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Thursday, March 19, 2009

When will Obama succumb to the pressure and begin to Wag the Dog?

Conrad 'Connie' Brean: And it's most certainly NOT about the B-3 bomber.

John Levy: There IS no B-3 bomber.

Conrad 'Connie' Brean: I just said that! There is no B-3 bomber. I don't know how these rumors get started!

— Dialog from Wag the Dog (1997)

Through adroit triangulation, fierce stonewalling, the constant spin of the perpetual campaign, and other, related tactics, William Jefferson Clinton managed to bounce off of scandals and crises. He did so throughout his presidential campaign. He continued to do so throughout his first and much of his second term in office.

Barely two months into his first term, by contrast, Barack Obama has yet to even finish making subcabinet nominations to the single executive department (Treasury) most acutely critical to surviving his first major crisis ever. And Obama shows early signs of being coated not in presidential Teflon but in Velcro. If not for the fact that most of Obama's foreign policy blunders so far must be laid at the feet of the State Department, which is in turn presided over by Slick Willie's wife, then the Clintonista wing of the Democratic Party — the folks who don't take it for granted that Obama will be renominated in 2012 — would surely be crowing more overtly about how badly Barack Obama's first few weeks in office have compared to Bill Clinton's.

Presidents Clinton and Obama Obama has dispelled his mystical (and entirely unproven) aura of competence with breathtaking rapidity. I began my mental planning for this post by asking myself: "Self, of all the functions which the Constitution and our modern systems of government entrust to the POTUS, which ones do you still have even a modicum of confidence that Barack Obama is capable of performing? (As compared, say, to the modest but hopeful list which you, as a pretty skeptical conservative, would have constructed for him on his Inauguration Day?)"

Yes, Obama has proved this week that he's capable of reading aloud from a teleprompter, without faltering, not only his own speech but even the speech intended for the Irish Prime Minister.\*/ And he's proved that his adoring media are still so much in the bag for him that they'll cover that up for him. But of the medium- and up-sized potatoes on every POTUS' plate, which ones do I confidently still expect Barack Obama to be competent to handle?

I'm genuinely open to more suggestions in the comments. But I could only come up with one: I'm pretty sure he won't arbitrarily and suddenly launch a nuclear strike on Russia. And that's it. That exhausts my list of things I'm confident that Barack Obama won't screw up as POTUS, and I reserve the right to revise my opinion on that.


That abysmally short list led me to the further recollection and reflection, again comparing the current clown crew to the Clinton Administration:

Just like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton had utterly no experience for, and seemingly little interest in, his role as Commander in Chief at the start of his administration. Other than stepping on seemingly everyone's toes with the ham-handed policy that became "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and then systematically gutting military budgets, Bubba didn't actually exercise much authority in that capacity for a long time.

But after enough domestic Teflon had chipped away — and especially after Slick Willie's own magnificently tragic, tragically magnificent self-destructive instincts had left his DNA on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress — Clinton's previous scandal and crisis diversion strategies had lost most of their magic. And that's when Bill Clinton tried repeatedly to transform himself into a combination of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Captain America:

August 17, 1998:

After testifying to a grand jury, Slick Willie admits to national TV audience that he had engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky and that he had lied to the entire country about it.
August 20, 1998:

Commander-in-Chief Clinton announces Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise missile strikes on supposed al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan to retaliate for the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998
December 19, 1998:

After a nine-week Congressional inquiry, Slick Willie becomes the second POTUS in American history to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
December 16–19, 1998:

Commander-in-Chief Clinton launches Operation Desert Fox, a "major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets ... officially undertaken in response to Iraq's alleged failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions" and its "interference with United Nations Special Commission inspectors."
February 12, 1999:

The Comeback Kid is acquitted in the Senate.

