Kudos to Obama: Learning On The Job

Simulposted at Daily Kos

Health Advisory! Since this essay is in praise of President Obama, some Obama critics may experience heightened blood pressure upon reading. Proceed at your own risk!

Two years ago a relatively young man left the Senate after less than one full term to become President of the United States. His resume as an elected politician before becoming a the junior Senator from Illinois was comprised of only seven years as a state Senator. Charismatic and idealistic he was, but overriding all of the inexperience and the naivete that undeniably accompanied his relative youth and lack of tempering in national office was a deep political pragmatism. With one notable and ultimately harmful exception.

He believed that 21st century Republicans could be reasoned with and worked with, that 21st century Republicans, despite all of the mountain of evidence to the contrary, were reasonable people who would at the end of the day do what was right for America. Rather than what was right for the Republicans and their Corporate masters. He was, as recent history emphasizes to an extreme an ineluctable degree, wrong.


Slightly less damaging in the short term, and perhaps as a sort of silent acknowledgment of his inexperience at the highest…and most viciously cutthroat…levels of high political office, upon election he turned to “proven” Washington insiders to fill critical staff and cabinet positions.

This was another “pragmatic” decision. The reason, presumably, was that people like Emanuel and Summers knew the ropes, knew the players both in office and in positions of power in the Corporate world, and would help find pragmatic solutions to help a nation left in political, economic and military chaos….by the same Republicans he apparently assumed would help him him solve the problems that they were directly responsible for creating.

Pundits and bloggers on The Left who had already been shaking their collective heads in disbelief, despite their general support for a personable rising star,  about his “Post-partisan” rhetoric….understandably howled. This was “change you can believe in?”

As Bernie Sanders recently put it

“Think back to two years ago,” Sanders said during an interview in the only Senate office decorated with a medallion of Eugene V. Debs, the legendary American Socialist leader. “There were rallies involving 80,000 to 100,000. Obama was running the best campaign I’ve seen in my lifetime — and I’m pretty critical.”

“Why are we where we are today?” he continues. “The most serious mistake the president made was not, in a sense, continuing the thrust of his campaign, and [in] forgetting all he accomplished.”

Sanders does not discount what Obama and congressional Democrats achieved through the economic stimulus, health care and financial reform. But he argues that by replacing a mobilizing approach and clear progressive goals with an insider strategy aimed at compromising with a few moderate Republican senators, Obama deactivated his own enthusiasts.

Instead of bringing Change to Washington, apparently his stunning and nearly unthinkable rise from State Senator to the highest office in the land in an amazingly short time had changed him. Or, more likely, had made him just unsure enough of himself to cause him to take a far safer and more “pragmatic” tack than his campaign rhetoric had promised.

The result? Going from carrying the (after the horrors of Bush) desperate hopes of an American electorate literally hungering for Change that propelled him in to office in a landslide two years ago….to staring into the political abyss of losing both houses of Congress to perhaps the most reviled and widely hated political party in recent memory.

Decision after decision, pre-compromise after pre-compromise, including backroom deals with the very forces and people he had campaigned against just months before. Naively, it must be said to avoid a more sinister conclusion, trusting the very people (both Republican and in some cases such as that of Max Baucus, Democrats) trusting the very same people who had created the many and varied crises the nation faced…to fix the problems they had created.

Ignoring, apparently, the underlying causes of those problems….a deep corruption in every sector of American politics, finance, and the Military Industrial complex. Corruption that had served, with Congress and President Bush’s help, to create the largest income inequality gap, the biggest financial crisis, and the prosecution of a needless, illegal, but VERY profitable war. Or two.

A corruption so deep and pervasive that it has nearly brought America to its knees. Corruption, including the moral corruption that goes along with all other forms of corruption, that has caused even torture to be merely winked at, as we “looked forward,” literally turning our heads away from the most heinous crime that allegedly civilized people and nations can commit.

It was in this context, against this background, an America desperate for change and a candidate using soaring rhetoric promising it to them that Obama was swept into office by an unprecedented…and real…grassroots movement. A movement of ordinary Americans who once again had hope for something different from the existing form of government that was emphatically NOT working for them.

Then the appointments of the insiders came. Then the grass roots movement that propelled him into office was essentially shut down. Then the first insider deals and pre-compromises appeared….and the soaring hope began to fade as the rhetoric of Change turned into the worn language and excuses of business as usual.

The sighs and ‘I told you so’s” of the Left bloggers and pundits were drowned out by the continuing zeal of the large percentage of equally inexperienced and equally naive supporters of Obama who refused to see the signs.

