Climate

TNR: The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama

Is progressive messaging a “massive botch”? Part 5

The president has also suffered from an inability to explain to the public why he sought such a large stimulus and what he thought it could accomplish. Obama’s New Foundation speech at Georgetown was soon forgotten. Afterward, Obama, to the dismay of Democrats in Congress and some of his White House aides, pretty much dropped the jobs issue. From then to Labor Day, he devoted a July visit to Buffalo and an August stopover in southern Indiana to the issue-at a time when the right wing was mobilizing against him. Obama didn’t just fail to develop a consistent narrative about the economy; he didn’t really try.

John B. Judis has a must read piece in The New Republic, “The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama: A Counter-History of a Presidency” (cover image at right).

Those in power right now do messaging poorly “” and that certainly extends to team Obama.  Since the administration as a whole lacks a compelling and consistent narrative, his speeches mostly become unechoed one-0ffs without an enduring power to move the nation (see Part 2: Drew Westen on how “The White House has squandered the greatest opportunity to change both the country and the political landscape since Ronald Reagan”).

Readers know that I am baffled about much of progressive messaging (see “Can Obama deliver health and energy security with a half (assed) message?“), where I discuss this issue of narrative at length.

MessageTo make a long narrative short, you can’t beat a horse with no horse.  You can’t overcome the conservatives’ dangerously flawed narrative (aka frame aka extended metaphor) unless you can offer a more compelling worldview.  Progressives leaders haven’t.  Yes, I know, Obama was elected to end the partisan divide in DC.  That was always about as likely as my winning American Idol.

And that is Judis’s central point:

Why has the White House failed to convince the public that it is fighting effectively on its behalf? The principal culprit is clearly Barack Obama. He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics. His aversion is strange because he was schooled in it, working as a community organizer in the 1980s, under the tutelage of activists who subscribed to teachings of the radical Saul Alinsky. But, when Obama departed for Harvard Law School in 1988, he left Alinsky and adversarial tactics behind….

During his campaign and his first year in office, he held to a blind faith in bipartisanship, even as the Republicans voted as a bloc against his legislation. He is, perhaps, ill-suited in these respects for an era of bruising political warfare. His advisers have clearly reinforced these inclinations. In the campaign, they fashioned him as the outsider candidate of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and have extended this strategy into the presidency itself. They see him as standing above party.”¦

These efforts to elevate Obama above the hurly-burly of Washington politics have been disastrous. Obama’s image as an iconic outsider has become the screen on which Fox News, the Tea Party, radical-right bloggers, and assorted politicians have projected the image of him as a foreigner, an Islamic radical, and a socialist. He has remained ‘the other’ that he aspired to be during the campaign, but he and his advisers no longer control how that otherness is defined.”

This was not a mistake Reagan made, Judis notes:

Contrast Obama’s attempt to develop a politics to justify his economic program with what Reagan did in 1982. Faced with steadily rising unemployment, which went from 8.6 percent in January to 10.4 percent in November, Reagan and his political staff, which included James Baker, Mike Deaver, and Ed Rollins, forged a strategy early that year calling for voters to “stay the course” and blaming the current economic troubles on Democratic profligacy. “We are clearing away the economic wreckage that was dumped in our laps,” Reagan declared. Democrats accused them of playing “the blame game,” but the strategy, followed to the letter by the White House for ten months, worked. The Republicans were predicted to lose as many as 50 House seats, but they lost only 26 and broke even in the Senate.

Some commentators have noted Reagan’s popularity was even lower than Obama’s. But, on key economic questions, he did much better than Obama and the Democrats are currently performing-and voters expressed far greater patience with Reagan’s program. According to polls, even as the unemployment rate climbed, a narrow plurality still expressed confidence that Reagan’s program would help the economy. On the eve of the election, with the unemployment rate at a postwar high, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 60 percent of likely voters thought Reagan’s economic program would eventually help the country. That’s a sign of a successful political operation. If Obama could command those numbers, Democrats could seriously limit their losses in November. But Obama has not been able to develop a narrative that could convince people to trust him and the Democrats.

