Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture?

This is not another blog about photography, but does arise from disturbing images.

I just watched President Obama deliver his State of the Union address. As he was speaking, I was making note of certain parts of the speech. Here's a pop quiz. What do the following excerpts from the SOTU have in common?

  • In the last 22 months, we’ve added 3 million jobs.
  • GM is once again the number one car manufacturer in the world.
  • No American company should be able to avoid taxes by moving its money and profits overseas.
  • It is time to stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas and reward companies that create jobs in America.
  • Women should earn equal pay for equal work.
  • America's production of oil is the highest it's been in 8 years.
  • Last year America relied less on foreign oil than at any time in last 16 years.
  • I believe what Abraham Lincoln believed: the government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves and no more.
If you guessed that they were all applause lines, you're half right. They were all applause lines for everyone in the House Chamber except for the Republicans. Speaker John Boehner sat on his hands in response to each of these pronouncements by the President and his colleagues followed suit. In another instance, when the President called for comprehensive immigration reform after touting his administration's success in reducing illegal border crossings, John McCain appeared to be nodding in agreement. But, unlike those who stood and applauded around him, he did not put his hands together.

I cannot get the image of stone-faced Republicans out of my mind and find it incredibly disturbing.

Take a look at the list again. Who could possibly be against, or not appreciate, any of the items highlighted by the President? The coordinated refusal by Republicans to show any support for the efforts of our president is another in a long series of examples of the implementation of obstructionist policies designed to denigrate and politically destroy President Obama.

I am not naive. I know how the game is played. But with everyone acknowledging that the economic crisis we face as a nation requires our leaders to demonstrate actual leadership and put aside political squabbling, the Republicans' strategy is particularly disappointing.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the Senate, had a soundbite bouncing around the media today. He said something to the effect that if a CEO of a company had the same dismal performance as President Obama over the past three years, he'd be shown the door. The observation was succinct, contentious and guaranteed to become a talking point among the non-discerning and contentedly under-informed elements of the electorate. It was also nonsense.

What Senator McConnell leaves out is that if a CEO's efforts to carry out the will of the shareholders (technically, board of directors) who elected him was thwarted time and again by a few contrarians in the company's management team, obstructionists who demanded that their co-workers follow their leave on threat of termination, it's the contrarians who would be shown the door in order to give the CEO a chance to perform.

Unfortunately, American CEO Obama lacked the authority to fire Congressional Republicans who bragged from the start that they would oppose any proposal by the President in order to paint him as ineffective and limit him to one term. It is the height of arrogance for Senator McConnell, having spent the past three years blocking the President's initiatives, to criticize President Obama for not following through on all his aspirations.

It is to the same degree depressing to reflect that our democracy has devolved to the point where, as part of a coordinated plan to embarrass the President, Republicans cannot bring themselves to applaud achieving a reduction of America's dependence on foreign oil or the idea that our daughters should receive the same pay as our sons for doing the same work. In what universe would Congressional representatives, elected to serve their constituents while guiding the country to peace and prosperity, take issue with General Motors' return to prominence on the world stage or disapprove of limiting the role of government to undertaking no more than what citizens cannot do for themselves.

We have another eight months or so until the election in November. Join me in challenging our candidates, of whatever political bent, to stay focused on legitimate issues and to offer concrete solutions as the test of their competence for public service. When you see, instead, candidates relying on factually inaccurate character assassination to promote themselves by contrast, ask yourself how we are better served by allowing such intellectually empty pretenders to ascend to leadership. Use your social networks to share relevant, thoughtful analysis with your peers and followers.

One final thought, a final rule of the challenge just made. Do not be dissuaded from declaring the Emperor naked because his more popular predecessor was similarly unclothed. So, for example, Speaker Gingrich's moral lapses in his first two marriages are not excused because President Clinton also broke his vows. If the hypocrisy of having a serial adulterer serve as standard bearer of the Republican Party, which seeks to impose its version of family values on all of us, is objectionable, say so. President Clinton's personal misconduct in 1995 offers no relevance to our weighing the integrity of candidates in 2012.


Jules Friedman said...

Sam -
I was with you all the way to the last paragraph, when the naked images ('wrong picture') of Obama, Clinton, and Gingrich got in the way.
For some reason this post reminds me of a VERY old cartoon, which says simply - "THIMK"

Charles Leck said...

Well said, Sam... but Gingrich naked? I mean, come on! Chas