The recommendations and pleas of the left pundits and bloggers were ignored as the White House focused on vainly converting Republicans into suddenly responsible political partners in….again…cleaning up the mess that they had made. It did not, as those pundits and bloggers has predicted, work.

A “pragmatic” idea of cooperation, that may have been an excellent idea in a (mythical? Remember Clinton’s impeachment?) time when Republicans were sane and not more interested in Waterloos and Presidential failure to advance their power over the welfare of the nation, was a disastrous waste of time and political capital.

The pundits and bloggers of the Left, of course, had solutions. Solutions they tried their best to put forth through the soundscreen of teabaggers and the defensiveness of Obama converts.

ATTACK the Republicans. By name. Pointing out their obstruction and their goals of an oligarchy.

Get rid of the Insiders.

Mobilize and energize the voters who turned out in 2008 by returning to the level of energetic populist rhetoric that got him elected.

Energize the Democratic Base with Progressive/Liberal policy proposals.

Appoint real Progressives to positions of power, Progressives who would fight against Corporate Power, not pre-compromise with it, make backroom deals with it, and design legislation to order for it, as his staff of Insiders had done.

This advice was ignored.

The abyss of prospective Republican control of Congress opened wider and wider, Obama’s poll numbers fell lower and lower. Bipartisanship failed miserably, garnering only a handful of Republican votes, despite policy capitulation after policy capitulation in hopes of attracting Republican votes. The meaningful but underwhelming and watered down legislation resulting from the pursuit of bipartisanship failed to excite all but Obama’s most ardent supporters.

And despite the fact that they had absolutely nothing to offer but the exact same bullshit that had gotten us into this mess, and despite the fact that polls showed that Republicans were universally despised by all but the 23% of their base that remained faithful……the Republicans gained ground as Democratic enthusiasm plummeted, the Change that they had invested so much in being nowhere in sight.

Then….something happened.

Something that can only be speculated on for now. No one but those close to Obama can say specifically what it was…..But there was a Change in the White House itself.

I for one, like to think that the Obama that shone so brightly during the campaign threw off the yoke of his advisors that had served him so poorly and asserted his control….and returned to his vision of Change…..

Populist Change. Progressive Change. Change untainted by the bad political advice of those invested in perpetuating, not improving the status quo. Or perhaps, as a shrewd politician does, he just abandoned his old non-functioning “pragmatism” (which is what genuine pragmatists do, after all) and has paid the hard price that always goes with the dissolution of naivete.

Obama has learned on the job.

And there are real signs that things are turning around….that the once widening abyss is now staring to contract, that The People are becoming enthusiastic and energized, again. What has he done? HE has changed.

He has apparently abandoned the dream of bipartisanship with the obstructionists who have publicly vowed to bring him down through across the board non-cooperation.

He has started to ATTACK the Republicans. By name. Pointing out their obstruction and their goals of an oligarchy harmful to the vast majority of Americans..

He has started getting rid of the Insiders (bye Rahm) and there are rumors of wide ranging staff shakeups.

He has started to mobilize and energize the voters who turned out in 2008 by returning to the level of energetic populist rhetoric that got him elected.

He has started to, by steadfastly refusing to pre-compromise on tax cuts for the rich, energize the Democratic Base with Progressive/Liberal policy proposals.

And he has appointed at least one Progressive who will fight the corporations and banksters….Elizabeth Warren.

Of course it is just sheer coincidence that all of these things that at least seem to be spurring a Democratic resurgence …..are exactly the things that The Left has been urging him to do.

That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it appears to be working….and just in time.

Obama has learned on the job, what he was doing before was not working, and he has Changed. Let us just Hope that this Change lasts through the election, and that Obama, after the very steep learning curve that goes with being The Most Powerful Man In The World….takes these hard won lessons to heart, and lives up to the undeniably shining potential that we all voted for.


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  1. Photobucket

    • Edger on October 2, 2010 at 22:57

    a far safer and more “pragmatic” tack than his campaign rhetoric had promised.

    How has it been “safer” for him to have done that, considering the shape they are now in going into the midterms?

    I hope he has changed, in the ways listed in your last bold quote If so it would be the result that all the left and progressive and liberals have been pushing for, and not the result that all the Obamabots have been pushing for. Where is the quote from?

  2. this November.

    And, the office of pre-compromise is just being reorganized.

    It will now be known as the Department of Pre-Compromise.

    At least, in 2012, Republicans will inherit it.

