Saturday, March 14, 2009

Does Obama Have What It Takes?

From Infoplease:
Following the death of Konstantin Chernenko (Andropov's successor) in 1985, Gorbachev was appointed general secretary of the party despite being the youngest member of the politburo. He embarked on a comprehensive program of political, economic, and social liberalization under the slogans of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”). The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (1986) forced Gorbachev to allow even greater freedom of expression. The government released political prisoners, allowed increased emigration, attacked corruption, and encouraged the critical reexamination of Soviet history.

In a series of summit talks (1985–88), Gorbachev improved relations with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, with whom he signed an Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) arms limitation treaty in 1987. By 1989 he had brought about the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (see Afghanistan War) and had sanctioned the end of the Communist monopoly on political power in Eastern Europe. For his contributions to reducing East-West tensions, he was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.
From What is Perestroika, by Kerry Kubelius: "Perestroika literally means 'reconstruction.' In this particular case, in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, perestroika meant reconstruction of the economy, which was in dire straights right before its collapse."

From The Significance of Gorbachev's Glasnost and Perestroika, by Chad Hagy:
The significance of Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika was to expose the decades of corruption in the political, economic and social control created by Marx, Lenin and Stalin. This, in turn, gave Russians much more freedom in their daily lives and in the economic dealings. It led to less censorship throughout the country and people were allowed to discuss politics like never before. Eventually, the significance of Gorbachev's plan would change the history of Russia and mold it into a freer capitalist society.
While Gorbachev's reforms did in fact lead to the abolishment of state planning in favor of a largely unregulated capitalist system, that was never his intention. He remained a committed socialist throughout the crisis, but events outran his intentions, the rise of Yeltsin led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the avatars of "free market capitalism," led by our own Larry Summers, took over, with disastrous results -- for which Gorbachev was, in my opinion, unfairly blamed.

Despite the failure of his reform efforts, Gorbachev was clearly one of history's great political leaders, initiating sweeping, progressive, changes with a boldness and imagination that have rarely been equaled.

Gorbachev calls on Obama to carry out 'perestroika' in the U.S.
MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said that the Obama administration in the United States needs far-reaching 'perestroika' reforms to overcome the financial crisis and restore balance in the world.

The term perestroika, meaning restructuring, was used by Gorbachev in the late 1980s to describe a series of reforms that abolished state planning in the Soviet Union.

In an interview with Italy's La Stampa published on Friday, Gorbachev said President-elect Barack Obama needs to fundamentally change the misguided course followed by President George W. Bush over the past eight years. . .

"This is a man of our times, he is capable of restarting dialogue, all the more since the circumstances will allow him to get out of a dead-end situation. Barack Obama has not had a very long career, but it is hard to find faults, and he has led an election campaign winning over the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton herself. We can judge from this that this person is capable of engaging in dialogue and understanding current realities."
Can Obama rise to the challenge with policies equally as bold and progressive as those of Gorbachev? All indications point to a crisis in the United States every bit as urgent, and in need of radical reform, as that faced by the former Soviet leader. The question is: does Obama have what it takes to develop a policy of reform every bit as thorough, sweeping -- and progressive -- as that achieved by his Russian counterpart?


  1. So far he seems rather weak. He has not been able nor interested in facing AIPAC, his main backer, and all what he seems able to do regarding the economy is to keep pouring taxpayers' money into companies without any guarantees by the recievers.

    Meanwhile disposessed citizens are dumped into tent camps and the state provides nothing, absolutely nothing, for them.

    How can you expect to regenerate the economy without pumping money to potential consumers? Exporting? Where?

    I foresee a rather long period of failed goverments in the USA, their foreign policies kidnapped by Isarel's genocidal interests and their domestic policies by whinny broke corporate dinosaurs. Neither the "liberals" nor the "conservatives" have a plan that could work. The situation will degenerate until there is some sort of revolution. Nobody has the slightest idea on how to tackle the real problems, and those who may have are just ignored and marginalized.

  2. Yes, Maju, he does seem weak. This is not the presidency Obama was expecting and certainly not the sort of thing he's prepared to deal with. But who else is there who's better prepared? I voted for him and I still believe him to be, potentially, as capable a president as we've had in this country since Roosevelt.

    But now I'm starting to feel sorry for him. The responsibility is simply too much. And the hard reality is that there is no one in government, from any country, with a plan that could work. It's extremely easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize, but with all the many critics I haven't seen a single better idea emerge from any of them. Every effort to "revive" the dead world economy is bound to fail, because it really truly is dead. Which is why I don't concentrate so much on criticism in this blog, but on trying to understand the root of the problem, to foresee its inevitable development -- and try to promote the sort of positive changes that seem to me to be inevitable in any case.

    As I see it the only route is some sort of Gorbachev-style perestroika, beginning with the admission that the current system was a mistake from the start and a new completely different system must be put in its place. But what Western leader is willing to deal with the political fallout of such a move? Who among our leaders -- or their many critics -- has that sort of courage?

