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The State of the Union: Obama, Populism, and the Palin White House
by Dr. Gerry Coulter
2010-02-02 10:08:39
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Barack Obama’s State of the Union address shows us that he is already tired of Washington and one almost feels sorry that a man of his caliber will be forced to endure three more years of it. Perhaps now he is coming to realize why people of enormous intelligence have avoided the Presidency for the past half century and more. He is learning how difficult it is to lead Americans – “the last remaining primitive society” as Jean Baudrillard so devilishly characterized them (America, 1986:7). But leadership really is not Obama’s strong suit as he is showing us – at least not the kind of leadership that his supporters had hoped for.

Obama is the victim of the rules he lives by, as are we all, and in his case he finds himself in his unfortunate situation because he believes too much in politics. Last May I wrote in this publication that this belief, and his desire to spread it among Americans, was the source of his true corruption. What we have learned from his first year is that Obama also believes in big bankers, insurance company executives, the automotive industry, a pathetic version of government sponsored health care, and economists. He has shown a remarkable lack of faith in his fellow Americans after they elected him.

Let’s not fool ourselves about who Barack Obama is. He is a centre-right, medium-sized “C” conservative, who is made uncomfortable by gays, Hillary Clinton, and Americans who are not of the managerial class. He is, as are the most successful Democrats, basically a Republican with a first class education.

And now Obama is faced with a great crisis of faith among the very people who elected him, who believed in him, and placed their hopes in him. But from the very beginning there were signs of trouble. He passed on the opportunity to set in motion corrections to the banking regulatory system and to build these into his plan to save the banks. Today he is scrambling to catch up on this front seeking ways to tax the banks in order to recoup the billions they were given. American taxpayers – at best a difficult species to appease – are deeply unimpressed.

America’s biggest problem today is a growing social desperation on the part of the unemployed. Against unemployment Obama can summon little hope, less faith in government, no programs, no significant amount of money to throw at an urgent problem (which has been a hallmark of his style). A victim also of the economists he believes in, Obama is far more concerned with inflation and the deficit. And so this believer in the government’s ability to save big banks from their own greed and idiocy, loses faith in government to deal with the most pressing problem his country faces. As usual with Obama we get a lot of upbeat talk, accompanied by half measures, while five unemployed Americans compete for every one job that opens. His plan to reform heath care has been gutted, Gitmo isn’t closing, and the domestic job market is sliding towards a 1930’s retro look. Without a massive injection of deficit spending a second depression quite possibly looms.

This week Obama’s Republican side was in full view as he outlined a series of modest tax credits and subsidies aimed at helping middle class Americans pay for day care, student loans, and their retirements. All of this rode in on a fine old Republican warhorse, a deficit reduction plan. When so many of his countrymen needed the brave democrat they thought they had elected, Obama gave a state of the union address that would not have deeply troubled Ronald Regan. As many states teeter on the brink of financial collapse, Obama withdraws, and his advisors fret over an angry and growing populism. These populists already have his replacement lined up.

I wonder if the especially primitive branch of the American tribe which backs Sarah Palin for the White House is concerned with unemployment? My instincts tell me they are more worried about bogey-men. Surely those death squads looking for grandma in the new Socialist America must be lurking just over the state line? In any event, the right to bear arms is the most expedient way of dealing with any problems that might be caused by the unemployed (unless of course the more angry and desperate among the unemployed are armed). Americans do seem to love to shoot each other and they are better at it than anyone else in the Western world. Either way, the unemployed are on their own as Obama has already started planning his reelection campaign. Politics however, it seems always has a new messiah.
Palin’s biggest worry also got Obama’s attention this past week – Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Like Obama he is firing up his countrymen with hope and once again politics has someone to restore public faith in it. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times has already anointed Brown “the next one” (January 28). Brown is a man of the people, so he claims, and he drives a gas guzzling pick-up truck to prove it.

I do hope when Obama is done that Sarah Palin gets her chance at the Presidency. I think the tea baggers and all those paranoid republicans should get what they deserve – a President so profoundly dim-witted as to make George W. Bush anxious. I liked “W” and I miss him simply because of his ability to make politicians look so bad. And that is why I’ll be rooting for Sarah in 2012. Democrats, recoil in fear – a Palin-Brown Whitehouse is appearing on your political horizon. Imagine the coincidence – leadership that does not believe in government with an economic depression to deal with. Perhaps Obama has read the tea-leaves all those “tea-baggers” are stirring up. Maybe his move this week is the ultimate team play.

