Tag Archive: Obama


I voted this last Friday, dropping my ballot into the box at the county Elections office down the street. I’ve followed the campaign pretty avidly, and I’m keyed up, waffling between optimism and terror that some statistical oddity, some stealing of the the vote, some awful twist will hand Romney the White House. Not just a GOP a White House, but a soulless White House.

I was incredibly on edge about the 2008 election, but in some ways this seems tighter, more determinative. The stakes do seem higher. While in retrospect I think McCain could have been an awful president, at the time I didn’t so much fear him as the Republicans already in the executive branch. I sincerely wanted Obama as president, but was feeling more grim than alarmed at the idea of McCain winning. And I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, for all the Sarah Palin related reasons you can supply.

This time it really is alarming to think of a Romney presidency. The man has no moral core when it comes to governance; he swings where the winds of opportunism guide him. He can be bought.

Compare that to an administration that, despite the heaviest partisan opposition I can remember, got quite a number of things done, changes that expanded civil rights, job opportunities, the manufacturing industry, put constraints on the health insurance industry and opened paths to getting health care coverage, and, oh yeah, some military stuff and dragging the economy away from the brink of complete collapse.

Oh yes. I enthusiastically, proudly, confidently cast my vote for Obama.

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Speaking on Sept 27th at a Denver high school, Obama continued to echo Elizabeth Warren’s sensible take-down of the GOP  “class warfare” charge:

Around the 16 minute mark, Obama says:

And keep in mind I’m not saying this because we should be punishing success.  This is the Land of Opportunity.  What’s great about this country is that any of these young people here, if they’ve got a good idea, if they go out there and they’re willing to work hard, they can start a business, they can create value, great products, great services.  They can make millions, make billions.  That’s great.  That’s what America is all about.  Anybody can make it if they try.

But what’s also a quintessentially American idea is that those of us who’ve done well should pay our fair share to contribute to the upkeep of the nation that made our success possible — (applause) — because nobody — nobody did well on their own.  A teacher somewhere helped to give you the skills to succeed.  (Applause.)

Firefighters and police officers are protecting your property.  You’re moving your goods and products and services on roads that somebody built.  That’s how we all do well together.  We got here because somebody else invested in us, and we’ve got to make sure this generation of students can go to college on student aid or scholarships like I did.  We’ve got to make sure that we keep investing in the kind of government research that helped to create the Internet, which countless private sector companies then used to create tens of millions of jobs.

And you know what?  I’m positive — I’ve talked to them, most wealthy Americans agree with this.  Of course, the Republicans in Congress, they call this class warfare.  You know what?  If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that.  I will wear that charge as a badge of honor.  (Applause.)

The only warfare I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle-class families in this country for a decade now.

(From the transcript of the speech, posted on the White House website)

 

Steve Benen noted that,

I had a chance to check this rhetoric against the speech as it was written, and most of this was ad-libbed. (Contrary to GOP rhetoric, the president rarely sticks to what appears on a teleprompter.)

The larger point, though, is that Obama’s rhetoric is echoing Warren’s rhetoric in fairly obvious ways. The president, in explicit ways we haven’t heard before, is linking his vision of government activism to a meaningful social contract.

Greg Sargent’s take on it addressed that issue and more:

… the most effective rebuttal to the “class warfare” charge is to stress that raising taxes on the wealthy is not about envy. Rather, it’s about better serving the common good in a way that makes wealth creation possible in the first place.

Another critical point: Obama’s argument doesn’t begin and end with his case about taxes. He’s weaving it in with a broader argument he’s making about values and today’s Republican Party. By regularly invoking the crude reaction of some audience members at GOP debates — the “let him die” moment, the booing of the soldier — and by continually insisting that we’re all in this together, Obama is trying to build a larger case about the choice voters face, between the optimistic, inclusive, charitable vision he’s fighting for and a fundamentally mean-spirited, exclusionary, pessimistic one that’s cloaked in cries of “class warfare.”

And for me, the whole package speaks to what I believe is the core of progressive politics, and the legacy of liberal belief. Why do we gather in communities and find common cause with each other? because it benefits us all, mutually. That would be a good thing, right?

Yes. Still.

Obama2008-OldBumpersticker-small

With some sorrow, I finally removed the faded, curling “OBAMA 2008” bumper sticker I’d taped inside the back window of my car. 

