Friday, November 21, 2008


Throughout the election process, image is everything. Now, post-election, the Electorate looks for signals of capacities beyond the ability to get elected. We peer in, looking for tells of what an Obama Presidency will mean. Has there been a tell? … Did we miss it?

There was little satisfaction in The Pacific Gate Post having predicted back in early July that Obama would become the next President. The conditions and road signs were easy to read. The population’s unrest was conspicuous. The discontent gaining momentum rendered Hillary’s bid for the White House, and then John McCain’s charge, little more than valiant but submerged free-style strokes against a powerful current. Obama was a refreshing embodiment of eloquence which the self proclaimed intelligentsia believed accurately reflected America’s image. In contrast to George Bush’s endless public verbal faux-pas echoed with flourish by CNN, and late-night talk show hosts, Democrats agreed, and many across the political middle acquiesced, with fingers crossed.

Since the election, the mainstream media has presented us what it believes are satisfactory analyses on the transitioning process. We have been provided examinations of moment-by-moment cameos in the life of a history making President Elect, from his visit to the White House, to the pasting of fresh faces on titles fashioning the top of the new administration’s food chain. Endless Op Eds have given us “much ado about nothing” over the Rahm Emanuel pick for Chief of Staff. Will it annoy the Israel’s neighbors? Will it make this a too pro-Israel administration? Will Emanuel’s tantrums impede or frustrate relations with some Democrats in Congress? We are not getting much reporting of the fact that he failed dismally in his fiduciary duties as a Director of Freddie Mac through a time when the books were getting massaged in that institution. But then, no one seems to be held accountable for any of that corrupted abuse of the taxpayer’s cash by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

No, the Emanuel decision, although momentous, is not a tell. Neither are any of Obama’s other likely announcements on his Cabinet. How could they be? Just as George W. Bush was a product of his father’s political machine, it cannot be a surprise to anyone that Obama is a product of the Chicago political machine that produces Senators, Congressmen, or Mayors. It cannot bewilder anyone that a lawyer by training, and Senator by oratory, would surround himself with powerful members of the Democratic system that funded him into the Oval Office, or with former members of the Clinton inner circle. We expect that a couple of Republican faces will take a chair around his table in deference to campaign promises of bipartisan politics from his administration. None of this will bring change. And so, we look for signs that some may come, and we await a sign that Obama will establish a sense of history for his Presidency beyond the obvious.

We will strive to decipher the reveals on the Obama economic front, and gage his engagements to resolve the Nation’s greatest crisis. In the meantime, here is the first sign of a tell on the international relations, and foreign affairs negotiating front…

He “supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

Such sentiment, on the surface, appears an innocuous and even benign proclamation. Not so. Not in a time of so much international tension, or fear of nuclear proliferation. Let’s take a page from the most central and dominant figure in the end game of the Cold War. Let’s glean from a master negotiator, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan’s most sobering moment may have been his realization of the devastation that would define a nuclear war. His awakening to the outcome of a nuclear attack on America by the Soviet regime sharpened his mind to the protection of his country. To buttress against the potential of such a holocaust, Reagan threw himself behind the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). As many of you will recall, on March 23, 1983, he committed to the creation of an elaborate umbrella of space-based missile destroying long-range strategic nuclear ballistic missiles in flight, deployed from satellites, and X-ray lasers also shot from satellites. The brain center of this program may have been the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, East of San Francisco, California, but its heart was Ronald Reagan. His strategy was a dramatic shift from the long assumed doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), and it sought a leap in weapons systems unlike any ever conceived in military history.

Far from being an “intellectual”, or ever pretending to be one, Reagan’s genius was his knowing what he didn’t know, and embracing a deep seeded conviction that American ingenuity could achieve the near impossible. His Lawrence Livermore Labs would deliver. He did not question whether SDI would be "workable". The very fact that he set Lawrence Livermore Labs on track to realize his dream, would make it so. He convinced America of it, but more importantly, he convinced the world of it, particularly the Soviets and Gorbachev.

At summits held in Geneva and Reykjavik, Mikhail Gorbachev offered concessions, including nuclear armament concessions, in exchange for abandonment of the SDI program. With power of rhetorical persuasion and confidence, coupled with his fervent distrust of communism, or communists, Reagan prevailed, undaunted, in the shaping of his audacious foreign policy. He backed the Soviet bear into a corner. The already cracking Soviet economy could not support the escalating costs of competing with such exotic technological deployments as SDI. The advantage would provide America with overwhelming dominance. An initial result of the Reagan strategy was the Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty of 1987, followed a few years later with the disintegration of the Soviet empire, and the destruction of the Berlin wall.

Some of us close to the technological capacities resting in the state of the art during this period knew that the Reagan “Star Wars” system would not be achievable for at least the coming decade, and possibly far beyond. And yet, we marveled at the brilliance, the audacity, and the execution of the Reagan strategy. Even his closest aids believed that he believed. His enthusiasm was infectious. He was never in doubt.

So, back to Obama. Where was the tell? Where was the reveal? It was too painfully, and obviously obvious.

We await the next tell.

blog comments powered by Disqus