty low on the right wing pretending to be left wing food chain) is really against torture?

    Or, is a more likely a defender of German prison guards?

    (bonus – Johnson – a very non ivy league person – is obviously jealous of Obama’s Chicago and Columbia pedigree – and he obviously feels the sting of being a symbol of decline-in-status from the Wise Men Dulles rep that agency personel had – no doubt many bloated rumblings about affirmative action enter his wee mind)

    “Unfortunately, Barack “Mr. Constitutional Scholar” Obama left the door for future abuses? Why? No one who worked for the CIA will be punished for carrying out these actions.

    Ironically the U.S. Department of Justice this week was allowing a former Nazi death camp guard to be deported back to Poland to face possible charges for abuses he committed while carrying out the orders of superiors. Hell, while we are giving everyone a pass for illegal, immoral activity carried out for what the leaders considered to be a good purpose, let’s let Demanjuk go. At least we would be consistent.

    Rule of law my ass.”
    (Larry Johnson)

  5. Anon says

    We generally agree wit AL’s reasoning here – esp about attacking the lawyers, rather than those who followed orders – Note the pavloving training sets in re Nuremberg prescedent . No one has any sense of proportion. Just because following orders was no excuse for nazis, does not mean it is never an excuse for anyone at anytime. This is the Tweety mindset.
    The power elite prefers going after those who follow orders – afterall, Yoo and Addington might make for congenial cocktail party conversation (Bybee is too much of an ogre).
    They all wanna dump on the collective Liddie England (ofcourse Agency officers who tortored probably regards himself as a Bond (Larry Johnson?) more than a country gal like Liddie)


  6. Anon says

    We sort of think the reverse of this, politically speaking. Discussing the forgotten man of torture, NYer suggests Judge Bybee escapes scrutiney. In fact, properly understood – timing and vague politics should work against – not for – Bybee

    But the media elite – many complicit in Bush’s crimes – just wants to dump on some losers like Bybee now – Gonzales them – then move on to discuss sugar ethanol and body rights and flex time rules etc.

    Far better, imo – to leave all these people in limbo and let the drip drip drip take place for at least 8 years. During that long time – more crimes will emerge – people will turn on each other etc.
    But the collective TNR/WaPo/ etc just doesn’t care – you have to make them care.

  7. Anon says

    In any event Obama’s words and reasoning is coherent and sensible. If somewhat lame in its rational:

    He has to elaborate on the dark and painfull aspects he alludes to – Ok, so no retribution and no picking on low level officers. But he better figure out a way to keep all those Bush operatives constantly vulnerable.
    They will sink him any chance they get.

  8. Anon says

    We’ve just dipped into the reaction againt Bush’s torture memos. We have to say some of the outrage seems contrived and dated in the sense that much of this was known from the very beginning. Many pundits were war supporters and pretended to be shocked shocked that Bush (cue: show evil piccture of Cheney) would do mean stuff -.
    While we do not think Obama would be wise to pursue any direct prosecutions now – especially of the lower level brutes – That does not mean he would be afforded the same generous treatment if Bush was in power etc.
    The fact is the power-elite was completely complicit in this torture regime and let bush/cheney be bad cop. Any true invesitagtion would inevitable bump its way up the foodchain to power among Dem allies. Perhaps SSC Intel committee members were only faux-briefed so as to provide cover, but they asked no question. American sanctimony.
    However, Obama has to figure out a way to leave the Bybees and Yoos etc vulnerable anyway Inevitable, they will flip and rot out their bossses. It takes time. Patience.
    Finally, these people can be prosecuted at any time. It may take years. Pinochet and Fulimori thought it was all over too.
    Quick prosecutions now coul ironically help them – It would attach them to the culture war/tea part losers – Pardons and clemency might happen etc.
    Hey, do you think Gordon Liddy would have given Jimmy Carter clemency if the situation were reversed?

  9. Tbilisi says

    Re The Doctor @ mediaghost:

    I completely agree. My hope for Obama is that he is a caretaker for liberal democratic principles, shedding the worst excesses of the Warlord era and creating a foundation for a true period of change that will only be possible in about a decade from now. (i.e. more Eisenhower than FDR or Reagan).

