Another in a sometime series of virtual, or imaginary, conversations with Barack Obama....
Thanks for yet another discussion, Mr. President. You're good to make yourself so available.
Glad to. But before we go to your questions, here's one from me: How am I doing?
Not so well, sir. You'll dismiss it as yet another negative comment from your critics, but since the first of the year you've done just one positive thing -- moving swiftly in the McChrystal flame-out and naming General Petraeus as his successor.
The McChrystal flame-out was inexplicable --
Indeed. Why say such things within earshot of a free-lancer with an agenda working for a magazine that got its start as a shill for rock bands?
-- And we can't afford to lose. This is, as I have said memorably, "the war that has to be won." On dealing with insurgencies, Petraeus wrote the book.
Yes, sir. Still, he needs to fix key aspects of the rules of engagement. But good job in bringing in General Petraeus. Let's get on with winning.
What's on your list of questions?
Most of them are why questions, sir, that flow from a genuine sense of incomprehensibility.
Such as: If it wasn't because of your obeisance to unionist demands for union personnel on U.S.-flagged ships, why have you taken nearly three months to accept foreign offers of help to clean up the oil from the undersea gusher?
Well, I -- the Bush administration -- as I have said, "I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck (the oil) up with a straw."
Sir, you led the way in ripping President Bush for incompetence and delay in the aftermath of Katrina. Yet within three days of Katrina, he waived laws (for instance, the Jones Act) and regulations that were hampering the federal response. Only now are you beginning to waive some of them. Why?
Well, I --
And then there's your incessant blaming of the Republicans. The Democrats hold strong majorities in both houses of Congress. You got ObamaCare through Congress with no Republican votes. So how is it the Republicans' fault when cap-and-trade bombs, and immigration reform can't get out of committee, and Barney Frank's and Chris Dodd's finance "reform" falls short of passage (if it does)? And, if you're not trying to pad the Hispanic vote, why wage litigious war against Arizona?
Well, I -- Republican chairman Michael Steele is a gift to the Democrats.
He certainly isn't helping Republican prospects. But his stupidities do not explain Democratic failures on your legislative priorities.
Well, at least you can't find anything to criticize in my foreign policy.
Sir, it is impossible to find anything to commend. Your "cheeseburger summit" with Russia's President Medvedev just blocks from an Arlington (Virginia) apartment rented by key members of a Russian deep-cover sleeper cell. Sending the indelicate vice-president to Iraq to inject himself into a highly delicate electoral situation. Antagonizing Israel -- our principal friend in the Middle East, and the only true democracy in a kakistocratic Islamic sea. Why do you do such things?
Government by the worst men, sir....And the inability of you and the esteemed secretary of state to get the Chinese to agree with us on anything -- even the North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship. Why? And then there's Iran.
I am doing everything anyone could do to explain to Iran that it should devote its developing nuclear capability to peaceful purposes. You should know by now that not only am I a proud progressive, I am a pacifist. It's hard for me even to think about war, let alone nuclear war.
Mr. President, with all due respect, Ahmadinejad and his Iranian ayatollahs hate America as much as they hate Israel. To them, we're all infidels -- and so are enemies of Islam to be rubbed out. They would enjoy their daily bread far more without us on the planet.
I am trying to engage them, to educate them. With enough time and diplomacy, I am confident --
Finally, sir -- what's up with you and your Democrats and the economy? Private hiring and non-farm payrolls have stalled; ditto even in the service sector. Housing starts and new-home sales remain in the tank. Consumers have the jitters. We may be looking at stagflation or a double-dip recession.
I place great stock in the fine economic mind of another Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman of Princeton and The New York Times. He thinks we need to ratchet up our spending. That's the same guidance I gave our global economic partners at the G8 and G20 conferences.
They rejected your "guidance," sir. And your man Krugman believes we are in the "early stages of a third Great Depression." If we are in those early stages, we arrived there by following precisely the high-spending policies he advocates. Just the other day, he wrote that here and around the world "the real problem is inadequate spending." Sir, it is to laugh.
I hope you're not laughing at the great Paul Krugman and the great me and our policies to spend and tax to get us out of this mess.
Sir, we have discussed here many seemingly unanswerable whys; there are countless others. The most pressing one among the many is why you and people like your mentor Krugman just don't get it. Or perhaps...perhaps you get it too well.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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