The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

My Photo
Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Would Anyone Care For Some Gupta?

Talk about difficult. Who in his right mind would want to be Barack Obama right now? The country has been blown to pieces by decades of corrupt corporate government, a government which probably well over half the American population supports. The nation is a conglomeration of innumerable self-interested factions all clamoring for their own brands of indulgence and generally oblivious of the big picture. Many- perhaps most- of his own party are really in league with the other party, which is all set to blame him for everything negative that’s happened to the country since the Chicago fire. He’s by all accounts probably quite a progressive liberal but has to don the mantle of centrism in order to assuage God-knows-how-many interest groups and not be run out of office. And on and on.

His main task would seem to be to know for sure what is possible now and to do what he needs to do to accomplish it, doubtless with the unstated thought that the seeds thereby created will provide the way for future development along lines more favorable to his personal and ideological preferences. Objective thought. Obama has to be eminently capable of it if he hopes to succeed in the pertinent sense of the word. Is he? Who knows for sure. But his personal history and his campaign signal that he deserves our support- provisionally of course. We need to try to understand not only his actions but his short-term and long-term intent. A tall order perhaps. But Obama’s is a lot taller.

His choice of Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon-General provides an example. Dr. Gupta would not have been my choice. His recent attempt to impugn the substance of Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” revealed his personal biases. He appeared to function as the agent of and spokesman for the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Moore would have none of it; and I think demonstrated clearly and convincingly that Gupta’s criticism of his research and data was inaccurate and groundless. The real issue was of course single-payer health insurance; in other words Medicare for everyone- with the insurance companies pretty much out of the picture in terms of control. That’s the system in effect in Canada and I think just about every other industrialized nation. And I agree entirely with Moore that it should be the system in the U.S. But would it pass in Congress? Virtually impossible given the power of the insurance lobby and their Congressional servants- Republican and Democratic alike. Even if Obama- for the sake of argument- were in substantial agreement with Moore on the issue, where would that leave him in terms of the reality of the situation? Nowhere to go. So he has to go for better if not best. Hence the plan he developed- a compromise for sure; but at least health coverage is extended to millions of Americans. And the groundwork is set for future development.

Gupta’s appointment may be another aspect of Obama’s practical bent. Whatever one may think of Dr. Gupta, he has media savvy, name recognition and a certain credibility with the public. Obama’s point of view may be that to have him on his side in terms of support for his healthcare agenda may help to tip the balance in favor of passage. And Obama may consider that Gupta might be an asset in other areas of healthcare: education; prevention; and so forth. Gupta, whatever his biases, is likely to be useful if he gets with the program. He’s a “star” in his own right. And Obama can use all the stars he can get considering the magnitude of the enterprise.

Objective thought. Most of us have to be really smart every once and a while. Obama has to be extraordinarily smart just about every minute. What a job. The Hillary Clinton appointment comes to mind. Again, she would not have been my choice for Secretary of State. Too hawkish. Too Bushite for that matter. Too cozy with the corporations. But Obama had to do something with her. She got 18 million votes. There’s 18 million and one potential enemies and opponents. He could have left her to languish in the Senate as junior Senator from New York, where I suspect her resentment and unfulfilled ambition would have simmered to the boiling point. Or he could have brought her in close, lavished her with praise and given her the top Cabinet position - which he did. Where would you want her- mad and in a separate but equal branch of government; or mollified and next to you following your agenda? And the fact is that both she and Bill Clinton command great respect internationally. She will doubtless be a great asset in terms of implementing effective foreign policy. And she didn’t even have to give up her presidential ambitions. If McCain could run at 72, why couldn’t she- in eight years- at 68 or whatever? Smart.

I do have some concerns though. I don’t see Obama losing his personal values or his integrity. And I pray that I’m right. But I do think it is possible for him as President to underestimate the possibilities and to compromise principles to the point of becoming just a “nicer” version of the opposition. In that case I think he would forfeit his potential for greatness- as unfortunately I think Bill Clinton did. And the nation would be the loser.

I’m troubled by the bailouts. I understand that something had to be done quickly. But the fact is that the situation is getting worse and the American people have been forced to pay a very high price for the sins of the financial elite. There has to be an end to the Bush- Paulson Solution: Refill the pockets of the malefactors and give their leaders big bonuses. And don’t ask them what they’re doing with the money. I presume and I trust that Mr. Obama will end the dole of money without strict accountability and tight pre-conditions for extensive reorganization, reform and regulation. This simply has to be the priority.

And I’m troubled about Afghanistan. If Mr. Obama yields to turning it into another Iraq- expanding the occupation and pouring more billions of treasure into it- then we might just as well have voted for McCain and the “Hundred Year” continuation of the Iraq disaster. Engaging in perpetual warfare will destroy us. It almost has already. The best military minds and the best intelligence minds have to be assigned the task of devising methods of conducting operations against Al Qaeda and its allies from relatively neutral locations. The massive occupations and the grand-scale warfare has to end. It isn’t working and it’s making a monster out of us as a nation.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’m confident that President Obama will stay smart, stick to his principles and do what he has to do as quickly as he can. That’s why I voted for him.