A BEDTIME SHORT STORY: AN ALTERNATE REALITY
History was made in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected as the first African American President in the history of the United States of America. Almost immediately after his swearing in, Obama advised Senator Ted Kennedy, who was ailing badly, to advise him that he was going to have to break a promise he'd made to him during the campaign. Kennedy, the wise old lion of the Senate, a politician who could read the political tea leaves as astutely as anyone, already knew what the young President was going to say and told him not to worry. He gave Obama his blessing and tol
d him to do what was necessary.
Obama then summoned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader to the White House for a brief meeting prior to that afternoon's Presidential Inaugural Luncheon. He informed both leaders that he no longer viewed either the Health Care Bill or the stimulus package as his top priorities. Reid was stunned. Everyone knew that Ted Kennedy's support of Obama hinged largely on Obama's promise to make Health Care a number one priority. Pelosi was equally surprised, though more pleasantly. She'd expected the young President to cave into the pressures of Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Geithner and push forward a huge financial package to shore up the Wall Street banking institutions whose greed and profligacy had done so much damage both themselves and the world economy.
Instead, Obama wanted to them to bring forth a Jobs Bill and have it on his desk for signature by the end of June. Can it be done? Well, as we all know, the rest was history. The Jobs Bill passed through both Houses, largely on a party-line vote, as the Republicans were fiercely dedicated to an obstructionist policy. That summer, roads, bridges, tunnels, rail lines, power grids and new construction projects were underway all across the country. Old steel mills had to revved up to meet the need for more steel, and other companies responsible for ancillary services related to the new construction also began to see their inventories empty out, as new orders came in every day. As the needs for resources and services increased, new job offerings began to appear and now with a little more money in their pockets, workers began to spend. The Jobs Bill was just what the doctor ordered. Spirits began to lift as more and more people began to drift back to work. Wages did not go up as high as folks might have hoped, but people still had the ability to feed their families, pay their bills and return to some semblance of normalcy. By Christmas of 2009, consumer confidence and spending were higher than it had been in the previous five years.
In the fall of 2009, Obama and the Democrats unveiled a sweeping Health Care Bill, a risky task considering the midterms of 2010 were only a year away and the Republicans were poised to make big gains in both the House and the Senate. But, Obama gambled that, with the clear evidence of change all around them, with the new construction going on and the repair of the infrastructure underway, the American people, their pockets flush, might be more receptive to the idea of a bill that could realistically slash their medical costs. In addition, the Democratic Party would be able to point to a first one hundred days of real legislative and tangible accomplishment: the Jobs Bill and now the Affordable Care Act.
Summers and Geithner, unhappy at their lack of success in convincing Obama to spend the stimulus money on shoring up Wall Street, left the Administration and both returned to the private sector. Obama replaced Geithner with a fiscal conservative who ran the Federal Reserve Bank in the midwest district and Summers with a woman whom many thought should have been Obama's fiscal advisor in the first place. She would prove to be a far more able and affable advisor than anyone could ever have imagined.
On the foreign front, Obama followed his instincts and listened to his Vice President, Joe Biden, who had advocated dividing Iraq into three parts, with the northern sector going to the Kurds, the central to the Sunni Muslims and the southern sector to the Shiites. The Turks were terribly unhappy, but the expected border skirmishes between Turks and Kurds never materialized, nor di the expected revolt of Turkish Kurds. Shiite Iran indeed forged a relationship with Shiite southern Iraq. But, now the US and Iran had developed a new relationship, based on cooperation, since both countries now had a vested interest in a successful Shiite Southern Iraq.
Obama also looked at Afghanistan, where the US was fighting an unpopular war against the Taliban and getting nowhere fast. Americas were losing their lives there, and for what? One day, during an intelligence briefing, Obama learned that the real issue in the region was Pakistan. Pakistan had already developed nuclear capability, was possibly selling the information to countries unfriendly to US interests and, most of all, was engaged in a decades long political squabble with India over the territory known as Kashmir. At issue in Kashmir were water rights, important to both countries, facing droughts due to climate change and dwindling natural resources in that part of the world. Further, Pakistan was becoming an increasingly paranoid country, with a known enemy, India on its southern border, and a former ally, the Taliban, driven from office by the Americans. (The Taliban are Sunni Muslim as is Pakistan). As Obama and Biden studied a map of the region, an idea occurred to Obama, and after a brief conversation with his Vice President and later his closest political and military advisors, the President decided on a new course of action.
