National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The 12 Days Since Christmas

Wow. What a year 2008 is going to be. Fasten your seat belts! We've already made history. In the first week of 2008, the stock market fell as a percentage of the total by more than any year since 1932. That's since the depths of the Great Depression. And it took another big hit Tuesday.

At the same time, it's a presidential election year, and we're also on the verge of a preemptive military strike against Iran that could bring oil deliveries to a standstill. We've already had the first military face-off in the critical Straits of Hormuz, through which all oil from the Middle East must come, and the price of oil has already bumped above $100 a barrel a couple times. Armed militants are about to make life really messy in oil-rich Nigeria.   

Just after Christmas, the first-in-awhile professional assassination of a major world political leader occurred, replete with a well-planned, but clumsy, cover-up that smacked of the kind of thing covert U.S. intelligence operations were so famous for in the past.

This time it could be argued that the U.S. had a motive too. Benazir Bhutto was about to win a major election against many consider to be, even if unstable, the Bush administration’s perceived military dictator asset in Pakistan.

It was the proliferation of hand-held video cameras that exposed the clandestine operation. But don't count on the slavish, docile media in the U.S. to say a word. Still, the reality is not lost on the world outside the U.S. and the West.

Then, who is Barack Obama, really? While he may be sincere and inspired, he certainly is a finely crafted weapon against Hillary Clinton, to say the least. Who does that benefit the most?

Whatever Bill Clinton represented, the "vast right wing conspiracy" has never been known to try harder to ruin a political figure than they did over the course of his eight year presidency. There’s something about him and Hillary they really, really don’t like.

Why would anyone think the same forces are not equally intent on preventing another Clinton White House?

Think about what a race between Bush apologist, veteran Sen. John McCain, and newcomer Obama would look like over the summer, going into the fall. It would be no contest. I regret to say that McCain would eat Obama for lunch on matters of experience and other core issues that matter to mainstream America when it comes to electing a president.

In presidential elections, Americans go for experience, stability, security and a notion we haven’t heard mentioned yet in this campaign, gravitas.

One can't be diverted from the basic issue for the ruling elite: the rich must get richer, and that is all. They want control over taxing and spending, and on top of that, on keeping expensive wars raging and oil flowing westward, also no matter what. Sen. McCain will deliver on all of that. He reiterated last weekend that if he has his way, the U.S. will establish permanent military basis in Iraq.

That’s in accordance with the original invasion plan and, of course, means that the U.S. military would never leave, but remain as a bulwark to continue destabilizing the wider region for decades.

War, recession, unemployment, and the prospect of yet another Republican White House. That's what's in store for 2008 at minimum. Any one of the above scenarios can also spin out of control.

If there is something you can do to insulate yourself from all this, then by all means do it. This is not the time for risk-taking. Hold onto your job and make sure your assets are government-insured and not exposed to deep losses.

In politics, stay dialed in to the core issues. Don’t be distracted by empty promises and shallow, non-grounded idealism. Focus on what those who’ve benefited the most from the Bush years don’t want to let happen, and take your cue from that.

Too many Republicans are warming up to Obama right now, including Colin Powell and former Bush speechwriter and disingenuous Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, which makes me nervous. On the other hand, we know beyond a doubt that the backers of George Bush hate and fear the Clinton name with a special passion.