In this supplement to Yesterday’s blog about the first One Hundred days of the Obama Presidency, we look at the Decline of the Auto Industry in the USA and the emotive and ever topical issue of the closing of Guantanamo Bay and the ever partisan issue of Climate Change.
When We left the Oval Office in yesterday’ s part one blog, Obama had just managed to ward off a total meltdown in the banking system in relation to their handling of the mortgage crisis. Before I move away from this topic, I wanted to clarify the extent of the problem he had avoided.
I have included some simple diagrams to show what happened, but I strongly recommend the recent Movie “The Big Short” starring Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds which really explains just how the Mortgage disaster in the USA really came about, it has sections set out specifically explaining in Layman’s terms all the jargon and is a terrible indictment of the way Banks managed the mortgages of millions of US Citizens and the scary reality that they are doing it all over again, just calling it something new. It is also an extremely funny movie, so go give it a watch !
As recently as Monday 11/05/2016 the crisis is still having a ripple effect: Goldman Sachs is paying 5 Billion Dollars in fines and compensation for their part in dubious banking practices during the mortgage Crisis
I turn back now to the President’s first hundred days in Office:
The other major area where there was imminent Economic disaster looming, was the continued descent of car industry. The USA had built it’s reputation on the automotive industry and so the constant decline in this area of manufacturing was putting a million jobs at risk. Detroit was the focus of this, with the three main Manufacture companies on the verge of bankruptcy.
Steven Ratner was tasked with creating a solution.
Visits were made to General Motors, where new electric and hydrogen hybrids were being showcased replacing traditional petroleum and diesel to power them. A beacon of hope for the future. However, a similar visit to Chrysler revealed a run down and unfit for purpose, manufacturing infrastructure. They were laden with debt, had little to no international operations; and not a single Chrysler Model was on the consumer recommendations reports lists.
It was ultimately decided that GM was to be given a government takeover and overhaul. Ford could survive if they could tread water long enough, but Chrysler would inevitably go under unless bought out by another company.
The only interested party was Fiat, who demanded a six billion Dollar Government loan. Firmly “For “ the deal was Larry Summers. Austan Goolsbee, who was against, had not been minuted into the meeting but was requested to the Oval Office post haste so that the President could hear a balanced Debate.. Obama postponed his decision until later, the mix up with attendees had meant that Obama had not time to hear both sides; as he had meetings about Afghanistan, about Iraq , and a local meeting about the economy that day.
At that Town Hall meeting he was asked about his economic plans for the auto industry, so later that night the group reconvened.
Goolsbee was of the opinion that if the public were unable to buy a Ram truck from Chrysler, they would buy a Ford instead, thus creating security for the other struggling Car manufacturer. The feeling in Michigan itself was also that a bailout might be ill advised but this was due to a lack in faith in Management structures rather than a wish for the entire industry to fail .
Obama thought long and hard and decided if there was a sensible and economical way to attempt to save Chrysler it should be done so the loan was authorised.
In the breakneck speed of Politics within hours of the decision, it was reported that Fargo, North Dakota was underwater, floods had the town besieged, the wheel of government turned on.
In Three months the Obama administration had battled financial collapse from many quarters and for the most part succeeded. Now it was time to return to some of the Big Change promises of the election.
First and foremost was the aim to close Guantanamo Bay Detention centre, so that justice could be seen to be done, so people could be prosecuted or freed as the judicial system would finally have been served.The plan was to close within one year.
The plan had been pretty simple, the Attorney General Eric Holder would release those with no credible evidence against them or send them to trial, but it soon became apparent that the great majority could not have been prosecuted. Obtaining testimony Fromm person after torture and Duress would have made it inadmissible in court and this was Inconsistent with national requirement for a fair unbiased trial for all and failure to do that in these cases would taint the world view of this new Administration as one of the touchstones of the presidency was wanting to be fairer.
The next idea tabled was just to move the detainees to the US for release or further terms of imprisonment in prisons on US soil. Rather naively they pushed on despite strong warnings from CIA chief Leon Panetta, who knew, those on Capitol Hill would have none of it, the Guantanamo team hoped he was wrong!
