- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008




As President-elect Barack Obama vacations with his family in Hawaii and publicly complains about the intrusiveness of the press pool and the intense scrutiny of his Secret Service team, I suspect about now Mr. Obama may be recalling George Bernard Shaw’s heartless observation that - “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”

This last week of December 2008 is a strange moment for the country. It must be positively bizarre for our president-elect. It seems as if all the problems of the world are lining up and just waiting for our new president to handle. For every American but one, we are merely waiting to see what Mr. Obama will do in three weeks. For that one - Obama - he, presumably, is puzzling over finding the right policies, if there are any right policies. Probably there are only terrible and catastrophic policies to pick from.

There are media reports that he is smoking more than usual. Who could blame him? For many of the rest of us, we wake up at two in the morning worried about our family’s or our business’s finances. Mr. Obama has to worry about the nation’s and the world’s finances and wars and threats of yet more wars.

Americans continue to not shop (until recently the world, including citizen of the world Mr. Obama, condemned Americans for shopping to the tune of 25 percent of world consumption. Now the whole world is begging us to buy more stuff to keep the world from going broke.) How long will it be before President Obama repeats President Bush’s advice to Americans after September 11th to go shopping?

The economy continues its downward track. The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler have been delayed a couple of months - to give Mr. Obama time to be sworn in as president before the real unpleasantness begins (or the really big bucks are spent to delay the unpleasantness by a few more months). As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues get ready to spend about a trillion dollars to try to stimulate the economy, Mr. Obama is going to have to start saying no to his friends on the Hill. Left to their own devices, that one trillion dollars will fall well short of the spending urges that get larger by the day. It must be tough to spend a trillion dollars you don’t have and be called cheap.

But even as he must worry whether even a trillion dollars of stimulus can ameliorate the precipitous economic contraction - he must also worry about the real possibility of double digit inflation hitting our economy in 6-to-18 months - as a result of all these trillions of freshly conjured-up dollars that will be flooding our currency supply.

Beyond the little matters of either deflation or hyperinflation, Hamas broke its cease fire with Israel and Israel started defending herself again last week. Muslims worldwide and our many anti-semitic European friends are crying out for Israel to show “restraint.” Nobody cares what lame duck Bush says about this anymore, but the whole angry world awaits the first presidential utterance of Mr. Obama on the matter of putting the Jews in their place. Will he speak for all the Jew haters in Europe and the Middle East, or will he speak as every American president since Harry Truman has, and defend Israel’s right to exist and militarily protect itself when its civilians are attacked by yet more fanatic, Islamist bombs and rockets? Down the road a piece from Gaza, the Pakistani and Indian fanatics in the sub continent are gearing up for another of their regular flirtations with nuclear annihilation. As I write, the Pakistanis and Indians are rushing troops up to their mutual border, but of course hope to avoid war. Unless they have backed down by January 20 at noon, stopping war while not antagonizing either of those needed allies will fall to Mr. Obama and his vastly experienced Secretary of State (who once rode foreign elephants with Chelsea - so is superbly equipped to manage Hindu/Muslim fanaticism.) And, oh, by the way, the Chinese are talking of building their first aircraft carrier to compete with our blue water Navy.

To add to the burdens of our young president-elect, reports from around the world suggest that the instinct to protect local economies is growing, thus putting more pressure on free trade. While strong arguments can be made in individual trade cases, history is unambiguous about the result of increased protectionism during a period of world economic contraction.

Economically beggaring thy neighbor is a sure path to depression. Contrary to Mr. Obama’s prior words and union allies’ desires, he fails to champion world trade at the serious risk of repeating Herbert Hoover’s catastrophic Smoot-Hawley protectionist mistake.

With history before Mr. Obama, I think of Shakespeare’s young King Harry, Henry V, the duties of fateful war falling on his inexperienced shoulders. The chorus eerily recites: “For now sits Expectations in the air, and hides a sword from hilts unto the point with crowns imperial. Crowns and coronets, Promised to Harry and his followers.” Let us hope that the inexperienced Obama now with crowns and coronets and followers - rises to his duty as did young Harry six centuries ago.

Tony Blankley is a syndicated columnist.

Tara Wall is away. Her column will return next week.

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