Some of You Aren’t Going to Like This Either!

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Imagine Barack Obama seated in a dunk tank.  Given the current state of affairs, many self-proclaimed progressives would literally elbow aside their Tea-Party brethern in their fervor to fire off a few fastballs, as their compatriots dump bags of ice cubes into the tank itself.

This writer, like many, has been extremely disappointed with Barack Obama, however, unlike many on the left, was unimpressed with his legislative accomplishments at the time of his 2008 presidential campaign.  The search for any meaningful indication of political courage, any instance of swaying others to support a differing point of view, or exerting real leadership on any matter of substance was in vain. Some of us hoped, based upon faith alone, that once safely esconced in office, the promise conveyed by his soaring rhetoric would translate into meaningful action.  

This writer would be among the first to contend that Barack Obama has fallen short in many, many respects.

Despite the incredible gravity of his stirring speeches (which were undoubtedly well rehearsed), during spontaneous give and take situations Mr. Obama seems far more pedestrian. He has remained curiously reticent to extol his own accomplishments (yes, there are a few), as well as exposing the skullduggery of the pure, unadulterated corporatists on the right.  

Perhaps our error was that of choosing a Senator to serve as president, but in 2008, except for a few mostly inconsequential fringe candidates, it was a foregone conclusion that a Senator would prevail. So what is the track record for those ascending directly from the Senate to the Oval Office? Let’s see, there were two before Barack Obama — Warren G. Harding in 1921, who died in 1923 and forty years later, John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Neither would complete their third year in office.  

The Senate, that dark, forbidding hospice where legislation passed by the House typically goes to die, may not be the best incubator for presidents who will make a difference.  To the extent that success in office can be defined as serving two full terms, only 13 of our 44 presidents have achieved this standard (however, I would place an asterisk beside the name of the most recent two-term occupant of the White House).  

Of those 13 two-term presidents, 9 had previously been governors, 3 had held significant leadership positions in the military during pivotal wars (i.e., George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower).  The Father of the Constitution and our Bill of Rights, James Madison (1809-1817) was the only outlier.  But in Madison’s case, he did serve as the Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson for two terms (1801-1809).

The Secretary of State is considered the most prestigious Cabinet position of all and is the first non-elected official in the line of succession to the presidency behind the Vice-President, Speaker of the House and President Pro-Tempore of the Senate.  Although the scope of responsibility was likely much narrower in the early 19th century, at present, the Secretary of State oversees nearly 50,000 employees and a budget exceeding $16 billion.  So it could be argued that those serving as Secretary of State occupy a significant leadership position.

The list of presidents serving less than two full terms (31 in all) who also exerted an impact is remarkably brief. Of those, for better or worse, perhaps none were more successful in enacting their agenda than James K. Polk from 1845-1849.  Abraham Lincoln’s brief role was highly significant, and, to a lesser extent, Harry Truman played a vital role while serving almost two terms from 1945-1953. Lyndon Johnson may have been one of our greatest presidents had it not been for the millstone of the Vietnam War that he tragically chose to wear around his neck. Unless this writer has missed something, the other 27 presidents exerted far less of an impact than those previously referenced.

So, history would not seem to be on Barack Obama’s side.

We have long been told that there are two sides of every story. Those residing at all points along the political spectrum have likely been inundated with strident denunciations of Obama’s lack of effectiveness. And, other than some rumblings of support over at the oft-derided La Naranja Grande, there seems to have been little, if any, mention of any meaningful accomplishments by Mr. Obama.

Does that mean that there have been none?  Perhaps we have missed something in all the loud clamor.  Tom Dickinson swims against the tidal wave with his article in the October 28, 2010 issue of The Rolling Stone, entitled, “The Case for Obama”.

Although some of you may instinctively recoil in response to the title itself, we could all conceivably benefit by considering an alternative point of view. This writer would strongly encourage all to carefully consider Mr. Dickinson’s words with as open a mind as we can. Like it or not, this lengthy article is, without a doubt, thought provoking and provocative.  

While Dickinson recognizes the significant anger and disappointment that prevails among disgruntled progressives, before listing Obama’s most important accomplishments, he writes in the following two paragraphs:

But if the passions of Obama’s base have been deflated by the compromises he made to secure historic gains like the Recovery Act, health care reform and Wall Street regulation, that gloom cannot obscure the essential point: This president has delivered more sweeping, progressive change in 20 months than the previous two Democratic administrations did in 12 years. “When you look at what will last in history,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells Rolling Stone, “Obama has more notches on the presidential belt.”

