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What We Didn’t Learn at Obama’s Press Conference

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

It seemed like a different world altogether, with serious questions and serious answers. It was like a group of visitors, after having kitchie-kitchie-kooed with a baby brat for a brief while, now turning to talk to an adult who had just entered the room. Then it slowly struck you that this ‘brief while’ was eight long years! After the customary twaddle of the Bush press event, we were suddenly in on an adult conversation. It will take getting used to.

Obama’s press conference yesterday was masterful, right from the opening statement down to the last “Thank you all very much”. He was in complete command of his case, without ever appearing arrogant. On both counts it was the exact reverse of his predecessor. Obama’s intelligence is manifest. His correction of a questioner’s premise of domestic consumption being the cause of today’s financial meltdown carried a crisp exposition of what had happened. Whether or not you agreed with his explanation, you could not doubt that he understood it. And with it you got a glimpse into the new President’s mind, and its ability to construct, construe — and conjugate! Presidents could do this? It was rather like those reports you read, of a species long considered extinct, now suddenly found alive in some remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

With all that, the praise here is only for Obama’s manifest intelligence and powers of formulation; the Stimulus itself is a different matter. To me, it appears something like a homeowner getting ready to spend huge amounts of money on fixing up the floor of his house now entirely ruined by water. The argument now raging is over whether the floor should be allowed to dry out by itself, or whether we should borrow huge sums to fix it up.

Left out of the debate is any talk of the leaks in the ceiling — gaping holes many of them now — which is how the floor got to where it was. The flaws in this ceiling — outsourcing, offshoring, illegal immigration, free trade and sundry other Friedman’s Follies, will remain where they are, stimulus or no stimulus. The press conference skirted the issue of the previous stimulus (stimulii — don’t forget the first 150 billion last year[1]) not having worked and why the president thought this one would. But he attributed it to shortcomings in supervision and implementation, and nothing more.

The basic problem is this: you cannot sustain an economy by eviscerating your industries and services [2]. Yes, the fire does burn bright and hot as you hack away the ship’s woodwork and feed it to the engine, and the ship sure cuts swifter through the waves as a result. The original globalist — Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days — did exactly this. But Fogg cannibalized the ship knowingly, a temporary expediency to win a bet. It would be idiocy to make from its temporary burst of speed wondrous divinitions about the ship’s health. Fogg knew what he was doing. Friedman and his befogged ilk, on the other hand, thought this to be a permanent prescription for the promised land.

What does Obama think? This press conference did not bring forth the answer. Perhaps the next one will at least bring forth the question.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. He can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Some of his writings can be found at indogram.

[1] Dementia Politicana by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

[2] How the West Was Lost – CAFTA and the Disassembling of America by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

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/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

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