Sadly, no-narrative Obama has cost the progressive movement, the nation, and the world dearly, far more dearly than most in the White House understand (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 1“).

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31 Responses to TNR: The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    Obama has sleepwalked the last 18 months- he was successful on health care- but I feel as many others do that it was Nancy Pelosi who deserves much of the credit.

    Obama’s failure to communicate any message or policy ideas is troubling and will cost the progressive movement dearly this autumn. I recall a comment made over at the Huffington Post from a progressive who said…’I was expecting Teddy Roosevelt, and I got a Teddy Bear.

    Obama has failed to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of the Progressive cause- He is no ‘Teddy’ nor an FDR, Truman- and lacks the ability to persuade the public like a JFK or LBJ.

    Lack of or innate inability to lead? Poor choices for advisers with Axlerod (who never impressed me) and the thug like but equally as inept Rham Emanuel. Hard to say- but from I -A life long Progressive- Obama has spent too much time reaching out to the Fox News Party/Tea Party GOP for ‘bipartisanship’ and gotten smacked to the ground again and again- Mr. President there is no ‘center’ in American Today-

  2. homunq says:

    Sadly, the problem is deeper than narrative. It’s values.

    Reagan had a clear vision: reduce taxes, increase defense spending, and reduce domestic spending – pretty much in that order of priority. Although this vision of course resulted in massively increasing the scale of government spending overall, it is not unfair to summarrize it as “reduce big government”. He then used his powerful skills of rhetoric in the service of that vision. But it wasn’t just the rhetoric: because of the vision, he had a legislative strategy and legislative tactics which clearly pointed in a certain direction.

    Obama’s vision? Seems to me it’s “Washington can work.” He wants a government where two parties have a serious discussion, and come to agree on bipartisan compromises which help the nation.

    See the difference? Reagan knows where he’s going, Obama just knows how he’s getting there. I’m not saying that Obama has no moral compass (though certainly, by now, he’s done some monstrously immoral things); but I’m saying that, unlike Reagan, he’s let the winds of bipartisanship steer his ship of state.

    What would it look like if Obama were more like Reagan? He wouldn’t stop compromising in order to pass bills; but he would clearly state what is being compromised. And he would have a strategy that looked beyond the bill on the table today.

    He would have realized that the Republicans have gone all-in on a strategy of obstructionism, based largely on the filibuster and other bureaucratic (parliamentary) delays in the Senate. He would have realized that this Republican strategy is working. And he would have seen the need to face it head on. That is: Without filibuster reform, the US will accomplish nothing of consequence in the next 2-6 years.

    The filibuster is killing us. It is against the will of the founders. We can reform it to put it in check. And the Republicans will not hesitate to do so.

    Here’s Hamilton, from Federalist 22:

    …But this is not all: what at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser. Congress, from the nonattendance of a few States, have been frequently in the situation of a Polish diet, where a single veto has been sufficient to put a stop to all their movements. A sixtieth part of the Union, which is about the proportion of Delaware and Rhode Island, has several times been able to oppose an entire bar to its operations. This is one of those refinements which, in practice, has an effect the reverse of what is expected from it in theory. The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority. In those emergencies of a nation, in which the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government, is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward. If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.

    It is not difficult to discover, that a principle of this kind gives greater scope to foreign corruption, as well as to domestic faction, than that which permits the sense of the majority to decide; though the contrary of this has been presumed. The mistake has proceeded from not attending with due care to the mischiefs that may be occasioned by obstructing the progress of government at certain critical seasons. When the concurrence of a large number is required by the Constitution to the doing of any national act, we are apt to rest satisfied that all is safe, because nothing improper will be likely to be done, but we forget how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary, and of keeping affairs in the same unfavorable posture in which they may happen to stand at particular periods.

