"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Rahm Emanuel told a conference organized by The Wall Street Journal in November 2008.
A moxie sound bite in an exhilarating moment: Emanuel, and his election-winning candidate, Barack Obama, were still ascending, the passionate rhetorical rockets of hope and change only two mere months from empowering policies guaranteed to place America in a far superior global position, an in-sync-with-the-planet, non-confrontational orbit guided by "smart diplomacy," multilateral cooperation and Obama's own unique, enlightened personality.
Obama's thrilling campaign rhetoric, however, has proved to be a transitory opium of the masses, and time and events have revealed Emanuel's zest for the opportunity a crisis offers ambitious men to be nothing more than embarrassing, hubris-drenched immaturity.
Indeed, time and events have cruelly rephrased Emanuel's brash declaration. Crises -- serious international and domestic crises -- are wasting the Obama administration, eroding its political capital, and exposing its debilitating combination of inexperience and weakness.
Consider this list of major crises President Obama confronts -- and this is a list, not a rank order, for events within the next 24 hours, a North Korean nuke striking Seoul, for example, or a Greek default, could radically order any precedence:
1) The economy, 2) the Middle East, 3) Gulf of Mexico oil spill, 4) Korea on the brink, 5) Global War on Terror (GWOT), 6) illegal immigration and border security, 7) divisive domestic agenda (health care, taxes, cap and trade).
The crises, of course, interweave, wickedly. The economy involves tax policy, but also global relations, such as Chinese and Greek domestic fiscal policies, over which Washington exerts minimal control. The economy also involves energy markets, which links to Middle Eastern stability, and domestic production, which connects to the oil spill, which links back to the divisive domestic agenda's "green initiatives."
Obamites may object to GWOT, since the president ditched the GWOT in favor of "overseas contingency operation" (OCO). He insisted on his rhetorical frame. However, events like the Christmas terrorist, Maj. Hasan's Ft. Hood massacre and the Times Square terror attempt have exposed his verbal hocus pocus. Afghanistan, Iraq and Times Square are linked battlefields in a global war.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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