SEPTEMBER 2009 BLACK HOLE CASE STUDY
by Alex Miller
Favored nominee for the 2009 “If Only I’d Shut My Mouth Sooner” Award is Barack Obama’s squeezing in of a final question from Chicago Sun-Times reporterLynn Sweet at the White House press conference on July 22, 2009. The President’s answer to her inquiry regarding the arrest in his own home of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, namely that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” in the encounter, touched off a firestorm of controversy that completely overwhelmed the 57 minutes of carefully composed statements and explanations of the administration’s healthcare policy which preceded it. By the next morning, no one anywhere had a word to say about health care—the big story was all about the President’s verbal faux pas and what it revealed about his own attitudes toward race relations. The incident strikingly illustrates the pitfalls of Obama’s natal Mercury placement, which at 2 Leo is exactly conjunct a Black Hole and had been energized by a Solar Eclipse at 29 Cancer the night before the press conference.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
A quick word of explanation for those not glued to Fox News or MSNBC. On July 16 Henry Louis Gates, a personal friend of Obama’s, returned from a trip to China to find the door to his Cambridge, Massachusetts house jammed. He and his driver were observed trying to jimmy the lock by a stranger visiting a neighbor, who reported the suspicious-looking activity to the Cambridge police. Sergeant James Crowley responded to the call, and the encounter quickly dissolved into a race-baiting shouting match, with Gates accusing the white officer of maltreatment because he was black, and Crowley arresting Gates for disorderly conduct, hauling him down to the station, and booking him. Clearly the situation had escalated into something far beyond its original substance, and at the time of the press conference, not all the details were known, which Obama acknowledged as he began his response.
Far better for him to have left it at this, but given his personal connection with Gates, a non-threatening 58-year-old who walks with a cane, who was arrested in his own home after providing ID, it’s understandable that Obama had a strong opinion as to who had acted inappropriately. Unfortunately, this was not a cut-and-dried case of simple racial profiling—Crowley teaches a course on racial sensitivity for the Cambridge police, and Gates was belligerently abusive in his protests. At best, it can be said that tempers flared on both sides, and both men lacked proper self-control, over-reacting to perceived provocation. When more of the facts became known, and after two days of a media feeding frenzy on the story, Obama made an unscheduled appearance at the White House briefing room on the Friday after the Wednesday press conference, where he attempted to walk back some of his earlier comments, stating he “could have calibrated those words differently.” He also offered to mediate discussions over a beer at the White House with Gates and Crowley, which meeting duly occurred on July 30, and included Vice President Joe Biden, apparently to avoid the rather awkward publicity photo showing two black men ganging up on the lone white officer.
Biden, Gates, Crowley and Obama, July 30, 2009
Such is the background. For our purposes, the salient point is the ease with which Black Hole Mercury natives, while often effective, persuasive speakers, can be deflected or derailed from their communication goals by seemingly trivial side matters which lend themselves to misinterpretation or misdirection resulting in severe message corruption. The entire press conference, intended to showcase and explicate the administration’s healthcare policies, was sucked into the Black Hole conjunct Obama’s Mercury, and the week that followed was dedicated, not to a thoughtful consideration of those policies, but to efforts to parry charges of the President’s own racism in assuming misconduct by the Cambridge police. Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and Fox News talkers like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck had a field day discussing what they saw as Obama’s racist, anti-American attitudes, and even supporters of the President had a hard time defending his statement.
This incident is just the latest in a series of mangled message moments since the Obama campaign, which was justly famed for its ability to retain focus on the issues and regain momentum when sidetracked by events, morphed into the Obama administration, which has shown markedly less acuity on message issues. From over-selling the probable benefits of the mammoth $787 billion recovery bill/stimulus package (made worse by several cross-talking administration representatives whose conflicting statements about the bill’s effects lent fuel to the fire of conservative opposition), to allowing Congress to write the healthcare reform legislation without White House oversight, effectively preventing any significant message control, the administration has been distressingly inept at communicating its policy goals to the American people. This leaves opponents of these policies a message vacuum from which to mislead an under-informed electorate, foment discontent and dissent, and organize opposition based in ignorance of the actual policy proposals.
As Mark Twain observed, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on, and we’re now being treated to the spectacle of seniors who’ve been convinced that if healthcare reform passes, government agents will promptly visit them to discuss their pending euthanasia as a cost-cutting measure (based in one version of the bill’s attempt to guarantee access to living wills for every American), and constant, virtually unchallenged assertions that such reforms as a public option will “destroy healthcare in America” and place a “government bureaucrat” between patients and their doctors (presumably replacing the insurance company bureaucrat who stands there now). Black Hole Mercury’s chief obstacle is often the sense that one’s message is trapped within the confines of the anomaly’s supergravity, unable to penetrate to the outside world, and Black Hole Mercury natives, while creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, are commonly faced with misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and downright misrepresentation of their ideas and views.
This slide into lack of message control is deplorable, and may be irreparable, but regardless, the eclipse which highlighted Obama’s Mercury in July will show communication to be a major issue for the ensuing year, and the extent to which the administration grapples with this problem and resolves it will do much to determine its effectiveness for the remainder of Obama’s term in office.