Obama dispatched his Secretary of State, John Kerry, travel to Afghanistan and open talks with Mullah Omar of the Taliban as a prelude to returning the Taliban to power as the ruling Government, a move which immediately incurred the wrath of politicians on both sides of the aisle.. But, Obama took the view that the US military had accomplished its goal of defeating Al Queda in Afghanistan and driving them from the country. There was no further need for a US presence., there. Further, the current Afghan president was heading an increasingly corrupt government and was using the Afghan Army to protect his brother, one of the most notorious poppy growers in that part of the world. American soldiers were dying to protect this man. Omar signed an agreement with Kerry to never again allow Al Qaeda or any other anti-American terrorist group to operate in any capacity from Afghan soil. The Taliban returned to Kabul, the corrupt Afghans who could, fled into exile; others were captured and hanged in public executions, something that would haunt the Obama administration for the rest of its term in office. Not to mention the Dark Ages cloud that again descended over the country. Women in America, led by former Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton were outraged and accused Obama of betraying the women of Afghanistan and dooming them to more years of ignorance and oppression. But Obama, in a nationally televised speech, opined that the ultimate solution to the social and political order in Afghanistan must be the responsibility of the Afghan people, and not American B-52s and boots on the ground.
Pakistan, delighted to have its ally back on its northern border became more open to US entreaties to sit down and reason with India, and somehow, some way, information from Pakistan made its way to US intelligence, pinpointing exactly where the hated and much sought after Osama Bin Laden could be found.
The Obama Administration then arranged for American military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard, to march in a victory parade down the Canyon of Heroes in New York, and along constitution Avenue in Washington, DC, in the largest such parades since the end of the First Gulf War.
By the mid term elections of 2010, Democrats were running on campaigns bolstered by the success of the Jobs Bill, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the end of Osama Bin Laden and an economy that was starting to percolate once again. And Obama was proven right: the Democrats were swept back into office by the voters, enjoying majorities in both Houses that the Party had not seen since the Johnson Administration.
Two years later, in 2016, the Democrats found themselves in a major political firestorm. Hilary Clinton decided to stand for the Presidency once again. The Clinton political organization had been working very hard across eight years to reconstruct their national campaign apparatus and to shore allies. But, now the Party was fracturing: Joe Biden, buoyed by his beloved son's miraculous and continuing recovery from surgery for brain cancer, had decided to run, and so had Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucused with the Democrats. Sanders wanted a far more sweeping Health Care Bill, advocating Medicare for al, while Biden and Clinton both took more moderate positions. In the end, Biden prevailed, based largely on his well-known central roles in forging US policy regarding the Jobs Bill, Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, acting on Obama's advice, Biden invited Clinton to join his ticket. Senator Clinton did so, and the sight of Obama holding aloft the hands of both Biden and Clinton at the 2016 Democratic Convention elicited cheers so loud that the roof above the arena nearly collapsed onto everyone's head.
That November, the Biden-Clinton ticket won election in a landslide, carrying formerly reliably red states such as Florida, West Virginia and South Carolina. The Republican they defeated: a radical, right-wing former reality TV star named Donald Trump, who was later arrested, along with several members of his family, on charges of money-laundering and other corrupt practices in his dealings with overseas businesses known to have had strong relations with the Russian government, something that brought grim satisfaction from the recently elected Speaker of the House, Maxine Waters of California.
By the year 2017, the Biden-Clinton Administration was considering Senator Sanders' proposal for the introduction of a Single Payer Health Care Bill, a proposition that had reached 75% approval from the voting public, and the Democrats were expected to maintain majorities in both Houses through the 2018 midterm elections. And somehow, all seemed right with the world.