I really resisted.  I liked looking in my rear view mirror and seeing it; I liked being one of many drivers still sporting their campaign sticker.  And in taking it off, I didn’t want to feed into any anti-Obama feeling – not that anyone was going to know that where there is now empty window space was once a bumper sticker in support of our President – but still… somehow… I didn’t really want to take it off the window.  It felt like some kind of betrayal.

When one whole edge finally pulled completely away from the glass, however, I was compelled to complete the job.

I found myself wanting to replace it.  With something. Something Obama-ish.  So I created this:

ObamaYesStill

Because I do still support Obama.  I was never head-over-heels wild about him, but I was extremely pleased when he won the election.  I perceive him as a center-left hybrid of progressive and bureaucrat, and he has more or less done about as I expected:  he has moved the ball farther down the field.  He’s not moved it as far as I would like, and pretty much in line with my expectations, he’s been more conservative than I might like. 

But still, consider the accomplishments.  It turns out, he’s done pretty well, despite the griping coming from left, right and the media.

And I do still support what he’s doing.  I’ll let Steve Benen sum it up for me:

As unsatisfying as it seems to grade on a curve, it’s worth noting that while Obama took office with sky-high expectations, he was also against the backdrop of a country that was practically in free fall. Arguably no president in American history started his first day with a list like this: the Great Recession, two deadly wars, a jobs crisis, a massive deficit and budget mess, crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the U.S. auto industry on the verge of collapse, a mess at Gitmo, a severely tarnished global reputation, an executive branch damaged by corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement, and an angry, deeply divided electorate.

The president was told to clean all of this up, quickly, without the benefit of a minority party willing to play a constructive role. And just to make things really interesting, Obama was also told that for the first time in the history of the United States, every initiative he came up with would need mandatory supermajorities just to pass the Senate.

And despite all of this, what have seen? The Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, nuclear arms deal with Russia, a new global nonproliferation initiative, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years.

So.

Yes. Still.

Okay, leaving aside some statement I read somewhere, once or twice, on some old parchment, that religious affiliation isn’t required in taking the oath of office,

Article VI

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

… and thus implying that religious affiliation is immaterial to holding office – leaving aside that, what is up with the latest “Is Obama a Muslim?” polling?

All this hoopla about Obama being a Muslim, a Muslin, a Christian, a bible-believin’ Christian, whatevah, takes me right back to my ol’ pal Colin Powell, speaking on the day he endorsed Obama back in 2008:

“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian,” he said. “But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.” [emphasis mine]

This whole issue disturbs me deeply, even before we get to the part about protests against the Two-Blocks-From-Ground-Zero mosque/community center, or the construction worker being harassed by the protesters, or the tax driver who got knifed, or anti-Muslim nuttiness elsewhere. 

I believe the United States, however imperfectly, is a pluralist society – one in which diverse groups work to coexist peacefully and respectfully.  The recent anti-Muslim crap is evidence to me that a small but noisy – and scary – contingent of my fellow citizens do not feel the same way.

Not that it’s a scandal.  I don’t really care if the president says “ass” once in a while.  Still, the attention on it (from the right and Obama’s detractors), and the reaction to the attention (by the media) has been pretty interesting to watch.  I haven’t even watched the actual interview by Matt Lauer (NBC’s Today Show, June 8, 2010).  Still… the story was every where for a few days.  It’ll probably crop up here and there for a while.

One thing I’ve only seen mentioned once, though, is the question that led to Obama’s infamous “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick” statement.  That singular mention was in this Steve Benen post, from Washington Monthly:

But it’s probably worth noting the context of the exchange, because the president’s choice of words was a direct reflection of the question. Here’s the Q&A:

LAUER: Critics are now talking about your style, which is the first time I’ve heard that in a long time. They’re saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn’t the time for cool, calm and collected. This is not the time to meet with experts and advisers; this is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and — I never thought I’d say this to a president — but kick some butt. And I don’t mean it to be funny.

OBAMA: No, and I understand. And here’s what — I’m going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media’s run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.

The “whose ass to kick” line wasn’t just some scripted attempt to sound tough. Lauer pushed the notion that the president shouldn’t meet with experts; he should “kick some butt.” Obama responded that he meets with people who know what they’re talking about so he’d know “whose ass to kick.”

It’s probably not true in every circle of society, but at least in several, “ass” and “butt” are pretty interchangeable words, and Lauer did set a tone, which the President matched.  Appropriately, I think.  But there are the folks getting hot under the collar about this stuff, and mainly because they aren’t bothering to find out what sparked Obama’s choice of words.  To my mind, it makes a difference.

