By Camille Paglia
Feb. 11, 2009 |
Money by the barrelful, by the truckload. Mountains of money, heaped like gassy pyramids in the national dump. Scrounging packs of politicos, snapping, snarling and sending green bills flying sky-high as they root through the tangled mass with ragged claws. The stale hot air filled with cries of rage, the gnashing of teeth and dark prophecies of doom.
Yes, this grotesque scene, like a claustrophobic circle in Dante's "Inferno," was what the U.S. government has looked like for the past two weeks as it fights on over Barack Obama's stimulus package -- a mammoth, chaotic grab bag of treasures, toys and gimcracks. Could popular opinion of our feckless Congress sink any lower? You betcha!
Why in the cosmos would the new administration, smoothly sailing out of Obama's classy inauguration, repeat the embarrassing blunders of Bill Clinton's first term? By foolishly promising a complete overhaul of healthcare within 100 days (and by putting his secretive, ill-prepared wife in charge of it), Clinton made himself look naive and incompetent and set healthcare reform back for more than 15 years.
President Obama was ill-served by his advisors (shall we thump that checkered piñata, Rahm Emanuel?), who evidently did not help him to produce a strong, focused, coherent bill that he could have explained and defended to the nation before it was set upon by partisan wolves. To defer to the House of Representatives and let the bill be thrown together by cacophonous mob rule made the president seem passive and behind the curve.
Most mainstream American voters are undoubtedly suffering from economist fatigue these days. This one calls for tax cuts; that one condemns them. One says we're wasting hundreds of billions of dollars; the other claims that sum falls pathetically short. A plague on all their houses! Surely common sense would dictate that when Congress is doling out fat dollops of taxpayers' money, due time should be delegated for sober consideration and debate. The administration's coercive rush toward instant action, accompanied by apocalyptic pronouncements of imminent catastrophe, has put its own credibility on the line.
But aside from the stimulus muddle, Obama has been off to a good start. True, I was disappointed with the infestation of the new appointments list by Clinton retreads and slippery tax-dodgers. Nevertheless, I was very impressed by Obama's relaxed, natural authority with military officers on Inauguration Day, in contrast to the early Bill Clinton's palpable unease and exaggerated posturing. I applauded the signal Obama sent to the world by starting the closure of the Guantánamo detention center. Contrary to the rote claims of conservative talk radio, there is as yet no public evidence that every individual being held at Guantánamo is a proven "terrorist"-- whom we would all agree should be severely punished. That is the entire point of a rational process of indictment and trial. If Guantánamo became a symbol of un-American repression, it is the procrastinating, paralyzed Bush administration that should be blamed.
Speaking of talk radio (which I listen to constantly), I remain incredulous that any Democrat who professes liberal values would give a moment's thought to supporting a return of the Fairness Doctrine to muzzle conservative shows. (My latest manifesto on this subject appeared in my last column.) The failure of liberals to master the vibrant medium of talk radio remains puzzling. To reach the radio audience (whether the topic is sports, politics or car repair), a host must have populist instincts and use the robust common voice. Too many Democrats have become arrogant elitists, speaking down in snide, condescending tones toward tradition-minded middle Americans whom they stereotype as rubes and buffoons. But the bottom line is that government surveillance of the ideological content of talk radio is a shocking first step toward totalitarianism.
One of the nuggets I've gleaned from several radio sources is that Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who has been in the aggressive forefront of the campaign to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, is married to Tom Athans, who works extensively with left-wing radio organizations and was once the executive vice-president of Air America, the liberal radio syndicate that, despite massive publicity from major media, has failed miserably to win a national audience. Stabenow's outrageous conflict of interest has of course been largely ignored by the prestige press, which should have been demanding that she recuse herself from all political involvement with this issue.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Posted by No Apology at 11:00 PM