The Path to Obama-gate?

all-the-presidents-men-dvd-coverHaldeman, Erlichman, Meese, North, Rove and Cheney. None of these public servants joined the White House itching to become crooks and liars. They did so, because they ended up confusing their guy’s purpose with the National Purpose.

Are we in the early stages of witnessing another group of The President’s Men making the same mistake? I hope not. I get no pleasure out of sounding the warning bell. But better to be a premature scaremonger than a johnny-come-lately.

I know a little about political operatives losing their moral compass. I was an apparatchik for the British Conservative Party, back in the Seventies and Eighties.

We were in the process of winning four General Elections in a row – a feat unheard of in the 20th Century. We were riding high. And we young turks thought we were better than everyone else. We were Masters of the entire Universe.

There was nothing we couldn’t do. And we did it all. In the name of keeping Maggie and the Tories riding high, so that they and we could continue to save Great Britain, the World and most of the visible Galaxy.

All of the elements are there, in the folks staffing this current White House: a Great National Endeavor (the worst recession since the Great Depression – with Bush, it was 9/11; with Nixon, it was Vietnam; and so on).

People of furious intellect, drive and energy. Committed to their cause; committed to their man. Dedicated to solving every crisis. Believing they have the power to do so. And certain that there is no obstacle too great to overcome.

You get a few victories under your belt. The opposition is in disarray. The path is wide open for a huge agenda. And then, a couple of setbacks arise.

But, there’s no time or room for changes to the gameplan. So, you cut a few corners. You lay it heavy on opponents – matters not whether nominally they are from your Party or not. You boldly issue challenges, left, right and center.

Next thing you know, you’ve got Air Force One, flying over the Statue of Liberty, scaring the crap out of New Yorkers. All for a photo op, to make your guy look good.

You’re pissing off your liberals, because there’s no time any more to discuss their input on the agenda. You’re upsetting every element of the other side, even those inclined to support you, because it’s more fun to be macho than to be inclusive…

Any of this beginning to sound familiar?

So far, the only consequence is a few bruised ego’s and some press embarrassment. But if and when the unremitting need for victory becomes too great, that’s when the lines blur between simple bad judgment and outright criminality.

It’s really tough. It must be like a furnace in that White House at the moment. The nation and the world expecting miracles from a group of folks who are no more superhuman than you or me. I feel for them.

But this is nothing new. There are team members at the top who’ve been there before, and should be playing the role of Club House Leaders for the rookies. I ain’t seeing it.

What’s the answer?

You can’t make the challenges any the less daunting. You sure don’t want to dumb down the staff. What you need is a Club House Clown, or two.

Someone to prick the bubble. Someone to remind them all that, yes, they do hold the trust of 300 million Americans. But that’s the point. They hold that trust.

Their first priority, every day, should be to remind themselves not to break it. And also to remember that the only people expecting them to be superhuman are themselves.

Those close to POTUS knows that he has a tendency to be…um…grandiose on occasions. Michelle has said as much. She made it one of her jobs during the campaign just to tickle him from time to time, to break him up.

Valerie Jarrett and Michelle’s brother promised they would be forming a small group of close friends, with the task of forcing entry into the Oval Office, and keeping POTUS grounded.

Where are they now? Valerie, for sure, is about to be almost fully committed trying to win the Summer Olympics for Chicago. Not a good sign for sanity in the White House.

Rahm Emanuel is known, bless his heart, for regularly confusing his persona with that of Bradley Whitford in “The West Wing.” There’s a guy crying out for a good tickling!

But the knack is to be able to get into the White House. Already we are seeing a definite insularity surrounding the Oval Office. Look at the problems the President’s own National Security Adviser has had getting past the frat-boys at the gate.

I jest. But only half so. I’ve said it before. I’ll have another go. The issues facing this Administration are ones of such magnitude and complexity that it is unlikely the proffered solutions will see much effect before 2012.

When it comes time for re-election, Obama will be judged as much on the flavor of his Presidency as on any visible accomplishment. He has all the tools necessary to be fabulously successful in that regard.

I didn’t vote for him because of his policies. I took the view that whoever won the White House in 2008 was going to have to come up with pretty much the same responses to all of the challenges on the table.

I voted for him because he was the living embodiment of inspiration. A walking, talking beacon of hope, ready to implant a new spirit in all of us. I believe that still to be the case.

No real damage has been done. We have a great team. We are making the right macro-moves. All we need to do is find some way to keep our lads in the White House grounded. Help them to remind themselves that they are servants, never masters.

Humor is a good weapon. I try that – from time to time. But who the heck reads me?

If not me, then I hope they find some sort of effective safety valve. And quickly. I do not want to be reading the story of Obama-gate in ten years time.

Published in: on May 9, 2009 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment