Saturday, March 7, 2009

Miracles Take Time By BOB HERBERT NYTimes

I simply love this title - and the message is an important one as well!

March 7, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist
By BOB HERBERT
Barack Obama has only been president for six weeks, but there is a surprising amount of ire, anger, even outrage that he hasn’t yet solved the problems of the U.S. economy, that he hasn’t saved us from the increasingly tragic devastation wrought by the clownish ideas of right-wing conservatives and the many long years of radical Republican misrule.

This intense, impatient, often self-righteous, frequently wrongheaded and at times willfully destructive criticism has come in waves, and not just from the right. Mr. Obama is as legitimate a target for criticism as any president. But there is a weird hysterical quality to some of the recent attacks that suggests an underlying fear or barely suppressed rage. It’s a quality that seems not just unhelpful but unhealthy.

Mr. Obama is being hammered — depending on the point of view of the critics — for the continuing collapse of the stock market, for not moving fast enough to revive the suicidal financial industry, for trying to stem the flood tide of home foreclosures, for trying to bring health insurance coverage to some of the millions of Americans who don’t have any, for running up huge budget deficits as he tries to fend off the worst economic emergency since World War II and for not taking time out from all of the above to deal with — get this — earmarks.

Earmarks.

More than 4.4 million jobs have been lost since this monster recession officially got under way in December 2007, and we’ve got people wigging out over earmarks. Folks, get a grip. Some earmarks are good, some are not, but collectively they account for a tiny, tiny portion of the national budget — less than 1 percent.

Freaking out over earmarks is like watching a neighborhood that is being consumed by flames and complaining that there is crabgrass on some of the lawns.

In the midst of the craziness, conservatives are busy trying to blame this epic economic catastrophe — a conflagration of their own making — on the new president. Forget Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and George Herbert Hoover Bush and the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich and all the rest. The right-wingers would have you believe this is Obama’s downturn.

The bear market would no doubt have magically turned around by now, and those failing geniuses at the helm of our flat-lined megacorporations would no doubt be busy manufacturing new profits and putting people back to work — if only Mr. Obama had solved the banking crisis, had lowered taxes on the rich, had refused to consider running up those giant deficits (a difficult thing to do at the same time that you are saving banks and lowering taxes), and had abandoned any inclination that he might have had to reform health care and make it a little easier for ordinary American kids to get a better education.

As the columnist Charles Krauthammer was kind enough to inform us: “The markets’ recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions — the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic — for enacting his ‘big-bang’ agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.”

That’s a more genteel version of the sentiment expressed a couple of weeks ago by the perpetually hysterical Alan Keyes, a Republican who was beaten by Mr. Obama in the Illinois Senate race in 2004. “Obama is a radical communist,” said Mr. Keyes, “and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois, and now everybody realizes it’s true.”

I don’t know whether President Obama’s ultimate rescue plan for the financial industry will work. He is a thoughtful man running a thoughtful administration and the plan, a staggeringly complex and difficult work in progress, hasn’t been revealed yet.

What I know is that the renegade clowns who ruined this economy, the Republican right in alliance with big business and a fair number of feckless Democrats — all working in opposition to the interests of working families — have no credible basis for waging war against serious efforts to get us out of their mess.

Maybe the markets are down because demand has dried up, because many of the nation’s biggest firms have imploded and because Americans are losing their jobs and their homes by the millions. Maybe a dose of reality is in order, as opposed to the childish desire for yet another stock market bubble.

Maybe the nuns in grammar school were right when they counseled that patience is a virtue. The man has been president for six weeks.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

2 comments:

Connie L. Nash said...

The Threat to Obama's Presidency

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/030909.html

Connie L. Nash said...

NYT: Op-Ed Columnist -- Wars, Endless Wars

Op-Ed Columnist
Wars, Endless Wars
By BOB HERBERT
Published: March 2, 2009
The singer Edwin Starr, who died in 2003, had a big hit in 1970 called "War" in which he asked again and again: "War, what is it good for?"

The U.S. economy is in free fall, the banking system is in a state of complete collapse and Americans all across the country are downsizing their standards of living. The nation as we've known it is fading before our very eyes, but we're still pouring billions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with missions we are still unable to define.

Even as the U.S. begins plans to reduce troop commitments in Iraq, it is sending thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan. The strategic purpose of this escalation, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, is not at all clear.

In response to a question on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Mr. Gates said:

"We're talking to the Europeans, to our allies; we're bringing in an awful lot of people to get different points of view as we go through this review of what our strategy ought to be. And I often get asked, 'Well, how long will those 17,000 [additional troops] be there? Will more go in?' All that depends on the outcome of this strategy review that I hope will be done in a few weeks."

We invaded Afghanistan more than seven years ago. We have not broken the back of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. We have not captured or killed Osama bin Laden. We don't even have an escalation strategy, much less an exit strategy. An honest assessment of the situation, taking into account the woefully corrupt and ineffective Afghan government led by the hapless Hamid Karzai, would lead inexorably to such terms as fiasco and quagmire.

Instead of cutting our losses, we appear to be doubling down.

As for Iraq, President Obama announced last week that substantial troop withdrawals will take place over the next year and a half and that U.S. combat operations would cease by the end of August 2010. But, he said, a large contingent of American troops, perhaps as many as 50,000, would still remain in Iraq for a "period of transition."

That's a large number of troops, and the cost of keeping them there will be huge. Moreover, I was struck by the following comment from the president: "There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments, but our enemies should be left with no doubt. This plan gives our military the forces and flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners and to succeed."

In short, we're committed to these two conflicts for a good while yet, and there is nothing like an etched-in-stone plan for concluding them. I can easily imagine a scenario in which Afghanistan and Iraq both heat up and the U.S., caught in an extended economic disaster at home, undermines its fragile recovery efforts in the same way that societies have undermined themselves since the dawn of time - with endless warfare.

We've already paid a fearful price for these wars. In addition to the many thousands of service members who have been killed or suffered obvious disabling injuries, a study by the RAND Corporation found that some 300,000 are currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and that 320,000 have most likely experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Time magazine has reported that "for the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Suicides among soldiers rose in 2008 for the fourth consecutive year, largely because of the stress of combat deployments. It's believed that 128 soldiers took their own lives last year.

Much of the country can work itself up to a high pitch of outrage because a banker or an automobile executive flies on a private jet. But we'll send young men and women by the thousands off to repeated excursions through the hell of combat - three tours, four tours or more - without raising so much as a peep of protest.

Lyndon Johnson, despite a booming economy, lost his Great Society to the Vietnam War. He knew what he was risking. He would later tell Doris Kearns Goodwin, "If I left the woman I really loved - the Great Society - in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs... All my dreams..."
The United States is on its knees economically. As President Obama fights for his myriad domestic programs and his dream of an economic recovery, he might benefit from a look over his shoulder at the link between Vietnam and the still-smoldering ruins of Johnson's presidency.