As much as we’d like to bask in the history-making election of Barack Obama as our nation’s 44th president, it seems the country and the world are in such a mess that we don’t have that luxury. Today the president-elect gets his first briefing from the Pentagon, and no doubt a few more grey hairs will sprout on Mr. Obama’s head. Who knows what secret things Bush The Younger has fouled up on top of his very public idiocy and venality? The next two months will be spent by Obama and his transition team learning information unavailable to those outside the executive halls of power.
Judging by what is common knowledge about the last 8 years, one has to figure that a whole lot of the top-secret stuff must be equally disastrous. The next president faces a crisis of governance of this country on the order of magnitude as those faced by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D.Roosevelt. Nothing less than greatness is called for to restore America to our former status as the beacon of freedom, generosity and prosperity in a troubled world. The freedom part just got a huge boost with the election of our first black president, but there are those nasty encroachments on the Bill of Rights to be reversed, and the cynically named Patriot Act to be repealed, as unpatriotic and un-American a law as we have ever seen around here.
We have the huge mess in Iraq, having attacked, conquered and occupied a nation with which we had no quarrel. How do you back out of that one gracefully? How do you un-torture the prisoners of war? How to you un-bomb their infrastructure and un-destroy their government? How to you un-hire the trigger happy mercenaries who answer to no law? How do you deal with the hostile neighbors like Iran and Syria in ways that discourage aggression and nuclear proliferation and promote regional peace? How do you encourage both the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to their senses? None of these things would be remotely easy if they were the only problems facing President Obama instead of being just a subset in a huge portfolio of difficult tasks.
There’s still a guy named Osama bin Laden out there enjoying a booming video career and still plotting mayhem against America. Our unreliable and nuclear-armed ally Pakistan is now hosting him and his Al Qaeda thugs, whether or not they acknowledge it. They have no control over that part of their nation and no real commitment to fighting Islamic fascism. And there’s still that nearly impenetrable problem of Afghanistan, where nothing makes sense. The sooner we bag the culprits, dead or alive, who attacked America in 2001 and leave those nations to their own oddball devices, the better. We can’t fix everybody and American security comes first.
Then there is our own set of heinous thugs right here in America to deal with harshly. Those would be the aging preppies in Brooks Brothers suits who have nearly destroyed our financial industries through naked greed and criminal activities, crippling the largest and most vibrant economy the world has ever seen. American taxpayers have just shoveled 700 billion dollars into their greedy fists and they show no signs of halting their unethical practices. Criminal prosecutions need to be undertaken and strict rules passed and rigorously enforced.
How you can screw up such a good thing as America, either politically or economically, remains a huge mystery. That’s like a kid being given a candy store and he sets fire to it after eating all the red jellybeans. It still boggles the mind. It’s not like these people were handed the Gobi Desert and told: “Here, do something with this place!” These arrogant swine, both in the highest offices of government and the most powerful seats of industry, were handed America to take care of! America, dammit! How do you screw that up? The most successful and respected nation ever? The land of the free and the home of the brave, for crying out loud! Well, they did their level best, and fortunately America has proven at least idiot-proof enough to have survived these soiled, irresponsible has-beens and their assorted henchmen.
Working Americans, already hurting after 8 years of Bush The Younger, are now taking severe body blows thanks to the corporate princes who stole and burned through the nation’s wealth and credit. Home foreclosures, business failures and job losses are approaching the levels faced by FDR during the Great Depression. When Americans call American companies for service we speak to foreign nationals on the other side of the world, which makes a perverse sort of sense since our nominally American corporations have sold the jobs of the people who made them so successful by moving their manufacturing operations abroad.
There is still a health care crisis to be addressed, with 50 million Americans having no health plan at all except to hope they don’t get sick or injured. Why anybody thinks health care should not be a universal right like free speech is a mystery, as if providing health to go along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is some sort of communist plot. Works just fine for Canada, Britain, Italy, Japan and every other modern industrial nation. Hell, even Cuba has a national health plan that works! What’s our problem? Must we guarantee that every doctor becomes a multimillionaire? One of the reasons our industries cannot compete with foreign companies is that those companies need not spend money on workers’ health plans because their governments provide this necessary service.
And what of America’s role on the world stage? Will we again provide leadership and example in the realm of peaceful endeavors? The world stands idly by while 36,000 people die every single day from starvation. While our economy is not in the great shape it was 8 years ago, our farms are still the most productive on the planet and our advanced agricultural technology can benefit the entire world. It is the right thing to do and something America can do. We can declare The Right To Eat and make it a global priority. Others will follow suit, perhaps even Russia with her vast and underutilized farmland and her hunger for international respect. What better way to engage an increasingly hostile Russia than a joint venture to feed the world? If that sounds like a naive notion, well, so was America electing a black man as their president a scant two years ago. Times change. Nations change. Ours just changed for the better in one day, a sordid part of our history repudiated. All things are possible once again.