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O'Rourke (View From the Couch): On the Road Again

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When I heard Barack Obama say, during last week's save-the-stimulus stop in Florida, that if the economy doesn't turn around "you'll have a new president" I was startled on a number of fronts — one, that he was already thinking about re-election and, two, that he is capable of being wrong, for God knows what android the Republicans are going to serve up to challenge him in 2012. Sarah Palin? Mitt Romney? Certainly, it won't be John McCain, who now is in a King Lear moment, dragging himself around the Senate floor, muttering about future generations. His semi-hysterical sidekick, Lindsey Graham, has been equally discouraged, stuck railing against the stimulus because of the lack of fun aboard the now-garaged McCain campaign bus. But their buddy movie continues, strange as it is.

Obama's stimulus bill problem was and is that it isn't bold enough. Getting Tim Geithner through might be bold, though Geithner has not wowed anyone, except Barack Obama. He is enamored of Geithner's legerdemain, though no one else appears to be. Geithner's main power seems to be how comfortable the monied class on and off Wall Street is with him. Why the inscrutable banking collapse remains a mystery to most is that it was, more or less, a criminal enterprise, a large scale shell game, played at the end without anything at all under the shell. They were selling nothing for something and that nothing is what is so hard to value. What is the value of nothing?

The press, meanwhile, has been habituated over the last four administrations — Reagan - Bush I - Clinton - Bush II — to the win/lose battle plan of reporting. This intensified when Bill Clinton won with less than a majority of votes (thanks to Ross Perot — for both!). Republicans attacked Clinton mercilessly since they thought he was illegitimate. Then there was the really illegitimate president, George W., and attacks continued. Television won the news wars during the O.J. trial (it replaced real journalism with see for yourself) and it hasn't given anything back since then, except to the internet, which is more or less television for a new generation. When I was a kid, the father of a highschool classmate of mine was working with bigwigs in TV, David Sarnoff for one, trying to invent, perfect, phone calls with pictures. Well, all that waited till personal computers and still it isn't completely functional, though it seems so much of the world's technological know-all is still seeking the grail of talking to someone while you see them over the invisible airways, airways, which, more or less, were completely sold off during the Bush II administration. In any case, reporting (and reporting it mainly is, not investigating, or actually finding out what's what) has been relegated to the few newspapers that remain and they are going fast.

Meanwhile, Judd Gregg woke up the other morning and discovered he was a conservative Republican (and rich kid from a Republican political family) and decided he wasn't going to mix with that mongrel bunch in the White House. Hooray. Though his departure again proves Obama's appointing him Commerce Secretary the stunt it was. Hey, a Republican wants the job. Let's go with it. I hope Obama's second, third, fourth choices (for all his cabinet vacancies) are better that his first. We'll see.

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