Point of View Columns

In Search of Obama

There is no doubt that history will refer Barack Obama as a U.S. President Like No Other. There is the obvious aspect of his being the first African American president. But he was also the president who led this country out of a backbreaking economic disaster while easing the United States out of two unwinnable wars. There is also the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) which transformed the American vision of healthcare and the Dodd Frank Act which was the first major reform of the American financial services industry in almost 80 years. And now, it is time for Barack Obama to be an Ex-President of the United States Like No Other.

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-nonviolent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has largely observed the unwritten rule that ex-presidents do not criticize their successors, at least for the first year. But now the first year is up and the President Like No Other has to become the Ex-President Like No Other. Because the reality is that Barack Obama, perhaps unintentionally, became the leader of a progressive surge that countered a quarter of a century of conservative ascendancy.

While no one would ever confuse the 44th President of the United States with being a radical progressive, his presence on the national political landscape empowered progressive men and women to envision an America where the meanest and least civil aspects of the conservative movement were no longer inevitable. And indeed, there are options to the fevered dreams and wishes of the Ayn Rand acolytes who would transform political and policy dialogue into a Maker-Taker Texas death match.

And this is where Barack Obama comes in. While Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and who knows who else position themselves for a possible presidential run in 2020, there is real work to be done right now. This country cannot afford three more years of Democratic rope-a-dope and because he cannot run for president in 2020, Barack Obama can be the honest and true voice of progressive concerns, in the process concentrating constant and withering criticism of the man who challenged his citizenship, his college degree and his law school credentials.

When Barack Obama points out that Donald Trump has managed to denigrate black Americans with his dog whistle call to Make America Great (White) again while treating women like disposable accessories and demeaning and insulting the American immigrant community and the international community of color, people will listen and listen differently.

We have heard President Obama say that he has run the race and many would agree that he deserves time to be himself. But the mantle of leadership is not an easy one to cast aside and in these dangerous days and times he simply cannot observe and occasionally comment.

Barack Obama became President of the United States carrying a message of “Hope and Change”. If there was ever a time for Hope, it is now. If there was ever a time for Change, it is now. In 2008 this country was ready for that message.

And now, a decade later, America is ready for that message – again. And Barack Obama needs to be that messenger.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 24, 2010

Summer has departed. A disappointing season to be sure, too hot, too angry and too crazy. Autumn usually promises a cooling a soothing moment before arid chill of winter, but probably not this year:

The Tea Party at the Gates

There has been much talk about the Tea Party movement and how it represents a populist surge that is therapeutic and cleansing. It has been likened to being a high colonic for the body politic.

But nothing in politics is ever that simple. There are deep seated resentments and restrained urges towards meanness that are now in the light of day, having been given legitimacy by a seemingly supine Republican Party leadership.
Current G.O.Tea Party Republican candidates for Senate promise to bring an agenda to Washington that does not seem to be therapeutic.

There is one candidate who believes that unemployment insurance may be unconstitutional (Miller – Alaska). There is another who believes that women in the military vitiate the preparedness of the American armed forces (O’Donnell – Delaware). We can’t forget the candidate who questions the legitimacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Paul – Kentucky). And then there is the potential United States Senator who proposes to abolish the Department of Energy and the Department of Education as well as Social Security for good measure (Angle – Nevada).

I wish that someone would ask Michael Steele or Mitch McConnell or John McCain or Sarah Pailin if they really believe in this madness. Prior inquiries have been greeted with pabulum-like homilies about the right of the local electorate to express itself. But, of course, the United States Senate passes national legislation that affects everyone in this country.

Does Michael Steele really believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be reconsidered? As an African American Mr. Steele and his family personally benefited from this historic legislation, does he give Rand Paul a pass on this one?

John McCain has spent his entire life in the military and has always been a supporter of women serving in the armed forces of this country. Is he prepared to support Christine O’Donnell and her antediluvian views on this subject?

Sarah Palin presumes to belong to America now, but she never hesitates to refer to her Alaskan roots. No state has benefited more from the policies of the Department of Energy than Alaska. Is she prepared to correct Sharron Angle on this subject?

Clearly there is anger and resentment and bitterness flowing through this country. Candidates who channel that anger can be successful in the short term. But if those emotions are only channeled in a destructive direction Steele, McCain, Palin, etc. may regret reaping what they have sown. And so will the rest of us.

War Without End

“You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”……General David Petraeus from Obama’s War by Robert Woodward

This one quote from Robert Woodward’s new book is chilling and sad and heartbreaking. If the military proponents of the war in Afghanistan do not believe that the war is “winnable”, however that may be defined, then why are hundreds upon thousands of men, women and children going to die as a result of that war?

It is clear to many that the security of the American homeland is not tied to the war in Afghanistan in terms of protecting the citizens of this country. The security of this country is undoubtedly endangered by the anger and resentment arising from the collateral deaths of thousands of civilians sucked down into the cauldron of war. And yet, this country still goes forward in this war without end.

The Mouths of Gift Horses

There is an old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. A fairly benign advisory needs to be brushed off given the events of this Friday.

On September 24th, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and said to be worth over $7 billion, will announce a gift of $100 million to the Newark (New Jersey) school system. This gift represents 10% of the annual budget for that city’s school system and is by far the largest individual gift that it has ever received. Newark Mayor Corey Booker will accept this gift on the Oprah Winfrey show. So what could be wrong with this picture?

Some critics are carping that Mr. Zuckerberg is making this gift because an uncomplimentary bio-pic entitled “The Social Network” is opening in theaters at the same time. Somehow, this $100 million donation to the children and teachers and administrators and parents in Newark is supposed to blunt or deflect the inevitable criticism that will flow after “The Social Network” hits the silver screens of the world.

The thought that comes to my mind is “Who cares?” Tens of thousands of people will benefit from Mr. Zuckerberg’s largesse. In this era of naked and rampant greed and selfishness perhaps a few more of the mega wealthy men and women of this country will use the fig leaf of charity to hide their nakedness.

Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford and many others have done it. If Mark Zuckerberg wants to burnish his image by doing undeniably good and charitable work, here’s hoping that a few more tycoons, athletes, rappers and bankers follow his lead.

Have a great weekend!

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