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The Specter Haunting Obama

Posted on Dec 13, 2010

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

American decline is the specter haunting our politics. This could be President Obama’s undoing—or it could provide him with the opportunity to revive his presidency.

Fear of decline is an old American story. Declinism ran rampant in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Stagflation, the Iranian hostage crisis, anxiety over Japan’s then-commanding economy and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all seemed to be symbols of a United States no longer in control of its destiny.

These apprehensions dissipated in the 1980s and, whatever the shortcomings of his policies, Ronald Reagan presided over a restoration of American morale. His 1984 “Morning in America” advertisement was politically brilliant but it was also a paean to a renewed American confidence.

George H.W. Bush followed, and he deserves great credit for his management of the Gulf War and the larger international transition after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton built on Bush’s unpopular but necessary budget and restored the federal government’s solvency while also serving as a careful steward of American influence and our image in the world. Charles Krauthammer, my columnist colleague, likes to refer to the 1990s as a “holiday from history,” but the truth is that American power reached its zenith under Clinton. If that was a holiday, we need more vacations like it.

The current declinist sentiment arises from a widespread sense that in the first decade of the new millennium, our country squandered its international advantages, degraded its power with a long and unnecessary engagement in Iraq, wrecked the federal government’s finances—and then saw its economy devastated by the worst financial crisis in 80 years. All this happened as China especially but also India began to challenge American pre-eminence. Americans feel something is badly wrong, and they are fully justified in their alarm.


Square, Site wide

Obama was elected for many reasons in 2008, but the country’s underlying desire to reverse this sense of decline was central to his victory. Consider the emphasis in his posters on “Hope” and his “Change We Can Believe In” slogan. Whether by design or luck, the words “hope” and “believe” were precise responses to a spiritual crisis that the fears of lost supremacy engendered and explain the almost religious overtones of the Obama crusade.

Obama’s biggest failures in his first two years lay in not fully grasping the opportunity this intimation of crisis created and in not appreciating that he was being asked to do more than fix the economy.

Of course, undertaking practical and difficult measures to prevent economic collapse was Job One for Obama. And, yes, a goodly part of the nation’s ill temper can be explained by miserable unemployment rates. Nonetheless, the rise of right-wing nationalist movements—and the tea party is as much about an assertive nationalism as it is about liberty—speaks to the country’s longing for reassurance that it can maintain its leading position in the world. So does the insistent talk of his potential Republican rivals about America as an exceptional nation.

Obama sprinkles his rhetoric with talk about competing and winning in the 21st century, and he often suggests that China is doing things (in energy, mass transit and education, for example) that we are not. What’s lacking is a coherent call for reform and restoration that is unapologetically patriotic and challenging.

He needs a narrative about American exceptionalism of his own. It would not pretend that the United States can occupy exactly the same position it enjoyed before China’s rise. But his vision would insist that it is not our country’s fate to be another of history’s global powers that looked on helplessly as its influence and living standards declined.

Obama should be even more insistent on using the contest with China as a prod, much as John F. Kennedy used competition with the Soviet Union to “get the country moving again” domestically as well as overseas. There are more important priorities than preserving low tax rates for rich people, larger strategic concerns than Iraq or even Afghanistan, and more compelling political purposes than rote attacks on government or a fear of new immigrants, or Islam, or our diversity as a nation. And we will all be in this effort together only if all of our citizens know they will have an opportunity to share in a resurgent America’s success.

For Obama, political renewal requires a bold and persistent campaign for national renewal. This would challenge his political opponents. But more importantly, it would challenge all of us.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)
© 2010, Washington Post Writers Group

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

wardad, December 15 at 11:11 am:

The first mistake is seeing American history in terms of Presidential cycles, as if the guy in the White House actually sets policy.  We should instead see the rise and institutionalization of the “Washington Consensus” as the true “administration” of the last forty-ish years….

E.J. might be looking for a job, in which case adherence to the sacred myths of elite liberalism will be a sine qua non.  None of that radical stuff will be appreciated by his potential future masters at all!

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By ardee, December 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

to recap…flickervertigo, December 15 at 6:16 am Link to this comment

to ardee

you seem to be unwilling to produce figures about chinese vs american oil consumption, so i will do it.

My very first response to you linked to the figures, perhaps your ego is rather too large to encompass any disagreement with your initial point, which, by the by, was an absurd statement that “the problem being, chinese oil consumption, compared to america’s, is so small that nuking china wouldnt be much of a solution in the long run. “

Here are further links to suggest that China is rapidly surpassing America as the worlds single largest consumer.