They pinned their hopes on Congressman Frank Wolf from Virginia. His scathing attacks on the human rights record in China was hoped to be just enough of a motivation to forget partisan affiliations ;to allow two members of the Chinese eastern Chinese rebels called Uighers, to be transferred into federally leased apartment in the area of Falls Church Virginia. They were Chinese nationals, but had trained in Afghanistan. It was a daring plan, but If it worked more could be processed.
Frank Wolf threw them all under the bus played on every American’s fears and tarred these Chinese Dissidents as akin to and certainly affiliated to Al Queda. Despite their only animosity being towards the Chinese regime, they were lumped in with the “Middle East “ terrorists .The house voted overwhelmingly to refuse them entry . All funding for the transfer of internees to the USA was refused and Obama still has not managed to close down the site.
In his response he claimed the proliferation of fear served to prevent the American people from being educated about the realities of the situation and expressed disappointment at the politicising of the issue, which resulted in totally ignoring the worrying legal precedent that the existence of the camp was creating.
Holding people without trial and torturing them, is not so different to the hostage taking that occurs in the countries the US purports to want to liberate from tyranny. By allowing the practices to continue isn’t the(Conservative) US condoning those behaviours and will it not seem hypocritical in the face of the outcry when hostages are injured or God forbid killed ?
Preventing terrorism is about stopping radicalisation at source not creating martyrs to act as catalysts to further the cause, surely?
The Energy and the climate bill had passed in the House of Representatives, after Obama borrowed floating Democrats from coal mining states at the annual Picnic, whilst family members got photos with the president and enjoyed the Hawaiian themed festivities party big wigs persuaded them of its merits ( in a very persuasive way)
The bill would die a slow agonising death six months later in the Senate. The climate change Summit in Copenhagen would be a chance to rebound on the Environment.
China is the biggest global polluter alongside the States and their president would be present in Copenhagen. A global agreement on Greenhouse Emissions would go a long way to stem the destruction being done to the planet by humanity. Obama went there with the intention to work the problem.
US citizens expected change in China first before supporting change measures at home the first meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, ended up being three hours of head butting .The second was a scheduled meeting with European leaders, Obama and Jiabao,but he sent a diplomat in his place, parts of the transcript of that are reproduced below
They never reconvened in that configuration.
Obama not to be deterred, scheduled another meeting but tying the Chinese to a time proved tricky. Finally at the designated hour they were to meet , they were told the Chinese delegation were in their cars and had left. This was soon to be revealed as a lie, 45000 people were at the summit, the only one Obama needed, Wen had gone AWOL.
It turned out he was upstairs , meeting with the leaders of Brazil, India and South Africa , who were all attempting to derail the deal. The president did not falter. He,, Hilary Clinton and the team proceeded to go to that meeting room and Obama proceeded to all intents and purposes, crash the meeting, shoe horning himself inside with sheer bare faced cheek.
He stated he was busy, knew they were all in opposition to the vision others had about climate change, but a positive conclusion would be to everyone’s advantage. He stated he knew the gathered leaders were not in agreement on Emissions, but some time spent in debate might be warranted to find a workable way forward.
At the end of this Dramatic meeting, Obama asked …..he would formally submit a list in the annex, the actions it intended to take and he said yes. He Chinese Delegation exploded into voluble Mandarin and the US knew they had made a massive Achievement there and then.
Unfortunately this was to be at a price, no binding agreements for omissions were made, however it did lead in due course to an international agreement about climate change, a Global First. He proven that the “Hard stuff” does not require paralysis when opposition is high , but requires making the best of the achievable in that moment and building on it at a later date.
Presidencies are judged on achievements in the first 100 days and despite missing the massive Iceberg of Financial disaster by millimetres, which ultimately had lifted the US out of recession, Barack Obama would be judged on what he had not managed to do in those days,Healthcare, Education and Guantanamo had yet to be addressed.
Next time we will examine the work President Obama had to do to get his Health Bill through.