Unlike many people that cast their ballot for Barack H. Obama in November 2008, I was not under any delusion that he was going to reach as far as Franklin D. Roosevelt, move as much as Lyndon B. Johnson, or see as far as John F. Kennedy. The idea that Obama was going to be a “messiah” was just as laughable coming from those that truly believed it as it was coming from the right-wing hate machine trying to scare people into thinking he was a Socialist.
I saw Obama as a smart, pragmatic politician. Weaving my way through his well crafted and superbly delivered rhetoric, I believed he fully realized the blocking moves that the Republican Party would put on his power and would be very careful to pick and choose his fights. Yet, when the fight was chosen, I believed that he would give it his all.
The Obama Administration stumbled from the very beginning but that is by no means unusual. No matter how much a person believes he or she is prepared for what is still the most important job on Earth, the burden is stunning and it seems nobody can pre-plan for how much detail the microscope hovering over the White House actually reveals. Every administration starts off with a few gaffes and mistakes. Thankfully, most of Obama’s were small…except for one which, unfortunately for the country, was a harbinger of what has happened over the almost 30 months Obama has been in office.
I have felt this way for quite a while but was still waiting for the pivotal time when Obama would finally have his Popeye moment and say, “I’ve had all I can stands, I can’t stands no more” — or, for you country music fans, when he would finally give up on being the Coward of the County and whup some ass. Those that pay attention in the center, center-left, and left of the political spectrum have spent enough time waiting and I think it’s plain that the moment is never going to come.
That’s not to say that I advocate everybody switching to the right or that we made a mistake by electing Obama instead of John McCain. I’m sorry, but continuing to watch her since her bizarre Vice Presidential campaign ended, the country is still better off with a milquetoast in the White House than having Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from the Presidency.
At least with Obama there is something resisting — albeit weakly — the farce that is the so-called “Tea Party” movement…and it was the creation of that movement and the failure to respond to it was that first moment I sensed big trouble with Obama. After all, here is a movement almost wholly financed by huge corporations that have no interest in the true desires of its rank-in-file members. The people in it want a secure border, but the corporations want the cheap labor climate created by having a huge influx of illegal immigrants. The people in it want manufacturing jobs to return to America, but the corporations want to continue outsourcing to squeeze every possible penny out of their profits while shirking their patriotic duty to give back to the country that gave them the opportunity to become wealthy in the first place. The people in it want a return to the values of the Bible, but the corporations want to be able to break any Commandment without “government interference” whether it be bearing false witness, holding the Sabbath holy, or even committing a sort of murder with what they produce and release onto the planet that God supposedly created.
Unless the Republicans sweep into power in 2012 or 2016 and start rewriting all of the textbooks and banning other books that do not agree with their point of view (and don’t think for a minute that many of the Tea Party crowd wouldn’t like to do just that), I believe history will show that the unraveling of the Obama Administration came in that first month when Rupert Murdoch and the Fox News Channel started showing the falsely “grassroots” rallies complaining about rising taxes when Obama hadn’t even had enough time to find all of the bathrooms in the White House much less do anything other than work on getting his half-assed economic stimulus package passed through Congress while it was still scared enough to pass something to help real people. The whole thing amazes me as Obama said consistently (and still does) that he would not raise taxes a single dime on anybody that made less than $250,000 a year. I don’t know about anybody else reading this, but I didn’t see too many people in those Tea Party crowds looking as if they made that much money unless they were on or behind the lectern.
So…where are we now that Obama failed from the start to strongly and consistently refute the claims of the radical Tea Party movement? I believe this says it all and much better than I can right now. This paragraph comes from an article that inspired this blog entry. It is titled, What Happened to Obama? by Emory University Professor Drew Westen published in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times.
To the average American, who was still staring into the abyss, the half-stimulus did nothing but prove that Ronald Reagan was right, that government is the problem. In fact, the average American had no idea what Democrats were trying to accomplish by deficit spending because no one bothered to explain it to them with the repetition and evocative imagery that our brains require to make an idea, particularly a paradoxical one, “stick.” Nor did anyone explain what health care reform was supposed to accomplish (other than the unbelievable and even more uninspiring claim that it would “bend the cost curve”), or why “credit card reform” had led to an increase in the interest rates they were already struggling to pay. Nor did anyone explain why saving the banks was such a priority, when saving the homes the banks were foreclosing didn’t seem to be. All Americans knew, and all they know today, is that they’re still unemployed, they’re still worried about how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of the month and their kids still can’t get a job. And now the Republicans are chipping away at unemployment insurance, and the president is making his usual impotent verbal exhortations after bargaining it away.
I strongly urge everybody to go read the entire article as I think it is the most fair and complete critique written so far on how Obama has failed to lead. Best of all, it is not behind the Times’ usual “wall” and can be seen by everybody.
The path forward from here is not going to be good. I have a friend who is one of those people that always says things such as, “If you think positive, positive things will happen.” That is true but only to a point. Sometimes, we have to look at facts…and the facts are that, no matter who ends up in power over the next three major election cycles, we are screwed. If the Democrats rule, they have proved to be too timid to stand up against the big corporate interests that power the radical Tea Party movement. If the Republicans rule, there will probably be a “miraculous” economic recovery as all of the big corporations will unleash the piles of cash they have been sitting on for the past three years, yet nobody outside of Wall Street will really see it as all of the new jobs will be for much lower pay with few, if any, benefits.
