Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Assessing Obama

Obama's Ship of State is under siege and not only from the low-information-high decibel and virulent far right. His left flank is also shooting canon balls over the bow. Some of them are whining over unfulfilled wet dreams, others say he got his priorities wrong or coddled the bankers or relinquished his bully pulpit. As more progressives disown the president they seem heedless of the center-right drift in the political spectrum caused, in part, by the vacuum left by their absence.

We are told that Obama has lost the narrative as if there is only one ball to carry and he fumbled it running down the field. The world unfolds at the rate of a crisis-a-week. There is not one narrative but a dozen. To think otherwise is simplistic.

Ronald Reagan offered us Morning in America and the Evil Empire.....pablum for the sloganeers. What we now call, the narrative such as Big Government, Tough on Crime is nothing more than micro sound bites for the lazy mind. If Obama hasn't found the 2 or 3-word bumper-sticker to match his Yes We Can it's because governance is more complex than campaigning.

Is it fair to criticize his deliberate nature or inherent propensity toward conciliation? This is the man we admired for those very traits. Is he too smart for the office? Perhaps so, unable, at times, to reduce complex issues into a simple coherent message. Maybe his greatest fault is that he assumes we are intelligent grown-ups able to hold conflicting, even oppositional, ideas in our minds at the same time and accept something less than full resolution.

As one branch of a tripartite government how can an agenda be moved when the other two parts are intransigent at best or in the pocket of the opposition, at worst. Are we to measure the success of a presidency by how well the administration has reduced his program to a story line while at the same time presiding over an empire in decline, natural and man-made disasters unfolding at unprecedented rate, institutional corporate greed and an adversary whose aim is nothing less than the dissolution of government, itself?

I am well aware of all the compromises he has had to make, all the turnarounds and abandonment of promises however this is the nature of a pragmatic executive. If we must grieve, grieve for the cynicism that Conservatives have engendered. Grieve for the lost constituency that didn't vote in Massachusetts and the no-shows in Florida and Wisconsin.

If indeed, the Republicans have the dominant narrative thanks to Fox News and a consumptive society with a herd mentality, it is the one which they have been salivating over for decades; namely that social programs have raided the treasury when, in fact, it is the gamblers in finance who have destroyed millions of lives. If they had their way we would all step into a time tunnel and emerge in 1880 before income tax, anti-trust laws and the right to collectively bargain.

A compelling narrative for the Obama re-election might speak to the subversion of the Conservative movement; how it is misaligned with job creation and a more equitable distribution of wealth and available services. How Obama saved the auto industry, re-started the engine of lending institutions, curbed reckless practices of mines and oil drilling, resists the erosion of food, drug and environmental protection agencies. How he has begun to articulate a new foreign policy, while mindful of humanitarian calamities, resists U.S. intervention in favor of trade and diplomatic pressures. How he has begun to reverse the misadventures of the Bush era Neo-Cons. Can he find a way to articulate that Taxes are not a venal sin; that corporations do not pay their share and this is why we are in debt? More than can fit on a bumper sticker but hopefully a message which can waken the semi-comatose voter not to vote against himself.


  1. Thanks, Norm, for not being one of those turncoats. I still believe in Obama and what the man is attempting to do. You don't turn a ship over night. It takes years. Unfortunately, we have to live with the stupidity of the Republicans and the Tea Party. And I say this as an Independent with no ties to either party.

  2. Thanks for the affirmation and from an Independent yet.