Let me say up front, I wouldn’t want to be president. I couldn’t be president. As I watched the coverage leading up to and following the president’s State of the Union Address, it again occurred to me the incredible amount of scrutiny that encapsulates him. Every move he makes, every word he utters is instantly weighed and dissected according to the purposes of whomever is speaking; objectivism in journalism has long ceased to exist if it even ever has.
Nonetheless, the president made a strong showing last night. However, it was not the triumphant speech that I and others like me had hoped to hear. Among other things, he could not inform the American public of the numbers of people finding jobs and returning to work. He could inform the American public that the economy appeared to be righting itself and even of the many successes of the policies he has implemented since in office, but he could not promise or pinpoint an end to the morass.
And most of all, perhaps most importantly of all, he could not inform the public of the implementation of a newly reformed and revamped health care system, insuring everyone had access to adequate medical care, that we had all so hopefully and urgently anticipated.
That being said, I think what President Obama accomplished in the main on last night was to get us almost back to the point where we were at last January when he first took office. It seemed then that coming off the campaign trail, he had an august tailwind behind him, propelling him forward. And with a solid filibuster proof senate, we just knew that perhaps finally things would get better for the country.
But then something curious happened. It seemed he took a step back and delegated his authority to others. We looked for him to be out front, but we could only see those faces who, especially for those who don’t follow politics closely (which is perhaps the majority of Americans), we didn’t know from Adam; most people didn’t even know who Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid was before the push for health care reform began.
Most people only knew that they had invested a tremendous amount of energy and faith in Barack Obama, and he seemed to be letting them down. It was at this point that progressives and others on the left began to get discouraged; it is at this point that his base felt that he was wasting too much energy and political capital in pandering to the right, chasing some elusive ideal of bipartisanship; it is at this point that the country began to appear as if it were spiraling out of control and people became frightened. And we all know that frightened people do not always make the most rational decisions.
Personally I believe that perhaps the bar was set too high for Barack Obama or any other politician for that matter. Personally I believe things got so bad under the last administration that people searched vigorously and expectantly for a miracle, a savior who would come along at just the right time and fix it all with one fell swoop, a wave of the hand and a reassuring wink. After all, in our most popular and enduring theatrical genre, the western, doesn’t some tall, swarthy stranger ride into town at the very last minute and save the day?
But we, along with President Obama, have gotten a hard dose of reality over the past year. We realized the he was not our savior and that change would not come overnight. And he realized that perhaps the complete overhaul of a completely corrupt system and bipartisanship were only chimeras; playing fair and by the rules only works when both sides are in agreement just as to what those rules entail.
So, the speech has been made, and it was a good one, a real hum-dinger, a barn burner. But we already knew the brother could deliver a good speech. We already knew the brother was a master of rhetoric. The proof is in the follow through. Has he gained the ability to distinguish ideal and reality, and has he gained the intestinal fortitude requisite to get out front and lead? That we will find out in the days ahead.