If you are going to debate with honesty then I suggest that you actually be honest. Failing to acknowledge that I did, indeed,link to figures to back my supposition is far from honest.

Plan B Updates
February 16, 2005
China Replacing the United States as World’s Leading Consumer
Lester R. Brown

Although the United States has long consumed the lion’s share of the world’s resources, this situation is changing fast as the Chinese economy surges ahead, overtaking the United States in the consumption of one resource after another.

Among the five basic food, energy, and industrial commodities—grain and meat, oil and coal, and steel—consumption in China has already eclipsed that of the United States in all but oil. China has opened a wide lead with grain: 382 million tons to 278 million tons for the United States last year. Among the big three grains, the world’s most populous country leads in the consumption of both wheat and rice, and trails the United States only in corn use.

Although eating hamburgers is a defining element of the U.S. lifestyle, China’s 2004 intake of 63 million tons of meat has climbed far above the 37 million tons consumed in the United States. While U.S. meat intake is rather evenly distributed between beef, pork, and poultry, in China pork totally dominates. Indeed, half the world’s pigs are found in China.

With steel, a key indicator of industrial development, use in China has soared and is now more than twice that of the United States: 258 million tons to 104 million tons in 2003. As China’s population urbanizes and as the country has moved into the construction phase of development, building hundreds of thousands of factories and high-rise apartment and office buildings, steel consumption has climbed to levels not seen in any other country. (See data.)

With oil, the United States is still solidly in the lead with consumption triple that of China’s—20.4 million barrels per day to 6.5 million barrels in 2004. But while oil use in the United States expanded by only 15 percent from 1994 to 2004, use in the new industrial giant more than doubled. Having recently eclipsed Japan as an oil consumer, China is now second only to the United States.

Looking at energy use in China means also considering coal, which supplies nearly two thirds of energy demand. Here China’s burning of 800 million tons easily exceeds the 574 million tons burned in the United States. With its coal use far exceeding that of the United States and with its oil and natural gas use climbing fast, it is only a matter of time until China will also be the world’s top emitter of carbon. Soon the world may have two major climate disrupters.

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By glider, December 17, 2010 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment


“china burns less than half the oil america does (china 8.3 million barrels per day—- US 18.8 million barrels per day)”

Of course one needs to realize that a significant portion of this Chinese oil consumption is due to American conglomerates using that oil for cheap manufacturing of goods “exported” back to America.  Ditto for the pollution generated.  It is a bit of a shell game, isn’t it?

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By wardad, December 15, 2010 at 6:11 am Link to this comment


The first mistake is seeing American history in terms of Presidential cycles, as if
the guy in the White House actually sets policy.  We should instead see the rise
and institutionalization of the “Washington Consensus” as the true
“administration” of the last forty-ish years.

Our country has felt like it has been in decline for as long because, well, it has
been.  The wages of the vast majority of us have remained stagnant for at least
the last thirty years.  Energy has been steadily increasing in price for as long (and
for good reason.)  Jobs have been slowly growing legs and walking on water. 
And TeeVee/media consumption has been slowly shortening our attention span
and distracting us while “Rome burns.”

But more importantly is our inability to do anything on a community level, much
less the political/national level.  In both instances we are choked off from
engaging in real “change” because of money.  In Washington and New York, the
decadence and the interests of the super rich and the financiers have locked in
the status quo no matter what party holds “power.”

But at home, on Main Street if you will, the decline is not just economic, but
moral.  Not moral is the sense of social conservatism.  No, moral in the sense of
our ability to assess the economic realities we face and the future that is actually
ahead of us.  Many think they will get rich and so vote for the policies of the rich
even in the face of a status quo that didactically insists otherwise.  Many
purchase the goods they can not afford in order to feel or look rich.  Many are
happily distracted by their TeeVees and their ‘tubes, enraptured by the “bread
and circuses” of cheap, fatty, salty foods and the spectacle, to accept the simple
fact that our standard of living is being intentionally brought low in a globalized
race to the bottom.  We do not even see where the real hope is - in the mirror.

Better to embrace the simpler life.  Grow your own food rather than buy it with
Caesar’s coin.  Better to learn an instrument and play with your friends rather
than listen to the drivel sold by the failed corporate music “industry.”  Better to
join a community sports league and play your games rather than watch over
paid, over grown children, strut and play theirs.