Personally, I doubt that Obama is that shrewd or unselfish – I think he is simply beginning a desperate attempt for a second term like any good politician would. If you were hoping for better things out of Obama you should have seen his belief in politics as a very troubling sign. But we should not fear Palin or Brown or Obama for we know from much experience that strong countries do not thrive because of politicians, but in spite of them. If the leaders of France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, and the USA (to name only 7), have a lesson for us over the past fifty years – it is this. No country on earth is set to test this thesis more vigorously than is the United States of America in the coming decade.

Dr. Gerry Coulter teaches at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-02-02 14:14:49
President Obama as a secret right leaning conservative Republican is certainly a new twist, given that he has been also accused of harboring secret Bolshevik sympathies and being a secret Moslem terrorist by the same Republicans of Palin’s ilk. Indeed, when one gets attacked on one’s right as well as on one’s left flank it may well mean that one is actually in the right place.

As for the late Bruillard’s comment that Americans are "the last remaining primitive society," one has to wonder if he had taken a hard look at European popular culture when he proffered such a gem of wisdom. Funny thing is that every time I go to Italy, which is quite often, I am invariably served to mindless statements on the superiority of European high culture (that of a few snobbish elitists) vis a vis generally inferior American popular culture. The paradox is this: while proffering anti-American slogans quite often the same people exhibit a mindless imitation of all that is worse in American culture in tandem with ignorance of what is best about it. Cleverness by half?

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-02 14:17:01
Errata: worst in American culture.

ap2010-02-02 20:45:04
Mr. Paparella did you read
'Dr. Gerry Coulter teaches in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada'?
Leave your traumEurope alone.

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-02 21:50:20
Ms. ap, had you read the article and my comment carefully before jumping on your horse sword in hand, you'd have noticed that Jean Baudrillard who is referred to by Dr. Coulter and in my comment was not a Canadian but a French intellectual. He, not Dr. Coulter profferred the proposterous comment in question often echoed not by Canadians but but by some effete Europeans with complexes of intellectual superiority vis a vis the "primitive" Americans... In any case, as already mentioned, to be attacked from the right and from the left at the same time may indeed mean that one is actually in the right place.

Livingston2010-02-04 00:44:58
Psparella is a good example of the underlying problem... those dopes hwo keep buying the hope. Also Mr Pap smear, if you had ever actually read Baudrillard (or if you prefer spelling it Bruillard) you would know that he was very harsh on Euro society, and his native France in particular. Unlike you JB tried to stand outside his culture and offer a perspective back on it. You are simply an idiotic victim. Good on you Dr. coulter -- you provided Paparella with somehting he cannot turn down, a chance to make himself look like an ill-read high school thinker.


Smith-Jones2010-02-04 00:46:31
Re Livingston,


Lorne Bogdon2010-02-04 01:29:42
Sounds more like a student "rant" rather than an intelligent teacher.!!!!

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-04 05:31:42
Indeed, birds of a feather invariably flock together...

Livingston2010-02-05 00:20:24
Yes teachers are normally dupes, yes? Pro system types, believers, "moral guides" -- from this point of view that Coulter chap seems a bit of a failure as a teacher. How'd he slip through their net? Ih yes, he's a university prof. How interesting, a prof with somethign to say that wasn't predictable...Paps, you are a grand ass.


Reginald K2010-02-05 00:24:09
Not so sure about the banal criticism Paparella and kind have heaped on this article.

This is a thoughtful piece by a guy who has published dozens of papers in various places (academic/ para academic / journalism)

I think if Paparella et al would like to begin looking less stupid they would engage with the idea Coulter lays out at the end -- it is a thought provoking point that many singificant countries are led by idiots and have been for some time. Maybe he is right, maybe countries do thrive despite politicans, not because of them. Now if Paparella et al are not idiots themselves, they will refute Coulter on this point.

Engage you dolts.


ap2010-02-05 00:26:24
Re earlier contributor

you aren't THE Lorne Bogdon
are you?

I thought you were dead...

Smith-Jones2010-02-05 00:30:00
Of course so long as Obama keeps booting the baseball he wil lcontinue to prove Coulter's point... Obama's the guy who can chellenge this thesis and i doubt he has much interest left in it. I agree with Coulter's take on the way people of high intelligence have avoided the office of US Presicdent for many years. Jimmy Carter was the only deeply intelligent and thoughtful person the US has elected since Ike. And they ra nJimmy out of town on a rail for a used up douche bag former actor who couldnt explain what a trillion is. Of course nancy, while not bright, did make a good President at the end of it.

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-05 06:33:01
Could it be one bird redivivus after all wearing different masks? All things are possible under the big circus tent of the internet! Not much courage or even integrity needed to clown in it. Fellini would have loved it, had he lived through it.

Reginald K2010-02-10 23:07:50
Well Paparella, I guess you just cant engage with thought.

Sorry to have called you out.


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