Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bye, Bye Bush and Hello, Obama

Two different views of this past week. One watches the taillights and the other sees the headlights. For my money, E.J. Dionne catches what has made Obama an elusive target for friends and opponents.

From The Nation comes The Day the Earth Still Stood:
"Now, let's return to our last president's news conference and consider what he claims his 'chief economic advisors' told him in private last fall. His statement was, in fact, staggeringly worse than just about anything you can presently read in your newspapers or see on the TV news. What was heading our way, he claimed he was told, might be 'worse' or 'greater' than the Great Depression itself. Admittedly, John Whitehead, the 86-year-old former chairman of Goldman Sachs, suggested in November that the current economic crisis might turn out to be 'worse than the [Great] depression.' But on this, he was speaking as something of a public minority of one.

Stop for a minute and consider what Bush actually told us. It's a staggering thought. Who even knows what it might mean? In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate in the decade of the Great Depression never fell below 14%. In cities like Chicago and Detroit in the early 1930s, it approached 50%. So, worse than that? And yet in the privacy of the Oval Office, that was evidently a majority view, unbeknownst to the rest of us."

E. J. Dionne Jr. - Obama's Vision: Old, True and Radical:
"What makes Obama a radical, albeit of the careful and deliberate variety, is his effort to reverse the two kinds of extreme individualism that have permeated the American political soul for perhaps four decades.

He sets his face against the expressive individualism of the 1960s that defined 'do your own thing' as the highest form of freedom. On the contrary, Obama speaks of responsibilities, of doing things for others, even of that classic bourgeois obligation, 'a parent's willingness to nurture a child.'

But he also rejects the economic individualism that took root in the 1980s. He specifically listed 'the greed and irresponsibility on the part of some' as a cause for our economic distress. He discounted 'the pleasures of riches and fame.' He spoke of Americans not as consumers but as citizens. His references to freedom were glowing, but he emphasized our 'duties' to preserve it far more than the rights it conveys."

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