Monday, December 21, 2009

President Obama, you can be remembered as being pitiful or powerful, but not both

I came late to the Obama bandwagon. While I suspect many of my friends, family members, and colleagues threw their support behind him early simply because of his race, I withheld mine until late in the primary season chiefly for that same reason; I knew that the importance of this presidential race was such that we could not waste our efforts. And I reasoned that America would not vote for a black man, and Obama’s campaign would go the way of Jesse Jackson’s, or Al Sharpton’s, or Shirley Chisholm’s in the early seventies.

But I did finally come around. I did finally get on the bandwagon. And for most of the summer until well into the fall, I, along with my wife and kids, did our very best to make his campaign successful. We canvassed. We stuffed envelopes. We made phone calls. And unbeknownst to me, practically every time we got one of those email messages asking for money, at least once or twice a week, my wife responded.

I was not the only one. Many people bought into his message of hope and change. Each time I attended a campaign event, the number of people and their sheer enthusiasm and optimism completely overwhelmed me; it more resembled a movement and not a campaign.

However, all around me I sense that campaign and inaugural day ardor is dampening. I sense that enthusiasm, that anticipation—the sense of hope and desire for real change—which defined the campaign is transforming hard and fast into disaffection and cynicism. And I lay the blame at the feet of President Obama.

There is an old military axiom that states that no matter how well crafted or well thought out the battle plan, that plan must necessarily change once the enemy is engaged. So, that being said, I understand that perhaps once the president took office the realities he faced might have caused him to revisit, re-evaluate, and revise those ideals he espoused during the campaign.

Furthermore, I understand the machinations of politics. The very nature of politics implies compromise. And in making a decision, the political implications of that decision sometime drive that decision; often because of political expediency and exigency, the best decision is not always the right decision.

With that in mind, I have remained reserved while others have criticized the president early in his term. In some decisions I could readily discern the political rationale, while others I just gave him the benefit of the doubt, but with this whole Health Care Reform debacle, I can no longer remain reticent.

The president must have known, had to have known, the difficulty of passing any type of health care bill with a public option attached early on. Leading up to his assuming office, or within the first days of his assuming office, I am more than certain he discussed his vision for health care reform with Democratic leaders in order to determine where they stood; to not to have done so would be tantamount to political malpractice.

In looking back, I now realize that when he gave his health care speech in August, he knew then. His downplaying the need for the public option during that speech was a tacit harbinger of what was to come. But at the moment he realized that he could not get any decent health care bill through the Senate, if he was really serious about a public option, he should have then looked for another option, another means of pushing his legislation through.

Certainly when he realized that the other side was not going to play by the rules, when he realized that the other side was going to engage any means necessary, no matter how unethical or immoral, to preserve the status quo, when he realized that members of his own party was going to stand in the way of him fulfilling his campaign promises, he should have then accepted that the normal give and take of politics was not longer commensurate to the situation; extraordinary problems require extraordinary solutions.

I understand the notion that we get what we can now and then build on that foundation. But this is the problem with that. The urgency is now, and what can be done to bring the bill closer to what is desired in the future depends entirely on factors that are rapidly spinning beyond the control of the current sitting Democratic officials. Additionally, after this debacle, how many of those seats will remain in Democratic hands? How much longer will Democrats hold the balance of power?

These are the facts as I currently see them. This is the new reality that must be dealt with despite whatever battle plans might have existed. The other side has no interest whatsoever in bipartisanship, and the senate is wholly dysfunctional and has ceased to serve its purpose. If anything, the whole health care debate has made it plain that our government officials have ceased to be beholden to the people, but have become instead vassals of various business interests and/or industries.

This changes the game and the rules of play. Rational appeals to common sense and decency are wholly insufficient and fall on irrational and immoral/unethical ears, and the traditional political avenues are strewn with duplicity and questionable motives. So, all that’s left is for President Obama to step outside his zone of comfort and make those decisions and take those actions requisite to moving his agenda forward, the agenda promised those who worked so hard to get him elected, through all available means, to include good all fashioned political arm-twisting and intimidation.

