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A Short Running Magic Show
by Ralph R. Reiland
How quickly the magic and arrogance has turned into mismanagement and excuses.
Cinching his party's nomination on the night of June 3, 2008, a pumped up Barack Obama concluded his triumphal St. Paul, Minn., speech by declaring, "I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick …"
It's as if America didn't provide care for the sick until that moment, the night Barack racked up enough delegates to beat Hillary for the nomination, as if the nation's vast array of hospitals, research facilities, pharmaceutical companies, nurses and physicians were dysfunctionally and decadently operating all these decades, just waiting anxiously to be saved from their individualism, greed, and patient abuse by Obama's ascension to power.
As Obama explained during the campaign: "So if you come in and you've got a bad sore throat, or if your child has a bad sore throat, or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, 'You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out.' "
It's the same with our feet, endangered by the capitalist mentality, according to candidate Obama. A doctor faces the choice of getting "reimbursed a pittance" if he works with patients "to help them lose weight," he explained, or getting a non-pittance jackpot of "$30,000, $40,000, $50,000" if that "same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated."
At the high end, that's $100,000 for both feet, halfway to the price of a new Bentley convertible, so why talk about donuts and exercise?
Future generations, Obama continued in his St. Paul victory speech, self-proclaiming his historic importance and promising deliverance via seemingly messianic powers, will be able to look back and tell their children that "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal …"
Reacting to a similar display of exaggerated self-importance, Newsweek's Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas, being interviewed by Charlie Rose, saw Obama's Grant Park performance on election night to be somewhat "creepy":
Meacham: "Have you ever seen a victory speech where there was no one else on stage? No adoring wife, no cute kid. He is the messenger."
Thomas: "There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all this. It just makes me a little uneasy that he's so singular. He's clearly managing his own spectacle. He's a deeply manipulative guy."
Rose: "Watching him last night in that speech … it's almost like he then ascends to look at the circumstance."
Meacham: "He watches us watching him."
Thomas: "He writes about this metaphor being a screen upon which Americans will project. He said, 'They want a Barack Obama. I'm not sure I am Barack Obama.' He has the self-awareness to know that this creature he's designed isn't necessarily a real person."
Less than two years later, the magical creature is disappearing.
Sitting around a table in Louisiana with some locals as the BP leak continued to spew tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day into the Gulf, there was no talk from Barack Obama about the rise in the oceans beginning to slow or the earth beginning to heal. "I can't suck it up with a straw," he said.
"Even though I'm president of the United States, my power is not limitless," he stated. "So I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw. All I can do is make sure that I put honest, hard-working smart people in place to implement this thing."
That's exactly what he hasn't done. More than a month into the catastrophic spill, the Obama administration was still asserting that BP was fully up to the job. "They have the technical expertise to plug the hole," assured White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
And contrary to his campaign rhetoric, Obama failed to reform the Mineral Management Service, the scandal-ridden federal agency that has a history of rubber-stamping unsafe drilling operations and getting into bed with the oil companies, ideologically and physically.
"There wasn't sufficient urgency" regarding MMS, acknowledged Obama, more than a year too late.
Three weeks before BP's rig exploded, President Obama announced his plan for expanded drilling in the Gulf. "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," he declared. "They are technologically very advanced."
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University, co-owner of Amel's Restaurant in Pittsburgh, and a columnist with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Ralph R. Reiland