Washington, and you EJ, are enchanted by the idea that we ought to be different
than other nations; that we ought to “dominate,” reign supreme; that somehow
we are entitled to the life style that the Boomers grew up expecting was the New
Jerusalem, the Thousand Year Reich of abundance and plenty. 

Wake up.  It was an anomaly of history, unsustainable, and spiritually,
emotionally, and environmentally corrupt and bankrupt.  It is over.

Straighten up and ignore “The Beast.”  It has no power if you do not look.

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By flickervertigo, December 15, 2010 at 1:26 am Link to this comment

to <a >ardee</a>...

here are the references…

and just for good measure, here’s the url for global oil production… tables 1.1d or 4.1d

notice that we’re talking about “crude oil and lease condensate” when we’re talking about oil… we’re not talking about corn squeezin’s or recycled mcdonalds french fry grease, or marijuana juice or any of that other stuff… we’re talking about crude oil and lease condensate.

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By flickervertigo, December 15, 2010 at 1:16 am Link to this comment

to ardee

you seem to be unwilling to produce figures about chinese vs american oil consumption, so i will do it.

china burns less than half the oil america does (china 8.3 million barrels per day—- US 18.8 million barrels per day).

if peak oil turns out to be the real thing, and if production declines as expected—-5% or 6% per year, the 4.3 million barrels a day that china imports is not gonna be that big a deal.

nuking china to prevent it from importing oil would seem to be an unproductive proposition.

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By igloo, December 15, 2010 at 12:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When it comes to decline, history knows no exceptionalism. Allowing a bunch of spoiled renegades to bankrupt the country, then denying the country is in serious bankruptcy, voting for neocons to run Congress so that government is deadlocked, continuing to believe business can go on as usual, foregoing a serious budget cuts to stem the bleeding… who can you blame for letting this happen? Americans are famous for finding blame but not for seeking solutions.

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By gerard, December 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Dionne says:  “He (Obama) needs a narrative about American exceptionalism of his own.
Again that overblown, antiquated “exceptionalism.” What ails Obama is that he (and his administration) seem stuck with trying to push this same outworn notion into the rest of the 2000s. But there’s a weight dragging it down:  The rest of the world who don’t believe it anymore—if they ever did. 

And there’s another complication: the domestic cave-in. Consider years of psychically and financially debilitating wars, followed by economic meltdown, corporate domination of politics, jobs overseas and nothing doing at home, plus a general vacuous, image-fed popular “culture” without substance or purpose beyond the local malls, and you can see a sense of fin de siecle from the very beginning.

Talk about beating a dead horse!  Obama needs to buck up and meet the future, and design a revitalized democratic social structure making use of 21st century skills and abilities. Instead of searching for a way to put people trying to get a new message across in jail, he should be listening carefully for new possibilities.

And now a witch hunt for a couple guys who had an idea of how the broad exposure of some “diplomatic” shenanigans might help ordinary people “get a grip.”

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By tussah, December 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

“Revive” his presidency?  This IS his presidency.  What you see is what you get and what you will get.

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oldog's avatar

By oldog, December 14, 2010 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

Obama is the best Republican president since Ronald

Backed heavily by Wall Street to keep another Clinton
from getting in, he chose exclusively from their
ranks to fill his cabinet. They could see the public
backlash coming from the economic crash their insatiable greed and unregulated competition brought.
The Democrats were bound to get in, so they needed a
ringer. Someone who talked progressive, but could be
manipulated by his naivety into continuing the
policies of George W.

Boy, did they get their money’s worth.

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By ardee, December 14, 2010 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

flickervertigo, December 13 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment

you’re talking about energy consumption, i’m talking about oil consumption.

would you like to post chinese oil consumption vs american oil consumption?

Darn that reading comprehension thingie, so hard to read a post, think on its content and respond with accuracy. If you get someone else to read it to you you might be surprised to note that it does, indeed, note oil consumption.

Further, your attempt to deflect from the inaccuracy of your initial remark is both clumsy and a failure. You were wrong, plain and simply. A two minute perusal of any reputable search engine will quickly show your characterization of China’s oil consumption as:

the problem being, chinese oil consumption, compared to america’s, is so small that nuking china wouldnt be much of a solution in the long run. 

is simply not the truth. China uses the second most oil of any nation, directly behind the USA. Further, as the link plainly noted, their rate of consumption of said oil is rising at over 7.5% a year. Far higher a rate than our own profligate ways here in ‘Utopia’....

Might I suggest that pointing out a fallacy is not an insult until you make it such by silly and childish denial. Your entire point , in that original post, falls flat simply because you didnt do your homework. Political ideas and ideals should really be based on truth and logic. That was and is my point.