    Suppose, for instance, we were engaged in a war, in conjunction with one foreign nation, against another. Suppose the necessity of our situation demanded peace, and the interest or ambition of our ally led him to seek the prosecution of the war, with views that might justify us in making separate terms. In such a state of things, this ally of ours would evidently find it much easier, by his bribes and intrigues, to tie up the hands of government from making peace, where two thirds of all the votes were requisite to that object, than where a simple majority would suffice. In the first case, he would have to corrupt a smaller number; in the last, a greater number. Upon the same principle, it would be much easier for a foreign power with which we were at war to perplex our councils and embarrass our exertions. And, in a commercial view, we may be subjected to similar inconveniences. A nation, with which we might have a treaty of commerce, could with much greater facility prevent our forming a connection with her competitor in trade, though such a connection should be ever so beneficial to ourselves….

  3. Jon says:

    Most of my family voted for Obama. They saw him as the outsider, the one who was above the party, the one who was one of ‘us’… they believed.

    Without exception, they all now see him as one firmly rooted in the ‘business as usual’ mindset. He has broken so many promises, starting even before his election (remember FISA, anyone?), that they voice regret and anger about how they were duped by this machine. Their words, not mine.

    His marketing team was superlative right up until he was elected. As happens with many new products, he failed to live up to his own advertising. He isn’t seen as any kind of ‘otherness’ any more, and that is why his supporters have deserted him.

  4. homunq says:

    Hamilton

    “Suppose, for instance, we were engaged in a war, in conjunction with one [foreign nation] set of corporations, against [another] an idea such as “terrorism” or “drugs”. Suppose the necessity of our situation demanded peace, and the interest or ambition of our ally led him to seek the prosecution of the war, with views that might justify us in making separate terms.”

  5. Douglas says:

    As soon as he picked Summers and Geithner for his economic team, I got that sinking feeling. Not that I was ever that hopeful…am too cynical at this point. The virtual continuation of Bush admin policies at the DOJ is a disgrace as well.

    Clinton had better messaging than Obama. Obama should learn from Clinton’s rhetoric, but ditch the warmed over DLC policy mush from that era.

    Ironic that this is in the New Republic, a magazine that is the poster child for phony “centrism” (which in America is really center-rightism).

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Yikes

    This is deeply distressing — and thanks to Peter (Comment 1) and homunq (Comment 2) for those helpful comments.

    This is a problem that can only be solved (if addressed by Team Obama by a major change in approach, quickly, including both strategy and messaging) or grow considerably and to the point of basic meltdown. In other words, the present situation is not a stable one: it’ll need to get much better, or it’ll get much worse.

    Why do I say this? Because the situation is sapping morale — A LOT!!! — among people who support the views and policies that we THOUGHT the new administration would deliver. Trust is way down. Morale is way down. And these are things that mere words and encouragement cannot correct — because mere words and encouragement are the things that haven’t been fulfilled (in all too many cases) in recent months.

    I agree that the filibuster must go, and ASAP. But that’s not the only problem. The problem that the aim chosen by the administration seems to have been more of “we’ll do whatever we do together, as one happy family” (i.e., the aim of “bipartisanship”), than of getting valuable things DONE, in the PUBLIC GOOD, is the larger problem. And that choice has been, and still is, a debilitating one.

    Where will that choice, on the Administration’s part, leave us? If the Administration doesn’t change that basic thinking, what then? The likely outcome, it seems to me, is downright miserable and demoralizing. We will have squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and be left with near nothingness.

    At this point, for me, my ability to stick with the “hope” brand will depend not on more words about “hope”, but on real and effective strategies and actions and progress that FULFILL that word. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll be listening very closely to people who want to form another party that will at least try to do what it says it will do. And (at that point, if that comes to pass), I must say that I won’t be all that interested in hearing about the notion that fragmentation won’t help. At some point, I’d rather TRY to do something, and fail at it, than commit to failure up-front by not trying or by committing to a path that’s not gonna work.

    This is really disturbing, I must say.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  7. catman306 says:

    Thinking about Obama has spoiled my morning, What a letdown he has been. A business-as-usual president, but with unusual parents. Yes, the advertising promised better than what we’ve got.. He’s not going to do anything to alleviate climate change unless the wealthy powers-that-be tell him to..

