Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Yes We Can...What?

Team Obama is in full campaign mode, firing off e-mails and organizing events to push ahead for health care reform, but nobody knows exactly where the goal line is.

According to the Washington Post, "President Obama's supporters hope to recapture the energy of last year's triumphant election campaign in a bid to regain control of the health-care debate, planning more than 2,000 house parties, rallies and town hall meetings across the country over the next two weeks."

The trouble with such exertion is that the object is not pulling the lever in a presidential election or urging a simple affirmative Congressional vote but influencing thousands of pages of still-shifting legislation in both Houses.

Yes, we can...what?

In the morass of issues involved, only the public option has come into focus to be distorted by lobbyists and loons into a future of government control and death panels, Big Lies that have to be answered with long and convoluted explanations

The demagoguery level is so high that Paul Krugman today resorts to nostalgia for the Unindicted Co-Conspirator, arguing that "Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger."

On the other side of the ideological divide, George Will asserts, with some justice, that on health care reform "our ubiquitous president became the nation's elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper."

All this puts Obama supporters in the position of rushing around in all directions, trying to contain the flames of opposition in the equivalent of a Chinese fire drill.

As the Right revels in its newfound voice and the Left indicts the President for losing his nerve, health care reform is evolving beyond a crucial political and economic issue.

In many ways, it is becoming a test of how well American democracy can let rational voices be heard in a 21st century Tower of Babel--of whether Obama's new politics has enough power to revive and revitalize the best of the old.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

The question was ALWAYS Yes, we can . . . what? This lack of substance is not new for Obama, but I think it's new for his supporters, who for some reason refused to see him clearly during the campaign. The man has considerable rhetorical skill under the right circumstances--when he can talk in the abstract and woo people by being a blank slate on which they can draw their hopes, their dreams, their vision. If he is ever pinned down or asked a direct question, he becomes a stuttering, stammering mess and cannot respond in concrete terms. Not that he doesn't know the answer, he does, but he's constantly worried about his image and maintaining that mask for as long as possible. Thus the lies, the backroom dealings, the deception, the "hunt" for anyone who opposes him, and the various other questionable methods he uses to silence people who have every right to state their views. Ted Kennedy would have listened, and he would have been empathetic and sage. Obama just lashes out and flails around. It's a stark contrast, made all the more so for our loss of the great Ted Kennedy.

Obama made only a few concrete statements/promises during the campaign: he was clear about his intent to shift the focus of the war to Afghanastan (so his calls to "bring the troops home" that were met with raucous cheers were puzzling to me), he was clear on wanting to model K-12 education on the Korean model (that'll be fun when he gets to it), and he was clear that he wanted to establish a single-payer, government-run healthcare system for all Americans. HIs other "promises" were just so much "read my lips": not raising taxes on people making less than $250k, working across the aisle, "transparency," and cleaning up Washington (you can't clean something up if you're tracking it around on your shoe). Sure, he'll sign a bill to close Gitmo, but those people are still sitting there and for the same reason that they sat there under Bush: they are too dangerous to release and there isn't enough evidence of any crime to hold them legally. So they sit. Obama attacked a lot of Bush's policies, but when he had the opportunity to overide them, like the (previously illegal) wiretapping, he didn't.

This man's magic is wearing off, and that is what you are seeing. He won't get that sort of support again, not after all he's done in a short seven months. While he was busy looking down his nose at Americans, dismissing them with contempt (a thing Ted Kennedy never did!), Americans were clearing their heads and wiping the stars from their eyes. He won't come back from this; once trust is gone, that's it. He just doesn't know it yet.

Holte Ender said...

At least a Chinese Fire Drill can amusing to watch, this nothingness is far from amusing. The subject seems to be approaching "talked out" status, the rhetoric has been at a very high level throughout the summer, but as we approach Fall, I get a feeling of "I'm sick of hearing about it." Perhaps that was the intention.