“The secret for success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” - Benjamin Disraeli
In ancient Greece, some of its celebrated playwrights, such as Aeschylus, used a device called the “Deus ex Machina,” in order to resolved a badly tangled plot. Usually, it represented some kind of divinity, whose intervention into the lives of the characters portrayed generally proved fortuitous. In the 2008 presidential election, the winner, Democratic Sen. Bararck Obama, was ready for his opportunity, but he also had help--big time--from above! There was a point in this bitterly fought campaign, where the GOP’s John McCain was able to forcefully dominate the race by making “national security” the pivotal issue. All of that, however, abruptly changed when the massive tsunami, known as the Wall Street-Financial Meltdown, hit home. (1) Billions of dollars in wealth disappeared over night. Bottom line: The Prez-Elect can mostly thank Alan “Bubbles” Greenspan, ex-czar for 18 years of “The Fed” for that meltdown and for his victory on Nov. 4, 2008. (2)
In their tome, “Greenspan’s Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve,” the authors, William A. Fleckenstein and Frederick Sheehan, accused Greenspan of advocating “bizarre monetary policies” and of creating one “bubble” after another. They said it was like he was tossing “gasoline on a fire.” (2) Mr. Greenspan, of course, would deny such charges. But, when he appeared, on Oct. 23, 2008, on Capitol Hill, before Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he owned up to making “some mistakes” and of having a “flawed” ideology when it came to his pushing his deregulation policy. (3) History will have to be Mr. Greenspan’s final judge.
Besides Mr. Greenspan’s contribution to Sen. Obama’s electoral success, the Prez-Elect can give a nod to a second big reason: Dubya! It is beyond cavil that George W. Bush Jr. has been the worst president in the history of the American Republic. His contempt for the U.S. Constitution will be his most lasting legacy. But, there is much more to it: the illegal Iraq War, the trillion of dollars which he added to the national debt, the condoning of the torture of detainees, the rampant spying on U.S. citizens, the botching of the “Hurricane Katrina” rescue, creating more U.S. enemies around the world while imposing a tax policy at home which favored the super rich over the poor and the middle class. Dubya’s approval ratings were at or around 31 percent, when the general election began. Only the strongest kind of GOP candidate could have overcome carrying Dubya’s negative legacy into that campaign, although Sen. McCain gave it his best effort.
I found this out: You can raise all the moral issues that you want, and you may get the attention of a few conscience-driven folks. It was only, however, when Wall Street began to crash back in late September, 2008, and the Treasury Department loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Bears Stearns, that most voters began to, finally, wake up. Why? Their pensions, savings and health care benefits were now at risk.
It is true that many Americans have been in a long, deep sleep during the nearly eight years of the Bush-Cheney regime’s rule. Today, if you say: This war in Iraq is costing billion a month and it is bad for the stock market, they will listen to you! Not only are they now listening, but they also are blaming the Bush-Cheney Gang, and the Republicans in general, for the distressful condition that the country finds itself in. Exhibit “A” is the results of the national election itself, and, especially, how Sen. Obama was able to flip states to his column in 2008, which had gone for Dubya in 2004, like Ohio and Indiana.
There was a third compelling factor that made possible the Obama-Biden winning ticket-- Money! Lots of Money! Think 9 million. (4) This was by far the most money ever raised by a Democrat, or a Republican, aspiring to the White House office.
Background: On 12 February, 2008, Obama in a tough primary fight, whipped his bete noir, Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D-NY), by over 80,000 voters in the state of Maryland. It was a very impressive victory, since by doing so, he was also beating the local political machine, headed by the Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley, and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. I thought, at the time, that this guy could go “all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” (5)
Nevertheless, on the eve of the Republican Convention, Aug. 31, 2008, a CNN poll had the race as statistically “dead even.” (6) It seemed like Sen. Obama had run out of gas. Some of this might have been a reaction from the brutal primary battles that he’d had to endure with Sen. Clinton. Her tactics, at times, bordered on the outright vicious. She was aided and abetted in her smear efforts by her husband, the former president, “Bubba Bill” Clinton. Even after Sen. Obama had captured his party’s nomination, the Clintons gave him only half hearted support.
Enter Sen. McCain. His attacks on Obama mimicked Clinton, only they were often meaner and more personal. They had Obama on the ropes, particularly in areas relating to “national security” matters, and set up for a knock out blow that could have sent him and the Democrats down the path of the Whig Party. (7) Before that telling blow could be delivered, however, the Fates (the Deus ex Machina) intervened to revive his lagging candidacy.
In summation, could Prez-elect Obama have won the presidency without the “Wall Street Financial Meltdown” and the creation of a new dynamic in the campaign, which took the “national security” issue off the table? We will never know. All we can really know is this: The senator from Illinois took advantage of the cards that he was dealt, and by doing so--he made history!
2. “Greenspan’s Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve” by William Fleckenstein and Frederick Sheehan and
3. “Greenspan Says He Was Wrong,” Washington Post, 10/24/08.
7. In early August, 2008, a number of polls showed Sen. McCain favored by the voters over Sen. Obama, on the issues of handling the Iraq War and managing the war on terror, by over 25 percentage points. See, http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1829948,00.html
©2008, William Hughes, All Rights Reserved.
William Hughes’ videos can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=liamh2. His latest book, “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party,” is available on Amazon. Email Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.