Thursday, May 7, 2009

President Janus

Obama can look to the past to see the effects of his policies.

Janus was the Roman god of gates, doors and doorways (janitors keep them in good order), and of beginnings and endings. Janus is typically depicted as having two faces pointed in different directions. A gift from Saturn, those two faces allowed Janus the ability to see the future and the past.

It is only fitting that President Obama was inaugurated in January. Like Janus, Obama has two faces. Unfortunately, the face pointed to the future is unable to learn from the lessons seen by the one pointed to the past.

Obama releases the secret CIA interrogation memos, yet claims nobody will be affected. Does the backward-looking Obama remember the Church commission of the 1970’s that emaciated our intelligence services? Cannot the forward-looking Obama see that he will lose the confidence of some of his most valuable assets? CIA officers will no longer feel the President has their backs. Presidential advisors will no longer be able to provide confidential advice without fear of future retribution when political situations change. It must have been foggy the day Obama looked back.

Obama’s backward-looking face sees that while lobbyists may exercise undue influence over lawmaking, they also provide a resource for policy advice. He must have observed this during his years as a “community organizer” and legislator. Yet he proclaimed he would “tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” This silly prohibition on lobbyists would needlessly rob him of a valuable resource, and box him into a corner when he inevitably had to waive, at least 15 times, his own promises to fill his staff. I guess that backward-looking face was blindfolded.

Looking to the past, Obama could see the crippling effect of excessive deficits and profligate pork-barrel spending. He only had to look back 30 years to see it. He must have seen something because he went so far as to say there would be a strong series of checks and balances in place to eliminate wasteful spending. Yet he has spent enough to run trillion dollar deficits, as analyzed by the CBO and GAO, for as far as the eye can see. Have not the tired collectivist solutions of the past he proposes been tried and shown to fail? What does the forward-looking face see that the rest of us do not?

Obama must have looked at the past performance of the DC school system. With eyes wide open, he enrolled his daughters in the Sidwell school, a fine private institution. He could also see, if he bothered to look, that some students in that school were there on DC school vouchers. An undisputedly successful program, DC school vouchers allowed disadvantaged students to attend this exclusive school. Yet Obama refuses to come down strongly in favor of the voucher program, instead recommending continued funding only until the currently enrolled students graduate. This seems like a solution from Solomon. But unlike Solomon who would never have split the baby, Obama positions stops new students from escaping the failed DC educational system, and those schools that rely on voucher funding for their existence will be forced to close. I guess that forward-looking face only sees the NEA and its support in 2012.

Today, Obama will honor National Prayer Day with a proclamation and a day of private prayer. The National Prayer Day has roots in the founding of the US, and since 1952 has been a public reaffirmation of the role of faith in our lives. Backward-looking Obama would see this, if he opened his eyes. But forward-looking Obama does not want to offend his ACLU supporters. Obama wants to have it both ways. What he fails to realize that by trying to not offend anyone, he offends almost everyone.

Consistent with our typical understanding of two-faced, President Barack Obama always wants it both ways. But Janus is about looking forward, and looking back. Janus is about beginnings and endings. Now that we are at 100 days, really just the beginning. Will Obama ultimately fail because he does not see, learn or understand the past? Hopefully, the scales will fall from his eyes, learning from the past as he plots our course to the future.

Somehow, I doubt it.


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