#197 – Dick Bernard: Taking Responsibility

In an hour or so President Obama will deliver an address that will be closely watched world-wide. Afterwards, as he and his advisors know, every word (or lack of same), expression, inflection, will be analyzed and isolated to suit the purposes of endless numbers of observers, who will then cast judgment, positive or negative, on what he says or doesn’t say. This is how the game is played.
I’ll watch the address. That’s about it.
I choose to focus, rather, on some random events, starting with an e-mail from a friend about 9 this morning. This friend is in international business, an exporter of USA and Canadian food and feed grains and seeds. He said: “To be honest business is just terrible. I do not see how the world can avoid a double dip recession as consumption is down in all areas with inventories not moving as anticipated.”
My friend is an astute veteran international business man. What he observes is not some abstract thing. It’s where he lives, literally.
What he said this morning ties in, I think, with what the President faces tonight when the camera rolls at the White House.
From May 31 through June 7 we were on the road to a family wedding in Colorado. By the time we left on our trip, the President had accepted responsibility for taking care of the oil spill. When we got back, one of the first film clips we saw on evening news was of Elizabeth Cheney asserting on one of the Sunday newsmaker programs that since this thing happened on Obama’s watch, it was his responsibility. There was not any acknowledgment that her Daddy, the former vice-president who’s been silent as stone on this issue, might share some responsibility. Their behavior reminds me of something I once heard from an ordinary person: “Mom taught me never to apologize“.
President Obama did what we expect of him: take on our responsibility. The Cheney’s, on the other hand, did what we too often expect of ourselves: nothing.
Every now and then on our trip out west (we were two couples in a Prius) we talked about whether or not this 2500 miles was a frivolous trip. Even at a pretty amazing 40mpg, we wondered, should we be doing this.
Occasionally we’d ask business people about their business, and in each instance, business was down: fewer people travelling; those people spending less.
During the past week, we’ve now begun to hear the expected refrain from the British, whose pensions are in many ways depending on the economic health of the mega-corporation, BP. “Make the corporation responsible and it’s going to damage all of us“, so goes the refrain. I think it was yesterday that Haley Barbour, the political genius who’s Governor of Mississippi, seemed to begin to make the case that drilling ought to resume, regardless of what had just happened. After all, the saw goes, people need jobs. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”.
And so it goes. Personally, I’m inclined to be moved by my friends comment earlier in this post. If we can afford to do so – and most of us can – I think now is a time to put money into the economy so as to help allay a darker and deeper recession. Sure, make choices of where you spend that money, but best to put some of the treasure in the money bin into circulation. I won’t buy a bushel of my friends soybean seed, but the money multiplier does work. And we’re the base for this.
I’m glad we made our trip. So is my son and granddaughter and daughter-in-law. So are the motels we stayed in. So is the girl from Russia who waited on us at a restaurant in Wall SD.
President Obama will be on stage tonight. But everyone of us, in the wings, has our own important and constructive part to play.
For those interested, here’s a link to the White House, related to the Presidents address.