April 12, 1999:

Slick Willie held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.
March 24, 1999,
to June 11, 1999:

Commander-in-Chief Clinton commences Operation Allied Force, the NATO bombing of Serbian forces to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

The entirely non-fictional technique documented in tabular form above had been postulated in a 1993 book by Larry Beinhart, American Hero, about fictionalized politicians' capitalization on the 1990-1991 Gulf War. But the book had then been updated by David Mamet and Hillary ("no, not that Hillary") Henkin into a brilliant Oscar-nominated screenplay — the outrageous but all-too-plausible story of a Clinton-inspired (albeit pre-Lewinsky) fictionalized POTUS with an out-of-control libido, and more specifically, the incredible efforts required of his staff to divert national attention from his resulting Oval Office sex scandal. Re-named Wag the Dog, the movie was directed by Barry Levinson. It was shot in 1997 and released on January 9, 1998 — only days before Matt Drudge first brought public attention to the Lewinsky scandal on January 17, 1998. The movie is accurately summarized (albeit with spoilers and no surplus of polish) in this imdb.com synopsis:

The movie starts with a scandal at the White House where The President is accused of fondling a young girl scout visiting the Oval Office just a few weeks before an election. Being the third party observers, we know the truth, he's guilty. Robert DeNiro plays "Conrad Brean" the spin doctor who's job it is to engineer a way and a means to divert the news of the scandal. He brings in Hollywood producer Stanley Motts played by Dustin Hoffman to create an artificial for television only war to distract the American public and let the President get on with the job at hand, protecting the free world.

We, like the American public, get caught up in the events of a fictional war produced in the basement of the White House with computers and blue screens, actors and scenarios. Soon they even release a mental patient who once served in the military because he has the right last name, "Shoe" to portray a war hero of the conflict. They release him because they have a show song from a nostalgic old tune that contains his name, a war tune now to drum up sympathy and national support for the war effort. It doesn't take ten minutes of the movie before we, like the cast of characters and the public in the movie have forgotten about the young girl in the oval office.

And in case you're wondering, UsingEnglish.com tells us this about the origin of the idiomatic movie title:

To "wag the dog" means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the [less]-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. The expression comes from the saying that "a dog is smarter than its tail," but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would "wag the dog."


So how long will it be before Obama can no longer resist the urge to put on a leather flight jacket and get some deck time aboard one of our magnificent aircraft carriers? Can they hurry up the sea trials on CVN 77 — the USS George H.W. Bush — so they can claim some more bipartisanship and be sure to have plenty of fiber optic bandwidth for the visuals and computer processing power for the CGI?

'Wag the Dog' movie poster With Clintonista eloquence, both the SecState and the White House Chief of Staff have been quoted recently as vowing never to let a good crisis go to waste. But it's only a half-step from there — and a damned familiar half-step, a slick sideways shuffle that Hillary Clinton could do in her sleep even on a bad hair day, without having to hit either the "reset" or "overcharge" button at Foggy Bottom — to manufacturing a crisis.

I would place a sizable bet that even now, Rahm Emmanuel has his minions out searching for a suitably-2009 version of Sergeant William "Good Old Shoe" Schumann (played by Woody Harrelson in 1997) and aspiring young actress Tracy Lime (played by Kirsten Dunst in 1997) to build his video footage around. Perhaps this time the guy will be a hard-boiled cop-turned-soldier — fighting overwhelming odds behind enemy lines after being shot down over the Netherland Antilles — just so he can capture and bring to justice those who stole his 401k and pension funds to use as as bonuses for AIG executives. This time, she'll be a ravished, ravishing mortgage foreclosee wandering the ruined, abandoned neighborhoods of her native Georgia — with suitable and studied ambiguity about whether it's the Eastern European or American-South one — whose desperately clutched bag of Tostitos can be CGI-enhanced into ... not a kitten this time, but a slightly cracked ol' piggy bank. And the HuffPo and Newsweek can run a joint online/print exposé revealing that all those nasty securitized mortgage derivatives were actually bundled and released on an unsuspecting world by — who else? — Dick Cheney's paramilitary brokerage agents, operating jointly out of Wall Street and super-secret Halliburton black ops bases in South Ossetia.

If they play this just right, this conflict will generate major "awards ceremonies buzz" from day one. I'm thinking the first ever joint presentation — probably to the POTUS himself — of a simultaneous Best Leading Man Oscar and a Congressional Medal of Honor, with tuxedoed and tap-dancing Barney Frank and Hugh Jackman presiding jointly over the ceremonies. Rahm — don't delay, baby, go ahead and get the Temple of Obama props back out of storage and book the L.A. Colosseum!