    This is the question for this particular liberal (GTF ‘progressives’) … How to oppose Obama’s continuations (affirmative and passive) of Warlord-era ‘innovations,’ without aiding The Remnant. Obama et al have so far been very quick to use the tactic of painting any opposition (e.g. teabaggers) as naysaying, anti-future, right wing crazies, which in turn frightens true dissenters (e.g. Jim Webb, Krugman/Volker, etc) into going along to get along.

    This would be acceptable perhaps if Obama wasn’t so devoid of good ideas to back up his pretty face, starshine, and clever tactical maneuvers. To me, if Obama fails and we get a Restoration it will be because of this lack of good ideas – rather than a failure of action.

    Case in Point:
    Health Care. The entire developed world bases their health system on the principles contained in the Ottawa Charter (foundationally “Health for All”), but Obama continues to rattle on about computerized medical records and getting insurance companies ‘on board,’ as if that will change anything other than his short term tactical ratings. If Obama was actually as smart as he supposedly sounds, then he would realize – like most other governments have – that quality of health is directly related to social factors, especially inequality (esp. re Richard Wilkinson’s research). Wouldn’t fighting inequality dovetail nicely with a new post-Bush, liberal democratic change agenda? (admittedly with some terminology modifications to make it palatable to American memes) I guess not for the brilliant Obama and his loyal followers.

    Economy: Is it really not obvious to Obama that we have a basic solvency – not a more easily solved liquidity – problem? Only someone devoid of true liberal democratic ideas would allow Geithner and Summers to bet a trillion dollars on that hope.

  10. Anon says

    Some unintentional humor on CNN tonight – interviewing people in Texas worried about Obama the gun grabber (despite no evidence) some guy tells the correspondent he can’t understand why Mexican officials object to people buying heavy weapons over here and shippiing them back there since the Mexicans ship drugs here. Left unsaid and totally unreflected upon is the massive market for drugs here and the laws that only seem to raise the price.
    Truly he could not see any role we’re playing in the drama – as if Mexico could just stop shipping the contraband and that’s all there is too it.
    Indeed a case study in market economy – The level of drug consumption – legal and illegal El Norte – is so massive as to constitute as bizarre. The carceral state – as Conrad Black notes whistfully – is growing and growing and growing – with many communities now totally dependent on the incarceration industry/lifestyle.
    Yeah, what do we Americans have to do with it?

  11. Anon says

    Perle should have a cooking show on Food TV (or a more upscale channel) – suggestive title “Pots & Pans” – with guest star Jerry Bremmer.

  12. Dr Leo Strauss says


    Our priority post Warlord is to stabilize possibilities for a viable liberal democratic republic. We are not willing to give in to the easy surrender to Falangist (or name the variant) expediency. Economic policies are of course inevitably and inexorably intertwined with politics. For good or for ill, we judge the American political culture so ravaged by the Movement Triumphant the past 8 years that we are willing to tolerate only mild attenuation of Warlord policies in the economic/financial sphere if it buys us time to *try* at least to restore civic virtue.

    Even casual readers here are doubtlessly familiar with our fairly sustained critique and skepticism of the Administration in the banking, budget and financial initiatives. YMMV.

  13. Dr Leo Strauss says

    re RP

    Sounds like a great broadcast. It’s not surprising that Perle tried those tricks – they’ve worked well for him before.

    It’s hard to describe to those who experience him via TV or radio. His in person charisma is considerable and he is actually extremely funny and witty, very fast. As we’ve used before, he also has the Voice of Saruman. If you recall, in the Tolkein novels Saruman was a wizard whose voice alone was capable of hypnotizing those before him. Ala Saruman, Perle could do so in meetings. Dick Burt ironically was Perle’s main bureaucratic victim re the GLCMs, Pershing IIs, etc. Perle’s charisma failed by 2004-5 when he like Saruman was required to stitch conflicting narratives for so many at the same time.

    re Wilkerson

    Great analysis. We are on friendly terms with some of those involved. The symptoms you diagnosed were on display at his debutante outing where we confronted him directly on essentially all you’ve set forth. Wilkerson is a relic of the Cold War and static bureaucratic formalisms (hence why he is always saying the solution to such and such was to amend the 1947 Act and move the paperwork here or there). Much as CIA itself crumbled under the ideological pressure, internal intellectual mindsets (among other things we’ve all discussed here at length) and ultimately for all intents and purposes was destroyed as it was in fact and myth.