    Go to the REAL people in power (there’s probably less than 1000 of them) and tell them that they MUST do something about human caused global warming and climate change because the path that they are taking us on will end our human world in short order. Or is that what they really want? Have we no trans-generational organizations that care about matters 5 or 10 generations from now? The great cathedrals in Europe often took hundreds of years to build. Have we no social structure capable of a sustained effort for 200 years? Oh wait, I’ve thought of one: extraction and exploitation capitalism, destroying our mother planet for over 350 years now.

    completely off topic:
    Does anyone know how to increase the point size of this text box so I can see what I’m typing? The usual ways in Safari only increase the text size of the web page but don’t effect this text box. Thanks.

  8. cervantes says:

    I think he had a vision of himself as being the president for “all Americans” and fantasized somehow rising above politics to unite us all in this time of peril, yadda yadda yadda.

    But the time of peril doesn’t call for unity with people who are more interested in their own privilege than in saving our collective asses. It calls for confrontation. Evidently he just can’t give up his beautiful dream. . .

  9. Oliver James says:

    The financial crisis Reagan faced was entirely different, and lent itself to different messages. This crisis is far more complex, with more factors, different and multiple “bad guys”….and no countervailing message infrastructure (i.e. Reagan and his did not have a Fox News against them, did not have the now-obvious rightward drift of publications like the Washington Post, and did not have talk radio). These media outlets are tremendous aids to conveying any message. Neither you nor Judis seems to acknowledge these factors.

    I think your assertion about “no message Obama” is ridiculous, and exists in a vacuum that doesn’t acknowledge key changes in the media landscape.

    It’s legitimate to question Obama’s messaging choices, (I do *somewhat*) but really, in the end they may turn out to prove wise choices. We will only need to wait until Dec 2012 to see.

  10. mike roddy says:

    Reagan, Kennedy, Truman, and even Eisenhower showed emotion on important issues. That’s also an important component of leadership, and
    Obama showed it during the campaign at times, inspiring the nation. Now that the dark side has put up so many obstacles to his vaunted “change”-including crooked Senators- a counterattack was called for. It never came. Instead, we got badly diluted social legislation and a white flag on global warming action.

    Before Obama was elected, a woman friend who was into the Bilderbergs and Rockefellers told me that they had selected him 20 years ago, and she even learned this personally from Henry Kissinger. I laughed at the time. Now I’m not so sure.

  11. mike roddy says:

    Catman-

    My woman friend believes that the elites in charge want global warming, because the earth needs a major population cull. Unfortunately, those people are bankers, attorneys, and the idle rich, and have little understanding of long term cumulative effects or even science itself.

  12. David Fox says:

    I think Obama has done a LOT more than sleepwalk through his first 2 years. The article above actually does a disservice by distracting attention away from what Obama HAS done. As Glenn Greenwald puts it better than I can…

    “You may think that the reason you’re dissatisfied with the Obama administration is because of substantive objections to their policies: that they’ve done so little about crisis-level unemployment, foreclosures and widespread economic misery. Or because of the White House’s apparently endless devotion to Wall Street. Or because the President has escalated a miserable, pointless and unwinnable war that is entering its ninth year. Or because he has claimed the power to imprison people for life with no charges and to assassinate American citizens without due process, intensified the secrecy weapons and immunity instruments abused by his predecessor, and found all new ways of denying habeas corpus. Or because he granted full-scale legal immunity to those who committed serious crimes in the last administration. Or because he’s failed to fulfill — or affirmatively broken — promises ranging from transparency to gay rights.”

    These are not no-narrative issues. These are concrete policies that at their core are anti-human, anti-progressive, and I suspect TNR’s motives in distracting people from them.

  13. John McCormick says:

    RE # 7, catman306

    About President Obama, you said:

    “He’s not going to do anything to alleviate climate change unless the wealthy powers-that-be tell him to.”

    So, lets start putting pressure on the wealthy powers-that-be.

    I have been calling for anyone who has the connections to get Warren Buffet to take his or her call to start a campaign among the most elite of the elite to realize they have skin in this game; even if it is only their grand children’s skin.