In fact, when the history of this administration is written, Obama’s opening act is likely to be judged as more impressive than any president’s – Democrat or Republican – since the mid-1960s. “If you’re looking at the first-two-year legislative record,” says Ornstein, “you really don’t have any rivals since Lyndon Johnson – and that includes Ronald Reagan.”

Something like 88% of U. S. citizens do not realize that Obama signed into law a substantial tax cut, which also provided relief to the lower and middle classes…

Along the way, Obama delivered record tax cuts to the middle class and slashed nearly $200 billion in corporate welfare – reinvesting that money to make college more accessible and Medicare more solvent. He single-handedly prevented the collapse of the Big Three automakers – saving more than 1 million jobs – and brought Big Tobacco, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Even in the face of congressional intransigence on climate change, he has fought to constrain carbon pollution by executive fiat and to invest $200 billion in clean energy – an initiative bigger than John F. Kennedy’s moonshot and one that’s on track to double America’s capacity to generate renewable energy by the end of Obama’s first term.

The political environment with which Obama has contended has been hostile, to say the least…

What’s even more impressive about Obama’s accomplishments, historians say, is the fractious political coalition he had to marshal to victory. “He didn’t have the majority that LBJ had,” says Goodwin. Indeed, Johnson could count on 68 Democratic senators to pass Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. For his part, Franklin Roosevelt had the backing of 69 Senate Democrats when he passed Social Security in 1935. At its zenith, Obama’s governing coalition in the Senate comprised 57 Democrats, a socialist, a Republican turncoat – and Joe Lieberman.

Mr. Dickinson then proceeds to delineate the historic progress that Mr. Obama has been able to achieve in eight key areas.  That said, I would encourage you to read the article, if for no other reason than to better prepare yourself to counter the arguments of those on the left you might label as Obama apologists.  These eight areas are…

1 | Averting a Depression

2 | Sparking Recovery

3 | Saving Detroit

4 | Reforming Health Care

5 | Cutting Corporate Welfare

6 | Restoring America’s Reputation

7 | Protecting Consumers

8 | Launching a Clean-Energy MoonShot

Although this article is undoubtedly not without its flaws, if most, or even maybe some of what Mr. Dickinson says is true, perhaps we have unwittingly joined the Tea Partiers in unfairly ignoring the accomplishments of the past two years.  

Regrettably, many of us are likely to register our disappointment by staying at home on Tuesday, or voting for a fringe candidate who has no chance whatsoever of mitigating the damage that the corporatists intend to inflict upon us, in their never-ending quest to extract what remains of our dwindling wealth, all to further augment their already unimaginable riches. The hard-fought, but less than hoped-for gains of the past two years will vanish like a soap bubble uncermoniously pierced by a needle.  We stand to quickly lose everything that has been gained during the past two years, and much, much more as well.

Some may comfort themselves, and perhaps justify their abandonment of the Democratic Party by convincing themselves that doing so will hasten the day that the masses, in the parlance of Twelve Step philosophy, finally hit bottom. Since this nation has bounced back from adversity at other times in the past, one could easily assume that this will be the case again this time. They may visualize that bottom as a huge trampoline (which might be thought of as the careful set of checks and balances carefully set in place by our Founding Fathers), that once reached, will dramatically reverse the nation’s downward trajectory.  

I would submit that times have changed and would contend that, again using the trampoline metaphor, this time the corporatists have removed the trampoline, only to expose the bottomless abyss that lies below.  One need not think long to cite numerous visible sign that could lead to such a dire diagnosis.

Adopting the attitude that we need only concern ourselves with our own safety and wellbeing seems to be in fashion these days.  Perhaps such individuals resemble those in World War II era Germany who initially chose silence, hoping to remain undetected, only to be whisked away to a concentration camp during the latter stages of the war.  

Like it or not, we are all part of a much larger community and it is us, who by our actions (or lack thereof) will shape the landscape for those generations yet to come.

Will our legacy be one that those yet unborn will someday look back upon with pride and gratitude?  

That vital decision lies with each and every one of us.


