The French Cowboy has been away for a while and had little access to news, except for an occasional Wall Street Journal Europe flipped through half awake during the rare quiet moments of fun and exciting travel. It’s always funny — and a bit of a relief — to dip your nose back into the news cycle and to find that what’s currently talked about is the same as what has made the news before you left.
The fight over the extension of the Bush tax cuts is still going on, although the dice have been cast by now. (Who would believe that we’d be this far by now were it not for the stability of the calendar — January 1st doesn’t wait, even for the POTUS?) What’s new is the mass of additional legislation that’s been attached to this simple measure in a sort of congressional snowball effect. Charles Krauthammer argues that the Bush-tax-cut-extension law is actually a second stimulus. That’s not because the not-raising of taxes has a stimulative effect, but because there’s so much spending included in the bundle that President Obama bets it will invigorate the economy à la Keynesian.
It is an irony that Republicans are celebrating this as a victory, while all they’ve done is postpone the tax hike by a meagre two years and help Obama to another stimulus in the process. It’s ironic, too, that some Democrats don’t seem to see how much they’ve gained with this agreement. It’s as if they believed that a lame-duck Congress that will be taken over, in part, by Republicans within a month should have no need to compromise. Maybe they really believed they could pass tons of partisan legislation before January, that this is what the lame-duck season after a crushing defeat in the midterms is for. From that perspective, extending the Bush tax cuts even by a month, must hurt.
Another thing that hasn’t changed in the news is the regular updates on what Sarah Palin’s doing. Mme Palin is planning a trip abroad. Mme Palin has endorsed Paul Ryan’s Road Map. Mme Palin speaks against Wikileaks. Mme Palin’s data gets attacked by Wikileak-supporting hackers. Mme Palin shoots a deer. Etc. It’s amazing how the former governor of Alaska’s every move is being monitored and reported to the public. How strongly does she influence the public? That’s much more difficult to measure. But her potential to influence is immense.
Finally, a small, but possibly very significant, event has taken place yesterday. President Obama surprised the White House press room by showing up with former President Clinton in tow (or maybe it was the other way round). Minutes later, Obama leaves the meeting — he said he had to meet his wife for a Christmas party — and suddenly we’re back in the 1990’s with President Clinton alone in the press room, taking questions on the state of the nation for another half hour or so.
If you had any doubts whether the notoriously easily bored Obama has already lost interest in being US President, this is your answer. Pretty much every position Obama’s had he’s been using primarily to get to the next level. In a private sector context this may be a good a thing. But if you’re in a public office, and the only significant thing you achieve during your tenure is running for the next higher office, it undermines the value of your success. Obama’s reached the highest possible office now. Heck, he’s even been given the Nobel Prize. There’s nothing left to do for him. Being the president obviously has lost its attraction. Maybe someone can take over, at least for a while. The VP is too goofy, but Bubba can do it. He knows his way around and he can deal with all those tiresome questions on the economy and the doubts on START.
We should have mercy on poor, bored President Obama and relieve him of his duties in 2012. He can find a new hobby then. Or write a couple more memoirs.