December 31, 2009
Well, it’s that time once again! The 2008 competition brought us a robust field of candidates, probably because it was an election year. This year, I’ve decided to ignore the one-event wonders and stick with nominees demonstrating a consistent pattern of jackass behavior. The isolated exhibitions of foolishness illustrated by Richard Heene’s “balloon boy” hoax and Janet Napolitano’s “the system worked” gaffe, just don’t rise to the level of an award-winning honor. I’m also avoiding individuals categorized as “the usual suspects” — the media darlings who are already getting beaten-up in the 2009 retrospective shows. That list includes such notables as Tiger Woods, Carrie Prejean and “The Undiebomber” (Umar Mutallab).
This year I have narrowed the competition down to two people.
In just a few short weeks, our first nominee will be celebrating the anniversary of his inauguration as President of the United States. During his early days in office, he enjoyed an approval rating as high as 69 percent, according to Gallup. By early December, Gallup reported that his approval rating had taken a 22-point drop to 47 percent. At that time, Rasmussen Reports revealed that not only had the President’s approval rating dropped to 48 percent — his disapproval rating actually reached 52 percent! On December 9, Quinnipiac University published the results of a poll conducted during December 1 – 6. The results gave the President a job approval rating of only 46 percent, and those disapproving Obama’s performance amounted to 44 percent. The Ipsos/McClatchy Poll taken during that period, disclosed that the President received his highest “unsatisfactory” rating on the issue of “jobs and the economy” with 45 percent giving the President an unsatisfactory grade (D or F) while only 36 percent gave him a satisfactory grade (A or B) and 19 percent gave him a C.
Many commentators have pondered over the reasons for President Obama’s decreasing approval ratings. I have previously discussed the subject here, here and here. In doing so, I found the criticism of Obama’s performance as expressed by Edward Harrison of Credit Writedowns, to be particularly insightful. In his December 27 posting, Mr. Harrison posed a question that has obviously been on the minds of many disappointed Obama supporters:
The question is this:
- Did President Obama sell out (i.e. he was a good guy but has been corrupted in short order) or;
- Did Obama find out he couldn’t change the status quo so easily (i.e. he was a good guy who was naive about the President’s real power)or;
- Did the President simply bamboozle us (i.e. he was a bad guy who tricked the electorate with his silver tongue)?
Mr. Harrison contended that the foregoing inquiry is actually irrelevant because it involves ascribing an intent behind the President’s behavior, when we should be looking at either motive or outcome. Mr. Harrison eventually focused on a recent op-ed piece by Ross Douthat of The New York Times entitled: “The Obama Way”. Obama’s track record of broken campaign promises, including “no more trickle-down economics” and those documented on The Obameter, is something that obviously weighs on the minds of dispirited Obama supporters. Ross Douthat explained how the President’s leadership style is itself a broken campaign promise:
He’s a doctrinaire liberal who’s always willing to cut a deal and grab for half the loaf. He has the policy preferences of a progressive blogger, but the governing style of a seasoned Beltway wheeler-dealer.
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It’s also puzzling because Obama promised exactly the opposite approach while running for the presidency. He campaigned as a postpartisan healer who would change the cynical ways of Washington — as a foe of both back-room deals and ideology-as-usual. But he’s governed as a conventional liberal who believes in the existing system, knows how to work it and accepts the limitations it imposes on him.
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The upside of this approach is obvious: It gets things done.
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The downside, though, is that sometimes what gets done isn’t worth doing. The assumption that a compromised victory is better than no victory at all can produce phony achievements — like last week’s “global agreement” on climate change — and bloated, ugly legislation. And using cynical means to progressive ends (think of the pork-laden stimulus bill or the frantic vote-buying that preceded this week’s Senate health care votes) tends to confirm independent voters’ worst fears about liberal government: that it’s a racket rigged to benefit privileged insiders and a corrupt marketplace floated by our tax dollars.
