Point of View Columns

Coincidence of Coincidence

President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address was an exercise in the normal and the paranormal. Normal in that since George Washington, every American president has addressed Congress at the beginning of the year to proclaim recent accomplishments and to articulate a vision for the future.

The paranormal aspect refers to the absolutely concrete nature of the opposition to President Obama. The opposition to this president and his very existence in the White House seems to transcend his policies and leads one to wonder what is the source and reason for this bitter disposition.

We all recollect that in January of 2009, within days of Barack Obama’s inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared his intention to make him a “one term president”. In that same timeframe, the fatuous and foul-mouthed radio fool Rush Limbaugh expressed his fervent wish that Barack Obama would “fail” as president clearly not caring that if the President of the United States “fails” the American people suffer.

It should be noted that these implacable statements of opposition were issued, along with many others, prior to President Obama doing anything more controversial than choosing a Cabinet and making his inaugural speech. He had just been elected with one of the largest pluralities in recent history. He really hadn’t had a chance to antagonize or disappoint anyone. Yet the opposition came to life fully matured and steeped in venom and disdain.

When Barack Obama was elected in November of 2008 this country’s economy was in free fall thanks to the profligate policies of the Bush Administration. These policies included two murderous wars that were financed with debt (the first time this had ever occurred in American history) as well as turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of the financial community.

By the time he was president, Barack Obama was faced with an economy that was now hurtling to a bottom that never appeared. Working with the TARP tools provided by Congress and the Bush Administration the free fall finally stopped and three years later we are actually seeing real growth in the economy. For this the Teapublicans call Barack Obama a “failed president”.

Soon after his inauguration General Motors and the entire American automobile industry teetered on the brink of virtual extinction. The country that gave birth to the automobile industry was about to witness its death within its own borders.
And that would have been the outcome but for the policies of the Obama Administration which rescued G.M. and Chrysler and provided Ford Motor Company with a healthy environment in which it could compete. Today General Motors is again the world’s largest automobile company and millions of American jobs and American families have been saved. For this the G.O.Tea Party calls Barack Obama a “failed president”.

During his entire presidency President Obama has been subject to unrelenting and incessant questions regarding his citizenship. These questions were never raised when he was admitted to the bar in the State of Illinois or when he was elected State Senator or United States Senator.

No other president or serious presidential candidate has ever been subject to this bizarre scrutiny even though several famous Republican candidates were actually born outside of the United States – Barry Goldwater, George Romney and John McCain all immediately come to mind.

The hunt for the proof that Barack Obama shouldn’t be president – that somehow the laws of the United States and of nature have been offended continues to this very day. As you read this column a court in the state of Georgia is demanding that President Obama appear personally to present his birth certificate otherwise he will not be on the ballot in November. This follows a similar attempt in Alabama within the past few weeks.

These threads of illogic, idiocy and extreme partisanship form a pattern that is familiar in the tapestry of American history. Can it really be a coincidence that the first black President of the United States is also the first president to be subject to these bizarre inquiries regarding his citizenship. Is it possible that a president who saved millions of jobs in a vital American industry could be a “failed” president?

How is it possible that the president who directed the elimination of Osama bin Laden and ended American military presence in Iraq be denied any credit or consideration? And how is it that the first American president to bring about fundamental change in the healthcare system in over a half a century is the target of such hate and vitriol?

The Teapublican Clown Cavalcade of Candidates has been united on one point – that Barack Obama should be replaced as president. Fair enough – that is the job of the opposition party. But the rationale for why he should be replaced is devoid of logic and purpose except for one thing – and it is that one thing that is the unfortunate elephant in the room.

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Point of View Columns

In Defense of Barack Obama

During the past week, President Obama has been excoriated for negotiating a tax bill compromise with Congressional Republicans. Progressives and liberals have rhetorically flayed him for consorting dancing with the devil.

And what is the mortal sin that President Obama has committed? Agreeing to a continued tax reduction that is not limited by income – therefore millionaires and billionaires, as is their custom, will devour the lion’s share of benefits intended by this tax reduction.

This negotiated compromise also continues unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who have been out of work for far too long and it will also include a payroll tax deduction that benefits just about everyone with a job.

Candidate Obama promised to eliminate the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy”. President Obama is aware that the results of the 2010 election were not so much a “refudiation” (apologies to Sarah Palin) of his policies as a reflection of American frustration with the economy.
The tax bill compromise is, in many ways, an incognito $900 billion stimulus package. If this second near-trillion dollar stimulus actually begins to revive the moribund American economy the words “hope” and “change” will no longer be banned.

And President Obama is also aware of something else: the average goldfish has a memory of 3-5 seconds. The memory of the American electorate is somewhat less.

If the economy does revive, the American people will start to retreat from the precipice of personal desperation where too many of us now reside. At that point no one will remember the tax bill compromise.

Let us remember that in less than two years the Obama Administration has fundamentally transformed the manner in which health care will be delivered in this country. As a result, the United States will finally be competitive with the rest of the industrialized world in this very critical area. It is critical not only with respect to the health of American citizens, but also with respect to the health of the American economy.

We also need to remember that the Obama Administration has instituted the first fundamental reforms of the financial services industry in over fifty years. This, of course, is the industry in which dysfunction and deceit served as the handmaidens to the disaster that has befallen this economy for the past three years. This reform has the potential to be nothing short of historic.

We also need to remember that it is due to the efforts of President Obama that the international prestige and influence of the United States has been positively transformed. While the problems of this planet seem to be intractablethe truth is that the United States is now seen more as a partner than an overlord, the World Cup and Olympic votes notwithstanding.

These accomplishments and so many more need to be remembered and recounted in order that the success of the Obama Administration can continue, and so that its errors and miscalculations can be revised without rancor.

The alternatives offered by Palin and Romney and Boehner and McCain and Pawlenty are worse than unpalatable, but the steady, corrosive, microcritiques of Barack Obama could make those alternatives a reality.

President Obama has clearly decided to pivot and comply with aspects of the Republican agenda in order to achieve the success of his presidency and its policies. When Bill Clinton did it in 1994 he was proclaimed a political genius for the ages. President Obama is using that playbook with slightly different terminology and there are too many who wish to brand him as a traitor to the cause.

Politics is rarely simple or simplistic despite the best efforts of some to reduce the facts and issues to the lowest common denominator. But it is true that winning is defining and losing can be death for the causes and issues that are important.

President Obama is intent on winning. Losing is not an option in these days and times. We will remember healthcare, financial reform, an improved environment and enhanced educational opportunities for our children.

If the “compromise” revives the economy, not even a bowlful of goldfish will remember.

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