2010 is like 1933, but without the good songs
“Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act. Or maybe not.” — Don DeLillo
I was re-reading DeLillo’s Libra and feeling paranoid, so I put down the book and turned on the TV, and there was President Obama taking questions from the sage of Comedy Central, Jon Stewart.
I shouldn’t knock Stewart, he did OK. He suggested a fitting revision to Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan (“Yes we can, but…”) and suggested that the White House had been “timid” on health care reform. Obama pooh-poohed him, noting that the new health care bill will result in coverage for 30 million previously uninsured people. He conceded that the country’s 9.6 unemployment rate (the unofficial rate is 17 percent) was daunting, but insisted that progress was being made. Blah blah.
Channel-surfing, I bumped into Garry Wills, the journalist and historian, who was pushing his new book on the Charlie Rose Show. Asked by Rose to assess Obama’s job performance, Wills said he was “enormously disappointed,” and he went straight to the health care issue to explain his response. Obama wasted most of 2009 trying to “ingratiate himself” with Republicans, Wills said, instead of pushing for genuine reform.
Wills added, “So what [Obama] did was get a health care plan with all kinds of crippling provisions, which means it’s going to cost more than the previous establishment… And it is because he would not say the only way to bring down costs is the public option.”
Exactly. Not proposing a public option — alternative coverage for people who can’t afford the insurance companies — was a major disservice to those of us who voted for him, but Obama is too arrogant to concede this point, on Stuart’s show or anywhere else.
I switched channels in time to catch the end of Gold Diggers of 1933, in which Dick Powell plays a millionaire composer who writes a Broadway musical that rescues a bunch of theater people from poverty. Ginger Rogers, backed by chorus girls wearing giant coins, sings “We’re In the Money.” Joan Blondell lip-syncs “Remember My Forgotten Man,” a song inspired by a phrase FDR used in a stirring speech during the Great Depression.
Watching this, it occurred to me that Obama isn’t likely to deliver any stirring speeches about the Great Recession. He’s more interested in defending his failed half-measures than in putting together an effective jobs program for the millions of forgotten men and women who had hoped he would do much more to jump-start the economy.
Even worse are Obama’s foes, from slimy John Boehner on down, who barely even pretend to represent anyone other than the small percentage of rich thieves who profit from the misery of the poor and near-poor.
Worst of all is the suspicion there is something almost criminal going on; that Obama, just like the lizards trying to bring him down, never had any intention of pursuing any policies that might threaten the interests of the thieves. (See Roger Hodge’s The Mendacity of Hope.)
I’d better stop reading DeLillo, or I might not even vote on Tuesday.