Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 13, 2010

The days are now perceptibly shorter, the evenings are noticeably longer. The heat of the summer will soon give way to the coolness of the autumn, but not just yet. In the meantime, the events of the past week are recalled once more:

Uh Oh!

There is a hoary saying to the effect that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Perhaps someone should get Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, a dog. He has come under some criticism due to his reference to the “professional left” being unhappy with the Obama Administration despite its many accomplishments.

Despite his unbecoming crankiness, Mr. Gibbs happens to be right. There are zealots on the leftward range of the political spectrum who are displeased because he has not parted the Red Sea of injustice and has yet to walk the waters of the total codification of the liberal agenda. In point of fact, in less than two years the Obama Administration has brought into being a transcendent health care reform bill that will transform the lives of Americans for generations to come.

Avoiding the complete and total collapse of the American economy should count for something in the liberal latitudes of this country. And certainly financial regulatory reform is yet another institutional change that warrants acknowledgement if not a standing ovation.

There have been missteps and mistakes (e.g. the first thirty days of the BP oil crisis, Shirley Sherrod) and there will be more human errors by this human President. But appointing the first black Attorney General, appointing two women to the Supreme Court, opening the door to reconciliation with the rest of the planet, a nuclear arms reduction agreement and the most aggressive and expansive public education initiative in the history of the United States are all historic accomplishments that must be acknowledged.

In their quest for the perfect there are those on the left wing of the left wing who will neglect to acknowledge the possible that has been accomplished. The corrosive effect of this dripping acid of criticism can result in the erosion of the base of support that elected Barack Obama in the first place. I am trying to imagine any of the foregoing items coming to pass under the administration of President John McCain and I would hope that the left wing of the left wing would take a moment of pause to consider the alternatives.

President Obama is not, and should not, be immune from criticism. It is healthy and a part of what is supposed to be a democratic process. His hagiography can wait. But without acknowledging the positive there is a chance that the negative perceptions will be a pervasive presence in the body politic and the prospect of President Tim (“smash the government”) Pawlenty or President Sarah (“refudiate”) Palin is not a pleasant thought.

In the meantime, Robert Gibbs should get himself a dog. And if he already has a dog, perhaps he should get another one.

The Rain in Spain

So it seems that Michelle Obama just had to go to Spain on a mother-daughter jaunt with Sasha Obama. That would be just fine except for the pesky detail of her flying on Air Force Two with a mandatory security retinue that was paid for by American taxpayers.

I have heard people say that she is the First Lady of the United States and Michelle Obama can go wherever she wants. That is right and that is wrong. As First Lady of the United States presumably she can go wherever she wants. However, as First Lady of the United States her every statement and movement is meaningful and sometimes symbolic.

It would seem that in the midst of a virtual depression, an appalling unemployment rate and daily evictions and foreclosures that a less tone deaf move than a trip to the beaches and palaces in Spain would have made sense. No one expects Michelle Obama to wear sackcloth and adorn herself with ashes, but some restraint in these very difficult times would go a long way with many Americans.

Michelle Obama will not be booed in her next public appearance. But ham handed actions by members of the Administration (and she is a part of the Administration, “private citizen” designations notwithstanding) tend to diminish and chip away at the “brand” of the Administration. There are too many who would willingly tarnish that brand, no need to self-administer the negatives.

The Superbug?

“U.K. hospitals detect new “superbug”
Patients who traveled from the U.K. to India and Pakistan in search of elective treatments such as cosmetic surgery have apparently returned with a so-called “superbug” that is resistant to most forms of antibiotics. The bacteria produce an enzyme called NDM-1 that makes it resistant to the most powerful antibiotics, known as carbapenems. Scientists fear that the bacteria will likely go global. BBC (8/11)”

It is also likely that, as a result of the rise in medical tourism, that this “superbug” is already in the United States. The last thing we need is another scary story regarding our health.
But this story also points out the need for federal controls and national oversight of the way that health care is provided in this country. Those who holler and bray about getting rid of “big government” should think about how local hospitals and state health agencies of varying abilities and resources would cope with a “superbug” with an ensuing epidemic that defies traditional antibiotics and perhaps they might not be so ready to get rid of “big government” just yet.

Have a great weekend!

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