  3. This analysis is full of warm assumptions and unsupported suppositions.

    You have presented zero evidence to support any of your contentions about Obama’s motives or what his knowledge is. For example you have no way of knowing why Summers and Emanuel are leaving. Rahm may really just want to be mayor. And Summers may feel that he’s done what he set out to do which was to implement the same neoliberal economic policies he did in the former Soviet countries including Russia, and to preserve and protect the mafia banking cartel.

    Furthermore, you are taking at face value the messages sent by a politician in the middle of a heated, finish line election campaign. Duh.

    Sorry dude, but the best way to gauge where Obama’s coming from is by the actions he took when it mattered. Not talk. Not last minute pre-election, political maneuvers. Real policies with tangible intentions and tangible outcomes.

    Obama the black kid who overcame a hard life to become a voice of the people, community organizer is a PR creation.

    He organized alright – real estate deals and the gentrification of Chicago. His main money backers were the Crown family and the Pritzker family of CHicago. Real estate billionaires.

    We were snookered. Obama is a Trojan horse. He is further right than most republicans. He must be defeated in 2012. Period.

    I know it’s more convenient now to float downstream with all the other dead fishes. But our country and our planet need us to quit being children. Stop watching your fucking TV, and research what is really happening to our country.

    We are being Argentinized. If it weren’t for the Trojan horse, we would all be in the streets right now like they are in Greece, Iceland and Europe.


    Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99 percent of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep…and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the U.S. middle class.

    To those who feel I am using extreme rhetoric, I ask you to please take a few minutes of your time to hear me out and research the evidence put forth. The facts are there for the unprejudiced, rational and reasoned mind to absorb. It is the unfortunate reality of our current crisis.

    Unless we all unite and organize on common ground, our very way of life and the ideals that our country was founded upon will continue to unravel.

  4. …. altho I am well known for attacking Republicans who are pushing Republican  right wing sourced policies, talking points, and legislation when they are trying to pretend it’s not Republican,  I also am willing to go after Vichy Democrats who are doing the same thing.

    It’s the policies, stupid.  Foreign and domestic.

    The President and his OFA/DNC friends will never accept that.  

    Of course they’re tacking left to get their sorry a$$es re elected.  If they kept that attacking the Dem base sh*t up, the Democrats were going to impeach the *** ** * *****.   Oh, wait, that would require spine….

    I keep thinking back to that Telemundo interview where the excuse for not doing immigration reform was “nobody knew” we were on the verge of a 2nd Great Depression.  It was a pity that video did not go viral.

    So  effing what ?  Circumstances are not perfect ?  When are they ? How could ANYONE blow such a mandate ?  We only do legislation in this country when the Senate is raking in even MORE dough from Big Donors ?  Sure looks that way.  He knew he had to lay the groundwork for policy changes in the first 100 days, and did not.  This is a massive failure of figuring out how to get something out of the Senate other than excuses.  Does he really think anyone is going to fall for this crap anymore ?  

  5. plain and simple.

    He’s in campaign mode now, and they’re gonna continue to talk out of both sides of the mouth…. I dont have the savvy of most folks, especially with regard to all the in’s and out’s of it all, but… I dunno… I guess that was why my shift hit the Point of No Return with the Sotomayor appointment. Not that she was horrible, but, it showed me that for him, & his team of advisors, the politics trump the real well being of the general population. They can play games with shuffling around Cabinet positions and whatnot all they want, but SCOTUS isnt a shell game.

    • melvin on October 3, 2010 at 00:48

    Somethig for which there is no evidence. He has failed miserably in every area that I care or know anything about, and he didn’t have to. If only he knew or cared about anything beyond his career, running and hiding, and kissing reactionary ass.

    That being said, of course I will vote for the most progressive candidates available. But that has nothing to do with Obama, who at this point can join the long list of people who can just kiss my ass. After all, he has basically told me to do the same.

  6. Had to stop by and read the comments here after catching this diary at the GOS.

    It’s no wonder I stopped coming here. Pretty much every single comment here misses the forest for the trees.

    It must be hell for you people, living as defeatists.

    Okay, okay.. NOTHING GOOD HAS HAPPENED IN THE LAST 20 MONTHS. I don’t care about health care reform! It SUCKS! So does equal pay for women, credit card reform, and bringing 100k+ troops home from Iraq!

    You people need to check your blood pressure or something. Civil right didn’t happen overnight either. Neither did getting women the right to vote, or ANYTHING else good and lasting in our government.

    Grip some reality once in awhile, folks. Just because ONE MAN didn’t completely solve YOUR FAVORITE ISSUE doesn’t mean nothing good has happened. Criminy. It’s like you all are just finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. Enough with the temper tantrums and crying. Grow the fuck up.

