The faith healer’s tent in tat­ters

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

Watch­ing faith heal­ers is fun, if you can over­look the pain and des­per­a­tion in the eyes of the sup­pli­cants, and cheer­fully en­dure the mos­qui­toes, gnats and other night bugs fly­ing in tight for­ma­tion through gaps in the tent flaps. You have to ig­nore re­al­ity and just en­joy the show.

But the next morn­ing, with the sound of the singing and the scent of the saw­dust lin­ger­ing on the cool air, the sick, the halt and the in­firm are well ad­vised to call the doc­tor.

Barack Obama con­ducted the pic­ture-per­fect cam­paign with the skill and bom­bast that any smoothtalk­ing piney-woods char­la­tan would covet, but he’s learn­ing that a pres­i­dent can’t pack up the pi­ano, fold his tent and hurry off to the next town (or the next state) be­fore the sun rises. Alas, there’s no doc­tor to call for his pa­tient.

Bill Clin­ton kept us en­ter­tained with the per­ma­nent cam­paign, en­livened by his per­ma­nent stalk­ing of women that ren­dered his ad­min­is­tra­tion a comic-opera in­ter­reg­num of sex be­tween the Bushes. But that was then, when we could for­give a bubba for be­ing Bubba be­cause the times, they were good and hardly a-chang­ing.

This time around the singing was en­thu­si­as­tic and the pray­ing, such as it was, was loud and the faith healer was pow­er­ful, per­sua­sive and smooth, as only a big noise from the South Side of Chicago could be. Vot­ers who had never heard a faith healer in full voice were easy marks. Who knew the new pres­i­dent and all his men wouldn’t have a clue about what to do about trou­ble? This is the kind of am­bush of events that breaks pres­i­dents and en­dows them with a per­ma­nent legacy of crim­i­nal in­com­pe­tence. The sight of Jimmy Carter emerg­ing from a White House visit last week set hearts ashud­der.

The Key­stone Kops con­fu­sion dis­tracts pub­lic at­ten­tion from the Is­lamic bomb in Iran, the war in Afghanistan, rene­gade Mus­lim ter­ror­ism and the peren­nial ques­tion about what to do to buck up milk­leg Euro­pean “al­lies.” When “trou­ble” is about what’s no longer in Stupid’s pocket, he pays at­ten­tion to the out­rage at hand. Money is di­vided by a dec­i­mal sys­tem that ev­ery­body un­der­stands. Pretty speeches, like the plat­form per­for­mance of a faith healer, won’t cut it.

Whistling past the grave­yard doesn’t work, ei­ther, but it’s tempt­ing to try.

“Peo­ple are not sit­ting around their kitchen ta­bles think­ing about AIG,” says David Ax­el­rod, the chief de­signer of the pic­ture-per­fect cam­paign. “They are think­ing about their own jobs.”

Rahm Emanuel, the White House tough guy, scoffs that the AIG dis­as­ter is merely “a big dis­trac­tion” from the faith healer’s real work of heal­ing the econ­omy (as if ev­ery­thing is not re­lated). But the pub­lic-opin­ion polls, which mea­sure the pulse of ev­ery ad­min­is­tra­tion, say oth­er­wise. Gallup finds a big ma­jor­ity “very up­set” about it, with only 11 per­cent “not par­tic­u­larly both­ered.” Messrs. Ax­el­rod and Emanuel should talk to their friends to see who is obliv­i­ous of the AIG de­ba­cle, and how it hap­pened.

This is where Mr. Obama and his friends fear most to go. The $165 mil­lion paid out in per­fectly le­gal bonuses are only part of it. The Democrats in Congress are ea­ger to join in the cheap-seat cho­rus against “greed” and “cor­rup­tion,” as long as no­body no­tices they’re a cru­cial part of the ca­bal of cor­rup­tion that set off the eco­nomic slide. The rum­bling be­gan with the ex­po­sure of mis­man­age­ment at Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac, and the fin­ger­prints of Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer and par­tic­u­larly Bar­ney Frank are all over the cooked books.

Mr. Obama was elected in part be­cause so many Amer­i­cans thought he was se­ri­ous about get­ting se­ri­ous. He would re­lieve a weary na­tion of “the par­ti­san­ship and pet­ti­ness and im­ma­tu­rity that has poi­soned our pol­i­tics.” Some of us, to be sure, were skep­ti­cal. When you’ve been in Wash­ing­ton for a while it’s dif­fi­cult to be im­pressed by the sight of a new tent, tat­tered flaps flut­ter­ing in the wind, go­ing up on that va­cant lot over­grown with wild black­ber­ries and John­son grass just down the street.

Pres­i­dent Obama and his men act “as if no one is watch­ing them when they con­tra­dict their cam­paign prom­ises,” writes Karl Rove, the evil vil­lain of lib­eral imagination, in the Wall Street Jour­nal. “That be­hav­ior is un­wit­tingly giv­ing the Repub­li­cans an open­ing.”

The Democrats can take some small com­fort in know­ing that Repub­li­cans know how to blow op­por­tu­ni­ties, too.

Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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