Those historical figures which proved effective in facilitating real change and engendering hope in those who followed them did so by operating outside the status quo. They did so by throwing caution to the wind and putting themselves and their aspirations in the back seat and doing that which needed to be done for the good of those they served.

It is time for President Obama to stand fully erect and go blow for blow. The time has passed for issuing passes to those who have seemingly been disloyal and disingenuous in their actions; those persons seemingly have begun to see this as not a political favor but a weakness. All attempts at negotiation and compromise have appeared to those looking on, to include me, as complete and utter capitulation; the goal of negotiation and compromise is to reach an acceptable middle ground and not give, give, give until there is nothing left to give and then call it a victory.

President Obama has secured his place in history as the first African American president; however, the question then becomes what will history say about his performance as president? He will either be seen as being a complete failure or great; the epilogue will be either very pitiful or powerful, but it cannot be both. He has allowed the opposition and members of his own party to set the terms and formulate the rules in such a way that there is no middle ground.


RiPPa said...

Bait and switch my man. I think the "compromise" was made while in the campaign while we were all hooked up on jumper cables.

Very good post!

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

I agree with you, Max. We're fast approaching his first year and it's about time the strategy be stronger from a policy and image standpoint. The longer it takes the more work it will take to get people back on board for issues that matter.

rikyrah said...

this is an excellent post. I keep on going back to what I said in the summer that made some folks mad:

if you fight and lose - there's no shame in that. no crime. those that fought with you will be there for you when another battle comes.

he didn't fight for the Public Option. He didn't fight to strip the anti-trust exemption. He didn't fight for the Medicare Buy-in at 55. The only thing he fought FOR was to TORPEDO Dorgan's DRUG REIMPORTATION AMENDMENT. He could find a LOT of fight for that.

I'm tire of being told I'm 'naive'. I'm Black, older than 21 and live in America. I'm not naive.

People know what they feel in their 'gut'...and their ' gut' tells them that he didn't fight one iota for anything that it truly substantial reform.

And, the other part that folks won't talk about is that the folks doing the' stripping' of the bill -

they are bought and paid for corporate whores, plain and simple.

SINGLE PAYER is the most ' fiscally responsible' thing possible.

then Medicare Buy-in

then the Public Option

those who worked to strip those out didn't do so because of ' fiscal responsibility', they did it because they were corporate WHORES.

and, stop acting like healthcare is in a VACUUM - it's not.

it's the straw that came after

the Wall Street bailout
the credit card bullshyt bill
a loan modification program that has only services ONE PERCENT of those in need
escalation in Afghanistan at a cost of 1 million per soldier.

RiPPa said...

@rikyrah: Damn, you sound like me on this one. Usually when I mention these things I'm met with "well he's the president and he knows what he doing," from people who look like me. Hell, there are people who would rather criticize other black people from speaking out or critiquing him on these issues.

@CurvyGurl: There it is! If WE don;t put the work in now, will we ever win? Why not hold him accountable for those campaign promises he made in the face of and with full knowledge of how effed up the economy was?

Max Reddick said...


If you doesn't stand for something soon, when he really needs the base, they are going to lay down on him.


I'm feeling really helpless right about now because what this means is that our government has been bought lock stock and barrel by the corporations, and the people really don't stand a chance. The whole thing has become a money making proposition.


I don't think anyone saw this coming. We were all under the impression that Obama the politician was somehow different, and now it suddenly dawns on us that Obama is indeed just that--a politician.

RiPPa said...

@Max: I expected the health care issue to be fought hard by special interest groups. As for Obama? He was too much of a centrist who waffled on a few issues during the primaries to not see it.

I wish you knew me on my old blog and saw how much heat I got from people on me telling them to be wary and not get sucked in by the symbolic nature of his success.

I saw it when all those compromises were made for the Stimulus Bill at the cost of education and other significant programs all in the name of bipartisanship.

A move that didn't result in one vote from the opposition. This is why I always say we have to watch politicians with our good eye.

Preachers, politicians, and police; the three P's we should never trust.

Anonymous said...

