I've been reading too much lately about Stalin and Hitler. Nobody, least of all Marx, thought communism could succeed in such a backward country as Russia. Lenin woke up too late to Stalin's menace (not that Leninism didn't inevitably lead to mass murder), and Trotsky sulked in his tent while the Man of Steel took over. And how could the civilization that gave us Bach, Beethoven, Goethe and Mann also have voted in, and widely supported, the deranged former corporal who would shed so much blood? We look back and say, "Of, course!"
I think about all this as President Hoover, apparently under pressure from a serial failed businessman with a bad comb-over, released the long-form of his birth certificate, hoping to stop the birther "silliness." It won't. Nearly half of the members of the Party of Lincoln don't believe the president was born in the United States. Does anyone think this would have traction, much less enough to cause the president to sully the dignity of his office by addressing it, if his name were Barry O'Bama and he were white? But with any Democrat in the highest office, it would be something. When George W. Bush won the 2000 election under highly questionable circumstances, Al Gore was a class act and most Democrats went along with a radical Bush agenda despite the close division of the electorate. But with Republicans, the very idea of a Democrat as president is illegitimate, any progressive or liberal idea is accursed. Here's a Tweet from Arizona state Sen. Jack Harper, R.-Surprise: "If Jon's socialistic friends gets our guns, will they turn 2 communism 2 redistribute the wealth? #UnitedNations" No, he's wasn't kidding.
The nation that indeed brought a "new order of the ages," built the transcontinental railroad, landed men on the moon and made countless contributions to the arts and sciences now can't do anything but hope for a new housing boom and cheap gas. Our exceptionalism has devolved into ignorance, hate, denial, swindles and madness. We have made a retrograde move into television-addled peasantry, into self-inflicted serfdom. Many Americans believe things every bit as absurd, and dangerous, as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For them, "the stab in the back" of 1918 is illegal immigrants, taxes and people of color having babies. Who knows where this will lead? Only 25,000 Bolsheviks carried off a revolution in a nation of about 160 million. Is all we're lacking the right scheming Georgian or failed painter to take us to full darkness? Will those surviving will look back and say, "Of course"?
Far from putting this "controversy" to rest, the president has dignified it and invited more such nonsense. Worse, he has shown more weakness, a la Jimmy Carter. He is willing to tolerate 25 million un- and underemployed souls (a new poll shows respondents putting his handling of the economy at a new low; another shows a majority saying the country is on the wrong track). He has allowed the banksters to get away with the biggest set of swindles in history. Wars without end go on, with The Man on the White Horse being given control of the CIA. Weakness gives credibility to Paul Krugman's fear that Obama's eloquent defense of the social compact is a mere beginning negotiating gambit that will end with a "solution" on the far right. About the best that can be said of him, as someone did, is that he is a Republican circa 1991.
Faced with climate change, a higher-cost energy future, worldwide competition for American assets and living standards that are rapidly eroding, he chooses to do...nothing. He has chosen to be a tool of the plutocrats and to pander to a nation of idiots. George W. Bush was famously "the decider." Barack Obama is the undecided. And the tide of events will decide the future for us, and not in a happy way.