Posts Tagged ‘politics’
By Dell’s Bottom Line
The Vietnam War may have affected the United States in a way that is just now rearing its ugly head – the perpetual student.
I don’t know of any war that can be classified as “popular”, but the war in Vietnam was certainly one of our most “unpopular”, triggering a long list of events including massive antiwar demonstrations, civil disobedience, an expanded drug culture, a free sex atmosphere from the “make love, not war” crowd, just to name a few.
At the age of 19, I had graduated from high school (almost 50 years ago!), had worked a full 40 hour week job for over two years, was married and had one child! I also enlisted in the Army because that’s what every male in my family had done for generation after generation. Even though I was prepared to go to Vietnam, the military had a pecking order in place and single men got combat orders before married soldiers with dependents.
We saw several thousand draft dodgers run for the border to escape being drafted into the military and we also saw one other, very important change that I’ve called the perpetual student.
Military draft deferments were issued for a wide variety of things, chief among them being physical impairments that made training and military service extremely difficult, if not impossible. Everyone knew what it meant to be 4-F – the classification for physically impaired draft-age men. (Women were not drafted)
Probably the second most popular deferment sought by those who wished to avoid being drafted was the student deferment, and that’s the category I believe had a significant impact on the political complexion of the United States.
Normally, 12 years of high school led to two or four years of college and then it was on to the private sector, starting and raising a family and a job to support that family. You registered for the draft on your 18th birthday, but didn’t have to be worried because you were still in college and were assigned a student deferment. As the war raged on, that formula changed. College students completed their normal course of studies and then enrolled in graduate programs and – for many – simply stayed there until the war was over! Some were in their 30s, still living at home or in a VW microbus, and there really wasn’t much to do except party down.
Following the Grateful Dead from concert to concert was, for many, a profession. Staying stoned on drugs made it all easier to accomplish. American heros to this crowd included Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Robert Hunter,Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Brent Mydland, Donna Godchaux, Vince Welnick, Keith Godchaux, Tom Bruce Hornsby and Tom Constanten. And, of course, Timothy Leary, who exhorted his followers to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” while under the influence of LSD.
The war eventually ended, but the perpetual student remained…and does so to this day.
While many thousands of young men and women followed the “normal” path to adulthood – complete with the responsibilities directly associated with starting and raising a family, establishing themselves in a career field and generally prepared themselves to become productive members of society, the perpetual student stayed in a state of limbo – seemingly not giving a damn what the rest of the world was doing, so long as it didn’t involve them having to work or take any responsibility for their own actions. They had avoided the war and that was all that was important. Life was good; why change a thing?
Of course there was that little matter of paying what most of us considered our fair share for police, fire, rescue, schools, roads, infrastructure, etc. We had jobs and, therefor, paid taxes. If the perpetual student had a paying job it was all under the table, with no weekly paycheck deductions and certainly no ugly tax returns to file every April 15th. They were certainly taking everything and not paying for anything, and the more they received “free” from the government the better.
Most of those people simply never grew up. They continued living off of others and found that to be a lucrative lifestyle. They take responsibility for nothing and never will. “Hey! If someone’s going to give you everything, why work for anything?”
Today, they’re running the country and advancing dependency on government(s) to give them every single thing they feel they need, because it’s a right – somehow woven into the Constitution – probably hidden in the “”Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” clause of the Declaration of Independence.
By way of example; it was not all that long ago when unemployment checks were paid out up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Today, unemployment recipients cash those checks for 99 weeks. There’s even talk inside the Beltway of extending UC “benefits” longer still.
There’s a name for that lifestyle and governance – socialism – and socialism only works as long as you don’t run out of other people’s money. Call it class warfare, if you will – the haves providing for the have nots. Redistribution of wealth, whereby those who take responsibility and earn what they have are forced by their government to give what they have to those who refuse to earn it for themselves.
We aren’t heading in that direction, we’re there now.