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By SteveK9, December 13, 2010 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment

The problem with America is wealth concentration.  Obama does
not seem to understand that.

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Queenie's avatar

By Queenie, December 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment

Obysmal was not elected. Not in the usual sense. Like Bush before him and Clinton before him, Obysmal was selected. Vetted. Programed. Shots up to date.

THEN he danced the dance of betrayers. THEN he signed away his brotherhood to mankind.

He is a tool. A snap-on tool that can easily be replaced at the order of the fascist/corporate pigs who are destroying our country and environment.

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Napolean DoneHisPart's avatar

By Napolean DoneHisPart, December 13, 2010 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment

Regarding Wikileaks, is it another smoke screen to discredit Assange to say HE said the 9/11 incident was NOT covered-up in the least?

If HE REALLY SAID AND TESTIFIES that 9/11 was what was broadcast ‘live’ for the world to consume and accept at face value… well then, he truly must be a lackey of the smoothest degree, and the Wikileaking outings of whoever compromised their office and position in the bureaukracy known as Amerika, may very well be a deeper charade than expected.

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By aacme88, December 13, 2010 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment

@ gerard, December 14 at 2:32 am

You hit the nail on the head.
I applaud Wikileaks, even while I wonder if they are pointed in the right direction. At the present moment, the greatest threat to the country is not necessarily in foreign policy.
The striping of the middle and working classes of their assets and distributing them among the rich, the assault on science in order to discredit Global Warming and to allow the ruling class to dig in its heels to prevent the onslaught of the inevitable future, which it may not control. These are the issues of the day.
It is true that one eye must be kept on the warmongers, Iran looks like first choice for the next lucky recipient of Democracy by Invasion. I’m sure they are readying the flowers to strew in our path.
But the focus has widened. The scope of vigilance must do the same.

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By gerard, December 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm Link to this comment

What we need is some more WikiLeaks that show us what corporations gave
how much money to what candidates, which was spent how, and the win/lose
influence of those donations. 

And then some more WikiLeaks that show us the behind-the-scenes deals that
occur to determine who gets paid what from tax payers’ money, to do what or
buy what privilege or access.

It takes nerds to know how this can be done, but I have a sneaking idea that it
is entirely possible, and that’s why there is such a frantic over-reaction against
current WikiLeaks people. 

From present indications, it won’t be long now until we see a hysterically
patriotic move to stamp out the evil Internet and threaten anyone who accesses
certain officlally forbidden sites with prosecution under the infamous
Homeland Security provisions.  Right now the guardians of the United States
Constitution are trying to extraordinarily rend Manning and Assange and
anybody else who has the guts to stand up for freedom of information.

It’s going to be largely up to you, and you, and you, and me.

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By Patricia Greene, December 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Simply one of the dumbest articles that you have ever published on this site. 

“These apprehensions dissipated in the 1980s and, whatever the shortcomings of his policies, Ronald Reagan presided over a restoration of American morale.”

SERIOUSLY?  SERIOUSLY???  What country were you living in?  Reagan’s Supreme Court appointments and changes to FCC law alone have resulted in half the shit you see destroying our country today.  Trickle down corporatism.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, December 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

The spectre haunting Obama is the backbone of the past holders of that office.

What would Andrew Jackson do to the Fed?

How did FDR handle the last depression?

Carter solved Israel/Palestine disputes, what did he do?

Many of Obama’s predecessors had as much on their plate as Obama but the impact from lobbyists and campaign money has gotten worse.

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By pauls2sense, December 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So many of the comments posted so far give such well-spoken criticism that there’s not much more to add.  I listen to Dionne and Brooks on NPR, and, frankly prefer Shields & Brooks on PBS as an pleasant dialogue between slightly right of center and slightly left of center.

But it is important that Dionne, an intelligent man, be called out on this reiteration of the fantasy of American Exceptionalism (with an exceptional nod to Bobz point about the ways America has truly been exceptional).

Dionne may be like me, surrounded by good, reasonable, compassionate people, but that doesn’t count for anything when we are powerless as the richest among us succeeded in co-opting first capitalism, and then the entire political system. The pace of this oligarchy’s increase in the percentage of earnings in this country has gone vertical, and there is no satisfying their need for more money and control.

America will continue to waste resources, to delay debt control, delay the transition to efficient and profitable energy development, and foment endless war as a last gasp in asserting how much we deserve to be number one, second to none. We will drop, not to second, but to has-been.