    I'm as critical of Israel and the Israeli lobby as you are, but I don't think Israel is pulling Obama's strings on this particular issue. It's not making things any easier for him, no, but there is a lot more involved, because vast amounts of wealth are now regarded as in danger (actually that wealth, as far as I can see, has already evaporated).

    Simply pumping money to consumers isn't going to do the job, though it's certainly a necessary recourse for the time being. What's needed, as I see it, is to forget about the money and pump resources to those who need them. Forget all those mortgages and just let people go back to their homes, for example.

    I hope it doesn't come to violent revolution, because the danger of fascism or some other type of totalitarian government, of the right OR left, would be too great. As I see it there is a hope that the whole economic mirage will simply go "poof" over the next year or even in the next month or so and our leaders will have no choice but to start managing resources instead of money.

  3. My friend Dave tried to post the following comment but the Blogspot software wouldn't let him. There is some sort of bug in the software that keeps telling everyone that their "request could not be processed." If you persist, it will usually let you post your comment, but you gotta be patient. Anyhow here is Dave's comment:

    Anyone could check out Obama's worthwhile book "Dreams of my Father";
    and then simply check out Gorbachev in Wikipedia and read the first two sections
    "Early Life" and "Political Career". In comparison, Obama comes off like a total whimp.
    How could our Fearful Leader be anything but a timid liberal, a re-tread of
    Booker T. Washington? Like B.T. Washington, he is caving into the interest
    of the powerful with fake majesty that is only self-serving. He now sounds
    like every other President, half-truths at best.

    Let's think of Eugene Debs' statement,
    "It is better to vote for someone you really believe in,
    even if (s/)he does not have a chance of winning,
    rather than vote for someone who will ultimately betray you."

  4. Hi Dave. I certainly agree that, compared with Gorbachev, Obama has come across, so far, as a wimp. But I still have hope for him, I think we need to give him some time before jumping to conclusions regarding his leadership capabilities. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because as I see it, there is no one else in public life in the USA who I'd want to see in his position.

    Why the comparison with Booker T.? Is that because Obama is "black"? So your opinion is colored by the color of his skin? I didn't think you thought that way, Dave, I think that's a really lame comparison, sorry.

    As far as the Eugene Debs quote, I guess it's related to our disagreement about Ralph Nader, whom you supported and tried to convince me to vote for. As you will recall my problem with Nader was not only with his chances of winning, which were nil, but also his leadership skills generally, which I have always found extremely weak. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says, but he has turned into more of a scold than a real leader and I don't see him as an effective president -- though he has certainly been somewhat effective as a scold. :-)

  5. I think of Booker T. Washington because if he were perceived differently than African-American, he would be perceived, at best, as a politician with minimal experience. Also, it seems when a city, or a state has serious problems that might not be solved, one "liberal" strategy is to get an African-American in place.
    As I told you before, my American-African wife says, "I don't care what Obama says or does. I just care that he is Black."

  6. Addendum: In Laura Flanders' (known by many from Fairness and Accuracy In Media) book Bush's Women there is a chapter on Condy Rice.
    One observation was that Rice, as an administrator at Stanford, could eliminate scholarships that she herself had used to get her own education. Flanders said if a white man had done the damage done by Rice, people would have legitimately called out about racism. However, Rice could do in her younger "sisters" with impunity.

  7. I'm sure many black people voted for Obama because he's black, just as many whites voted for McCain because he's white. Many Catholics undoubtedly voted for Kennedy because he's Catholic and I have no doubt that many Jews would have voted for Lieberman, if he'd been nominated, because he's Jewish. I don't approve of that sort of thing but it's understandable and it certainly isn't limited to African Americans.

    I don't know of any liberal strategy of the sort you mention and in fact the number of African Americans in Congress is disproportionately small. Black politicians have been successful in places where the black population is relatively high, not out of some liberal "strategy" to empower them. This sort of resentment has been expressed by those who see themselves as part of the majority whenever some minority group begins to gain acceptance, and a certain degree of influence, in government, business and the professions. It's happened with the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, the Jews, etc., and now with African Americans, who certainly deserve their chance to be treated equally.

    As for Condoleezza Rice, if she'd increased the scholarships for African Americans she'd have been accused of racial bias, so either way she'd have been criticized.

    And as far as Obama is concerned, I really can't agree that he was nominated because he was "black," as part of some conspiracy based on affirmative action or something like that. Hillary Clinton was the one who used the "affirmative action" card, continually reminding the world that she was a woman and it was "about time" for a woman president. Most Democrats had serious doubts that Obama could win specifically because he was black. As I see it, Obama is a unique individual with highly unusual gifts, who won the presidency against all odds simply because Americans both admired and trusted him. I don't know of any other black politician who could have accomplished what he has.


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