61 million Americans just went to the polls and approved of turning the United States into a socialist state – even after seeing just what such a government could do to destroy a country in very short order over the preceding four years.
A travesty of the highest order; especially when such notable leaders of the former Soviet Union publicly question the intelligence of U.S. voters and suggest that Barack Obama will destroy the United States.
And when the United States goes down, most of the free world will go down with it. So very much of the world economy is based on the U.S. dollar that an economic collapse here would have an immediate, profound effect in most of the rest of the world. You can even measure that effect by watching the stock market. Whenever the U.S. stock markets go down, the markets in the rest of the world drop also.
The Woodstock generation of 1969 has taken over.
Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors. The reason he gave to The New York Times was that he had found it difficult to invest given the impossibility of predicting the European situation. He was quoted as saying, “The political involvement is so extreme — we have not seen this since the postwar era. What they are doing is trying to thwart natural market outcomes. It is amazing how important the decision-making of one person, Angela Merkel, has become to world markets.”
The purpose of hedge funds is to make money, and what Bacon essentially said was that it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market. Therefore, prudent investment becomes impossible. Hedge funds have become critical to global capital allocation because their actions influence other important actors, and their unwillingness to invest and trade has significant implications for capital availability. If others follow Moore Capital’s lead, as they will, there will be greater difficulty in raising the capital needed to address the problem of Europe.
But more interesting is the reasoning. In Bacon’s remarks, there is the idea that political decisions are unpredictable, or less predictable than economic decisions. Instead of seeing German Chancellor Merkel as a prisoner of non-market forces that constrain her actions, conventional investors seem to feel that Europe is now subject to Merkel’s whims. I would argue that political decisions are predictable and that Merkel is not making decisions as much as reflecting the impersonal forces that drive her. If you understand those impersonal forces, it is possible to predict political behaviors, as you can market behaviors. Neither is an exact science, but properly done, neither is impossible.
In order to do this, you must begin with two insights. The first is that politics and the markets always interact. The very foundation of the market — the limited liability corporation — is political. What many take as natural is actually a political contrivance that allows investors to limit their liability. The manner in which liability is limited is a legal issue, not a market issue, and is designed by politicians. The structure of risk in modern society revolves around the corporation, and the corporation is an artifice of politics along with risk. There is nothing natural about a nation’s corporate laws, and it is those corporate laws that define the markets.
There are times when politics leave such laws unchanged and times when politics intrude. The last generation has been a unique time in which the prosperity of the markets allowed the legal structure to remain generally unchanged. After 2008, that stability was no longer possible. But active political involvement in the markets is actually the norm, not the exception. Contemporary investors have taken a dramatic exception — the last generation — and lacking a historical sense have mistaken it for the norm. This explains the inability of contemporary investors to cope with things that prior generations constantly faced.
The second insight is the recognition that thinkers such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, understood this perfectly. They never used the term “economics” by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy. The term “economy” didn’t stand by itself until the 1880s when a group called the Marginalists sought to mathematize economics and cast it free from politics as a stand-alone social science discipline. The quantification of economics and finance led to a belief — never held by men like Smith — that there was an independent sphere of economics where politics didn’t intrude and that mathematics allowed markets to be predictable, if only politics wouldn’t interfere.
Given that politics and economics could never be separated, the mathematics were never quite as predictive as one would have thought. The hyper-quantification of market analysis, oblivious to overriding political considerations, exacerbated market swings. Economists and financiers focused on the numbers instead of the political consequences of the numbers and the political redefinitions of the rules of corporate actors, which the political system had invented in the first place.
The world is not unpredictable, and neither is Europe nor Germany. The matter at hand is neither what politicians say they want to do nor what they secretly wish to do. Indeed, it is not in understanding what they will do. Rather, the key to predicting the political process is understanding constraints — the things they can’t do. Investors’ view that markets are made unpredictable by politics misses two points. First, there has not been a market independent of politics since the corporation was invented. Second, politics and economics are both human endeavors, and both therefore have a degree of predictability.