    Such ‘apolitical’ national security lifetime apparatchiks usually have a complete Tin Ear when it comes to politically driven meme warfare. As we all saw with the esteemed Michael Scheuer. Efforts to launch new careers in such waters almost always fall flat. We’ve seen it many times. Literally, the neurological training is a left brain/right brain variant thing. It’s often easier to start in shallow political posturing/shilling and *then* manufacture the patina of ‘national security expert’ than the reverse.

    Regarding the dynamics among others there with him at the event, our suggestion is that the personal relations as we know them to be are good. Sometimes what comes across as an awkward moment on camera or on panel can be driven by well intentioned support. It happens on the odd occasion. This is D.C. after all.

  14. Anon says

    More Food Chain – Here is VDH calling for wholesale murder of civilians – This is partly why, despite his pseudo-classics pedigree, he is stuck on a lower food chain spot – Not to mention his backwater Fresno base.

    We are certainly no experts – but we think that some more serious right winger might want to avoid the cilician pirates as an example because that Roman war on terror is one of the main causes of the end of the Roman Republic’s legal foundation.

  15. mediaghost says

    Well, sure, his economic policies are neoliberal crap. But on the other hand, he’s got a tremendous speaking voice.

    Thanks for nothing.

  16. Anon says

    “But at least Hart loved Kennedy – Wilkerson et al hated the neocons.
    So why copy their (globally loathed) style of speaking/writing?”

    Ok -last Wilkerson comment and this time we really mean. We were reminded of Tweety getting arse ripped apart by Jon Steward on The Daily Show.

    Steward mocked Tweety and Tweety was shocked — Stewart, like a normal person , thought it was insane and stupid to write a guide to life that counsels people to lie and pad their resume and pretend to believe s*** that you don’t believe – All for some vague sense of insider success.

    Tweety is still shocked and didn’t know what hit him – afterall, he only knows what he knows – which is not much.

    Tweety lives in and loves the bubble where rich people pretend to be working class soley for being nominal Catholics and that world says it’s ok – Tweety makes millions and gets honorary degreees for being a fatuous cable blowhard. All his life – avoiding war, leaking againt Tip, shifting with Reagam, leaking against Carter and others – all artifice and phoniness and all the opposite of what the nuns taught (In exchange of following the nuns, Tweety claims to be pro-bowling – a trade-off for being pro-choice and anti-gun)

    This world still lives – Stewart smacked it – but it is not dead – Tweety’s self hatred and his flop flops on HRC reveal the confusion and the disarray.

    Wilkerson – Tweety-esque – in embracing the neocon style – In trying to speak like a Kagan – In trying to sound grown-up and worldly – “Serios” etc

    He’s stuck in that Tweetyverse – He’s stuck in between that dying world and a new order not yet born.

  17. Anon says

    One more point on Wilkerson – then we’ll drop it. Promise – When he unconvincinly admonished Obama that he was only allowed to show much liberal FP ankle – He received no traction save Mike Lind, a fellow dissenter of the passing order.
    But Wilkerson did not say why – he mostly spoke from a presumed authority that he does not really have – He sensed this and so referenced his supposed conversations with “Sam Nunn” types – Probably a figurative allusion , rather than an actual conv with Nunn.
    This way of speaking is common among latter-day neocon enemies who were defeated by the neocons in th Bush era policy warss.
    This so-called realist class – Wilkerson and some others – often complained, but secretly envied the neocon way of speaking with questionable premises embedded in their arguments and getting away with it. The neocons perfected the style of defining “Serious” parameters of official truth and they crafted annoying memes that often left Wilkerson and other dissenters in the position of constantly have to explain their mainstream views to the media as if they were Amy Goodman type leftists.
    Since the partial fading of the neocon dark star we have seen The Replacements try, and fail, to mimic this neocon style (masterfully done by the Kagans) of speaking

    But it’s like with evrything else – it’s always unconvincing when you mimic
    Think of Gary Hart (pence) trying to wear his blazer like Jack Kennedy — putting his hand in the blazer pocket like JFK did – but it was Kennedy’s signiture style and Hart looked like a poseur.
    But at least Hart loved Kennedy – Wilkerson et al hated the neocons.
    So why copy their (globally loathed) style of speaking/writing?