It’s hubris, chauvinism, arrogance, and jingoism. It is made possible by a consumerist-driven media system that encourages being uninformed while junking out on mass entertainment, and while eating the worst possible food ever concocted and packaged.

Despite valuable sites like this, the voices of reason and intelligent debate are easily overwhelmed by the mainstream (junk) media. Even if the masses manage to see an issue correctly and vote for it, the same oligarchy steals the election with technology, or failing that, negates it with lobbyists. Obama was probably sat down and told the way it is if he wants to live to be re-elected.

No, E.J. this decline is onoing and virtually irreversible. It’s worse than Rome, because the ignorant, anti-intellectual masses are cheering on the oligarchy in its self-destructive path to irrelevance. We’re a banana republic with expensive tastes and no values except “more,” which is no more a value than terrorism is an enemy.

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By TAO Walker, December 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

The real GhostDance has never stopped.  Even so, “G.Anderson” probably prefers a more “self”-satisfying rationale for the U.S.S.A.‘s irreversible swirl down the drain of its own fatal flaws….and into the same cesspool where its imperial predecessors are all reduced to their biodegradable constituents.

Things long since went way beyond considerations of trying not to hurt the hypersensitive feelings of a bunch of “self”-obsessed “exceptional”-ists.  With the health and very Life of our Mother Earth and All Our Relations at-stake, shit-canning the sick-to-death angloamerican monstrosity, and its entire “global” infestation, is a no-brainer.

Those “individuals” here who IDentify irrevocably with the privateering pyramid-scheme CONs-piracy, and so march proudly in its hobnailed combat boots, can stumble in lock-step all the way to its bitter end.  Those who remember each other as Turtle Island Natives can join the GhostDance….and we’ll all together walk The Good Red Road in our moccasins.

That’s still a viable option, tame Sisters and Brothers….even on this the approximately 49,134th reiteration of that Day when our Ancestors captured Custer’s flag on the bluffs above the Greasy Grass.


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By ikallicrates, December 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

“Fear of decline is an old American story,” says Dionne. “These apprehensions dissipated in the 1980s and, whatever the shortcomings of his policies, Ronald Reagan presided over a restoration of American morale’. Far from dissipating these fears, Reagan exacerbated them. His ‘trickle down’ economic policies initiated the growing chasm between rich and poor into which the middle class is now disappearing. 

“George H.W. Bush followed, and he deserves great credit for his management of the Gulf War,” says Dionne. There would have been no Gulf War for GHWB to ‘manage’ if he had not invaded Iraq after assuring Saddam Hussein (through April Glaspie, US Ambassador to Iraq}, that ‘We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.’

After Reagan broke the unions, America’s CEOs began sending manufacturing jobs overseas. The only things American factories still produced were munitions for the ‘Cold War’. When the USSR collapsed, ending the ‘Cold War’ GHWB had to start another war to keep the American economy from collapsing. 

“Obama was elected for many reasons in 2008, but the country’s underlying desire to reverse this sense of decline was central to his victory”, says Dionne. Obama was elected because George Bush Junior was, in many people’s opinions, the worst president this has country ever had. Obama was a political unknown, having served only two terms as an Illinois state senator, but he spoke eloquently and was African-American. People voted for him because he appeared to be the opposite of Bush Junior.

“Obama’s biggest failures in his first two years lay in not fully grasping the opportunity this intimation of crisis created and in not appreciating that he was being asked to do more than fix the economy”. Fixing the economy was exactly what Obama was asked to do. He chose instead to help the bankers who had created the financial crisis, while doing nothing to help the ordinary Americans who had lost their jobs because of it.

“For Obama, political renewal requires a bold and persistent campaign for national renewal”. Obama clearly feels that, having saved the bankers from the consequences of their own reckless folly, he has done enough.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment

i’d say it’s a way longshot that anybody believes in any of this shit anymore.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment

it’s perfect.

how could anyone bring a more perfect ending to the american century, whatever that may have been, than america nuking half the motherfucking world in support of israel?