The European Union was created for political reasons. Economic considerations were a means to an end, and that end was to stop the wars that had torn Europe apart in the first half of the 20th century. The key was linking Germany and France in an unbreakable alliance based on the promise of economic prosperity. Anyone who doesn’t understand the political origins of the European Union and focuses only on its economic intent fails to understand how it works and can be taken by surprise by the actions of its politicians.
Postwar Europe evolved with Germany resuming its prewar role as a massive exporting power. For the Germans, the early versions of European unification became the foundation to the solution of the German problem, which was that Germany’s productive capacity outstripped its ability to consume. Germany had to export in order to sustain its economy, and any barriers to free trade threatened German interests. The creation of a free trade zone in Europe was the fundamental imperative, and the more nations that free trade zone encompassed, the more markets were available to Germany. Therefore, Germany was aggressive in expanding the free trade zone.
Germany was also a great supporter of Europewide standards in areas such as employment policy, environmental policy and so on. These policies protect larger German companies, which are able to absorb the costs, from entrepreneurial competition from the rest of Europe. Raising the cost of entry into the marketplace was an important part of Germany’s strategy.
Finally, Germany was a champion of the euro, a single currency controlled by a single bank over which Germany had influence in proportion to its importance. The single currency, with its focus on avoiding inflation, protected German creditors against European countries inflating their way out of debt. The debt was denominated in euros, the European Central Bank controlled the value of the euro, and European countries inside and outside the eurozone were trapped in this monetary policy.
So long as there was prosperity, the underlying problems of the system were hidden. But the 2008 crisis revealed the problems. First, most European countries had significant negative balances of trade with Germany. Second, European monetary policy focused on protecting the interests of Germany and, to a lesser extent, France. The regulatory regime created systemic rigidity, which protected existing large corporations.
Merkel’s policy under these circumstances was imposed on her by reality. Germany was utterly dependent on its exports, and its exports in Europe were critical. She had to make certain that the free trade zone remained intact. Secondarily, she had to minimize the cost to Germany of stabilizing the system by shifting it onto other countries. She also had to convince her countrymen that the crisis was due to profligate Southern Europeans and that she would not permit them to take advantage of Germans. The truth was that the crisis was caused by Germany’s using the trading system to flood markets with its goods, its limiting competition through regulations, and that for every euro carelessly borrowed, a euro was carelessly lent. Like a good politician, Merkel created the myth of the crafty Greek fooling the trusting Deutsche Bank examiner.
The rhetoric notwithstanding, Merkel’s decision-making was clear. First, under no circumstances could she permit any country to leave the free trade zone of the European Union. Once that began she could not predict where it would end, save that it might end in German catastrophe. Second, for economic and political reasons she had to be as aggressive as possible with defaulting borrowers. But she could never be so aggressive as to cause them to decide that default and withdrawal made more sense than remaining in the system.
Merkel was not making decisions; she was acting out a script that had been written into the structure of the European Union and the German economy. Merkel would create crises that would shore up her domestic position, posture for the best conceivable deal without forcing withdrawal, and in the end either craft a deal that was not enforced or simply capitulate, putting the problem off until the next meeting of whatever group.
In the end, the Germans would have to absorb the cost of the crisis. Merkel, of course, knew that. She attempted to extract a new European structure in return for Germany’s inevitable capitulation to Europe. Merkel understood that Europe, and one of the foundations of European prosperity, was cracking. Her solution was to propose a new structure in which European countries accepted Brussels’ oversight of their domestic budgets as part of a systemic solution by the Germans. Some countries outright rejected this proposal, while others agreed, knowing it would never be implemented. Merkel’s attempt to recoup by creating an even more powerful European apparatus was bound to fail for two reasons. First and most important, giving up sovereignty is not something nations do easily — especially not European nations and not to what was effectively a German structure. Second, the rest of Europe knew that it didn’t have to give in because in the end Germany would either underwrite the solution (by far the most likely outcome) or the free trade zone would shatter.