Unless some independent movement gets going quickly, the choices will be like pulling off a Band-Aid. We can get the big pain over with quickly and start suffering under the new corporate oligarchy right away by putting one of the currently-running Republican nut-jobs into the White House and get the move against homosexuals, workers, and free speech on the Internet started immediately, or we can pull it off slowly by reelecting Obama and watching all of the progress we have made since 1933 be pulled out slowly, hair by hair.
Those are our choices in this modern political world. If anybody doesn’t like it and wants to find somebody to blame, I suggest going into the bathroom and taking a long look in the mirror. For too long we have let both Democrats and Republicans take away our progress, our hope, our freedoms, and our republic. Some have been suckered into the extreme sides of the arguments while the rest have basically given up. Even in 2008 where a record number of votes were cast in a Presidential election, only about 60% of those who were eligible bothered to cast a ballot.
While America gorged itself on American Idol and its many other distractions, most of those in power laughed all the way to the bank as they simultaneously took away our freedom of choice in employment, products, politics, and life as a whole. They have fooled the country with 500 cable channels and over 9,000 varieties of salad dressing thinking they are true “freedom of choice” all while being owned by the same five or six big conglomerates.
This could have been stopped for at least for a little while if Obama had seized the chance to actually lead and use his highly touted “community organizer” skills to motivate all of those young people that flocked to his campaign to have them start doing something in their local communities to pick up the slack in the areas where he knew that, eventually, government would have to cut back thanks to far too many years of deficit spending. Yet, instead of embracing the possibilities and having his own JFK-like “ask not what your country can do for you” moment, he allowed politics as usual to continue…well, “usual” at least since the Republicans brought forth their scorched earth policy against Democrats during the Clinton Administration.
With stress on the word “leader” as I look at that differently than how good a President was at actual governing…it is stunning to think that Obama could end up being a worse leader than Jimmy Carter was. Even more stunning is that he could easily end up being reelected unless the Republicans suddenly come to half of their senses and nominate Jon Huntsman who would probably win in a landslide due to his more moderate and inclusive views (at least as the general centrist voting public would be concerned).
It is not just a shame that we have now had three consecutive Presidents completely piss away their opportunities to do some truly good things for the entire country, it is a tragedy. We are all going to pay a heavy price for continuing to allow people like that to rule over us.
Most of us are already paying that price while a handful of the super wealthy aren’t contributing a thing. In 2010, I made less than $24,000 and paid about $2,000 in taxes on that paltry income. In the same year, General Electric made billions — with a B — in net profits — not gross, net — and paid no taxes…nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero. While I by no means believe that corporations and wealthy individuals should be taxed at a European-style rate or that I should pay nothing, they should at least pay something. Had Obama been a proper leader and not let the delusional Tea Party crowd rule public discourse, more people might have seen the light that a big part of our supposed deficit “crisis” was the unnecessary Bush tax cuts that ended up benefiting nobody but companies like GE and its top-level officers while simultaneously killing our ability to navigate the economic downturn.
Then again, maybe it was for the best. Another area where has Obama failed was to follow up on his promise to “name names” and go after those that wasted or downright stole what little economic stimulus money that was actually spent. He also failed to keep his promise to make government more transparent, leaving the generally inattentive center no idea what was really in all of the big yet still watered-down bills he managed to get passed before the Democrats blew the special election to replace Senator Ted Kennedy by nominating a candidate that was about as exciting as watching a turtle take a shit. He failed in his promise not to make any new healthcare legislation a “mandated coverage” plan thus opening it up to what will be unending attempts at trying to overturn it in federal court. He has even failed to get more help to New Orleans, still reeling from the neglect that caused the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, because reviving the city might make the state’s Republican governor look good.
Obama hasn’t been all bad. It was certainly ballsy to give the order he did to take out Osama bin Laden knowing full well what happened to Jimmy Carter when the Iranian hostage rescue attempt went so badly. He has made sensible nominations to the Supreme Court to make sure it doesn’t go even further into the right-wing extreme. Still, even Richard Nixon did a few good things but that does not override the fact that he was a terrible President.
The sad fact is that, in 2012, we will be back to a Presidential election where people are holding their noses to pick the lesser of two evils rather than the much more hopeful contest we had between Obama and McCain (Palin’s presence notwithstanding). It is guaranteed to not only be the most expensive election in United States history, but the most dirty as well.
I didn’t expect total “change” and “hope” from Obama, but I did expect a different tone. By failing to lead and use the Presidential stage, the only change will now be a hope that things don’t get worse too fast before we’re all dead and don’t have to worry about it anymore.
The only way to fix it is to stop voting for both of the major parties and bring in people that will not let money rule the day. What’s our hope of that happening? We all know the answer. At this point, I now fully agree with what George Carlin said on this subject. All we can do now is just sit back, enjoy the “show” of watching America go down the toilet, and try to keep our distance from it as much and for as long as we can…because too many have lost their willingness to stick it to the man, we will soon lose our ability to do it as well.
Happy happy, joy joy, happy happy, joy joy… :-D
Ren & Stimpy