Risk and Reward, Does Obama Understand the Real Rules?

The question has been asked almost since Barack Obama took office, and that is whether he is the smartest man in the room, cold and calculating, ideological and ruthless, with his eye firmly on an as yet undefined prize, or is he just a spoiled brat, a male Holly Golightly, who’s never heard the word “no” or known the sting of a ‘panking, tripping through life from one whim to the next, me, me, me, indifferent to the pain and suffering he causes others, but also to the severity of the risks he is taking?

Consider two names, Saddam Hussein and Private Bergdahl. (When the Army can explain to me  how an AWOL’ee, whose records were flagged the moment he stepped off into the dark in Afghanistan in 2009 and got himself captured by the enemy, still got promoted not once, but twice, I’ll agree to call him “sergeant”.)

These two men represent the flip sides of the laws of risk and reward; people who see a prize, the reward, and understand the obstacles of seizing that prize and holding it, and understanding fully the risks, should he fail, and people who are so self-involved they see nothing.

Hate him if you must, Saddam Hussein understood those rules. He faced the consequences of his failure like a man…who knew full well what he was getting into when he first set out on his journey of conquest back in the 1970s. I’m sure, sitting in his cell awaiting that march up to the scaffold, Saddam had several “Damn, I wish I hadn’t done that” thoughts, especially his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which began his last, decade and a half downward spiral to the hangman’s noose. He rolled the dice and lost, but faced the croupier’s pull of his last stack of chips like a player.

In America, we find this sort of behavior in two principal lines of endeavor, business and crime…at every level, from the guy who risked all to open up a new pizza joint in Little Italy to Steve Jobs who did much better with his risk. The same for the gang drug lord, and the local street peddler who decided he wants to add more territory at the expense of other street peddlers.

They all know the prospective gains and believed the rewards were worth the risk.

Now compare Saddam with Private Bergdahl, who apparently had (or has) a penchant for going wherever, and whenever, the mood strikes him, especially if the children he is playing with don’t play nicely, or don’t notice his “specialness”. He’s become noted already for his spur-of-the-moment walkabouts… in Idaho, in Basic Training (or AIT…I can’t be certain and probably not true  anyway, as those would have been AWOL’s as well) and his now-famous moonlight promenade into enemy territory over some hurt, insult or rebuff from his fellow comrades. Or maybe he just got tired of the place.

The evidence isn’t all in, but I consider (so far) Bergdahl so be a Moonbeam, a space captain, who can work himself into such a lather to not want to be someplace that he will risk “all” just to get away from it…without really stopping to consider just what “all” means. This sort of pathology can be attributed to a whole host of reasons, including doting parent(s), poor potty training, or an inability to bang out a boogie-woogie rhythm on the left hand while simultaneously playing the melody with the right, so taking up ballet instead. That was why I took up banjo, btw. You may recall my story about Mick Hensley, who broke my nose twice, but it was thanks to Mick, in 5th grade, who proved my mother wrong that I was the most special child in God’s creation. As I ended that essay with a lamentation, I’ll say the same about Private Bergdahl, it’s s shame he didn’t have a Mick Hensley in his protected non-functional life.

Back to Barack, then: is he more like the cunning Saddam or the moonbeam Bergdahl in understanding the immutable laws of risk and reward? Is he fully aware of the risks he’s running and the price he may have to pay, commensurate with the enormity of the vast new territory he’s trying to acquire? You can’t get the Crimea back for Ukraine by beating Putin in a drinking contest, Barack. You can’t defeat terrorism with hashtags. And you can’t be dictator of America by beating the congressional card team at Rummy. For those kinds of rewards you have to put more on the table. Much more. And for those kinds of rewards you have to be able to face up to, in the mirror especially, the equivalent risks of failure.

Time will tell, but as I remind Democrats who have “crossed the line”, thinking their passive crimes can easily be undone, once you roll the dice there’s no going back, and there are no certainties as to what awaits ahead.

As for my opening question, as to which description best fits Barack Obama, I can’t say. We may never know until he  finally has to confront his destiny.

But I do have my druthers here, for you see, for all his arrogant and condescending down-the-nose, in-yer-face gestures, not toward the Republican party mind you, but toward the American citizens, for all the craven and harmful lies he’s told to them, for all the pain willfully and indifferently administered, to all the dead soldiers and their grieving families, and to the  millions who are now without work, and who are just mere “statistics” in his plan, I hope Obama’s not like Saddam, but more like Moonbeam.

For I want to see his knees buckle, his legs turn to noodles, as they have to drag him toward his fate. I want for all America to hear him squeal and whine, just to affix in their memories that there will never ever be another like Barack Obama.



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