James Kunstler -- Clusterfuck Nation
Feb. 12, 2007 -- You've really got to feel sorry for whoever gets sworn in as president in 2009. Whichever of the candidates gets there, he or she will be walking into a shit storm of trouble much worse than the domestic political turmoil that Lincoln faced in 1861.
By January 2009 we will surely be reeling from the "work out" of peak financial excess represented by the hedge fund fiesta and the reckless mortgage fiasco (from which the housing industry as we have known it will never recover). By Jan. 20, 2009 (inauguration day), the global oil crisis will be accepted as self-evident even by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (and its clients in the oil industry). By Jan. 20, 2009, we will have gone through two more global warming hurricane seasons. By Jan. 20, 2009, we will have spent several hundred billion dollars more maintaining our garrisons in the Middle East and elsewhere -- and the strategic concerns that have required them will still be there.
This translates into severe socioeconomic hardship at home and deteriorating influence on the geopolitical scene. Under the circumstances, Senator Barack Obama seemed perhaps oddly serene in last night's interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" with newsman Steve Kroft. It was not an idle, unmindful serenity, though. Obama, who spent many childhood years in Hawaii, seems to know what it's like to stand on the beach and watch a killer wave roll in. Just knowing that the killer wave is only one in an infinite succession of waves that will roll in eternally lends more dimension to this essentially tragic view -- and the tragic hero is typically the person required by destiny to get hammered by the killer wave, but goes forth to greet it anyway. Perhaps Obama's most appealing quality is his stoicism in the face of this awful assignment.
His most telling answer was to Kroft's question: "Why are you in such a hurry to become president?" Obama replied succinctly that "we may not have ten years" to get our national act back together. By saying this, he managed to get across what most Americans over eleven years of age must suspect in their heart-of-hearts, no matter how hard they are partying, or working to cover their re-set mortgage, or praying to Jesus for a winning lottery ticket: that circumstances will compel us to live differently, whether we like it or not.
Obama's stoicism extends into the minefield of race. He typically refuses to act as a shit-magnet for white America's obsessive guilt, especially the discomfort of "progressives" ever-desperate to prove their moral rectitude by groveling, patronizing, pandering, and disingenuously dancing the brotherhood shuffle. (The recent dust-up over Senator Biden's use of the word "articulate" in reference to Obama was a typical case of whites' discomfort with the inherent contradictions of their own "diversity" politics, with its separate-but-equal language code.) I would also like to be a fly on the wall of the figurative woodshed when Obama has a one-to-one with somebody like Al Sharpton.
For the record, Obama would be older on inauguration than several other presidents were, and he will have had more political experience than one-term congressman Abe Lincoln.
I would like to be a fly on the wall of the deluxe hotel suite where Senator Hillary tries to shake down Obama with the offer of a vice-president slot on her ticket. Never will Hillary's mouth scrunch into a tighter rictus as in the moment when he stoically tells her to go get fucked (so to speak).
Anyway, Obama's moment of launching has now come and gone. He flared off the pad in Springfield, Ill., last week and now the focus has to shift on what he actually thinks about this country and the behavior of its citizens. For now, he comes off as a straight-talking, competent person, comfortable in a difficult role -- and in these times of disappointment with virtually all authority figures, this is enough to inspire near-hysteria.
There will not have been a longer election campaign season in our history. We have all of this year and most of next to endure before the levers are pulled, or the chads punched, or the touch screens touched -- or whatever new fucked-up technology we devise for voting. The candidates (including Obama) may run out of things to say, or they may be overwhelmed by events. A dark horse may emerge from some surprising quarter and steal their thunder. Maybe next Dec. 24th, Santa Claus will declare he's available for the job. (Americans would like that!) A nuke may go off in an uninspected shipping container in some port city. George W. Bush might impose a 50-cent-per-gallon war tax surcharge on the gas pumps. Who knows... ?