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Clouds in the rosy dawn of Obama time

Clouds in the rosy dawn of Obama time

Looking back on the dawn of the Clinton administration in 1993, supporters of President Obama must surely feel gratified at their man’s performance to date. They contrast the chaos of Clinton’s lift-off with the disciplined tempo of the new crowd taking over the White House. They can savor the dispatch with which the 44 th president has pushed forward with the stimulus program and even tossed a few bouquets to the left — curtailment of official torture by the CIA, refreshing edicts on ethical guidelines and on equal pay. Perhaps even more inspiriting by contrast with the 42 nd president and his spouse, the Obama family presents an image of relaxed stability unrivalled since Norman Rockwell’s depictions of domestic felicity in the “Four Freedoms” covers he painted for the Saturday Evening Post in the second world war. No longer do the White House private quarters echo with profane altercation or the furtive sighs of yet another illicit tryst. In the national consciousness, in Clintontime at least, it was like having a quarreling couple permanently lodged in the next hotel room. If the nuclear family needs a poster couple, the Obamas surely qualify. Progressives exult that “we are standing at the precipice of a historic period of reform,” and the internet vibrates with voices urging the left to rally behind Obama’s economic program. Would that it were so! We are indeed on a precipice, but the signposts being set in place by the new administration point mostly in the direction of continued, indeed accelerating disaster.

Is it churlish to come to this judgment when the inaugural bunting has scarcely been taken down? No. We have the evidence of Obama’s mostly dismal cabinet appointments and the menacing outlines of his strategy to deal with the banking crisis. The number of seemingly decent nominations has been pathetically small: Hilda Solis is a promising pick as labor secretary; Leon Panetta as CIA chief seems good. No doubt there are more among the hundreds of new officials. But the symbolism has been overwhelmingly negative. Obama has methodically surrounded himself with ranking members of the party of permanent war and with the economic strategists who have blazed the path to the nation’s present ruinous state. With the possible exception of George Mitchell, now on assignment for Obama in Israel/Palestine,

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