Monday, January 18, 2010

One Year Later

As the holiday celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. draws to a close, I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect on the first anniversary of our president's inauguration. Last year at this time, the juxtaposition of the holiday with the pending transition of power to America's first African-American president was the subject of much reflection, national self-congratulatory musing and fervent hope by the 68% of Americans who approved of the president-elect that, finally, longed for "change" would come to fruition.

A year later, the mood of the country has changed dramatically. The president's approval ratings now hover around 50%, diminished by a growing perception that (i.) the ongoing high unemployment rate, (ii.) the uncertainties about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, (iii.) the challenges, tinged by images of nuclear holocaust, posed by Iran and North Korea, (iv.) the unresolved conflicts in the Middle East, (v.) the government's inability to prevent terrorist attacks in the homeland, (vi.) the continued depression in the residential housing market, (vii.) the looming collapse of the commercial real estate market, (viii.) the inability to pass meaningful health care reform, (ix.) the unfettered greed of Wall Street and (x.) the affront to the United States by the rejection of Chicago as the site of the 2016 Olympics all could and should have been dealt with more successfully by President Obama and his administration.

It is utterly depressing. I am overwhelmed by the hopelessness that results from living in a society that is so naive, short-sighted and malleable under the kneading of hypocritical conservative punditry.

As you may imagine, I am firmly ensconced among the president's supporters. Has he pitched a perfect game? Of course not. Have there been missteps in attempting to implement certain policies? Of course. Has 20% of the American public lost sight of the fact that running the country is not a scripted docu-drama in which all loose ends are tied up quickly neatly in response to the skill and wisdom of the chief executive as we head to the refrigerator for a late night snack? Apparently.

We are so, so much better off with a president who takes the time to think before acting and refuses to be bullied into knee-jerk reactions by impatient opponents. I am comforted by the thought that while the Fox network's talking heads were verbally eviscerating President Obama for not addressing the nation immediately after the attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253, the president was quietly directing his underlings to identify the causes of the breach of security and recommend fixes. Frankly, THAT is what he was elected to do. When he had something to say, he said it. Until then, he was focused on doing his job.

In the last year,
  • the Obama Administration has brought the country, and, by extension, the world from the brink of another Great Depression;
  • the Obama Administration made the decision that the ramifications of allowing GM and Chrysler to fail were too significant and potentially detrimental to the economy to allow that to happen. I believe that the auto makers are entitled to a chance to reorganize. Given the scope of the endeavor, the assistance of the Federal Government is required to make that possible. The dearth of manufacturing jobs in this country is enough of a problem without further reductions resulting from the shuttering of even more domestic auto plants;
  • the Obama Administration pushed through programs designed to jump start the housing industry and the auto industry;
  • the Obama Administration sent a message to the world community that the United States was done behaving like a self-righteous bully, dictating policy to everyone else and fabricating "coalitions of the willing" as if the Emperor were fully dressed;
  • the Obama Administration implemented a policy in Afghanistan, in a timely fashion when measured by relevant deadlines, that did not surrender to domestic politics and that made appropriate demands on our allies;
  • the Obama Administration attempted to work in a bi-partisan manner to formulate legislative solutions to problems demanded by the electorate in November, 2008. When frustrated by a united Republican Party that has traded the exercise of independent judgment for partisan purity in order to undermine the president, the Obama Administration continued its efforts to serve the will of the People and proceeded unilaterally.
Many of us are concerned about the costs of financing the solutions offered for the challenges we face as a nation. Those of us who are honest acknowledge that the tab for addressing these challenges has been a long time coming. We did not have a robust auto industry, real estate industry, banking industry or manufacturing base on January 19, 2009. We were not on the verge of peace in and/or with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Yemen, Israel or Gaza as Barack Obama took the oath of office a day later. The health care system was not providing adequate, affordable care for all Americans a year ago.

In my view, President Obama got stuck with the tab and has spent the last year figuring out just how much each of us is going to have to chip in. I'm not happy about it, but there are no good alternatives. As a nation, we spent beyond our means. We chastised former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for spoiling the party fueled by a run-up of stock prices when he prophetically warned of an "irrational exuberance" taking place. We financed our misguided military forays and low tax rates by borrowing unfathomable amounts of money from foreign investors, leaving us particularly exposed should we allow a failure of our domestic banks and industrial engines.

In reality, President Obama's popularity has dropped because he hasn't been able to magically make our problems disappear in an unrealistically short time frame given their scope and depth. The propaganda proffered by the president's detractors has succeeded in convincing enough of our citizenry with "inquiring minds" otherwise focused Tiger Woods' marital status that the president has failed to deliver on the vision he offered a year ago. Given the incessant efforts of the same detractors to derail the vision's delivery, and given too many voters' confusion of partisan sniping for thoughtful analysis, the result is to be expected, yet disconcerting.

It's time to call a fraud a fraud. For example, if you think Secretary Napolitano defended the Department of Homeland Security by proclaiming that "the system worked" notwithstanding the Christmas Day terror attack, you've been defrauded. I heard her initially and verified it by listening to my podcast of the December 27, 2009 edition of "This Week with George Stephanopolous" (at about 6:40 into the podcast). She clearly stated that "once the incident occurred", everyone did their job and "the system worked". She was not referring to efforts to keep terrorists off of airplanes. She was referring to the agencies' and airlines' reactions to the news that an attempted terror attack had taken place. The difference is important and the right wing nut jobs who take the Secretary's statement out of context in order to attack the president should not be given credence on account of any resulting drop in popularity.

It's time to demand accountability from those intent on undermining the will of the electorate. If you're going to complain about the programs proposed and implemented by President Obama to address our national crises, offer specific alternatives. If you're going to whine about the state of the economy, start by disclosing whether you were part of the problem and, if so, have the decency that admit that the president is trying to clean up after your mess. If you think it's a mistake to close Guantanamo, explain why we shouldn't just execute all the prisoners there to assure that they won't be a problem in the future and to allow the eventual dissipation from our enemies' psyche the fact that America preaches due process but holds hundreds incognito without charge year after year after year.

As I said, the situation is utterly depressing. I had thought that enough of us had learned valuable lessons from the Bush/Cheney fascista that we were intent on taking back our democracy and using the government to serve the common good. Instead, we've retreated in silence and let the fear-mongers once again inject their self-serving poison into the public conscience. I intend to do my part to shed light on this mockery of the democratic process. I need to write more often as a cure for my depression. If you agree with me, pass on my prairie ponderings. If you disagree, refer to the paragraph immediately above and give it your best shot. Finally, if you disagree with me and think Sarah Palin should be president, leave me alone. You're an idiot.

I leave you with an example of pushback that I hope to see more of. Click here.

1 comment:

Irv Stern said...

I would suggest that you send a copy to the Office of the President of the United States.
Love, Dad