If we understand the obvious, then Merkel’s actions were completely understandable. Germany needed the European Union more than any other country because of its trade dependency. Germany could not allow the union to devolve into disconnected nations. Therefore, Germany would constantly bluff and back off. The entire Greek drama was the exemplar of this. It was Merkel who was trapped and, being trapped, she was predictable.
The euro question was interesting because it intersected the banking system. But in focusing on the euro, investors failed to understand that it was a secondary issue. The European Union was a political institution and European unity came first. The lenders were far more concerned about the fate of their loans than the borrowers were. And whatever the shadow play of the European Central Bank, they would wind up doing the least they could do to avert default — but they would avert default. The euro might have been what investors traded, but it was not what the game was about. The game was about the free trade zone and Franco-German unity. Merkel was not making decisions based on the euro, but on other more pressing considerations.
The investors’ problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return. I saw it as a freakish period that could survive only until the next major financial crisis — and there always is one. While the unusual period was under way, political and trade issues subsided under the balm of prosperity. During that time, the internal cycles and shifts of the European financial system operated with minimal external turbulence, and for those schooled in profiting from these financial eddies, it was a good time to trade.
Once the 2008 crisis hit external factors that were always there but quiescent became more overt. The internal workings of the financial system became dependent on external forces. We were in the world of political economy, and the political became like a tidal wave, making the trading cycles and opportunities that traders depended on since 1991 irrelevant. And so, having lost money in 2008, they could never find their footing again. They now lived in a world where Merkel was more important than a sharp trader.
Actually, Merkel was not more important than the trader. They were both trapped within constraints about which they could do nothing. But if those constraints were understood, Merkel’s behavior could be predicted. The real problem for the hedge funds was not that they didn’t understand what they were doing, but the manner in which they had traded in the past simply no longer worked. Even understanding and predicting what political leaders will do is of no value if you insist on a trading model built for a world that no longer exists.
What is called high velocity trading, constantly trading on the infinitesimal movements of a calm but predictable environment, doesn’t work during a political tidal wave. And investors of the last generation do not know how to trade in a tidal wave. When we recall the two world wars and the Cold War, we see that this was the norm for the century and that fortunes were made. But the latest generation of investors wants to control risk rather than take advantage of new realities.
However we feel about the performance of the financial community since 2007, there must be a system of capital allocation. That can be operated by the state, but there is empirical evidence that the state isn’t very good at making investment decisions. But then, the performance of the financial community has been equally unacceptable, with more than its share of mendacity to boot. The argument for private capital allocation may be theoretically powerful, but the fact is that the empirical validation of the private model hasn’t been there for several years.
A strong argument can be made — corruption and stupidity aside — that the real problem has been a failure of imagination. We have re-entered an era in which political factors will dominate economic decisions. This has been the norm for a very long time, and traders who wait for the old era to return will be disappointed. Politics can be predicted if you understand the constraints under which a politician such as Merkel acts and don’t believe that it is simply random decisions. But to do that, you have to return to Adam Smith and recall the title of his greatest work, The Wealth of Nations. Note that Smith was writing about nations, about politics and economics — about political economy.
Read more: Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality | Stratfor
Yesterday in a panel on the “Future of Europe” at a conference organized by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Soros said:
The Euro has really broken down. It has sprung defects, some of which could have been anticipated and some were anticipated. But some actually couldn’t. Effectively, heavily indebted countries [in Europe] have ended up in the position of a third world country that is heavily indebted in a foreign currency. And that is only one of the unanticipated results of how things worked out [with the Euro].
Soros went on to say that Europe is simultaneously suffering from a Euro Crisis, a sovereign debt crisis, a balance of payments crisis, a banking crisis, a competitiveness crisis and suffering from other serious structural defects.
Bottom line. Soros thinks Europe is over unless Germany immediately changes course and develops a policy framework that is far more flexible and pragmatic than it is forcing now.
