Anne Applebaum said she was reaching for a metaphor to describe the dreamy Barack Obama when she started her Slate piece on January 19. Instead of reaching for a metaphor, however, she only got a handful of absurd hyperbole when she decided that Barack Obama was "just like" Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the hero pilot that saved the lives of his entire planeload of people by landing it safely in the Hudson River last week. But, after she went wild with her "metaphor" about Obama, Applebaum ended her piece with some really solid warnings about government overreach.
Still, the first half of Applebaum's column was so silly that its hard to know where to start discussing its over-the-top nature. But, lets begin at the top with her ill-fitting conflation of Capt. Sullenberger's excellent job, an "anti-9/11" she absurdly claimed, and the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center in 2001. There is simply no logical way to relate the two incidents at all, but Applebaum makes a valiant and risible attempt to do so.
This extraordinary event was, if you like, the anti-9/11: A plane hurtled into central Manhattan, but its pilots, instead of aiming for a skyscraper and killing thousands, aimed at the river and thus saved the lives of all 155 people onboard.
I am sorry, but this is little but hyperbole. What Capt. Sullenberger did was fantastic and there is no way to legitimately tear down his actions that day, but his was in no way an "anti-9/11" event. The comparison is just idiotic. To properly be the "anti-9/11" the whole Hudson River incident would have to have been carried out with the express purpose of relaying a message opposite to what the Islamist terrorists meant by their actions in 2001. But, Capt. Sullenberger was only doing his job of keeping his passengers safe. There was no ideological intent. The two situations have absolutely nothing whatever to do with each other.
That aside, Applebaum next seem to reveal a motive to steal away Captain Sullenberger's heroism and re-assign it to her own hero, Barack Obama.
As you listen to President Barack Obama speak Tuesday, as you watch him parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and dance at the inaugural balls, keep this story in mind, for it describes with eerie accuracy the task ahead of him. He is, in effect, the pilot of a plane whose engine has unexpectedly exploded... Like that pilot, Obama's task now is to prevent the unexpected financial crisis from leading to a major catastrophe. To do so, he must demonstrate competence and professionalism, qualities so rare in public life that those who possess them are--like that pilot--widely described as "heroic."
Talk about a crazy leap in logic.
However, this is not to say that Applebaum's scribblings were all as ridiculous as her first few paragraphs. Because, after the sycophantic hero worship of the Obammessiah, Applebaum warms to some excellent points.
... but one aspect of the new administration's various "bailout" plans worries me in particular: the assumption, which seems to lie behind them, that people make better decisions when they are handling public money than they do when they are handling their own money. Ample evidence, from many societies over many years, proves the opposite: Indeed, people entrusted with public money are overwhelmingly inclined to waste it, steal it, or simply misuse it.
Well, now, this is a great point. All we need do is see just about any government project at any level of government from the smallest village to the heights of the federal government and we will see rampant waste, fraud, and ineffective leadership and accounting.
Applebaum is right to worry that the many billions Barack (and Bush before him) is throwing into the economy will be like the aftermath of throwing wood into a fire place: all burned up with little left but ashes and fond memories.
... My greatest fear is that in trying to fix the economy, the new administration will waste time and money in the mistaken belief that government-funded, centrally planned infrastructure projects will somehow use money more effectively than their private or locally inspired equivalents. My second-greatest fear is that multiple company "bailouts" will ultimately produce fewer jobs and more wasted resources than the regeneration that could follow a string of intelligently managed bankruptcies.
And again a spot on fear relayed in just the right tones. If only she had jettisoned the warm and fuzzies with which she started this piece and kept to her final points, she would have had a good column.
Barack is decidedly not "just like" the hero captain that saved the lives of everyone aboard flight 1549. But he most certainly could become the next failure in the White House, the next Jimmy Carter.
Let us hope that Obama takes the occasion of Applebaum's fears about his probable wrong-headed plans for economic "stimulus" to read Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address where he said in part:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
Listen to him, Mr. Obama. Reagan knew what he was talking about.
(Photo credit Boise State University)