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  1. I’m not sure about anyone else, but the vibes in the community seems to be surreal these days. The literal avalanche of negative political advertising has no doubt added to the rage that is rampant in this troubled nation. Has anyone else who has been out and about lately noticed much more impatience and road rage than usual?  Or maybe it’s just me.

    Yes, there is much about which to be angry. The job of the corporatists is to ensure that that rage is redirected away from the primary culprits and instead trained on those individuals/groups who are, for the most part, innocent. Scapegoating remains as a time-honored tradition.

    Yes, many of us can easily relate to Howard Beale’s oft-repeated raging during the 1976 film, “Network”, when he yelled, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  Some of us may forget that his intent at the time was to commit suicide while on the air. Such a profound statement of discontent may well represent a more extreme measure than most of us would care to adopt.

    I would encourage all to read the article so that their contributions to this thread, if there are any, are informed and well considered.  And above all, let’s remember that we are all in this together.

    Let us prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

  2. …. and he’s not the one about to win or lose his election ?

    Talking about “Obama” right now is the worst thing you could do. I just hope he does not say anything else really politically stupid in the next three days so we don’t lose more good Democrats to the Vichy Third Way Triangulating Blue Dogs or the Tea Party.  Every time I hear him blather about “needing 60 votes” I want to scream internally, is there no one left in the party who will sit him down and tell him to Stop Saying Crap, and then direct him to somebody else who tells him Stop Sucking Up to the Republicans because you are in the Other Party.

    He made the problem, he can lie in the bed.  I do not give a flying rat’s butt if he serves 2 terms or not, at this point,  after listening for nearly 2 years to his little obsession with what the Republicans think of every thing the Democrats do, and of some of the horrible behavior of the hacks in the OFA/DNC, and he IS the leader of the OFA, or at least hires the hacks and tolerate the pseudo Republicans and Beltway bumpkins that infest it, they can go kiss everybody’s a$$. The makeup of  Congress and the Senate is more important.  The Constitution is more important.

    3 more days, and then the survivors will come out and banish the moderate and liberal wing of the Democratic Party to the void for about 2 to 3 cycles.

    All these good local candidates, and the OFA has done their utmost to f**k up their election chances.  If anybody manages to win, they will then crow about how it’s all because of them.  Spare us the nonsense.  And spare us the current “Lose 50 seats strategy.”

  3. I think we all know by now just how successful the commanding conventional wisdom of short-term quarterly bottom-line thinking and acting to maximize that quarterly profit has been for us economically.  And the whole “this is the most important election of our lives so voting for, working for, spending on the lesser of evils right here right now this year is the absolute focus of all political activity” is the exact political analog thereto.  It is also a cycle in constant replay, we never get to get off the hamster wheel of supporting lesser evils and actually start the process of building power for ourselves.  

    We’ve been doing that for decades and the result has been a political economy that serves the working classes less and less while simultaneously profiting the quarterly bottom line corporatists more and more.  So be my guest in carrying more water for the party of NAFTA and the individual mandate to buy private for profit health insurance from the exact same corporations that have plundered us relentlessly with the total protection of both major parties for the past two generations, tell us how the party of Reaganism-Thatcherism Lite with a friendly face is so much better than the party of Reaganism-Thatcherism Classic.  Some of us increasingly see the need to get off the hamster wheel and start building burrows and nests for the coming winter.  

  4. like this. What’s the point? I am voting so stop already with the bs. We are going to lose much much more in the coming years regardless of which pack of jackals has a majority? The Democrats didn’t use the majority they had, and I hear them all say they will work with the Republicans and they are sure they will be willing to deal. the first deal is in the works right now they are going to extend the bush tax cuts for a year…. Obama says that Summmers did a heck of a job… then there’s foreclosure fraudsters who deserve to be helped but not the people who are losing their homes. They were irresponsible lol.

    So anyway I’m sick of the hysteria and fear I had enough of it during the Bushies and this lot is just as scary in fact more so as they are getting people to believe that this is all we can get, while they continue down the same path. The fear is just a distraction a show that makes a mockery out of our system and does nothing but lead to the same place. Insult to injury, and the article is totally unbelievable I read it and laughed. Dickerson is a bot and parses with the best of them. Accomplishment that are in actuality accomplishments for the corporations and the MIC. Don’t press your luck with this bs it just pisses off people who have a brain in there head and are liberal, better to just tell them the baggers are going to kill there families, so vote.      

  5. Little bit about that at RawStory.

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