Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The celebration

Looks like the rumor was wrong. There was lots of orange down on the square last night.

Some of the speakers who were passionate during the revolution up there on the stage last night seemed to have lost a lot of the fire they had back then. Were they reacting to what they think the people think? Or have they just lost it? Don't know which it is.

Tymoshenko hasn't lost it. She made her case last night though I didn't listen much to it. When Yuschenko spoke, she stood behind him with what looked like tears in her eyes.

Yuschenko gave a laundry list speech at first. It was a "this is what we have done" kind of beginning. A bit boring and didn't really speak to the mood in the country right now. After that was over, he went on to an explanation about his motivations for picking the people he did and what happened when he dismissed them. I thought it was heartfelt and should have been where he started. By the time he got there, I think he lost a lot of people who compared the positive gains he says the country has made to their own lives and found the difference to be telling.

I know that they have listened to the Clinton spin people recently. I think a lot of what was done in that administration to make the president's case was a wreckless slashing and burning on all sides without much regard to the effect it had on the institutions of government and on the people.

But to have someone here talking to Yuschenko that could help shape his message and approach is a good idea no matter where it comes from. Yuschenko needs that and he needs some discipline too to get him to control his outbursts. Last night for example, when he got on the stage, some in the crowd chanted, "Yulia! Yulia! Yulia!" He responded with, "You can continue and I'll listen. When you finish, I'll begin." It is what he felt but it won't help to make him any new friends.

That is the same thing he did in that affair about his son. Talking that way to a news organization that supported him during the revolution didn't serve him well. That that news organization now says it is in opposition to the Ysuchenko government should be laid entirely at the feet of Yuschenko. It didn't need to happen.

He said something else that was on a par. He may feel it, but he's gotta control saying something about it. That may be impossible because to suppress it might seem dishonest. He needs friends and that is hard to do when you are in their faces for what are petty things.

I do though think he set the right tone later in the speech. He was forthright and candid I think about the government and what happened. And he ended up the speech with a reemphasis on the direction the country needed to take. It was much of what was stated in the revolution last year.

Those who listened to it I think would have to come away from it thinking that Yuschenko is still sincerely engaged in trying to correct the problems of the country. That he doesn't have more to show for the time he has been involved is a very real and a very bad problem. And it is all to be laid up to his mistakes. But I think the mistakes came from trying to do the right thing. He vacillated between government unity and making the right decisions. His hand was forced and unity was the casualty. It should have been but much, much earlier.

My wife thought he was the only speaker who sounded like he did last year on the square. I think he did too. We'll see what effect it has.

We listened to the speech with people who are disenchanted with Yuschenko. That might be the majority of Ukrainians, I don't know. Their lives haven't changed much and things have gotten more expensive. For this they blame not primarily Tymoshenko, though she is getting it too, but Yuschenko. These particular people, the ones we had over, still support Tymoshenko because they saw her as getting something done.

I think I may not have been the best host last night. (They were at our place.) In a bit of heat, I kept saying to them, "Ask Tymoshenko where the investment went." That she was doing something is true but it amounted to nothing better than rearranging the deck chairs on that big sinking ship. Investment is needed for the pie to grow here and for people's lives to get better. But she with her careless populism scared a lot of it away. And her statist managing of the economy got them all shortages and inflation as a bonus. A pure disaster.

There is irony there too. She blamed the Russians for a number of the problems of the Ukrainian economy. But it is the Russians who are the only ones who can stomach the perceived risks in the Ukrainian economy. (Like I have said before, a lot of the risks are only perception. We think they have been vastly overstated.) So she blamed the Russians for it all and then instituted polices that made it inevitable that the Russians would take a significant role in the economy. But now Russia isn't the problem anymore for her I guess. She went there and saw how wonderful it all was there for herself.

A lot of people say that corruption hasn't changed at all and that that was the major pledge of Yuschenko on Maidan last year. And that is the truth on both counts. The problem is that corruption was never as much a problem of systems and structure as it was one of culture. What this means is that there was only so much that could be done by Yuschenko in the first place. And some of it has been done, to his credit. The rest of it has to come from a change in the culture.

Corruption was not simply a problem of Kuchma or of Yanukovych or of the militsya who stopped the car looking for a bribe to let it go. It has always been a problem of the people of Ukraine. For every official who wants a bribe for something, there is someone willing to pay it. And these would include even those who stood out in the cold cheering on Yuschenko. They would be the first to condemn Yanukovych for paying officials to get votes. But when it comes to getting their children into the right school or to getting their child a degree or to selling their apartment at the time they need to or to getting that piece of paper that allows them to do something they want to do, everyone, everyone, is willing to pay what it takes to whomever it takes to get it done. But corruption something the other guy does, the bad guy, not me. My motives are pure. But it is all corruption and it is all a problem, all of it. It distorts policy and creates a drag on the economy. And it creates costs that all people are paying for now, costs that are keeping the lot of them in poverty and subjecting them to rule by the whims of stupid bureacrats who can't do anything other than manage paper but who have power and know how to use it for their own benefit. (OK, so they aren't stupid in that either.) And that means, in the end, government by the rich and for the rich.

But it's the other guys, not me.

There is more to say on this but I don't have more time. We are expecting a baby in the next couple of weeks and that means making the rounds to doctors and other places to get ready for it. Not much time left after all that.

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