Obama is shaping up to be the next Jimmy Carter: well intentioned, likable, but inept. He has my vote in 2012, unless Colin Powell decides to run, but I just dont believe in him. I never did, I guess I just hoped that he would prove me wrong. Well back to a life of cynicism and distrust concerning politicians.

However, I will offer some perspective that cautions me to reserve judgment. As has been stated, Obama inherited a country in a state of ruin. In addition, as you have said yourself Max, the US is far from being post racial, so Obama must navigate those hurdles as well. Obama deserves the two terms and hopefully he will embody on of my favorite quotes:

"History will absolve me." -Castro

Citizen Ojo said...

WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!! Home Run Frat!! Home Run....

md20737 said...

I judge OBAMA by his actions. We all know he is a hell of a orator, so we can not just go by his words. I pray that he was not all talk. I work in health care insurance and I know he would have to move hell and high water to make changes. But I guess I can accept no pre existing conditions for kids. I wish that went for everyone because that would be a major win. Thats a major reason most people cant get coverage.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Brother Max,

As I read this post, I found myself agreeing in resignation with it. For so long, our country has been driven by politicians and corporate fat-cats; my hope was that we would witness a change infused by an American statesman.

The reality is that President Obama will be remembered historically by his political performance. Perhaps the era of the American Statesman has become passe'; if so, it is our loss.

I realize this is just year one of his administration but a pattern has been established; this will become more entrenched and difficult to navigate around.

There's a line in the movie Risky Business when Tom Cruise says, "Sometimes you just gotta say what the fuck". When politicians keep riding your ass and you involuntarily drop your pants and bend over; it's time to remember you wanted things to change from the status quo.


SjP said...

Whether or not America/ns are better off in 2012 than in 2009 will determine Obama's legacy as POTUS. If he fails, it will be pitiful and the right will run vehemently against him. If he succeeds, his legacy will be powerful and the right will run vehemently against him.

Having said that, I would love to see or hear of the POTUS having a real Chicago-south-side-oh hell-naw moment or two. We know that it is in his nature - and that would make me feel a whole heck of a lot better.

Washington/the Government has been dirty for 233 years. Politics, corruption, and greed has been the "rule" of the day since 1776. Obama's been in office for less than 365 days. I'd like to give him a little more time clean-up the mess the previous 43 presidents and 110 congresses left behind. But, that's just me...

R- said...

I completely agree. Thanks!

Eddie Daedalus said...

Real Health care reform was NEVER on the table. Rahm and Obama never ceased stating they didn't really care about the public option.

This wasn't inexperience, or Obama bowing to the inevitability of political compromise. Take, for example, his completely different strategy on escalating the war. He arm-twisted and threatened recalcitrant democrats and he got his war.

No, Obama never meant to pass real health care reform, and this current mess called a bill needs to be scrapped. It's actually WORSE than we have now and do not be fooled into thinking that those of us needing health care will get it. There are so many exceptions and loopholes that this bill is a complete give-away to the insurance giants.

Obama demonstrated NO leadership on this issue and it will spell certain doom for the Dems come the mid terms.

Mason Jamal said...

Incredible writing...damn near poetic. The art of the word aside, I agree with you 100%. W

Anonymous said...

I agree. Here is an intelligent family guy who isn't cheating on his wife (at least I sure hope he isn't) and galvanized much of America with his rhetoric of hope that things can change for the better good of all. I had great hopes for him and still do but, I must look at the reality of what he has done. He has failed to lead and define the debate on many things. He had the position, the cusp of history, and the brains to be a really great American but, I fear he might be just another empty suit. Time will tell but, so far I am disappointed - big time.

Andre said...

Nice post, bro.

Only the most gullible of us don't realize that politics is a game of quid pro quo. Every politician has to compromise some aspects of their platform in order to push certain more important agendas. But Obama hasn't flexed muscle at all. Caving to Republicans has been the only sure thing from the President so far.

Max, you're right brother: Obama's base may still be committed to him...because of the investment we've made in him up to this point. But if things don't change to match some of this campaign promises, 2012 might not be so generous to the Prez.

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