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By BobZ, December 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

America is still an exceptional country but not for the reasons cited by flag pin
patriots. Throughout our history, we have had the ability to reinvent ourselves
by serving as an incubator for new technologies/industries, and for largely
avoiding massive disruptions due to wars. We did not become exceptional
because of our late 20th century “imperialism” and having our military posted
all around the world. We need to reengage the world by embracing the
advantages of our entrepreneurship which can create new Apples and Googles.
America always had the wherewithal until recently to put in place the
infratstructure to support new advances in business. No we seem content to sit
on our butts and live off the fat of earlier generations. Obama seems to get it
but is stuck with a Republican party that wants to emulate the 1920’s, and a
Democratic party stll stuck in a Bill Clinton time warp. We really need a new
progressism in the United States that can set new paradigms for the future.
China and India right now have a head start on us, but we are still capable of
recapturing our past mojo, but it won’t be easy, as long as we remain in this
state of polarization.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

in the meantime, we should believe that if the chinese are gonna, sooner or later, be as greedy for oil as we are, we should nuke them.

no question

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment

you’re talking about energy consumption, i’m talking about oil consumption.

would you like to post chinese oil consumption vs american oil consumption?

Report this

By ardee, December 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

the problem being, chinese oil consumption, compared to america’s, is so small that nuking china wouldnt be much of a solution in the long run.

Errr, Flickervertigo, China’s energy consumption has surpassed that of the USA. Plus they pollute way more than do we these days as well. Also while they are still #2 in oil consumption, behind us, not exactly small as you infer, their usage increases by 7.5% a year. Soon we will be # 2….

Dont think the nukes will fly either, very bad for business.

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By sophrosyne, December 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All good points.  Obama lacks the intelligence and moral fortitude to lead this nation and to reclaim a place for America.  The country coninues to decline and not just economically.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

in the best of all zionist worlds, israel’s samson option becomes a global samson option, in the guise of “nuclear primacy”

israel nukes whoever’s in range, leaving radioactive holes in the ground as monuments to the stupidity of zionism.

or, america nukes china, leaving radioactive holes in the ground as monuments to american stupidity.


the problem being, chinese oil consumption, compared to america’s, is so small that nuking china wouldnt be much of a solution in the long run.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment

there’s a chance we could adjust if we were smart about it, and told the truth.

apparently, telling the truth is impossible.

the truth is intolerable, so we get ej dionne.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

“Obama was elected because the public is sick of foreign intrigue and wants our government to turn around, pay attention to us, and save our country, here, at home.”

...the problem being, maybe america cant be saved, which explains the looters.

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By NABNYC, December 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

If the author is suggesting that Obama was elected because Americans want him to recommit to empire and foreign exploitation, under a militaristic flag, then I disagree.  Obama was elected because the public is sick of foreign intrigue and wants our government to turn around, pay attention to us, and save our country, here, at home.

Our politicians excuse their failures to help the citizens by pretending that they actually are responsible for “helping” all the people of the world.  Sending jobs to China, for example, is a good thing because we are “helping” those poor people who need jobs.  Sending troops to Iraq is good because we are “helping” those people create a new country.

It’s all garbage and lies.  These politicians have the duty and responsibility to act on behalf of the American people only.  If they want to help the people in China, they should move there and run for office.  Can you imagine your doctor abandoning you on the table because some other patient showed up, so he decided to help them instead and leave you to die?  Or you attorney abandons you in the courtroom to go work for somebody else?  We hire these politicians to work for us.  They have no right, no business to stick their noses into other people’s lives.  Their job is to work for us.  They cover up their failures to do their job by proclaiming that they are busy in China, or in the middle east.  As an employee, they should all be fired.

People are sick to death of the U.S. empire.  Didn’t our Congress just vote to send another $4 billion/year to Israel for the next 10 years?  I believe that’s the exact amount of money Nevada needs to survive because of the devastation in its economy, so why on earth would our politicians send that money to a foreign country instead of sending it to our own people?  The answer is simple:  Israel pays enormous kick-backs to our politicians.  They do it for the money.  It’s not ideological at all, it’s just corruption.

Same for the wars:  they vote to keep the wars going because they get bribes and kick-backs from the multinational corporations that profit from war.

Honestly, this is just a tired rehash.  It’s like looking back to when you were 16 and in love, and how you felt.  People did believe Obama would save us.  We were silly, immature, pretty stupid, but that’s what we believed.  Now we know that we were wrong.  Obama is a smart, good-looking guy, but he’s just another multinational corporate representative.  That’s all he is.

If people want to save the country, we need to look to ourselves.  If we want jobs, we need millions of people out in the streets demanding a jobs program to employ 10 million Americans with good wages to rebuld our infrastructure.  Obama and the Democrats could not have been more clear in the past 2 years:  they’re not going to do a thing to help us.  Nothing.  Abandon all hope.

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By ray, December 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment
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character obama lacks

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By entropy2, December 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

Seriously, Mr. Dionne, are you becoming delusional?

