View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Obama Riding High—For Now
January 23, 2009, 04:00 AM
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Now that Barack Obama's Express Train has pulled into the station and the confetti has been swept off Pennsylvania Avenue, maybe the nation can get around to rationally evaluating our new president's actual performance as it evolves.

No American is more hopeful than me that Obama will deliver on at least a small percentage of his promises.

But I'm dismayed at the over-the-top excitement Obama-mania created even among otherwise even-minded people. Those unquestioning Americans caught in the grip of Obama madness are setting themselves up for a hard fall.

Not long ago in American history, another president had popularity ratings even higher than Obama's. Perhaps you remember his name: George W. Bush.

A CBS/New York Times poll released on September 20, 2001 showed Bush with a 90 percent approval rating. On Bush's final day in office, the same organization polled him at 22 percent. [Bush, His Approval Rating in Tatters, Flies Home to Texas by Maria Recio, Miami Herald, January 20, 2009]

In large part, the Main Stream Media [MSM] created Obama and Bush's unrealistically high ratings. In Bush's case, an unquestioning press gave him a free pass on facts surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and his subsequent decision to invade Iraq.

Even more remarkably, Obama got an intentional walk on everything. If Obama faced a serious challenge about his presidential qualifications, his dubious Chicago associations or exactly how exactly he planned to carry out his lofty campaign pledges, I missed it.

Mine is the appropriate emotion of the day—cautious optimism. Give Obama, the only president we have, a chance.

But less than twenty-four hours after Obama's inauguration, the stock market—a pretty good reality indicator—took another dive. The market absorbed one of the worst Inauguration Day losses in over a century as it declined by more than 4 percent.

Even after record corporate write-downs and a $700 billion bailout to shore up the financial system, banks are still reporting huge losses, lining up for new government lifelines and cutting their already dismal profit outlooks. [Fresh Stock Worries Batter Stocks, Dow Falls Below 8,000, by Jack Healy and Zachery Kouwe, New York Times, January 20, 2009]

News from the financial institutions is expected to worsen over the next few months. If you're still dizzy with excitement about what Obama may be able to achieve, chew on that for a while.

My enthusiasm about Obama has been tempered from his first appointment of Joe Biden as Vice-President. Biden has only held one job in his life—working for the federal government.

All of Obama's subsequent appointments are Bill Clinton's retreads or, like Biden, long time Democratic operatives.

Where's the change?

And I was disappointed Obama sanctioned an Inaugural Gala rumored to cost as much as $160 million.

Whatever the true cash outlay may have been, a more appropriate celebration given the economy would have been a small White House dinner party with a few close friends.

Reflecting the nation's mood, Franklin Delano Roosevelt cancelled inaugural festivities in 1933, 1937 and 1941. If it's good enough for Roosevelt to skip the pomp, it should be okay for Obama.

Having now expressed my reservations about Obama, I'll explain to you why I am in fact "cautiously optimistic."

Two sentences from Obama's Inaugural Address jumped out at me:

"Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions—that time has surely passed."   

These words may be nothing more than political boilerplate.

Let's hope they're not. If America can't restore the concept of common good and conduct herself accordingly, then we're in for many years of more unrepresentative government.

The "narrow interests" Obama referred to are banks, the Chamber of Commerce and the ethnocentric lobbyists. All have deep pockets and the political muscle that goes with it.

But they're at the core of America's woes.

If Obama can truly avoid "putting off" the "unpleasant decisions" that would restrain special interests, it would represent a tremendous first step since today's crisis reflects the long-term consequences of short-term policies.

But if Obama's speech is just idle chatter, then at least I won't be among the crestfallen if his polls numbers ultimately skid into Bush territory.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.