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Obama Looks Strong: But World Events He Can't Control are Election Wild Card

Obama has many hurdles to jump over before he can make it to November victorious.

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Lest you think that Obama’s October surprise fears lie mainly in the Middle East, however, remember that a world system is shuddering, too. There's the tottering Eurozone, in recession and threatening to shatter with unknown global financial consequences; and there's the Chinese economy, that motor for the planet this last decade, which seems to be slipping into recession (just as the powerhouse Indian and Brazilian economies do the same), amid growing signs of unrest and ugly nationalist upheavals.  And don’t even bother to bring up climate change, the state of the planet, or the fact that extreme droughts in the U.S. and elsewhere this year are driving food prices up worldwide in a way that guarantees future popular unrest on a large scale.  Any of the above could burst into prominence in the next 43 days, surprising the world and putting President Obama on the hot seat.  And keep in mind that we’re only talking about -- to paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- the known knowns, and known unknowns.  No one is even thinking about the unknown unknowns.

The liberal hit on Obama has been that the man won’t fight for what he believes in.  The next 43 days will put the lie to that.  He’s ready to fight fiercely for his job by doing his damnedest to tamp down any possible embarrassments, any potential October surprises -- and he’s enlisted the U.S. government lock, stock, and State Department in that campaign. So if you want a little horse-race entertainment for the next six weeks, skip the Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia polls, don’t worry about the results of the coming debates, or the court tests on restrictive new voting laws.  After all, there’s going to be no better show in town than the acrobatic contortions of the Obama crew as they work to keep global disaster off the menu until November 7th.

It should be a lesson in what a declining superpower can (or can’t) still do: a shining tale of great power management and luck or a sobering parable of what is no longer within the grasp of such a power on this planet of ours.

In the meantime, it’s Obama against the world and the horse-race question is: Will he make it to November 7th and a second term?  Think of that as Obama’s problem.

But there’s another far less entertaining problem few are thinking about right now. Consider it our problem.  The Obama people are understandably focused on the election.  Being of a managerial frame of mind, their thoughts don’t tend to run to the long-term anyhow. I doubt they have, at this point, put a second’s consideration into what’s likely to happen, if they manage to keep everything under wraps, 44 days from now -- and beyond.  It’s not as if war with Iran, disaster in Afghanistan, chaos in the Middle East, a staggering Eurozone, a stumbling Chinese economy (in the midst of seaborne saber rattling), rising oil and food prices, climate change, and so much else won’t be as threatening then.  None of these are problems, however managed, that are going away anytime soon or are likely in the long run to prove particularly manageable from Washington.

The question for the rest of us is: What the hell happens next?   It’s one you better start thinking about because the Obama people, much as they want to rule the roost for four more years, don’t have a clue.

 Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November.

 

 
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