  18. Anon says

    Meant to say Wilker.
    son was only allowed to show so much liberal foreign policy “ankle” – not angle.
    In addition – Wilkerson oppened his presentation with an overload of Quote-book obtained Shakespeare allusions and literary quips that did not really fit together and sort of jumbled and seemed like a bad attempt at wine-chatter and presumptious mumbo jumbo in a semi-humor gloss

    Leo – it was a bit like the overuse of Newtian word-repeats by that Jindal fella.
    Wilkerson came accross as somewhat unsure of himself in an aggressively confident center-lib setting and this
    was burnished by his admonition to Obama that he is only allowed x number of liberal moves –
    In a sense – this is why we feel bad for Wilkerson – He was groomed – of late – into this weird post cold war Tweety land where in DC circles it is considered normal to lump unrelated things like Korea and Iran and Cuba into broadly ill-defined memes like “strong” and “weak” – but the underlying tectonics have shifted in the Obama world of liberalism on all fronts so long as the power elite is not threatned by it.
    Playing second fiddle to Clemons, rather than Powell – must have also rattled a bit and the fact that Sweig did not feel any need to dabble in his policy boxes must have irked a tad.

  19. Anon says

    On the left-er side we note with some sadness and sympathy the peregrinations and positioning attempts of Powell’s old factorum Col Larry Wilkerson.

    We feel somewhat bad for Wilkerson watching him on this Clemons New America Foundation panel featuring CFR’s Julia Sweig book about changing Cuba policy.

    Wilkerson is probably a fine person — and has a dutiful career to look back, if filled with policy error and dissatisfaction.

    But comparing him on the panel with Sweig is instructive in seeing the old order shift a bit and Wilkerson unable to find his footing.

    Sweig – despite being addressed as Doctor Sweig – differs greatly in her presentation style – from most policy pundit people – She comes accross as either a sensible semi-earthy mom who tries to cook healthy s’mores for the kids, or maybe a sympathetic psychotherapist trying to talk America’s collective Bill O’Reilly down the ledge of an insane Cuba policy. Unlike most power pundits – no crisp attire or Rummy approved rattling Matlin style – Plus, a complete absense of policy cant – “hemispheric posture must adjust to the geo-stragio …. yada yada yada”

    Wilkerson, by contrast – eminently credentialed and full of defeats – Thinks and speaks in Power Point trained boxes –
    Poor Michael Lind – with bad jokes and spurious Kissinger paraphrasig – is the only assent to Wilkerson when Wilkerson speaks of Obama only being allowed to show some liberal FP “angle” – (Yes, Wilkerson said that).

    Wilkerson’s words come and go and fade into a torpor of beltway speak.
    Sweig benefits by being human – not withstanding Mark Penn’s admonition againt being human.

  20. says

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  21. Anon says

    “Well, think of an episode of ‘24′ written by Proust.”
    ~Rich Lowry
    (On his novel Banquo’s Ghost)

  22. Anon says

    Last note on Obama at G-towne – He squared so many circles with his rhetoric – In clear prose, lucid and bold – he explained how deficit reduction in the medium to long term is somewhat different than deficit reduction in the near term’
    This simple concept has totally stumed Tweety with his 22 honary degrees (funny, but really a disgrace to higher education).
    Financial Insana types who are bright peddle this meme about deficit reduction cynically — And that’s ok, that’s politics. But it’s amazing that Dems, until today, have not been able to reply – in a way that most people would instinctly understand.
    Obama’s use of ‘the house upon the rock’ from the Sermon on the Mount – as his meme of choice to advocate a green post-hippie economy filled with hipsters building cars instead of bongs – was a priceless.