Speak now or forever be a slave to Islam. via Criticism of Islam Could Soon be a Crime in America » Publications » Family Security Matters.
When President Obama delivered his much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world at Cairo University in June 2009, the free world trembled while the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) gushed with praise and begged for a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The OIC is the largest head of state organization in the world after the United Nations (UN) itself and comprises 56 Muslim countries plus the Palestinians. Itclaims to be the “collective voice of the Muslim world,” i.e., the ummah, and speaks on its behalf in effect as the seat of the next Islamic Caliphate. In 1990, the OIC membership adopted the “Cairo Declaration ,” which officially exempted all Muslim countries from compliance with the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and replaced it with Islamic law (shariah).
One of the fundamental laws of Islam deals with “slander ,” which is defined in shariah as saying “anything concerning a person [a Muslim] that he would dislike.” At the OIC’s Third Extraordinary Session, held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in December 2005, the organization adopted a “Ten-Year Programme of Action to Meet the Challenges Facing the Muslim Ummah in the 21st Century.” A keyagenda item of that meeting was “the need to counter Islamophobia” by seeking to have the UN “…adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.” The word “Islamophobia” is a completely invented word, coined by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) front group. OIC adoption of the term reflects the close operational relationship between the OIC and the Ikhwan.
Six years later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to host OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Washington, DC in mid-December 2011 to discuss how the United States can implement the OIC agenda to criminalize criticism of Islam. Cloaked in the sanctimonious language of “Resolution 16/18,” that was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in April 2011, the WDC three-day experts meeting is billed as a working session to discuss legal mechanisms to combat religious discrimination (but the only religion the Human Rights Council has ever mentioned in any previous resolution is Islam). The UN Human Rights Council, which includes such bastions of human rights as China, Cuba, Libya, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, introduced Resolution 16/18 to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where it was passed in March 2011.
The Resolution was presented to the UNGA by Pakistan (where women get the death penalty for being raped and “blasphemy” against Islam is punished by death). Ostensibly about “combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and…incitement to violence against persons based on religion or belief,” the only partnership mentioned in the text is the one with the OIC. The U.S., whose official envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, helped write Obama’s Cairo speech, actively collaborated in the drafting of Resolution 16/18.
Now, the OIC’s Ihsanoglu will come to Washington, DC, the capital of one of the only countries in the world with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and a judicial system that consistently defends it, with a publicized agenda to criminalize criticism of Islam. His agenda, and, apparently that of his host, the U.S. Department of State, seek to bring the U.S. into full compliance with Islamic law on slander, as noted above.
Read it all and Contact Your Elected Officials – NOW!
Afghanistan drawdown risky, US joint chiefs head says
The top US military officer has said President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is “more aggressive” than he had advised.
Adm Mike Mullen said leaving troops in place was “the safer course”, but added he supported the president’s decision.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mr Obama had kept a pledge to begin withdrawals by July 2011.
On Wednesday Mr Obama announced the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the move, but the Taliban dismissed it as “symbolic” and vowed to continue fighting until all foreign forces left.
In a series of interviews and congressional hearings on Thursday, senior US officials lent their support to Mr Obama’s decision to remove about one-third of the US troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that the president had taken account of waning domestic political support when making the decision, AFP news agency reported.
Meanwhile, President Obama visited Fort Drum military base in New York state on Thursday, where he reiterated the messages conveyed in his speech on Wednesday evening.
The newly announced US reductions are larger and faster than military commanders had advised.
At a House of Representatives committee hearing, Adm Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said Mr Obama’s decisions were “more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept”.
“More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course. But that does not necessarily make it the best course,” he said.
“Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take.”
Mr Mullen told lawmakers Mr Obama considered the views of senior military officials, and said the drawdown would not jeopardise the effort to quash the insurgency.
