Ringmaster


     “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
      Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born” – William Yeats.
     
     Fatalism is something I knew about from a general viewpoint but I never experienced in the personal way I do now.
     The Republicans are back to their old tricks, gumming up the works as best they can and doing nothing else. When you think about it, it is a party of saboteurs.
     And the money. On Tuesday, the stock market did another duck dive, and one analyst quoted in the Times said that if it dropped much further, “look out below.”
     That is where fatalism comes in, on both fronts, political and economic.
     When the Courthouse News stock account took a big hit last fall, I raged. Because I had warned our stock broker that I thought the bubble was about to burst. We lost something like 15%, not as bad as many others.
     But now, when it could all go to hell quite quickly, I am numb, just waiting to see how bad it gets. For some reason, the pain is gone.
     Same with Congress. Many of the faces have changed, but the noise coming from the Republicans is the same as it was 15 years ago when they brought Clinton to a standstill.
     I don’t think it will work. The Republican Party is so locked into its ideology that it can’t adapt. Like any species that can’t adapt, their numbers will dwindle.
     But I also believe there is a darn good chance they will water down or stymie the great efforts needed to arrest the downward slide of the economy and to take on the enormous social reform of health care and education in the United States. As saboteurs, they will do everything in their power to blow the train of reform off its tracks.
     Fatalism has not set in, however, when it comes to Obama.
     I was worried, that his “let’s all get along” type of rhetoric was a little too kumbaya for the current times, or any time.
     But just as FDR’s fireside chats were helpful to a worried nation sunk into the Great Depression, so Obama’s first press conference was quietly reassuring.
     At the time, I didn’t see any press coverage that put it that way.
     He got off to a shaky start, sounding a little nervous and long-winded on his first answer. But then he settled into the familiar Obama, aware of competing arguments and realities, competent if a bit wonky in discussing them, and, above all, thoughtful and calm. It was contagious.
     Then I saw the same reaction expressed today Tuesday in an Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert in the Times. He said Obama’s tone and demeanor during an hour-long plane ride back to Chicago was “a duplicate of his nationally televised press conference last week.”
     “He was relaxed and had complete command of a range of complex issues,” said the columnist. “He is intelligent, mature, thoughtful, calm in the face of crises and, if the nation is lucky, maybe even wise.”
     My take on Obama right now is somewhere in the vast land between enthusiasm and fatalism, between a kind of faith and a pretty strong lack of it, between the euphoria of election night and the foreboding that comes when an out-of-control, world-wide scourge is wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of millions of people.
     I continue to wish him well as most of the nation does. But there is a great storm out there that may be the better of any man or any nation.

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