There is a scene in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, in which the hero learns that he has become vice president in charge of advertising without actually knowing anything about the field. He produces a slide show (the 60s equivalent of PowerPoint) in which he shows years of optimistic projections which result in the president of the company being on the cover of Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated. The presentation is a hit: no one seems to notice that, while describing the positive results of his plan, he has forgotten to actually provide one.
I thought of this scene while watching President Obama's speech, or the media deconstruction of it, last night. Obama described a world in which--undaunted by a collapsing economy, hemorrhaging stock market, and increasing outrage over his previous giveaways--he would proceed to address education, health care, energy independence, and assorted other problems as if none of this had happened. For good measure, he would also fix social security and reduce the budget deficit, without new taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000. In virtually none of these areas did he provide any specifics, or suggest how he would reconcile the contradictions between different goals.
Perhaps it was inevitable, but I must confess to taking an increasingly dim view of the Obama presidency. He was elected because people felt comfortable with his leadership in a time of crisis. But he, and his party, are using the crisis as an excuse for a politically motivated agenda that is actually making the crisis worse, and will have enormous impact when it is long forgotten. Essentially he is calling for the remodeling of the United States on a Western European model: higher taxes; Government domination of one after another field (health care, finance, the automotive industry); and the gradual renunciation of force other than as part of broad, multilateral coalitions. Europe is a nice place to live, and a lot of things (trains, cheese, museums) are better there than here. It is also universally regarded, even by its own people, as a place in slow if graceful decline. It is hard to believe that this is really what most Americans want of their country, and I think that reality will soon or later overtake him. The question is how much damage he will cause in the interim. The answer would appear to be, quite a bit.