President Obama’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, General David Petraeus, echoed Mr Mullen’s remarks on Thursday, while testifying on his nomination before members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended,” Mr Petraeus said, adding that he would stand by the president while he remained commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Separately, in a Senate committee hearing, Mrs Clinton said the 10-year-old US military effort in Afghanistan had “broken the Taliban’s momentum”.
“We do begin this drawdown from a position of strength,” she said.
At least 68,000 US troops will remain in the country after the 33,000 have been withdrawn, but they are scheduled to leave by 2013, provided that Afghan forces are ready to take over security.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Mr Obama, vigorously opposed the troop withdrawal in a speech on the Senate floor.
US troops in Afghanistan
- Dec 2004: 19,200
- Dec 2005: 22,400
- Dec 2006: 22,200
- Dec 2007: 25,700
- Dec 2008: 31,400
- Dec 2009: 71,000
- Dec 2010: 103,700
- March 2011: 111,000
Source: US defence department
He said Mr Obama had opted to deny military commanders in Afghanistan the capability finally to defeat “a battered and broken enemy”.
“I’m very concerned that the president’s decision poses an unnecessary risk to the progress we’ve made thus far, to our mission, and to our men and women in uniform,” he said. “Our troops are not exhausted, they are excited that after 10 years” they are finally approaching victory.
Correspondents say the enormous cost of the deployment – currently more than $2bn (£1.25bn) a week – has attracted criticism from congressional leaders, while the public is weary of a war that seems to have no end and has left at least 1,500 personnel dead and 12,000 wounded.
There have also been changes on the ground, notably the killing in May of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan.
On Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy followed Mr Obama’s lead by announcing the phased withdrawal of 4,000 French soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
President Obama is…well now I guess that’s just it, isn’t it? We don’t know. He is so incompetent…so wrapped up in this image that was created around him, and now so over his head…Obama is dangerous. Dangerous to America. Dangerous to the world. Dangerous to our futures. He is not running this show. Maybe that’s for the better – who knows? Maybe he is so incapable that if he really was in charge it might be even worse?
I tell you what – if you don’t mind my suggestion here. Let me just talk for a bit. Let me just let some things out. I might ramble a bit, but if you’re ok with that – we can clean it up later…just let me talk. All due respect for your wanting to ask certain questions, but…at this point I want to say some things in my own way if you don’t mind. You ok with that?
(Long pause – then laughs) Ah…looks like I don’t quite know how to start. My own idea and I haven’t a clue where to begin.
Maybe tell me when you first started to realize something was wrong with Obama. When you realized electing him was a mistake. We covered some of that already before, but now you can just talk about it. I won’t interrupt – you just say what you want to say and go from there.
(Hands cover face, followed by a deep sigh) Yeah…I guess that would work. Remember when I told you about the First Lady’s racist comment? The redneck thing? Yeah – you do. Ok…I thought about quitting the campaign then. That episode really…it really – I was pissed over it. But then I ignored it. Buried it away. Now why did I do that? What she said, her attitude, was so disrespectful to that man, to his family – why did I just decide to ignore it and move on with the campaign? I’ve asked myself that many times. I was weak. I was…I wanted so bad to be a part of a winning campaign again. And I had already been told I would have a chance to get back inside the White House – if just a little bit. I hadn’t done that for some time and I missed it. I know some of your readers, maybe even you do too…think of me as just another Democrat. Look, I’m proud to say I’m a Democrat. We have some wonderful, brilliant people in the party. And I love this country… sorry if that sounds like a stupid cliché. And yeah, I love politics. I love the action, the give and take, and I guess the power. I love that too. Being near that kind of power. So I let it go. What the First Lady said – I let it go. I stayed on because I wanted back in. I sold out. I wanted to be a part of something really big, and in 2008, nothing was bigger than the Obama campaign. Nothing.