    Don’t bother rating this comment. I probably won’t be back for another good long time.

    It’s a shame too. Awhile back, I really liked this community for its perspective. Unfortunately, it appears most of you have lost the bigger and more meditative picture you once held (then again, maybe it was only Budhy), in favor of living your lives steeped in as much negativity as you can possible google.

    I canvassed today for my local Democrats, even though I have a cold, and even though they aren’t Santa Claus. I knocked 40 doors in the cold wind and rain, and even though my local Dems aren’t perfect, they’re trying to make things better too. Which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for you folks.  

  7. …for a reason I find myself using more often lately — not because I agree with the content, but because I see this content will foment responses which can lead to wider views, greater understanding.

    I tend to agree more with the assessments like Toque’s and Edger’s, but I’m not omniscient.  I don’t know the inner workings of Obama’s mind.  Ultimately, I am not able to ascertain his real motivations.

    Things like this:

    …that his inexperience…

    … had made him just unsure enough of himself to cause him to take a far safer and more “pragmatic” tack than his campaign rhetoric had promised.

    I do detect far too much insecurity in Obama.  Whether it is his lack of experience, or feeling that, because he is black, he doesn’t really, literaly belong in the WH.  He is not from the group of people who have always been there.  He’s not an FDR, a member of the elite ruling class.  This insecurity could cause him to go overboard in trying to be acceptable to the rulers.

    But, for whatever the personal reasons Obama took the disappointing path he has taken, he has shot a hole in my ability to trust him.  How can I vote for him?  Will I vote for Obama in 2012?  What if the R-ticket is Palin or Romney or Huckabee?

    I can’t even bear to think about that possibility.

    Faced with that possibility, I can only say,

    Take to the Streets.  I cannot play this game any longer.  There is not enough time left before we pass the point of no-return with the climate crisis which could be the end of the humanoid experiment of life and evolution.  So: Take to the Streets.  Take this country back. The 2nd American Revolution must happen NOW

    …because the U.S. system of politics, economics, social equality, education — everything —

    — is irretrievably broken.


  8. sacred office to carry out promises made to the people, unless of course we want to call it an office job.

    If Obama were an M.D., Architect or Attorney, he’d be

    tossed out of his profession for incompetence and failing

    to live up to the standards of his profession.

    Just who is given a second chance to stay in office so that the thousands upon thousands of lives lost in absurd wars can miraculously be returned to the living? How do you help people control the oppressive and back breaking costs for healthcare without cost controls? How can Obama make their suffering go away?

    Obama called healthcare reform a moral imperative. He acted like it was a political imperative. That’s not the kind of learning I expect. And he can do it on his own time, not mine. As one (of his eighty million bosses) I’m firing him.

    He fits the perfect definition for the word job in my Websters, sense 2a: something done for private advantage  or 2c: a damaging or destructive bit of work.

    And as far as that observer who called this website an emotional toilet? I love self appointed political experts.  And they’re generally quite knowledgeable on excretory function and fecal matter. It’s just that I have other things to reflect on. BTW, I think it’s great that this individual canvasses for local Democrats. I’ve actively supported my local Democrats for decades. So what else is new?

    • banger on October 3, 2010 at 19:16

    I guess we’ll see. Life of which politics is a part is fundamentally mysterious. However, one thing is not at least not to me. That is that the oligarchy which is increasingly international in content and scope rules this country. Who we elect has some but minimal importance. Power resides outside that system. Perhaps it will have a rebirth but I doubt it right now. We have to work for the long-term, in the short-term everything has been gamed and the left has painted itself out of the picture by not understanding power very well.

  9. but on the other hand it didn’t give me much hope. Not with the news coming out of Pakistan and any climate change legislation off the table. Right now in the words of Obama I am feeling that all the populist rhetoric coming out is a distraction a strategic move to counter act the by-partisan betrayals that all of those in power perpetuate and call political reality.

    They all play there assigned parts and we get to move forward with the same people ‘driving the car’ and it’s direction is predetermined and all our political strife is just the same old dog and pony show. I’m not feeling very enthusiastic as I can’t seem to hook the politics up with the reality that is occurring in the real world, both here and globally.

    That said, good diary and I hope my cynicism/negativism is proved to be because I’m such a purist,lol. Please do not tell me to vote for God’s sake. I will vote Democratic what choice do I have? On one hand I got unmitigated psychos and on the other corrupt corporatist’s who may if were lucky throw us a bone, no ponies mind you but a few crumbs to keep us pacified and voting (or not). Mean while ignorance is strength and war is peace.

    crossposted from GOS    

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