And, ironically, I might add, many of the hot-under-the-collar-President’s-don’t-talk-that-way folks are the same ones who seemed to want more emotion from the Prez.  Weird.  Sometimes… well, most of the time, I just don’t understand these people.

So, enough on that.  Till it comes up again.  And it will.

* sigh *

Okay, from the gut:

First off, Obama is not the King.  He can’t just wave a scepter and demand some sealing was and Fix Things.  It doesn’t work that way (see: Constitution of the United States; balance of power).  Note: this applies to several U.S. and/or world crisis, not just the current environmental crisis precipitated by BP’s criminal mishandling of their oil operation.

Second, who gives a crap about whether the Prez is “emoting.”  I don’t care.  Seriously.  If anything, I’m relieved.  I confess, I liked Clinton (Mr.) a lot, but I could have done without a few moments of him Feeling Our Pain.  Obama is a breath of fresh, clear-headed air.  I voted (hired?) the guy to be a good administrator, delegator, and spokes-person-on-the-World-Stage.  I prefer, in fact deeply prefer, that he emote relatively little.

Third, give the guy a break.  Financial crisis. Two Wars. Crashing Economy.  Health Care aka Gordian knot. Repair respect on the World Stage. Etc, etc. etc, as the King of Siam would say.  Not to imply that, ya know, Obama’s a King.  Sometimes I wish, but he’s not…  And if his administration’s response to this latest disaster, and even Obama’s own response, are not to everyone’s exacting demands, well, what did you expect?  Perfection? Really?

I think the guy’s done a fair job, given the challenges.

Keep it up, Mr. Prez.  Your doin’ a damn sight better than that dude before you.

11 January 2010

So, Nevada Senator Harry Reid is reported to have said the following, as quoted in a new book on the 2008 presidential campaign, Game Change, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he later put it privately.

Reid doesn’t deny he said these things, and Obama has apparently said there is no ongoing problem due to the remarks.  But Harry is getting a lot of heat for what many have termed a racist statement.  Some conservatives even think he should resign.  My take on it is different.

Though awkwardly stated, what Reid says is, essentially, true.  I noticed it in my own way during the election season:  if Obama looked like, say, Yaphet Koto, no way would so many white voters (and maybe other voters) have been in his court.  Darker skin, not to mention a wider nose, stockier body and a less “educated” or Ivy League manner of speaking, would have undoubtedly garnered him less support.  It wouldn’t have mattered how educated, how versed in politics or constitutional law or any other measure of actual suitability to the office of President – if the voting public, the white voting public, had perceived him as “more black” I don’t believe Obama would have been able to overcome the racism of the white voting public.  A lot of that loss of support would have been the result of unconscious racism rather than outright blatant racism (i.e. “I don’t trust blacks!”), but it still would have translated into real losses at the polls.

Unfortunate, depressing, kind of sickening, but I think very true.  Reid might have used words like “light skinned” or “negro dialect” which rub the wrong way, but the essence of his remarks was, I think, accurate.  While we might critique his antiquated Nevadan dialect, I don’t think he deserves criticism for the truth of his comment.

*edit*

NPR’s Tell Me More had a spot on this issue today which supports my contention that Reid’s comments were essentially true, however ungracious it might have sounded:  Sen. Reid Takes Heat For Descriptions Of Obama, ‘Negro Dialect’

7 August 2009

Thanks, Steven Benen for mentioning this great quote in the Washington Monthly blog, or I wouldn’t have bumped into it.  It’s from a post of Michelle Cottle’s

"I have given up hope for a loyal opposition. I’d settle for a sane one."

Like Cottle, and Benen, I too am sick of not having a decent Loyal Opposition in the mix.  The range of political opinions holds check on each other, left middle and right.  Progressives drive the country forward, working to accommodate our ever-more-diverse, and hopefully less prejudiced society.  Conservatives, when they’re not being too extreme, tend to offer cautious, limited options.  Centrists tend to articulate the middle ground, helpfully.  If it works, the three hold each other in check, moving forward more carefully through the years, and, we hope, more successfully as a nation.

However.

When the edges – left or right – go off the deep end, articulating extreme opinions, or rage without reference to fact, the balance of public discourse is thrown off.  That’s what the recent spate of crazy shouting matches at Town Hall meetings feels like to me:  an opportunity for a public meeting, a community Q and A, where people can air their questions.  But when ten or twenty people start shouting at everyone who tries to speak up – people up on the dais, or their fellow citizens in the audience – there is no possibility of public discourse.  It’s not helpful.  It’s not useful.  It doesn’t move anything forward.