Well, that doesn’t really have anything to do with my realizing Obama was off – that he wasn’t what we thought he was. But it does give a reference point for my frame of mind. I stayed on, but that situation – the racism, the disrespect I saw by the First Lady, it stayed with me, so that when I did get a chance to go back to the White House during the transitioning, maybe my eyes were a bit more open to the truth than some others around me. I had already been disappointed you see. Some doubt had already started to grow about these people.
(Pauses) …So, jump ahead a bit. I had been in and out of the White House a few times by then, it was very busy. A ton of people coming and going as is always the case during the transition. That is when I started to realize that it didn’t feel like the “Obama White House”. There was no real…not sure how to really explain this – but there was no real sense of Obama. Here was this guy who I saw give these incredible speeches. He looked huge on that stage. He looked invincible. He looked like a president. While in the White House, I never saw him or hardly heard of him for weeks. He was a ghost. Anything needed to be cleared, you spoke with people you never heard of before. Who were these people? Even early on in 2009 Rahm’s position as Chief of Staff was being challenged by Jarrett, with Axelrod trying to keep the peace between the two. She didn’t trust Rahm immediately – he was of the Clintons, and that was never to be trusted – but keep him close right? Keep your enemies closer right? Very Machiavellian – that was Jarrett’s White House even as early as then. Keep your head down and don’t make a fuss. And watch your back. Everyone was uncertain. The president was absent. He literally was not there. Where was he? Nobody knew – or nobody was saying. The big decisions – those all went through Jarrett. All of them. The First Lady was more visible around the West Wing than the newly elected President of the United States. It was…odd.
And then, finally, I was to be part of a meeting that Obama was going to attend. We were told he would be stopping by. I never spoke directly about this to you before – or if I did, we must have edited it out. I don’t recall now. But finally I was going to be in the room with this man I had helped to elect. The president arrived about 20 minutes late. I say that only as a matter of truth to counter the media’s spin that Obama runs a very tight ship – that he is always on time. At least that is what they were spinning back then. Not so much anymore. But back then that was how Obama was being presented by the media to the America people – a guy who was in total control. Hell, based on what I had seen of him giving those speeches, I fully expected to see that kind of person – that kind of president.
That’s not what I got.
So he showed up late, like I said. He looked good – just like the campaign. He sat down and said, “Welcome everybody!” He turned to a person to his right who I did not know at the time, a younger man, and the president smiled and nodded to him. Then he looked over at Valerie Jarrett, who sat in a chair behind the president – she was sitting against the wall – watching. I didn’t even realize she was in the room until the president looked over at her. There was prolonged silence. The president folded his hands on the desk and smiled again. Then he unfolded his hands and leaned back in his chair. More silence. He looked over again at the man to his right who then gave the president an agenda for the meeting. Now I know enough about how these things work to know that the president must have been given that agenda long before he stepped into the room. Every minute of a president’s day is meticulously mapped out beforehand. So this thing, which might seem like a minor detail to some, set off my alarms. What was going on here? Why was the president being handed an agenda that he must have already been given earlier?
So Obama looks down at the paper and then looks back up at all of us. He smiles again and then gives off this nervous little laugh. Now the country is pretty familiar with that laugh these days, but it was the first time I had heard it, and it didn’t do anything to alleviate just how odd this meeting was playing out. The president recognized someone else at the table and asked for them to begin with item two on the agenda. Do you want to know what item one on the agenda was? It read: Greetings and introductions by President of the United States. Apparently that item one…well, apparently the president thought he had just handled that part and so it was on to item two. Of course the gentleman he asked to start on item two had no idea what he was to say, and the man to the president’s right stepped in and proceeded to handle that item himself. The president appeared completely unaware of his mistake, or maybe he just didn’t care. The mood in the room had gone from excitement at getting to see the president to one of being very uncomfortable. If President Obama was unable to handle a simple meeting among secondary staff, how in the hell was he going to be able to run the damn country?