Ross Douthat’s conclusion implied that it’s still too early determine whether Obama’s political approach will ultimately result in success or failure. By this time next year, the mid-term elections will be over. If the careers of many Democratic politicians are over at that point, we will then have to assess whether President Obama’s leadership style helped to bring them down. As a result, we will have to defer to next year’s competition before deciding whether our new President rates the title “Jackass of the Year”.
Our second nominee is the so-called “Supreme Leader” of Iran, Ali Khamenei. Khamenei decided to rig the June elections to ensure that his tool, the equally crazy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would be re-elected. The resulting public outrage was escalated by Khamenei into a bloodbath. Since that time, Khamenei’s ham-handed tactics in attempting to squelch opposition have only made things worse. A recent New York Times editorial entitled “Iran’s War on Its People” put it this way:
Iran’s leaders are so desperate to repel a rising tide of popular unrest that even Ashura — which marks the death of Shiite Islam’s holiest martyr — is no longer sacred.
The anniversary, which fell on Sunday, is supposed to be a time of peaceful commemoration. Even during war, Iranian governments have honored the prohibitions against violence during a two-month period surrounding Ashura. Tehran’s current rulers have proved again that their only belief is in their own survival.
On Sunday, the police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, reportedly killing at least 10 people, and arrested hundreds more. Government forces are also believed to be behind the assassination of Ali Moussavi, nephew of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading candidate in June’s fraudulent presidential election.
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The government still appears to have firm control of the main levers of power, including the brutish Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia. But Ayatollah Khamenei — who helped lead the 1979 revolution against the shah — should not ignore the echoes of history when protesters defy the death blows of security forces and chant “Death to the dictator” on the streets of Tehran.
Al Jazeera’s Teymoor Nabili reported that Baqer Moin, London-based analyst and Ayatollah Khomeini biographer, explained that Iran’s opposition party, the Greens, would still settle for modest reform, if the regime would compromise. Nevertheless, Mr. Nabili’s report quoted other sources who expressed concern that the upcoming anniversary of the revolution could be “the next potential spark”. Will the Supreme Leader negotiate? Based on his record over the past six months, there is no reason to believe that he will. His strategy of cracking down on the Greens with more deadly repression is exactly the approach that could lead to the regime’s demise. Mr. Nabili added this insight to an already gloomy picture:
A contact in Iran tells me that, given the arrests over the past two days, the trend points to the possibility that the regime is slowly tightening the screws, and that before then we might see martial law and the arrest of Mousavi and/or Karroubi/Khatami/Rafsanjani’s daughter (Rafsanjani himself is still beyond the pale, it would seem.)
Brilliant plan, huh? Another Al Jazeera report revealed that the Iranian government’s desperate actions are a sign of weakness that could ultimately lead to the end of Khamenei’s days as “Supreme Leader”:
Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of the Iranian parliament, told Al Jazeera that the government faced a fundamental crisis.
“They can’t control the events so they made the Ashoura incidents as a scenario that could give [them] enough confidence to crack down on the [Green] Movement,” she said from Massachusetts in the United States.
“They think that if they could use more violence, they can stop the movement … if this strategy continues I think we could see the collapse of the government.”
After George W. Bush overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, many commentators expressed concern that this development could bring about an era of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Iran’s relentless efforts to create a nuclear arsenal and the craziness of its Supreme Leader, who would likely detonate an atomic bomb in Israel if he had such a weapon, have apparently made the Iranian people more than a little uncomfortable with their government. The events since June could only serve to underscore fears that the Khamenei regime would attempt a nuclear strike on Israel, resulting in a retaliatory move that would wipe Tehran off the map. The Iranian people are obviously not going to sit on their hands and wait for that to happen. Al Jazeera’s Teymoor Nabili provided us with some insight on the current mood of the Iranian protesters:
To outside observers, though, the protestors have defied expectations. Their continued willingness to make themselves targets has been a surprise; now it seems as if they are willing to take it even further, protesting not only against the election result but against the very essence of the regime.
Although it may be too early to celebrate the demise of the Khamenei regime, the time is certainly right to honor Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, with TheCenterLane.com‘s Jackass of the Year Award. Congratulations, Jackass!