It only adds insult to injury when the accusations coming from the Shouters are based on falsehoods, be it Obama’s Kenyan birthplace, the Government’s going to kill old people, or the altogether toooo amazing “Get Government off My Medicare!”

*sigh*

Yup. A sane opposition.  I remember when…

30 July 2009

No surprise that the advent of our first black president has and will continue to spark discussion about race and racism.  But I’m continually amazed at the narrow views held by extreme right media stars. 

Not such a surprise that Rush Limbaugh would fling accusations of racism, or reverse racism back on Obama, as we’ve see over many months.  Charges of racism?  Really?  Typical of Rush, typical of his kind of tactics, typical of someone trying to get a rise out of a radio audience.  So to me, the quote which came up for discussion today seemed mild by comparison.

Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman.  I think he is genuinely revved up about race.  You know me.  I think he is genuinely angry in his heart and has been his whole life.

But as bizarre as Glenn Beck can be, this comes out of the blue: he views Obama as "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don’t know what it is…"  The guy goes on and on.  He seems amazed, appalled, and convinced that this is Obama’s whole viewpoint, that it is his defining characteristic.

Leaving aside my own confusion about where the evidence for this supposed hatred of white people or culture comes from, I would like to say that Rush’s accusation of Obama as an “angry black man” strikes as a “well, duh!” moment.

I don’t much expect anything else.  I’d be angry too, just like I’m angry at the limitations and dismissals I encounter as a woman.  Is this really surprising?  Of course not.  But it’s also not the whole picture.  One can be mad about something and still have a fairly even handed approach to those issues, to any issue.  Because you’re angry does not automatically dictate that you’ll view those issues narrowly, or make bad policy, or treat people unfairly.

When you have something to be angry about, you get angry.  It may well be that to allow yourself the anger, to admit it and recognize it, allows you in turn to view the big picture more clearly.  Pretending you are not angry typically compromises your ability to think clearly; it’s one of the elephant-in-the-room things, where you never acknowledge the anger, yet totally structure your life in avoidance of it.

In Obama’s case, his generally even-handed approach to things like racism, sexism, abortion, gay rights suggests he doesn’t much operate out of anger, however he might have passions stirring somewhere we can’t quite see them.  And as calm as Obama generally is, maybe he needs a little anger in the mix.  Spice thinks up, Mr.. Obama!  Show us your passion!

21 July 2009

Today, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about Obama’s proposed health care reform platform.

Her question found me at lost for words.  Not that I haven’t thought about health care, and  health care reform.  Believe me, every time I feel a suspicious ache I think about health care.  I have none, you see, and can’t afford any, and so aches and pains are an open question. A not-well-planned for question.

But I don’t really look at actually acquiring health care coverage.  I can’t fork over three or four hundred bucks a month for it – and being 50, I’ve noted that the few among my contemporaries who are buying health insurance are indeed forking over several hundred a month for the privilege of having something like 75% of their potential  medical expenses paid for through insurance.

Now, it’s not that I have no health care coverage.

First of all, there’s workman’s compensation.  For injuries while I’m being a "workman" of course.  Should I be injured on the job, I’m covered, at least up to some sort of cap I haven’t really bothered to investigate.

And then there’s the car insurance.  For a few bucks a month, any (human) body damage endured due to a car wreck is covered.  Good, yet small comfort.  Particularly because there’s yet another cap once I hit some high water mark on medical bills.

So, as long as I’m working or in my car, I’m okay.  Hmmmmm…. So, anyway, back to my friend’s question.

Though I haven’t been tracking every detail of the health care debate, I am not unaware of the changes to health care being proposed by the White House and members of Congress.  I am not unaware of the potential, the great advance this would offer to our society and our financial crisis, and I do not believe that some kind of socialist system will sneak in.  It’s pretty hard to label something as socialist when the plan is to create a competitive market for health care options.  Competition, market… sounds pretty NON socialist to me.

But in my situation, with absolutely no money to spend on health care other than  out-of-pocket, nickel and dime expenses, all I can hope for is that the Obama administration can push things that much farther, getting closer to a time when I can afford basic health care.

I won’t get it during this term, or most likely the next, but eventually all the struggle around something I cannot afford will ripple down to me in some form of cheaper options.

I hope.

We’ll see.

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