Ticking, Ticking Timebomb

And all the timebombs
They’re all dancing to the same song
In a world full of no one
I am a someone
I am a timebomb

An overly mannered, attempted droll reference to our torch-carrying friends in the Movement? Too lazy. Their er, tea bagging and now their subconscious projections via guns and swastikas a boring commonplace.

We resurrect this catchy pop tune because it seems to apply to all of us this August, beyond the Movement fringe. We sense a Nation in the lull before a storm. The latent potential for frustrated expression is not an exclusive trait of our brownshirted irrational Fox Lovers. (We will concede them the franchise on violence, ‘May Pole’-esque reverence for ‘big’ guns and Corporal homages). What strikes us this August is how many non-political acquaintances are openly expressing frustration over dashed expectations. These are the majority of Americans who demanded ‘change’ last Fall but don’t particularly care whether Laurence O’Donnell was chief of the Senate Finance Committee staff, what Wilkerson has to say (on anything), or whether John Dean thinks Pepsi’s new logo is worse than Watergate.

Our view remains that Obama’s best function historically is to stabilize the Republic after 8 years of Christian Socialist Authoritarian misrule. Ideally, he would need two terms to return governing to a non-radical, non-extra-legal meme basis. We do not see it in him actually to roll back the damage. That will be up to one later who can build on a stabilzed foundation with a clearer restorative purpose. We personally are not reacting in this post to all the Rightist August frenzy per se. It’s to be expected. Even a stabilizing caretaker simply counter-flooding watertight compartments in our ship to compensate for huge holes left by the Warlord would galvanize the Movement eventually. Cost of doing business. We just didn’t expect Obama or the Democrats to be so pitifully unprepared.

Why shouldn’t one expect some competency? We’ve debated here in our cozy little corner whether he took on too much at once, had no alternative, could have prioritized, etc. What can not be denied, we believe, is that it is imperative that he be seen as having done something well. At least one thing. We know of almost no one who trusts Geithner and Summers. If Liz Warren, our old acquaintance is skeptical, knowing how her mind works, we are too. We do not share the Obama team’s enthusiasm for war in Afghanistan or a prolonged presence in Iraq. We never understood why so much of the deficit should be for more Republican tax cuts in the pitifully small stimulus when the tax cuts got no Republican support anyway. One could go on. They did handle Swine Flu reasonably (the Biden-on-the-plane-thing merely loopy). But to be this clumsy over 1/7 of the economy after the bailouts?

Should he prove to be neither competent nor progressive it may well be the worst of all outcomes for those wary of the Counter-Enlightenment Will to Power: general disillusionment combined with a radically energized, irrational Movement raging for revenge. His first 8 months suggest a very good ordinary politician feeling his way through a learning curve. But these are not ordinary times. Our biggest disappointment beyond competency? Team Obama shows the Stiftung time and again that at the core they, like Reid, Pelosi and the rest, do not understand the regime they overthrew in Fall 2008 or the shards coalescing for a re-match.

The tissue of American commitment to civil society, civil liberties and liberal democracy has always been more gossamer thin than most suppose. Obama revealed as ordinary tactical pol with mixed competency facing a galvanized Movement? One wonders if the commitment withstands that challenge. Let’s hope Obama doesn’t put it to the test. For our sakes, we hope he succeeds. On at least one thing.

In that sense, we are all timebombs. Ticking, ticking timebombs.


  1. inquire says

    Impressive use of retro Chumbawumba. I remember listening to this after first hearing of Chumba when they did a split disk with Noam Chomsky. Their website was one of the first I frequented on the early webs of the late ’90s. Never thought I’d see them resurface at the Stiftung.

    To add a bit of meat to the bones of this post, to Euskal et al. I would offer what William Tecumseh Sherman mused on the eve of that very real Civil War:

    You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Their baseline politics are not ours – we would disagree profoundly about the Third International and many other things, but we’ve always respected the fact they at least understood the political history and ideologies behind what they advocated say contra the incoherent, ignorant ideological/aesthetic mess that was most of popular music – ala The Clash et al. Lou Watts may have one of the most under appreciated voices in recent pop music.

  2. Euskal says

    Far right, Far Left. I hear that all the time, but when you start seeing the left toking firearms, then I will consider we have a far left. I mean is Universal Health care the main criteria/litmus test? As for civil wars, never underestimate the stupidity of people, they might just surprise you…

  3. Anon says

    I fear the power vacuum. Disillusion with Obama, coupled with a very deserved disillusion with Bush will get the mushy middle very vulnerable to anyone promising “salvation”. And the fringe left and fringe right might jump in the wagon too.

    What makes me really baffled is how much support the Movement still has, after doing what they always do: Giving a violent whack in a wasp’s nest for short political gain. Can’t the somewhat sane backers of this nuts see how they have already started one civil war, by fomenting ethnic strife ? Do we need a second civil war ?

    Don’t get me wrong, civil war, like on Iraq or here 150 years ago is not coming to US. But the Latin America kind might. On the city I lived, middle class had to live in gated communities, protected by gun toting guards. Their kids were kidnapped for a $2,000 ransom. Street kids, some 9 years old, carried guns and their bands terrorized neighborhoods. A car thief dragged a 6 year old through the streets, he wouldn’t let the kid leave the car, the kid jumped and the thief kept on driving. To the thief, rich people aren’t human. To the rich, poor people aren’t human. And it shows, every day, everywhere you go. Maybe this is not technically a “civil war” but what else can you call it, when vast swaths of the population see the other swath as not worthy of being alive ?

  4. says

    There hasn’t been much reason to have high hopes for Obama.

    America’s systemic problem is that 20 to 40 percent of Americans are just a hair short of being diagnosable mental cases.

    Not even a reformer of the caliber of Mandela, Nehru, Gandhi or Gorbachev could hope to make any headway against a polity so paranoid that a large blocking minority is prepared to misinterpret half-baked health insurance reform into a belief that ‘the guvmint’ is a hair away from imposing mandatory euthanasia for the aged.

    And Obama is no Gandhi. What someone like Gandhi couldn’t do, Obama has no prayer of accomplishing.

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