  23. Anon says

    There is a tremendous physical component to leadership – Republicans seemed to understand this for a while when they were all pretending to read Richard Brookhiser’s bio of George Washington and then making what seemed to be PC (but not using that term) comparison’s to Reagan – Reagan had made his marks, as Lew Wasserman said – and tilted his head just so and the studied jocularity annoyed the bookish campus commies etc.

    But now you have the leonine and aquiline Obama whose every movement seems to suggest movement-into-the-future, progress, intelligence, and energy – Kennedy, but more liberal, discipline, principled, and prepared.

    So what do they do? They send out the bleary droning Boehner – a talking ashtray with an ennervating face and sad eyes – Then they send out a simpleton like Mike Pence – who once asked America to “take a knee,” as if he were America’s pop warner football coach.

    Newt – bloated and fat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and unathletic and ungainly and spitting words with Sharpton in Decline.
    Then there’s Cantor – reasonably well put together in this sense he could get hired at a middle-level tobacco company as general counsel – But he has a totally over-rated intelligence due to his unique status of being Jewish among GOP Hayseeds like Pence, etc

    Then you have pinched-eyed right wingers like de Mint and whiny howlers like like McCain’s Butler from S. carolina and the bag-cheeked snuffle-up-a-gas like Mitch McConnell and the ever nastier by the day Rudy, the dishonest neocon shifters, the Cheney sleeper cells, the dying out Cuba lobby, the still ascendent but nervous Avi Lieberman addled Isreal lobby, the paleocons screaming about the French Revolution as their fat bumps against their shirts,
    Finally – it just goes on. Meanwhile the liberal order is no longer totally pathetic and focused only on keeping their abortions and pretending to love the troops but hating the war.

    Obama has helped turn the page – pointing to a party that believes and advocates something of substance – a strong America that builds shit.

  24. Anon says

    Just a note – we think the GOP is gonna fixate on opposing cap/trade and try to sell it as a tax increase – But they are whistling Dixie – The Bush admin pushed Cap and Trade as the conservative alternative to a blunt carbon tax – McCain and others signed on – Not that they really care or understand – But it was like elite liberals going along with some Bush wars because it was the thing to do.

    So we think Obama will attack them presumptivel in favor of a carbon tax, if they oppose cap/trade (a complicated headache system)
    The structure of the g-20 and g-7 now assumes a carbon plan – Business investment needs certainty for planning – The train has left the station.

    But the GOP still has not groked that the power-elite has really “moved on” on the carbon issue.

    They are stuck now in a little box yelling about carbon – ironically allied with Creationist who have long hated
    Carbon Dating because it undermines the Bible history calender.

    This reminds us of the neocons getting dizzy when they suddenly found themselves sincerely anti-CIA following Libby indictment. They had spent so many years on panel discussions celebrating the family jewels and dirty tricks and helping SAVAK – suddenly a moron like Joe Wilson is upending their world.

    So it goes with the pot-smokers at Reason suddenly allied with God’s children on opposing some weird Bush created cap and trade shuffle scheme

  25. Anon says

    We saw the speech on c-span and thought it was one of Obama’s best speeches to date – His body language conveyed serious, discipline, and his words conveyed depth of understanding and intelligence.
    He was subtly humorous when he acknowledge we need “some” financial engineers, but that we have to move away from the ridiculous and decadent dominance of Insana-insaneness –

    We missed all commentary — Including Ron – Or the much lower on the foodchain Dennis Kneal The Cheerleader.

    But we felt sorry for the bleary eyed, tire Boehner and all the hapless little Newt’s who are helpless before this cool dazzling urbanite.

    They dream of yelling “socialism” – to no effect. Nothing – Yelps. Crickets.

    Obama – leonine and aquiline – as Carlyle might say – just slices and dices the GOP memes like that sham-wow salesman.

    A somewhat sweaty lower on the foodchain right wing hack asked Gibbs today about Tea parties – Gibbs just smiled condesendingly and you could see the poor lad just deflate as he realized his AstroTurf question
    was actually a Whoopie cushion he was sitting on.

    Brutal , but lovely day – for us Obama fans.

    Bring back the 1939 world’s fair …

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