Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Arrogance of "Hope"

Image ripped from Barbeefish

Much has been written about what to expect from the Obama administration. Past presidents are often invoked as models for comparison. Will Obama be like FDR - leading the country out of the depression? Or is the big spending, big government, big deficit liberal icon LBJ a more apropos comparison? Or should we simply accept the comparison to the vision, vigor and youth of JFK as Obama has consciously and carefully cultivated throughout his campaign and early presidency?

DWSUWF has also indulged in this game, comparing candidate Obama to the ivory tower academic Jimmy Carter and also noting President Obama's embrace and defense of the Bush/Cheney expansive redefinition of unitary executive. Perhaps all of these comparisons are wrong, and the comparison that is most apt, is a comparison to Richard Nixon, as exemplified by the money quote in the Frost/Nixon interview -"When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

That seems to be the conclusion of Tom Laruia in this disturbing CNBC Maria Bartiroma interview aired yesterday. Lauria is a White & Case Financial Restructuring Attorney who represented the first lien Chrysler bond holders in the bankruptcy proceedings. He outlines how this administration abused their power to strong arm legitimate creditors into giving up their legal contract rights in order to hand a sweetheart deal to the Obama union contributors and constituents:

[CNBC Video No Longer Available]

Now Tom Lauria is not a dispassionate observer. He is an advocate and has an axe to grind. But what he says in this interview rings true, and is completely consistent with other reports of what this administration is really all about. The money quote:
"We all have the sense that what is on the table here is all about America and saving the concept of free enterprise in this country. Things that are baked into the Constitution, the founding fathers put the right of contract in the Constitution and there is a reason for that... You know what's interesting? The company (Chrysler) had no involvement in that negotiation whatsoever, which is another kind of shocking thing. We should ask ourselves under what Federal law is the US Government running Chrysler? TARP does not provide for the US government to run an auto company. We have not been able to find any other statuatory scheme. So if there is no legal authorization, is this kind of a separation of powers issue under the Constitution where the executive, a la President Nixon, is now doing what he thinks he should do, what he thinks is right, but is nevertheless not permitted under the law." - Tom Lauria
Obama is like Nixon? Lets see, abusing executive power in the service of political goals was the defining characteristic of the Nixon administration. Yup. Sounds about right for our current administration.

The defining characteristics of the Obama administration are just now coming into clear focus. This is what it looks like to DWSUWF:
  1. Ruthlessly wield executive power to push political objectives - The willingness - no - eagerness of the Obama administration to aggressively use the power of the presidency to meet political goals regardless of whether there is any legal basis for that exercise of power is right there in plain sight for any who care to see. The strongarmed Chrysler bondholders are the most recent example.
  2. What Obama says is wildly at variance with what he does - The gulf between what this President says and what this president actually does grows wider with every passing day. The more the MSM lets him get away with it, the bigger the gulf seems to get. Talk government transparency - do the opposite. Talk fiscal responsibility - spend recklessly. Talk gay rights, do nothing. Talk protection of civil liberties, defend the Bush/Cheney unitary executive. If he keeps this up, his credibility gap will look like the Grand Canyon.
  3. Script the talking points, enforce message discipline, reward loyalty - The message discipline and efficiency of the Obama/Axelrod White House makes the Bush/Rove politburo look like rank amateurs. Even more astonishing - The ability for the Obama hard core faithful to put on the blinders, drink the kool-aid, and parrot whatever talking points are being pushed out of the oval office. DWSUWF has seen nothing like it - well - except for the hardcore faithful on the right during the GWB administration. The mindset is absolutely identical. Obama/Axelrod are just better than Bush/Rove at leading the acolytes around by the nose.
  4. Drive an arrogant ideological agenda - The core conceit of this administration is the radical ideological view that a few really smart academics can manage the economy. Regardless of the lip service paid to the principles of free enterprise (see point number 2) this administration's core belief in central planning is clear. The administration intends to manage everything from executive pay to credit card interest rates and, as noted above, they have no problem ripping up contract law to steamroll bondholders and stamp their ideological vision on a bailed out and restructured automobile industry. This kind of central economic planning and top down industrial policy has never worked. But - since these guys are smarter than everyone else, no worries. I'm sure it'll all turn out fine this time.
Bringing this back to Chrysler and the auto industry - I'll wrap this up with the same conclusion I reached in an earlier post. Although I am a satisfied owner of a Jeep Grand Cherokee bought new 10 years ago - you could not give me a Chrysler or Fiat product today. I'll never own a Chrysler product again. The truly dangerous and flat out wrong behavior on the part of this administration should not be supported, and I won't support it with my discretionary dollars. Boycott Chrysler. If the same thing happens to GM, boycott GM.

In any case, it looks like we'll have some rich fodder for future posts as we slowly ramp this blog back up after our little hiatus.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

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