Saturday, October 9, 2010

Obama after the Deluge

Victor Davis Hanson reports that  Washington pundits have started playing a new game. Assuming that his presidency will be roundly repudiated next month, how will Barack Obama react? Link here.

Will he become Jimmy Carter in 1979 or Bill Clinton in 1995?

Those of us who accept Nassim Taleb’s theory of black swans know that the answer must be: none of the above. See his book: The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility".

One thing we know about the future, counsels Taleb, is that what will be is not at all what we expect. Trying to use the past to predict future is a fundamental mistake.

This means that what will happen is what we least expect to happen… a black swan.

But before we plunge into the uncharted waters of the future, let’s take a quick dip in the present.

Recently, something extraordinary has been happening at the Obama White House. Every one of the president’s most important and powerful advisers has resigned. They have, in the metaphor everyone is using, abandoned ship.

From Peter Orzag to Christina Romer to Larry Summers to Rahm Emanuel to James Jones… everyone has quit. Whether they were forced out or had simply had enough, they have departed precipitously. Most of them seem to have just packed up and left.

At the very least, this means that Barack Obama does not inspire very much loyalty.

Not one of his most important White House appointees has even seen fit to wait until after the mid-term election.

Those who have worked most closely with President Obama seem to be trying to tell the world that they have no confidence in his ability to lead.

Having spoken with White House insiders, Democratic pollster and Obama critic Douglas Schoen recently stated that his top advisers believe that Obama does not get what the electorate is telling him.

Oblivious, obtuse, self-involved, this is the man who is going to lead the country for the next two years.

How will he react to a Republican victory? How will he react to the national will for reconciliation and the voter’s wish to roll back his agenda? How will he respond to the cries for freedom and the wish for economic recovery?

In my view, he might initially pay lip service to the election results. But then he will come out fighting. When Obama suggested that a Republican victory will bring hand-to-hand combat to the Congress, I think that he was announcing that he would react to an election defeat by declaring war on the legislative branch.

Call it a divide and conquer strategy. Obama will try to divide the nation even more than it already is: to set black against white, labor against capital, Hispanics against Anglos, blue state against red state.

When bad things happen to the economy, as they almost inevitably will, Obama will be at the ready to blame the Republican Congress.

When the Congress tries to roll back his signature achievements, he will veto their bills.

At a time when the nation needs a government that can create the conditions for economic growth, Obama will turn the governing process into an enduring conflict: the forces of light against the forces of darkness; the forces of good against the forces of evil; the forces of justice against the forces of intolerance.

Do you think that this is an impossible, overly pessimistic scenario? Perhaps so. But if Nassim Taleb taught us anything, he taught us that what we least expect is what is most likely to happen.

At the very least, allow me to confess that I hope I am wrong about this.

Obama is not going to learn overnight how to lead. He has never been much concerned about creating the conditions that would foster economic growth or job creation. He is probably not even capable of registering defeat as a vote of no confidence in him.

Barack Obama does know how to create a narrative, to make the country over so it will fit it into the terms of his narrative. He will bait and goad the Republicans; he will ignore or denounce their ideas; he will call them out and shout them down. And he will veto everything they propose.

The Republican party will quickly discover that governing with Obama is not like governing with Bill Clinton.

Obama will not be especially bothered by the fact that the economy will most likely enter a new leg down of the recession, because he will be able to blame the Republican Congress.

Unencumbered by a Democratic Congress and pragmatic, experienced advisers, he will become more and more demagogic.

Most people think that the economy will recover in 2011. The stock market seems to believe that 2011 will be another 1995. Some even fear that an economic recovery will propel Obama to victory in 2012.

But what if it does not recover? What if the markets are buying the prospect of a Republican takeover but are getting ready to sell the news? What will happen when the markets realize that Obama has no intention of becoming a new Bill Clinton?

What if the economy takes a turn for the worse? Wouldn’t a demagogic president see a suffering nation as an opportunity to teach people how to bring hand-to-hand combat to the streets of America?

4 comments:

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman, et al.
RE: Heh

....Obama will turn the governing process into an enduring conflict: the forces of light against the forces of darkness; the forces of good against the forces of evil; the forces of justice against the forces of intolerance. -- Stuart Schneiderman

Glad to see more people are beginning to 'catch on'.

What can you expect from a man who, in the position of ultimate power—spent 20 years in the church of 'God DAMN America'? Or whose political science mentor admits to bombing the Pentagon and devising ways to 'liquidate' 25 million Americans who disagree with the socialist/progressive agenda?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Pray to God...and keep your powder dry.]

David said...

Many have raised the question as how Obama will deal with major political setbacks. Some have predicted what I would call the Queeg scenario, from the character in Herman Wouk's novel. But Lt Cdr Queeg had not had an easy life, prior to becoming Captain of the Caine, and he was desperately afraid of blowing his one big opportunity. Obama, OTOH, has had his path greased at every step, and has a sense of entitlement that was missing from Queeg.

I think the more likely scenario is the Cardigan model, named after the British officer who led the Light Brigade to disaster in the Crimean war. George MacDonald Fraser, in one of his Flashman novels, described the character of his fictional (but seemingly pretty true-to-life) Cardigan in these passages:

"Just the sight of him, in his morning coat, looking as though he had been inspecting God on parade, took the wind out of me...his eyes blue and prominent and unwinking...that unrufflable gaze of the spoiled child of fortune who knows with unshakeable certainty that he is right...It is the look that makes underlings writhe and causes revolution...it remained changeless as long as I knew him, even through the roll-call beneath Causeway Heights, when the grim silence as the names were shouted out testified to the loss of five hundred of his command. "It was no fault of mine," he said then, and he didn't just believe it, he knew it."

In the case of Obama, I expect increased arrogance, blame-throwing, and an utter inability to introspect.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree that more people are catching on to Obama's game, but I fear it is a bit too late.

I like the analogy with Cardigan, even down to the strutting around like a peacock. And I agree with you that Obama really has never faced defeat and repudiation before now. That can only mean that he will be incapable of dealing with it effectively, that he will first try to blame the people, and second will attack them.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman, et al.
RE: Indeed

I agree that more people are catching on to Obama's game, but I fear it is a bit too late. -- Stuart Schneiderman

It was TOO LATE, on the day after Tuesday, 4 November 2008.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[We have sown the wind. We shall reap the whirlwind.]

P.S. Keep your powder dry....