    The major money merchants don’t care? Then, we are toast. How can the few million environmentalists go up against 12 trillion dollars of capital.

    Could Bill Clinton make that call and get Buffett and others like him to focus on something aside from their investments. Maybe think about their and our children. It is coming at us so fast now, maybe there is not time but things can get a lot worse because they are running the game.

    We few who visit Joe’s blog and otherwise tie our stomachs in knots from anxiety over what we know is happening are chickens in the middle of the road and the capitalists are willing to ride over us to get to their quarterly earnings report. So, are we fair game or are we not getting to people who can really make things happen because they finally get it.

    Hello, Mr. Clinton. We thank you for anything you can do, in our name, to aid Haitian refugees. Now, there is some more heavy lifting for you.

    John McCormick

  14. Leif says:

    So what is left? It looks to me like we, as a Nation, but also as humanity, will be required to twiddle our thumbs and root for a prompt climatic slap in the face so strong that the population wakes up, but more importantly, BIG MONEY has an epiphany and realizes their head is in the the block as well. All this before humanity steps across the one way door step of doom.

    Another possible “out” would be a Military coup where it becomes obvious that environmental degradation is in fact THE PRIME THREAT to the Nation.

    Picking at straws here for sure but nothing appears to be working to slow our decent.

    Welcome to the anthrocene extinction event.

    A billion years of struggle out of the mud… poof.

    Way to go guys…

  15. Catchblue22 says:

    I recently listened to a lecture by James Hansen in which he argued that Cap and Trade legislation simply will not work. China will never accept an absolute limit on its emissions and the system will be gamed to prevent real reductions. Wall Street traders will be enriched by implementing a carbon trading scheme. They will extract their usual fees, and will tweak and manipulate the system, just like they do with the stock market. The result will be a catastrophic paralysis in emission reductions, since we will initially believe that we are on the road to real emission reductions. We will ignore policies that will actually work, like carbon taxes and fees. Hanson argues that charging a fee for emissions and then redistributing that money will be the best policy for lowering emissions.

    Hanson actually said that it would be better not to have a bill passed than a cap and trade bill. And I think I agree with him. As we see the consequences of Global Warming, it will become more and more undeniable. Eventually public opinion will shift. I suspect that one of they key moments will occur when the Arctic Sea ice finally breaks up in the summer. When that public opinion shift comes, it will become far easier to pass real climate legislation of a kind we could scarcely hope for today.

    I think the American progressive movement is eating its young in attacking Obama so vociferously. He has shown remarkable political sure footedness in a very difficult political climate. He has picked his battles and has fought and won the key ones. With only a 59 seat majority in the senate, it would have been impossible to pass any real progressive legislation. Obama would have staked his political capital on losing propositions. Obama picks the battles he can win, and without a filibuster-proof senate, they are few and far between.

  16. AlphaLiberal says:

    A huge impediment to effective messaging for Centrist Dems like Obama and Rahm Emmanuel is that they are too beholden to the powerful interests to criticize them. Where it’s the Rubin wing of the Dem Party or the sensibilities of Rahm’s Blue Dogs, they will not mount a serious critique of right wing thinking.

    So, when it comes to jobs and the right wing emphasis on keeping wages down, you won’t hear a peep. Same thing with climate.

    It’s a pitfall of centrism.

    Of course, they have no problem dumping on the left.

  17. homunq says:

    #11, Mike Roddy

    The “population cull” idea is of course monstrously evil. Practically speaking, it’s hundreds of times worse than Hitler. But it’s also stupid. You don’t want to live in a world where 10 billion people miserably struggle to survive – so you’d prefer one where 1 billion people miserably struggle to survive while several billions just die?

    I also don’t think that this is anybody’s real motivation, even if it’s what they say. Which raises the question, what is the real motivation?

    1. Pessimism. If you don’t think that there’s anything to be done, then you start to make stupid excuses for the status quo. (People are good at finding reasons for avoiding fights they know they’ll lose. If you’re the low chimp on the social scale, your best chance of having kids or of protecting them if you have them is to pretend you’re happy with your status. It lets you wait for change without getting your ass kicked.)

