Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shorting Al Gore; Going Long on Sarah Palin and General Petraeus

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 3/17/09

Al Gore’s chronic insistence that the global science community universally supports his position on global warming, “ . . . for goodness sake,” is less than encouraging to anyone who has ever been around academia. Universities always support and agree on everything, from Derida to Gore. Then they get bored and a new generation flips it. Next time it will be Alfred Russel Wallace and David Bowie. And the last will be scorned. That is the nature of modern university education and research; it seeks to be all the same here, there and everywhere, like a McDonald’s franchise or a Starbucks. It is inherent in our Hamiltonian world of federalism, globalism and mass communications.

So I’m shorting Al Gore; one more appearance on Saturday Night Live and that will be it. The ‘70s will be over. Next up, that George W. Bush prototype from the early ‘80s, J.R. Ewing and Dallas. With that, I’m going long on Sarah Palin.

You can feel in the headlines this morning that the vast institutional Greek chorus which is the press is beginning to finish up with Obama’s free ride and starting to look ahead.

“Outrage from the public and politicians over the $165M in bonuses paid out to firm's executives is blowing back on the president and his initiatives,” reads the lead story in the Washington Post. First time for that. They are going after Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary. He should have known about the bonuses being paid to AID executives.

Geithner single-handedly managed to get this administration off on the wrong foot. Critics said he was not the right man for the job as he bore some responsibility for the financial disasters when he worked in New York, but criticism was not allowed in the Obama “honeymoon.” He set the wrong tone when the first official sentence we heard from the administration was Geithner challenging the Chinese. Then they had to quickly rush The Hillary across the Pacific to faun.

AIG has the top two stories in the Post, and just below is a news item on how China is advancing in this global crisis. “Lower prices worldwide allow acquisition of key natural resources needed to fuel growth,” is the lead.

Likewise at The New York Times, beneath the top AIG story is one which tells how China exploits paths to growth in the downturn: “A $600 billion package for infrastructure, training and research is aimed at making China more competitive.”

Gone is the make believe that we are in a new Roosevelt era. The sea is finally changing. As these China stories begin to point out, we are not in a global uniform downturn as we were in the 1930s; we are not in a fixed American or European system in which Churchill, Clemenceau or Geithner and Obama can dictate down to secondary players. We are in a contest. And China is winning.

It is a turn to the positive; an encounter with reality and the first step toward positive engagement. David Brooks of The New York Times has identified the turning and he has been patiently waiting for this moment. “Over the centuries, the United States has been most conspicuous for one trait: manic energy,” he writes today.

Somewhere right now there’s probably a smart publisher searching for the most unabashed, ambitious, pro-wealth, pro-success manuscript she can find, and in about three months she’ll pile it up in the nation’s bookstores. Somewhere there’s probably a TV producer thinking of hiring Jim Cramer to do a show to tell story after story of unapologetic business success. Somewhere there’s a politician finding a way to ride the commercial renaissance that is bound to come, ready to explain how government can sometimes nurture entrepreneurial greatness and sometimes should get out of the way.

Spring is ahead. But so far, the Obama Presidency has seemed like a long autumn and a hard winter. Sap is running here in New Hampshire and I’m seeing signs, but not in this administration. It is not in the nature and gerenal make up of Larry Summers, Eric Holder, Tim Geithner, Hillary Clinton or Rahm Emmanuel to awaken in spring. Not to mention Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank; visceral creatures of the night with sharp teeth and claws, regularly dispatched to the news shows.

But spring may be Sarah Palin’s time. She will give the keynote address at the annual Senate-House Dinner June 8, sponsored by the House and Senate Republican campaign committees. By then the climate may be just right for her. If she is to rise, she will rise then.

And there is something beyond the economy that we need to understand by then: The war in Iraq, or is it Afghanistan or is it Pakistan? Have we won? Have we lost? I really have no idea. That is something that will need to be clarified.

The ‘70s aura of the Obama crowd brings with it more than a vague whiff of the post-Vietnam era. Ambassador Clinton, who had her picture in Life Magazine as an undergraduate in the Sixties and thus became a generational icon to the anti-war crowd, today hopes to insure the world outside our borders that the Obama administration is different from the one which largely fought the war in Iraq.

This is confusing because it seems, as it was when Clinton was in the Senate, that she is both for the war and against it. But it suggests the same anti-war attitude of the Vietnam period. This attitude even tends to nullify the good intentions and work of Obama and the First Lady in addressing Iraq veterans and their concerns. It appears patronizing. It even appears to suggest that soldiers and veterans have been somehow victimized.

But that is not how history remembers itself. As Ulysses S. Grant pointed out, history remembers victory and deplores failure. History will remember the invasion of Iraq as a victory. CENTCOM has denied rumors that General David Petraeus wants to run for President. But he could help with that, possibly on a team with Governor Palin in 2012.