The President’s Eloquent Words Are Beginning to Ring Hollow
After eight tumultuous years of deceit, incompetence, and ideological extremism emanating from the White House the entire world eagerly embraced the ushering in of the new American President and all the hope that his victory embodied. I vividly recall the night Obama won: watching him give another spectacular speech on television, the tears of happiness filling the eyes of tens of thousands who ventured out into the cold Chicago evening to celebrate the country’s new beginning. I remember seeing the faces of people all over the world – rejoicing, misty eyed at the historic significance of this momentous occasion.
President Obama represented several things to a lot of people. He was an agent for change; an embodiment of ‘hope’ for so many who had lost it; one who answered to the people, and not the powerful interests (his campaign, after all, was largely funded by small $20-$50 internet donations). He was masterful in articulating his policy positions, and after eight years of watching an incurious half-wit demonstrate again and again that he was unqualified for the highest office in the land, we believed Obama’s competency and honesty would right all that was wrong. He would effectively clean up Bush’s mess. Optimism ran amok.
And suddenly we’re in October 2009 – nine months after his inauguration – and all that hope and promise feels as far away as Martin Luther King’s final speech in Memphis, TN. It has become crystal clear that the ‘change’ policies he outlined over and over again on the campaign trail have taken a back seat to his desire for bipartisan harmony. It’s becoming obvious to all that this current approach will achieve neither.
The tens of millions who brought Obama to power were never about bringing some kind of reconciliation to the political establishment. On the contrary, they were waiving ‘change’ posters in the streets, and yelling his ‘yes we can(s)!’ This grass routes movement was about the people – their lives. Obama supporters couldn’t give a rats ass whether the Republicans and Democrats sang ‘Kumbaya’ together. In electing Obama, the people rejected the status quo, and awarded Obama an overwhelming mandate to implement the change he promised.
And yet somehow Obama and his supporters’ messages must have got crossed, for he has tunneled all his energies into achieving Beltway bipartisanship, at whatever price. Why? Why is bipartisanship so prominent in his agenda? Politicial disharmony in the federal government actually serves a vital role: it creates an environment of political checks and balances which otherwise would not exist in such a corruptive institution. The last time there was harmony in Washington was immediately following the 9-11 attacks, and look where that got us: into the bipartisan authorization of the Iraq quagmire.
Each time Obama gives a new speech, I’m reminded why I voted for him, and then he and his staff proceed to undercut his very words. He is unwilling to mark a line in the sand and mean it; unwilling to shake up the establishment; unwilling to make a few enemies in the pursuit of implementing the change he espouses.
The monumental concessions he’s willing to make on health care alone — his willingness to toss the public option, as well as to prohibit the government from negotiating with pharmaceuticals — all in the name of bipartisanship, is nothing more than an insult to our sensibilities. From health care reform, to forcing Netanyahu to end the ethnic cleansing (settlement expansion) in Israel, to pursuing torture investigations, to implementing meaningful wall street and TARP oversight, to climate change, to bringing our troops home, … the list goes on and on. Either he’s just being consistently ineffective as a President, or perhaps we’ve all been duped.
This weekend, Saturday Night Live brilliantly flouted Obama’s inability to deliver the change he had once so eloquently promised us. Let us hope Obama receives this comedy skit as a wake up call. Because unfortunately, this caricature is beginning to stick, and before long it will define him.