The last thing we need is another resurgence of American “exceptionalism!” We need a complete change of direction from the consumption-mad debt-ridden economy that is turning us into a nation of serfs and masters. Obama has shown himself unwilling or incapable of challenging the entrenched power structures that are driving us off the cliff.

Some retread “Morning in America” pap will only make the crash of an unsustainable system more brutal.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

“None of these crises are likely to be resolved…”

...until we figure out how to replace the trillion barrels of easy oil we’ve burned already.

and we also have to figure out what to do with israel, which was such a bad idea in the first place that it’s probably not gonna make it.

at least, not without american protection, not if it keeps going the way it’s going.

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By BestPolicies, December 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment

“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
- Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar, Mark Twain

The U.S. troubles can be classified as three continuing crises.  1) Foreign political crisis since 2001.  2) Domestic political crisis since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  3) Economic crisis since 2008.  None of these crises are likely to be resolved with the current approaches.  Until all of these crises are resolved, the U.S. will continue to noticeably decline. 

At best Washington, D.C. will be able to manage the decline so that it will be gradual.  So gradual that few notice.  At worst, claims will be made that America is back and then events will dash these hopes and plunge the country into panic. 

All of these crisis can be resolved but it will require a systematic understanding of the basis for each of these crises.  Eventually the crises will become so severe that Americans will accept any solution, no matter how crazy.  Therein lies the danger.

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

it’s pretty interesting watching my own behavior now…

i got to think that if i had anything really worthwile to do, i wouldnt give much a shit about israel, looters, the fate of america, or any of this political stuff.

but then, i got a long history of weirdness… i started questioning the idiocy of the american way when i was a kid, due probably to the way i grew up in the country, gun and fishing pole, weird enough by the time tv arrived in our house that i despised it.

now then, as the boomers retire, and have nothing else to do but think of where they’ve gone wrong (keeping in mind the fact that they were burning banks when they were kids)...

well, it’s a good thing the boomers will be warehoused off somewhere where they wont be able to pollute the minds of younger people.

nevermind the fact that for most of human existence, old people were supposedly repositories of wisdom.

probably just more phony history—old people being wise.

dog knows we have lots of evidence of the stupidity of old people.

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By Anarcissie, December 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

Yes, let’s stir up a war with China so ‘we’ can be ‘great’ again.  Dionne seems to be a sort of vicarious war criminal.  What’s this kind of stuff doing here on a supposedly progressive web site?  Doesn’t it belong in, say, The New Republic?

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By G.Anderson, December 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Reagan, again? Ray guns morning in America, was nothing more than a Revitalization
movement. It was and is just a “Ghost Dance”.  Like all Revitalization movements, it was

True decline of this country hasn’t yet happened for it’s wealthy owners, but when it
does you can bet it will mean war. But a war that cannot be sustained due to America’s
economic defeat. We have been defeated economically. Our Economic defeat will make
it difficult to profit much from the debt slavery of the American people.

President Obama doesn’t have a presidency anymore than a checkout girl owns the
grocery store. His job like Bush before him is to tell believable lies.

And it’s E.J’s job to try and make those lies seem as if the have some basis in fact, when
they do not.

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By SarcastiCanuck, December 13, 2010 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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Naive view of the world Mr./Ms. Dionne.There is no more American exceptionalism as Sarah Palin likes to rant about.There is also no Indian,Chinese,British or anyone elses exceptionalism.They are all self serving.Now,the internet has blown the lid off of numerous lies perpetrated by every society in the world,and people should be pursuing a more egalitarian,compromising and cohabitational mentallity.Dying are all the SuperPowers,hedgemons,protectorates and exploited cultures of the past.The thirld world are digging themselves out of thier servitude and standing upright and proud.They are confronting thier daunting and sometimes overwhelming problems to move into the future as a respected and worthwhile culture which can rule itself.
  Instead of trying to bend them to its rule,America should try to help them achieve indepedance from starvation,disease,catastrophe,crime,war and exploitation.Whoever can help accomplish this in the new world will be seen as truly exceptional and worthy of glory…I may be a dreamer,but I’m not the only one.Imagine that….