As with all things Black Hole, extremes apply. Some Black Hole Mercury natives, such as Winston Churchill, FDR, and Adolf Hitler, are masterful orators, persuasive and compelling, uttering such memorable phrases as Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and Churchill’s “this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Wordcraft and statecraft become one with these individuals, who have the capacity to galvanize millions to their cause. The alternate Black Hole Mercury manifestation is the verbal stumblebum variety so well displayed by George W. Bush, master of the malapropism, with Mercury exactly conjunct the Black Hole at 9 Leo, who claimed others “misunderestimated” him and that his issues “resignated” with the American people.
Up to his entry into the White House, Obama clearly fit into the former category, of rhetorical masters capable of energizing others and enlisting their support. But the administration itself seems to have become Obama’s Mercurial alter ego, a shadow self enacting the alternate potential inherent in Black Hole Mercury of communicating ineffectively or incoherently. Part of the problem may be Joe Biden, whose Mercury opposed a Black Hole has famously tripped up the Vice President on more than one occasion during the course of his career, from alleged plagiarism in a speech during his first presidential run in 1987, to his recent ill-considered assertion that the administration “misread how bad the economy was,” a statement which had to be immediately parsed for the positive and then walked back when none could be found. Indeed, it was a Biden statement concerning his rival candidate which injected the first hint of racism into the 2008 presidential campaign, when in January 2007 he described Obama as “articulate and bright and clean,” adjectives which seemed to have a racial focus when applied to an African American.
Candidate Obama kept a firm grip on the wayward potential of his Black Hole Mercury, but President Obama, while he retains an overall self-discipline which is impressive, is unable to control the full range of the administration’s Mercury functioning, and surrogates seem to be enacting its negative possibilities in much the same way that Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger did during the campaign [see my article “Pastor Problems” in the July 2008 Daykeeper Journal]. One notable exception is White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (born 29 March 1971), whose Mercury exactly conjunct the Black Hole at 26 Aries mirrors the president’s admirable self-control and message discipline.
Other signs of a strained Mercury are in evidence, such as the so-called “birther” movement, composed of individuals who contend that Obama’s presidency is illegitimate because he was not born in this country at all, but rather in Kenya. This dispute over a birth record (Mercury) perfectly depicts the “alternate reality” emphasis that any celestial in contact with a Black Hole can evoke. There is not a shred of evidence for this contention, but the controversy has gained a life of its own, propelled by Internet rumors and a calculated reluctance on the part of prominent Republicans to flatly condemn its adherents. In the wake of the July 22 eclipse on Obama’s Mercury, a Kenyan birth certificate for the president surfaced, quickly debunked as fraudulent. Not only is Obama’s father’s age recorded incorrectly, but the country is listed as the “Republic” of Kenya, which was designated a Dominion until 1964, and Mombasa, the supposed city of his birth, was still a part of the state of Zanzibar at that time. The falsified record is another indication that Obama is losing control of his Black Hole Mercury, which spells potential trouble in the future.
At this same time, manufactured outrage at the proposed healthcare reforms, the jewel in the crown of the Obama agenda, provides another glimpse into the problems which can arise when Black Hole Mercury goes awry. In town hall meetings across the country, beleaguered Democrats are being confronted by supposed constituents during their August recess. But these individuals are not truly representative of the grassroots—they are organized by conservative organizations and health industry lobbyists and in some cases, bussed into the district purposely to disrupt these sessions which traditionally are a venue for the sort of give-and-take communication vital to a Mercury-ruled democracy, focused on the expression of opinion and free speech. Democratic congressmen are being shouted down by angry crowds in mob-style confrontation, some have received death threats or have been hanged in effigy by protestors. The majority of these incidents are not spontaneous expressions of private opinion, but organized opposition directed by the likes of such conservative lobbyist groups as Freedom Works, headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, which distributes a manual detailing strategies for creating chaos, intimidating representatives, and shutting down meaningful dialogue at these events. This corruption of the town hall format, a pseudo-grassroots effort, has been termed “astroturfing,” and the contrast between these terms perfectly describes the Black Hole’s tendency to present a false front as reality, to substitute a manufactured image for the actual substance.
Throughout August, as Obama’s standing in the polls continued to fall and his healthcare policies lost more and more support, pundits across the political spectrum all voiced a common critique—what had happened to Obama’s famed message control? Where was the master rhetorician when the administration needed him most? Why was so much misinformation going unchallenged, why such weak defense in the face of such vitriolic, hyperbolic opposition? The verdict was unanimous—whatever communication skills Obama had formerly possessed, seemed to have deserted him.
In the natal chart, Obama’s 2 Leo Mercury forms a T-Square with an opposition to Jupiter at 0 Aquarius retrograde and a square to Neptune at 8 Scorpio. This ably depicts the sort of vague, fuzzy, feel-good (Neptune) political (Jupiter) rhetoric (Mercury) which dominated the campaign, whose primary slogan was “Yes we can!” What exactly it is we can do, and how we can do it, was purposely left unanswered, and as a campaign device, this rhetorical sleight-of-hand served the candidate well, allowing Obama the typical Black Hole luxury of appearing to be all things to all people. But in the aftermath of victory, faced with the realities of governance, this nonspecific Neptunian approach has allowed others to distort and fear-monger (Neptune), painting Obama’s political philosophy (Jupiter) and policy proposals (Mercury) as ineffective, unrealistic and socialist, all Neptune-ruled adjectives. As we sow, so shall we reap, and as Black Hole Mercury retreats further and further from Obama’s conscious control, the consequences for the administration and the nation it heads may be very serious indeed.
Alex Miller (formerly Alex Miller-Mignone)
is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.
His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org.