Can Americans have a Depression and manage to shoot themselves in both feet?

Renowned gadfly-with-afterburners Blue Gal (why do I keep wanting to call her Susie Bright?) does a creditable job of putting the ultra-glib and slightly manic pundits turned naysayers, à la Glenn Greenwald ("Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully"), into perspective. She does that by reminding us of the obvious:
Obama has been in office less than a month.
But wait, there's more:

Portrait of Glenn Greenwald -creator of Unclai...Glenn, freshly shorn & perfumed

He also inherited an unparalleled economic fiasco the severity of which is just beginning to become apparent.
Greenwald has already discerned that Obama has wasted no time showing his true colors as nothing less than a conscious dupe of the neo-cons. The president is certainly now undergoing full Borg assimilation after surviving the secret initiation rituals of Opus dei, the Freemasons, and the International Mensa Cabal.

Intention is so hard to nail down (unless you're a middle-finger-flippin', silver-spoon-born, tin-tongued, frat-boy bungler nominated to pretend to preside over a country your handlers had to explain to you before they could start gutting it — then it ain't so hard). And intention is even harder to prove.

But so many in Congress already seem to want Obama to fail, whether because
  • they're true Conservatives (except aren't they all in mausoleums now?)
  • they're too indebted and in too many corporations' pocket(s)
  • they're busy jockeying for position so that in 2012 they can preside over the third-world country formerly known as America, or
  • Obama isn't going far enough fast enough for them (the Best being the enemy of the Good, etc., etc.).
True, there is the legitimate question of who's pulling Obama's strings. People and corporations are naturally uneasy about contributing millions to Juggernaut Obama without having some high-status souvenirs to show for it.

And the Council on Foreign Relations and the innumerable other nefarious elitist cliques, all of them swarming with éminences grises, do have some influence, via the corporate media they own at home and abroad if nothing else, over how people perceive a president's first-quarter competence and charisma.

Then there's the little unhealed psychic trauma of being taken in by "Compassionate Conservatism" in 2000 and then having absolute indifference shoved down our throats by a psychopathic dull-normal every day of every year, right up to the Inauguration. Can we blame folks for being antsy and gun-shy this time around before the Moon has completed a full cycle of phases?

It might be wise to remember that the U.S. doesn't have a lot political traditions and social programs that other countries have. That's good and bad. Our Constitution was written to ensure that government not work very well, less we get a commoner who behaved like King George III.

Caricature of George holding Napoleon in the p...King George III

The three branches of government, their checks and balances, the Bill of Rights — those do hamstring tyranny to some degree.

But they also enshrine individualism and prevent the decisive, concerted, efficient action that the parliamentary democracies are sometimes capable of. There the executive and legislative branches are merged into one branch. With a majority government, your party can ram through all kinds of legislation, fast. The only real limit, besides judicial intervention, is a public outcry and the risk of the opposition calling a confidence vote.

If you lose that vote, you have to call elections, and if your programs have made you unpopular, you may lose the whole game. It's a remote but sobering disincentive. No such threat exists in the U.S., otherwise Cheney and Bush would have ruled for months instead of almost a decade. In Japan, they'd have had to commit seppuku on the Japanese equivalent of Charlie Rose.

So Obama, we forget, is having to deal with a structure that is designed not to make cohesive action easy, even in dire crisis. He also has 310 million constituents in a variegated assemblage of states, regions, and ethnic mixes. In each of those locales the incidence and prevalence of FoxNews-induced paranoid delusion are different.

Lincoln and FDR had to deal with many of the same obstacles in crises of similar scope, only life was much simpler then. No phone trees, no reality TV, no obesity epidemics, no Oprah, no Blue Screens of Death. And still they found it necessary to adopt some rather autocratic measures to do so.

Howard Pyle illustration of pirate walking the...The Plank of Risen Expectation

Can Obama be selectively autocratic, too, long enough to get people back to work? Or is he too much of a compromiser? It takes one mighty astute and influential politician to be able to pull the right strings and bully the Congressional herd of cats with finesse and the specter of imminent skewering. LBJ knew how.

Fortunately Obama is sharp enough to learn how.

What if we waited another month or two for Obama to gain his Ship of State sea legs before summarily cutting them off and then declaring him inept to be captain?

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