Welcome to a non-race-reactionary/pre-debate musing. I’m going to try and look forward today, not backward at the week that has just transpired.
But I’m writing my column this week from Greece, so excuse me for being a little pessimistic. This place is catastrophism concretized. I sense multiple traumas here, and it’s fucking with my head. But I’ll return to Greece at the end of this piece, so stay tuned.
I’m in a hotel complex somewhere south of Athens (far from an island paradise) attending an annual conference of bona fide muckety mucks from the worlds of digital marketing, digital media, and digital doohickeys. To be fair, there are also some people here who make real things, analog things. We presented one such amazing machine ourselves (more on that in the future). But regardless of what we do, we’re all here to learn how to use 1s and 0s to make what we do better. Binary code can do some truly amazing things. But with the conference now over, I can return to More Eddy’s principle obsession—the election.
Contemplating the Greece that exists outside the meeting room walls, the real Greece of “The Multiple Depressions”—economic depression, infrastructural depression, national psychological depression—and far from the media shitstorm in the USA (by the way David Brooks nailed it last week in his New York Times editorial: Romney is what I said he is, a non-ideologue posturing as a Republican Tea Partier, no inner conviction on the radical agenda he is pretending to ape), I have a completely new perspective on the 2012 presidential election.
Obama is fucked. He is so fucked. Or, as a cousin of mine would say for added rhetorical effect, he is “so, so” fucked.
I’m not talking about the election itself. The race will drone on with this or that focus—forensic analyses of Romney’s tax returns, negative ad blitzkriegs in the swing states, fact checking dramas, and the inevitable Romney gaffes and blunders. Then the debates will come and that will be that. It’s Obama’s to lose.
So let’s say he wins.
Obama gets his second term.
Though it’s a thin margin, it’s a huge victory regardless, and for so many reasons that people will go on and on about. They will say he’s matured, that he’ll be a different president in his second term, that he’ll be looking for a new legacy and place in history, etc.
But there won’t be much time for hagiography. The reality of the first six months of his second term is that it’s going to be absolutely brutal.
Here is the shit short-list; I’m covering only the problems that are going to blow up in Newbama’s face in the super short term, from victory in November, to inauguration in January, to the very beginning of summer, 2013:
1.) The Debt Ceiling Debate
The angry mob that really hates this president and has always hated him—the Republicans in the House—do not simply go away on November 12. They have jobs for two more years, at least. And if they sabotaged Obama in ‘11 and ’12, wait until you see what they do in ’13. Well, wait until you see what they do to him in December this year. The House are going to push the president, and the country (and maybe even the world) to the brink of ruin over the debt ceiling. On January 1 the kicked can—the debt ceiling—can’t be kicked anymore and the country will have to raise the ceiling on the money it can borrow, or risk defaulting on its outstanding loans. We have a lot of loans out there. The president is not going to sleep well this Christmas. Or New Year’s. The Republicans will do everything they can to nail him on this. Obama’s real Waterloo wasn’t the Health Care Act; it’s the debt ceiling. And he’s going to come out the other end completely white-haired. The failure of Simpson-Bowles is going to finally catch up with him in spectacular fashion.
2.) Global Economic Downturn
There is another global economic “correction” on the horizon. QE3 + The Eurozone Crisis + China’s New 5 Year Plan are all going to conspire to create a perfect shitstorm for the planet next year. QEing—quantitative easing—is last ditch effort economics: just print more money, things will solve themselves later. The PIIGS countries in Europe would love to have the right to print money—the European Central Bank just enacted a form of our QE3—but it’s a short hit and has the potential to backfire in high inflation rates, and other weird economic issues I don’t really understand. Speaking of the Eurozone, something’s going to give next year. All of these economies are running on fumes: there just isn’t enough demand across the board for a stable continent-wide situation. The Germans will continue to sell cars to the Chinese, but not as they once did. Why? The Chinese economy will be slowed further in 2013 on purpose. In March, the new Chinese Politburo will issue its next 5-year plan and I have an inside scoop that party officials will officially throttle the economy down to 7 percent growth rate in that 5-year plan. That’s way down from historic highs of 10 - 12 percent over the past decade or so. China is looking inward for more sustainable growth, and as they downshift, the whole global economy downshifts with them.
3.) Israel & Iran
Israel will strike Iran in the first three months of 2013. Probably just after the inauguration in January. Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, though challenged internally and by the polls, seem kind of weirdly unstoppable (see David Remnick’s recent piece in The New Yorker, “The Vegetarian”). Israel will strike Iran unilaterally, and the President, though he won’t want to, will not vociferously condemn the attack once it’s happened. And the Israeli strike will not only out Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will take out anything important connected to them, like roads, bridges, power stations, communications towers… the extent of the strike will actually freak people out, it’ll be much wider than most people currently predict. When Bibi goes in he’ll make it really count, for the next 20 years. With one shot at it he will hit Iran hard, and…
4.) Arab Winter
A major strike on Iran (or even a minor strike, for that matter) will throw the region into a definitive state of religious winter. Look at the hysterics caused by The Innocence of Muslims. That will be nothing compared to the geo-religio freakout that will follow a military strike on Iran. The small but vocal religious fanatics we all know and love will be joined by mainstream Arabs from across these newly hatched protean-democracies. These Arab Spring front-liners will join the zealots to defend Iran, violently. As much as these people don’t care for the Persian version of Islam, aside from the obvious schismatic-historical reasons, there’s just way too much solemnity, sorrow, and self-infliction of pain in Persian Shiite Islam for the sensualism and materialism of the Arab world to handle—the Arabs and the Persians are united in their hatred of Israel. United by hate. What will Newbama do? What will he even be able to do? Middle East and West will be divided further, the right wing in the USA and Iran, Israel and Egypt, and Syria, and Libya, Yemen, Pakistan… all right wings everywhere will be emboldened while moderates everywhere will crawl back into their holes. Spoilers Russia and China will criticize and meddle to push their own agendas further in a moment of crisis and markets will nosedive when Iran disrupts the flow of oil through the Gulf. Then Obama will have to get involved. Oh, what a fucking bloody mess, and with no allies in the Arab world that he can stand shoulder to shoulder with to get us through. If Arab Winter falls across the Middle East, Obama will consume his second term in a real, not perceived, clash of civilizations. And, of course, it will be argued that it was all his fault.
So there you have it. That’s why Obama is so, so fucked.
Right off the bat Washington will draw first blood with debt ceiling brinksmanship. Then the world economy will take us all down the shitter and he’ll preside over the slide. Israel will defang Iran on his watch and the whole of Islam will rise in unity against the Jews and the Christians and he won’t have a single friend he can count on.
All of this spells one sure thing: Obama’s second term will guarantee a pretty hard right Republican will take the White House in 2016. That’s why they didn’t field a real candidate this time around. Why burn a real contender. Just wait it out.
Back to Greece.
My impression—no, my feeling—as I spend more time with real Greece outside of the conference walls, is that the Greek malaise is easy to solve. All it would take to fix this entire country—and ergo all it will take to fix the whole of Obama’s second term—is confident, positive, inventive leadership… a good natured lovable chauvinist with huge balls of stone. Yes, Greece, and the world, needs a hero. Now more than ever.
Previously - Mitt Romney, Little Black Hole