    2. Tribalism. There’s a lot of people who get their jollies from punching hippies. Not just the right-wingers; there’s a lot of the so-called center-left which loves the sport too.

    3. Failure of imagination. People just can’t imagine the world really changing, the things that have seemed eternal ending. When I was a kid, I knew every branch of at least 10 hundreds-of-years-old oak trees I liked to climb; I thought they would last forever. Sudden oak death has now killed all but 3.

    Absurd (and evil) rationalizations like “population needs to be culled” are just a cover for those 3 underlying motivations. So meet them head on: seek optimism, unity, and imagination. (I know, optimism and imagination are often in conflict, while pessimism and lack of imagination can easily go hand-in-hand. But the solution to that is called hope.)

  18. Nell Reece says:

    Anyone who believed a junior senator from Illinois was going to change they way they did business in Washington DC deserves what they got in Obama.

    I believe it’s his ignorance and lack of experience has lead him to leave unacceptable Bush policies in place… he didn’t know what to replace them with.
    I do not like his advisers.
    I miss Bill, and still wish HRC had won. But that’s me.

  19. Bob Wallace says:

    Frank Rich has a good piece up about Obama’s successes and shortcomings. He included one statement that I think is worth sharing…

    “The stimulus package, actually five ambitious pieces of legislation packaged together for political expediency, was the largest economic recovery bill in American history, bigger in constant dollars than any program of FDR’s first hundred days.”

    In the piece Rich talks about Obama’s messaging shortcomings. And I came away with two things to chew on:

    1) With Obama we don’t have an absolute failure to communicate, nor an inability to communicate. We are just seeing this as the area in which he most needs to improve as he learns to be the most effective president he can be.

    2) Obama is an intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful person who has incredible persistence and plays to win. He is someone who seeks the views of those who don’t agree with him. He’s either ‘gotten it’ or ‘will get it’. I do not see Obama allowing himself to fail simply because he won’t expend the energy to work on his messaging.

    And to back up my assessment – have you noticed how often he is getting out into the country these days, how many times he’s showing the flag?

    (I’m reposting without the NYT link as it seems to have spun my post from a few hours ago off into solar orbit….)

  20. Raul M. says:

    Once knew a woman whose eyes got even
    bigger than when Obama got elected.
    Then her eyes narrowed as she thought how she
    could get what her eyes got so big over.
    An even bigger and newer SUV than the
    one she was so proud of only a year before.
    Geeze, they are already talking of trading
    in the President for a new…

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    Captain Future, you’re not alone. Though it is correct to point out weak targets and messaging. I still think we will see some big change in climate action! Hope is all we have left, lol :]

  22. John McCormick says:

    Captain: a report just came in:

    There is an asteroid heading diretly for our planet. It has been estimated to be about 17 miles wide and 36 miles long and its density is unknown.

    Let’s have a presidential debate among all the candidates about how any of them are going to address our immediate (30 to 50 year)demise.

    LoL, as they say on IM.

    This is rea. Except it is not a solid object. It is a gaseous compound.

    Dare we wait?

    Afraid we will.

    John McCormick

  23. Re John McCormick: I am very much aware of what we’re facing as a result of climate change. I’ve been active on this issue since the 1980s and I’ve read the latest from David Orr, Bill McKibben, et al. What I get from their latest review of the data is that our goose is cooked for the next 40 years at least, no matter what we do now. The time to have stopped this was probably the 1970s. We’ll have to deal with the effects, no matter what changes we can make now. At the same time, we must attack the causes, to save the farther future and life as we know it on this planet. Assuming it is not too late even for that.

    So it is not a matter of “dare we wait.” We’ve waited, and for reasons that far transcend the power of any possible president, there is no consensus in the world–let alone in this country–on what we must do to save the far future. I wish President Obama would focus more on the Climate Crisis. Let’s encourage him to do so. But no president is going to be able to wave a magic wand–or send up a team of astronauts to stop the asteroid–and make this all go away. It’s not going away. It’s coming. And I for one would rather have the intelligent, compassionate, capable President than any alternative I see out there, to make what changes he can, and to deal sensibly with whatever happens during his time in office.

