Haiti and Obama

| Tue Jan. 19, 2010 12:16 PM EST

Tyler Cowen, in an apparent effort to make me even more depressed than I already am, suggests that for all practical purposes, Barack Obama is now president of Haiti. And it might end up being his Waterloo:

Obama now stands a higher chance of being a one-term President.  Foreign aid programs are especially unpopular, especially relative to their small fiscal cost.  Have you noticed how Rush Limbaugh and others are already making their rhetoric uglier than usual?  It will be a test of the American populace; at what point will people start whispering that he is "favoring the other blacks"?

Just as it's not easy to pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan, it won't be easy to pull out of Haiti.

Maybe you thought health care was a hard problem.  Maybe you thought that cap and trade would make health care look easy.  This may be the hardest problem yet and it wasn't on anybody's planning ledger.  Obama won't have many allies in this fight either.  A lot of Democratic interest groups might, silently, wish he would forget about the whole thing.

Mass starvation wouldn't look good on the evening news either.  What does it mean to preside over the collapse of a country of more than nine million people?  It's Obama who's about to find out, not the increasingly irrelevant Rene Preval.  Everyone in Haiti is looking to President Obama.

This actually sounds overwrought to me, but I wouldn't post it if it didn't also have at least a small ring of truth to it. In fact, aid to Haiti, both in dollar and military terms, is likely to be small enough that it never becomes a big political flashpoint. And the sociopathic Rush Limbaugh aside, congressional Republicans, I think, will have a hard time making an issue of it. My guess: America will spend a billion dollars a year in Haiti for the foreseeable future and keep maybe a brigade or two of troops there. Conditions will continue to be dire, but not so dire that they affect American politics. That combination will be enough to keep it under the political radar and off the nightly news once the initial media coverage has worn off.

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