Eventually the meeting did get underway with participation from a number of us in that room, but during that time, which was no more than say, fifteen minutes, the president said almost nothing. He would smile, he would nod, and he would turn to Jarrett to confirm if something that was said was correct, or agreeable. The only time the president showed any sign of life was when someone made a reference to basketball. Then he became far more animated – but that only lasted for a brief moment and he returned to his silent nodding and smiling. Even though the meeting lasted those 15 minutes at the most, it felt much longer simply because it was so –expletive- uncomfortable. After another episode of silence, Jarrett cleared her throat and declared to us that the president was needed elsewhere. As soon as she said that, Obama shot up from his seat and gave that same weird smile of his that he had on when he first came in, a brief “thanks for the talk”, and then headed out the door with Jarrett close behind. I was looking around the table and saw some people acting as if the president’s behavior was completely normal, but a few others were, like me, clearly unsettled by what we had just seen. Something was not right with this president.
That is when I started to ask questions. As quietly as possible, with those few I already knew, and later a few others I grew to know later, I asked questions about what was going on with President Obama, and the answers I got back were…troubling. That is when I realized we had possibly made a terrible-terrible mistake in electing this man. That’s also when I learned that the infighting among the staff was so terribly bad, the president’s smoking – his health, was an ongoing concern, and that his interest in the actual job of being president was non-existent and had largely been given over to Valerie Jarrett, though at the time there was a still a struggle for power between her and Rahm.
(Pause) …This might not fit entirely with our timeline here, maybe I’m jumping off track a bit, but I want to say something about Rahm Emanuel if that is ok with you. Set the record straight – or at least clarify how your readers view Rahm. That ok with you?
Sure – like we agreed, you just speak your mind now. Say what you want.
Ok – thanks. Good-good. Well, Rahm…Rahm Emanuel is a classic DC operative at the highest level. A proven commodity. The guy is tough, smart, and very-very good at working the system. And I say that with absolute respect. Now you gotta understand something here – he was Chief of Staff at the Obama White House. Now that is a very powerful position, right? Serious-serious power. The kind of power Rahm enjoys having. That’s not saying anything derogatory against him – he enjoys power, and there are few positions in this country more powerful than the one he held at the Obama White House. Problem is, that position had all but been cut off at the knees by Jarrett. Rahm’s job was reduced almost entirely to acting as a liaison between the White House and Congress. He quickly became Jarrett’s messenger between Pelosi, Reid, and Jarrett. Axelrod was in the mix too, but he was secondary. He was already preparing an exit for himself by that time – most people don’t know that, but that’s what he was doing. He had come to the realization that Obama was a great candidate but a lousy leader.
Anyways, I guess what I’m getting at here is that what led Rahm to pursue politics back in Chicago had nothing to do with helping Obama out. Nothing. It had everything to do with Rahm wanting out of the Obama administration, and the administration doing everything it could to see him gone. Jarrett was pushing him out, as was the First Lady, and ultimately, Rahm let them do it. He no longer wanted to fight for a White House he saw as a growing internal disaster. “These people are –expletive- clueless.”
So now Rahm has the keys to Chicago, keys that can unlock a lot of things very…uncomfortable to Obama, Jarrett, Michelle – the whole lot of them. Rahm is no friend to the Obama White House. I want to make that very-very clear to you. The president all but mocked Emanuel as he left. The Chicago unions fought against Rahm. A lawyer close to the Obama machine fought against Rahm. I am certain Organizing for America monies were spent against Rahm in those fights. The Obama people were and still are, crawling all over Chicago. They did not want Rahm Emanuel as Mayor of Chicago. No way in hell did they want that – but that’s what happened now isn’t it?
Rahm Emanuel didn’t go back to Chicago to help protect Barack Obama. Rahm Emanuel went back to Chicago to have the power to help destroy the whole myth of Barack Obama – or even more importantly, to destroy Valerie Jarrett and her entire collection of kooks that is the Obama White House. The bodies buried in Chicago…it’s time for somebody to start digging them up don’t you think? Who better to do that than Rahm Emanuel…