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

“All Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton did was delay the decline and fall, as I see it.”

yup, and bush sped it up.

poor old jimmy carter tried to warn us, but he committed too many sins against the israelis, so we made short work of him… carter had the advantage of hindsight, coming to the presidency in 1977, seven years after american oil production peaked.

if we’d listened to carter, things might have turned out differently.

anyhow, now we got E.J. Dionne, Jr, supposedly a really heavy-duty thinker, summa cum laude at harvard, a rhodes scholar, senior fellow at brookings—home of the neocons’ go-to guy for oil data, daniel yergin… washington dc insider for a thousand years, and what do we hear from him about the state of the union?

is it any wonder, given the quality of information we’re being fed by such high quality people, that we’re in such bad shape?

alvin drinks and goes home

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By dcrimso, December 13, 2010 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

It’s becoming clear that Americans are going to choose by default their own destruction.  Nobody wants to address the fact, that globalization, of which America has been the leader, is not sustainable. Apparently, humans have great difficulty seeing the long term, and therefore are forced by crisis to change their ways.  Hopefully, I’ll be dead when it happens.

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By knute, December 13, 2010 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama dosen’t seem to get it still. He is too far insulated, as are all outr politicians from the troubles facing so many americans. He is callowing to the same party that since saint Reagan has dug us into this hole with their zeal for deregulation of the same industries that are screwing the people now, yet he refuses to place the blame on them. He is not forcing the banks to play a major role in a solution, its as if he is simply leaving it up to them to decide whether they will help, and they are not. They are only helping themselves to the money given them in the bailout. While the people do seem to have an incredibly short attention span. Perhaps if he and some others in the democratic party took off their kid gloves and just reminded us of who consistantly pushed for this corporate takeover of our democracy, that maybe he could gain some traction against the snake oil salesman that is all we here from now from Faux News. But I suppose I may have answered my own question. They don’t bring it up because too many of those on the democratic side of the isle, like our current VP, voted in favor of corporations right along with the republicans.

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By Paul_GA, December 13, 2010 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

Ah, yes, Ardee; the poisonous “status quo”. Solzhenitsyn said, in 1978, “Western thinking has become conservative; the world situation should stay as it is at any cost; there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a Status Quo is the symptom of a society that has come to the end of its development.”

All Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton did was delay the decline and fall, as I see it.

Something I highly recommend—“Taking Down America”, by Alfred W. McCoy and Tom Engelhardt:

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By flickervertigo, December 13, 2010 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

not many people have the guts to talk about the problem that is sure to cause american decline and collapse: peak oil.

nobody can talk about peak oil because peak oil was the motive behind 9/11…

apparently the israelis and israeli americans believe in peak oil and global warming despite the denials from the AEI, exxon and CERA…

and what it all means, is: israel will have to be secured from global warming by cleasing the high ground in the west bank of palestinians.

the problem being, israel will need protection from america until that ethnic cleansing job is completed, and america is already suffering from the effects of high oil prices and various schemes like the housing bubble, hatched by looters who see the peak oil handwriting on the wall.

according to the EIA, global oil production peaked, year-on-year, in 2005. table 4.1d

according to the IEA, global oil production peaked in 2006.

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By ardee, December 13, 2010 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

The decline of America can be seen in two parts, I believe. Firstly the obvious and long overdue emergence of third world nations from the colonialism that made them slaves to an artificially inflated lifestyle they themselves could not enjoy. This is simply irreversible and should not be considered anything but a long overdue balancing. No matter how many wars we engage in world wide, no matter how we attempt to suppress the industrialisation of our former colonies we must come to grips with the unyielding truth of equality, both economic and judicial.

The second decline is, again in my own opinion, one which we the people of this nation have in our power to defeat. The destruction of our democratic government and the unchecked power of rampant and greedy capitalism striving to wring ever more profit from the stone of our economy. Our elected representatives purchase our votes with piles of money supplied by the few, the wealthy precisely to keep themselves, and not us, in power.

So, despite the authors appeal to support a corporate President for reasons unrelated to the realities as I see them , and, hopefully, as you see them too, we can avoid the trap of a status qup that works only to benefit the few, the wealthy, the greedy.

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By Paul_GA, December 13, 2010 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

As I see it, trying to put the brakes on this country’s decline will only delay the inevitable end of the imperial “glory” and “grandeur”, and will make the fall that much worse. Better to change tack and try to let this country down as gently as possible from the dizzying heights to which it’s climbed, than risk gambling everything on maintaining and expanding the Empire and see the bottom fall out messily, in much the same fashion (or worse) as happened to the old Soviet Union.

Just my two cents. I fear those fools and scoundrels in Mordor-on-the-Potomac will wrap themselves in the US flag and continue the foolish attempt to maintain/expand the Empire, no matter what the consequences will be for this country and its people in the months and years ahead.

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