  24. Omega Centauri says:

    I feel like I’m part of the problem. I argued strongly and I think successfully during the primary that the next administration would be during an extraordinarily difficult period. And he seemed to have the perfect leadership capability. Capability to lead the country through difficult times. Times when it would take some real powers of persuasion to convince the people of the proper path forward.

    Unfortunately, such leadership requires a kind of courage to confront one’s critics. Courage to confront that part of the country which is dead set against your chosen path. But instead we seem to have a terminal compromiser.

  25. Raul M. says:

    If I go out into the city and look at the
    homes and cars of citizens, hopefully I will
    see more than just the pollution.
    But even if I try to be “green” I could notice
    the vast numbers that pass me by.
    Some historians note that the Indians of the
    NE to live past the colonial invasions were the
    ones who just stood by and out of the way.
    There were valiant attempts to fight by others,
    but they knew that theirs was the peaceful path.
    Good luck in getting more people to take the non-
    violent lifestyle.
    Even if it is known that the pollution is violence
    to the the earth and oxygen breathing lifeforms.
    Seems the frustration and lack understanding will
    have the lasting say.

  26. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Captain Future at 23 –

    “and make this all go away. It’s not going away. It’s coming. And I for one would rather have the intelligent, compassionate, capable President than any alternative I see out there, to make what changes he can, and to deal sensibly with whatever happens during his time in office.”

    Your fatalism, alongside your apologia for the president, is astounding.

    Obama’s clinging to the inherited policy of brinkmanship with China, that precludes his support of even the most basic and essential programs within the US, let alone its delay of the requisite global treaty, is sentencing uncountable numbers to death by unprecedented future famines. And he is doing so merely for the ludicrous hope of getting “a better deal” from the US’ global rival.

    If he is to any notable extent “intelligent, compassionate and capable” then his actions have yet to demonstrate it.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  27. Raul M. says:

    Once the leader was drawn to the water’s edge
    to proclaim man’s powers he had the choice to
    proclaim what the locals knew or to proclaim
    a more lasting truth.
    Seems the hubris of mankind will prove to be
    that mankind if the highest life form of the
    Earth.
    Even given that others creatures don’t have
    the powers to destroy the Earth, they could
    claim that such powers aren’t needed for life.

  28. homunq says:

    @27 Raul M.: We’re not the first organisms to destroy the earth. The first photosynthesizers poisoned the earth’s atmosphere and caused mass extinction by creating oxygen. The earth will recover; even genus “homo” may have a future; but it’s not at all clear that homo sapiens doesn’t have some tough evolution coming up. Hopefully the new species will live up to the name we gave ourselves.

  29. Raul M. says:

    homung-
    many times in my life I’ve seen that there are others
    who have devoted great thought to developing a
    great body of knowledge.
    But if that body of knowledge can only be gained
    through the destruction of the world as it was
    known then we are only left with the unknown once
    again.
    Luckly knowing that I will only have unknown isn’t
    such a great shock as I wasn’t the savior anyway.

  30. Raul M. says:

    Speaking of savior- what a confusing
    topic as only time will tell and saving
    depends on actions.
    Saving the world- weird thought!
    2000 years ag0 cutting the forest might
    have been said to cause desertification.
    That the local resident would come back
    with fire in his eyes, having seen the
    heat. Duh do they get it yet?
    That it is transcendent knowledge of
    generational impact does not seem to
    have prevented it from happening in various
    parts of the world.
    One industry and a local impact.
    Yet the body of knowledge of the global
    impact of desertification has grown beyond
    just that the resulting products are enjoyed
    and paid for elsewhere.
    So many instances where the body of cause and
    effect has become more knowledge based.
    So we as a civilization may know what is going
    to destroy us. Nice to know. Time based nice to know.
    There is president.

  31. Magnus W says:

    Yes we can! … but should we?