The Republicans wrapped up their convention in Tampa three weeks ago. It was an impressively successful exercise in alternate reality. Indeed, it often seemed like "Alice in Wonderland." Let me explain.
The beautiful Ann Romney as Alice; Clint Eastwood as an Albert Einstein-inspired Mad Hatter; former Massachusetts governor and GOP nominee Mitt Romney, with his incessantly cocked head and deceitful grin, as the Cheshire Cat; Paul Ryan, with his fictional Ayn Rand principles and his fact-check fails on Obama's views, proposals and policies, as the wonderland itself.
Mitt and Paul also divined, especially for the GOP Fantasy Convention, an alternate history of America's arrival there. The convention featured, courtesy of Mad Harry, a discussion with President Obama, who was “present” but not as an African American; but rather, as a color-less man, an apparition.
What a show it was! It underscores the dysfunctional political three-ring circus that is “modern” America. I think current day politics raise the steep hurdles America and indeed as collateral damage, the global community faces. What is at the core of this Wonderland, you ask? Well, it is the notion that President Obama is somehow an empty suit, or as Mad Harry illustrated in his circus like presentation, an empty seat at Mad Harry's Tea Party.
It is the notion that the President of the United States has been AWOL from day one. Despite probably being a nice guy, he is incompetent, in over his head and incapable. You know, that despite all the prayers, blessings and support of the GOP, Obama is failing America. Somehow, the President should just step aside, accept his fate, and let a real man take over. Or is it a real corporation? In the form of W. Mitt Romney & Co. Sure, Obama inherited a bit of a tough situation from that other guy whose name shall never again cross our lips in public. But hey; that was then, and this is now!
Well, let truth ring through the land! This situation America faces is like no other. Not even the Great Depression. While the Depression was economically worse, the 2008 meltdown and current long slow recovery is nearly as bad. It is I believe, actually worse in terms of the politics, the GOP war on all things Obama. Let's apply the salve of truth to heal the wounds, to climb back up and out of the Rabbit Hole, or Romney Hood, or whatever.... and restore America and the American Dream.....
The truth is that George W. Bush handed President Obama a colossal, intractable mess. It was borne of two fundamental things Bush did as president. First, he set America on her Titanic course. He fundamentally altered the U.S. budget situation – taking a yearly net income, that was steadily reducing America's debt, and turning it into a massive annual loss, and a massive yearly growth in borrowing (a.k.a. the National Debt). He did that in his first two years in office, and ramped it up in the next 6 years. He did it by altering both sides of the budget equation – he enacted huge tax cuts, and also large entitlement and war spending increases.
This Titanic course, or perhaps more a Titanic curse – was cast in stone by Bush and Congress. Politically, the challenge of reversing course is nearly impossible. It requires raising taxes or cutting spending on valued programs, and more likely both. The change needed is stymied by the new politics of filibustering and other obstructionist tactics by the minority against the majority – what I would call the anti-democracy.
The second thing Bush did is enable the engineering and installation of WMD in America's financial system. For example, he enabled NINJA , or no-income, no-job mortgages and loans. This enabled the construction and sale of millions of homes that could not be paid for - the housing bubble that went bust. And also the creation and sale of trillions of dollars of mortgage and loan packages that were seeded with these toxic NINJA mortgages and loans and their related derivatives.
These financial instruments were sold to banks worldwide, and the toxic impact thereby multiplied more than tenfold. The entire system was then polluted with the toxins, and no one could be sure which banks and countries might fail. And the WMD were duly set off just as Bush left office.
The impact, as we are painfully aware, was the ensuing near collapse of America's and, by extension, the developed world's, financial systems, along with George Bush's America-led global recession. Like the Titanic rapidly taking on water and listing, America lost jobs at a rate of some 750,000 each month!
And like the Titanic's iron hull colliding with the iceberg, the financial meltdown was especially damaging in a way that a typical business cycle recession is not. It was actually catastrophic. One of the main tools for dealing with a typical recession is the financial system. America's confidence and the restorative leverage available from this tool, was damaged, and nearly destroyed.
Yet, the TARP program and Obama's stimulus ended that dramatic death spiral in some 18 months. Unfortunately, this inflicted on America the painful loss of some 4 million jobs. And it robbed America of the principle tools needed for her recovery, such as a strong financial system and fiscal situation. If there is a president to fault, that absolutely is Bush' fault. We all know that.
In the following two years Obama plugged the gaping hole in America's hull. The stimulus, health care and other policies Obama has managed to get done have recovered the 4 million lost jobs. The ship is righted. Now, as President Obama has said that is hardly enough, and he is working to get much more done. I would say, given this full context, that it is hardly nothing, either. Obama deserves a chance to finish the reconstruction.
The incredible thing is that Obama has walked pretty much alone here – ironically, a bit like the characters from Clint's movies. Congressional leaders have failed him. Perhaps rather, they decided to be unhelpful in what they still think is a clever sort of way. The GOP's war on Obama is effective given the tyranny possible by minority party filibustering and other blocking maneuverings. The GOP; the Party of anti-democracy in America.
This is no hypothesis or fantasy; it is fact. GOP leaders are candid, vocal and clear about this war. They are on record. It is their intention to stop Obama and what that has meant is slowing or even stopping America's recovery. This, in hopes of – wait for it.... Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and others being able to say what they said in Wonderland Tampa. Somehow its all President Obama's fault. Mitt's speech was, more or less, written in December of 2008, together with the GOP game plan to make it so Obama couldn't build that recovery.
Its like the footprints in the sand...... you know, the parable, but paraphrased a bit. Looking back while walking together with Obama who was trying to work with them, Mitt and the GOP see only one set of footprints in the sand. They solemnly point to the footprints, knowing full well whose they are. And, they cry “Mr. President, you have failed us! You have not led! You left our side right in our time of need! You have forsaken us and are not capable of building this great nation!"
Yet, in truth, we know those are Obama's footprints. This whole time calmly carrying all Americans forward to a better future.....