\*/UPDATE (Thu Mar 26 @ 9:05pm): Apparently the AP misreported the details of the teleprompter foul-up during the press conference with the Irish Prime Minister; in context, it appears that Obama was making a joke about the teleprompter operator's earlier substitution of his (Obama's) speech when Premier Brian Cohen had begun his remarks, rather than actually reading Cohen's speech. (H/t Instapundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 01:32 PM in Current Affairs, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink


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(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Mar 19, 2009 5:31:41 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Best Actor Oscar? That is so 1997. Remember The One already has won two Grammy awards for droning through his(?)books and producing audio versions that are his attempt to solve the national problem of insomnia...I prefer a remark Associate Justice Potter Stewart made shortly after Warren Burger was made Chief Justice. Stewart said, "Ocean liners have two captains, a real one, and a show one for the old ladies. We [the Supreme Court] have a show captain. All we need is a real captain." Yes, indeed.

So far as what The One can do well, I nominate him for politically correct ceremonial speeches and proclamations. The politically correct part is important: not for him putting wreaths on the Tomb of the Unknown Baby Killing Torturer, to the disgust of the New York TIMES. No, there are dozens of "holidays" and ceremonies where his dulcet tones can enrapture the ochlocrats that put him where he is today, while changing the habitual noise I make on contemplating The One (laughter) with a more restful one (snores.)

A little more seriously, recall that Billyboy did not do so well when he had a Democratic controlled Congress. He did decidedly better with a GOP controlled Congress, at least for a time. Perhaps The One needs something besides fall guys such as Chris Dodd. Or maybe not: Billyboy tasted defeat in his rise, notably being defeated for governor in 1980. It taught him something, not enough, but something. The One has no comparable defeat, desipte losing a federal congressional primary in 2000. Facing a GOP Congress would be the biggest test he has ever faced. Is he up to it? I doubt it, just as I doubt the reiterated claims that The One is a great speaker without a teleprompter, or really really smart. Cunning and ruthlessness is not the same as smart, let alone savvy. I reiterate: besides Harvard Law, what evidence is there for The One's high IQ? More and more, affirmative action, not IQ, seems the answer to that.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Mar 19, 2009 10:19:08 PM | Permalink

With every succeeding mistake made by BO I am reminded of his campaign's disparagement of Sarah Palin as the mayor of a small town.

How much would Obama profit from having administered even the very smallest township in the lower forty-eight? And while he stacks error upon error, he and Congress distract the public by playing up the horror ( the HORROR!) of AIG using one tenth of one percent of its bailout to pay bonuses.

A single movie won't do the trick. When the passage of time brings perspective into play, the history of the early Obama administration will require an epic of Starwars proportions to mask the incompetence.

(3) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Mar 19, 2009 10:22:44 PM | Permalink

As I see it, this joke has not achieved sufficient currency.

What's the difference between Barack Obama and Jesus?
Ans: Jesus knew how to assemble a cabinet.

(4) Allan Yackey made the following comment | Mar 20, 2009 5:05:01 PM | Permalink

Welcome back. I had stopped checking in. The incompetence on display with "The One" is breathtaking.

My comment when he thanked himself for inviting the guests, was "We are so screwed!"

(5) Jennifer Parfenovics made the following comment | Mar 21, 2009 6:46:11 AM | Permalink

This is an excellent article explaining the distinction between embryonic stem cells and ethically derived non embryonic stem cells. Obama is incredibly ignorant and spins such lies.
"Many have argued that the extra embryos in fertility clinics, left over from fertility treatments, are headed for the trash anyway, so if they are going to be killed in any case, it is better to derive some benefit from them. But those are not the only possible destinations for the extra embryos. Agencies like Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program arrange for these embryos to be adopted by infertile people who will have them implanted. Already, babies have been adopted in this way (see some of them on the Snowflakes web site), and their very existence is a reminder that every embryo is already a baby; not simply ‘potential’ life, but life in limbo. Former president George W. Bush said, “Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts. They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals."

(6) HasItBeen4YearsYet? made the following comment | Mar 22, 2009 4:13:25 AM | Permalink

I don't know. Are you sure he's smart enough to not attack Russia? I'm not. He probably thinks it's a suburb of Toronto, and everyone knows those Canadians are pansies.

Oh, great. I just had a horrible thought. We launch an attack on Russia, and five minutes later we hear that Toronto has been destroyed in a nuclear attack. Hey, he probably really IS that dumb.

(7) Paul_In_Houston made the following comment | Mar 24, 2009 11:27:30 AM | Permalink

More news to make your day...

House Passes Hitler Youth Bill

He told us he was going to do this.
It's hardly HIS fault if no one listened.


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