By the time you read this, President Obama will be taking a well-deserved break from the 54th hole of today’s scheduled golf game and the grueling responsibility of picking out his Final Four priority high-speed-rail projects on ESPN by relaxing on a beach in . . . Libya? Japan? No, Brazil. Oh, here he is now:
“Tall and tan and young and lovely
The boy from Spendaholica goes walking
And when he passes
Each one he passes
Goes ‘Aiiieeeeee . . .’”
Hey, it worked in 2008, and who’s to say the same old song won’t exercise its seductive charm all over again in 2012? That’s the way the president’s betting. As he told a gathering of high-rolling Democratic donors in Washington last week: “As time passes, you start taking it for granted that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States. But we should never take it for granted. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility.”
Well, no, I couldn’t honestly say that I do. I mean, I always like the bit in the movie where 007 says, “The name’s Bond. James Bond,” but generally he follows it by rappelling into a hollowed-out volcano and taking out the evil mastermind while disabling the nuclear-launch codes with three seconds to spare. I’m not sure I get quite the same “sense of excitement” from the Obama version:
“The name’s Bond. James Hussein Bond.”
“I’m afraid you’re growing rather tedious, Mr. Bond.”
Speaking of names, the new stimulus-funded Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del., is to be named after Vice President Biden. Say what you like about Obama, but he made the naming of train stations run on time. We should never take it for granted that a guy named Joseph Robinette Biden is a railroad halt in the northeast corridor. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility. I couldn’t be more excited if Robinette Hussein Robinette were president.
In 2008, Obama offered Hope and Change. This time round he’s offering the Hope of No Change. Life goes on. When your president’s middle name is Hussein, trust me, that’s all the change you guys need. Harry Reid says he doesn’t even want to talk about the possibility of opening discussions to consider raising the possibility of contemplating the thought of the merest smidgeonette of changes to Social Security for another 20 years. Senator Reid, 71, told MSNBC this week, “Two decades from now, I’m willing to take a look at it.” Big of you. No-Change You Can Believe In! The Audacity of Torpor.
There may be more takers for this than my friends on the right would wish. On Libya, the Audacity of Golf seems to have done the trick: Nobody’s in the mood for a no-fly zone in another thankless distant hellhole just as Iraq and Hoogivsastan have dropped off the news. And yeah, gas seems to be going up, and, when 40 percent of Americans work in minimal-skill service jobs, it makes a difference to the economic viability of those jobs whether you’re driving there at a dollar-eighty per gallon or four bucks. “We have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” said Steven Chu, now Obama’s energy secretary, in 2008. We’re getting there. It’s just shy of ten bucks per in Britain, but there’s no reason a fuel policy for small, densely populated nations can’t work for Wyoming, because we’re investing in all those high-speed rail links. So you’ll be able to commute from your home in Rattlesnake, Nevada to your job in North Rattlesnake, Nevada via the Joseph Robinette Biden Delaware, Lackawanna, Atchison, Topeka, Sante Fe & Canadian Pacific High-Speed Interchange Facility & Federal Stimulus Mausoleum in Wilmington.
How will we power the trains? Nukes? Oh, perish the thought. Not after those whachamacallits in Japan failed to withstand the thingummy from the whoozis. Obviously, if something can’t shrug off one of the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, then we shouldn’t have anything to do with it at all, no way, no how. Instead, we should “invest” in “green jobs,” and then you’ll be able to commute to your overnight shift at the KwikkiKrap because the high-speed trains will have giant wind turbines nailed to the roof of the caboose, at least until the next of kin of boxcar-riding hobos caught in the slipstream file a class-action suit. And by then you won’t need to commute to the KwikkiKrap because they’ll have cut the night shift after the drop-off in vehicular traffic was so severe they had to change the sign to “CASHIER CARRIES LESS THAN $3.79 IN CHANGE.” But that proved to be the biggest stimulus to the American sign-manufacturing industry since they had to make all those “THIS TWO-HUNDRED YARD STRETCH OF SCARIFIED PAVEMENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE AMERICA RECOVERY & REDISTRIBUTION ACT” sign, so that’s even more good news.
The Audacity of Golf may yet prove a potent message. Many Americans seem disinclined to heed warnings, especially of stuff that Harry Reid assures us is a long way off. Change we can believe in? Thanks but no thanks. We’ll wait till it happens. In New Orleans, they waited till the hurricane hit, and then the cops walked off the job, and the fleet of evacuation buses lay empty and abandoned, and enterprising locals fired on army engineers repairing the 17th Street Canal, and less ambitious types went a-lootin’, and, when the feds showed up to hand out emergency debit cards, they spent them at strip joints, and of the refugees who fled to Texas 45 percent turned out to have a criminal record and the Houston homicide rate went up 23 percent.
So imagine if last week’s earthquake and tsunami had hit Louisiana.
Japan is a dying nation, literally. They’re the oldest people on earth, and their shrunken pool of young ’uns are childless. They’re already in net population decline: The nation that invented the Walkman would have been better off inventing the walker. Today their only world-beating innovations are in post-human robotechnology — humanoid nurses with big-eyed Manga faces doing the jobs that humans won’t do.
Japan is doomed. And yet, watching the exemplary response to catastrophe this week, you sense that their final days will at least be tranquil and orderly. From afar, we shrieked like ninnies, retreating to the usual tropes: No nukes! And more carbon offsets to appease the great Water Gods of the Tsunami!
America is the brokest country in history. We owe more money than anyone has ever owed anyone. And Obama and Reid say relax, that’s no reason not to spend more — because the world hasn’t yet concluded we have no intention of paying it back. When they do, the dollar will collapse, like those buildings in Sendai. When that happens, it will make a lot of difference whether Americans react like the Japanese or Louisianans.
But, in the meantime, Barack Obama goes to Brazil and assures us that life’s a beach: Golf on, Mr. President.