Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wifely Wisdom of Michelle Obama

A year from today, Americans vote for a president again.

Three years after the last ballot, even ardent Democrats and entranced Independents no longer have stars in their eyes. With no time for a honeymoon back then, how can voters be enthusiastic about renewing their vows with Barack Obama?

For some, “consider the alternative” may be answer enough, but in fairness to the President—-and ourselves—-he deserves better than that.

Campaigning back in 2007, Michelle Obama talked about her husband’s domestic faults (not picking up his socks or putting butter back in the refrigerator) and offered a philosophical reason for doing so:

“Barack is very much human. So let’s not deify him, because what we do is we deify, and then we’re ready to chop it down. People have notions of what a wife’s role should be in this process, and it’s been a traditional one of blind adoration. My model is a little different--I think most real marriages are.”

And so, we know now, are political unions, particularly in hard times when angry opponents keep pounding on the door, doing nothing to help and turning off the fire hoses as the neighborhood burns down.

If his wife worried about deifying him, who could have foreseen so much effort to demonize Barack Obama, no matter what he does or fails to do? Who can parse the hidden racism and the bitterness of an over-entitled generation of aging Baby Boomers against his failure to perform miracles in a global meltdown?

American should choose Obama again, not because he has been a savior but a decent, talented, serious man whose mistakes pale against the kind of rabid obstruction unknown in my lifetime under 13 presidents with the privilege of seeing most of them up close as a journalist.

As a teenager during the Great Depression, I witnessed widespread support for FDR. But there were also newspapers owned by Hearst (the Rupert Murdoch of his time) and, in the New Yorker and elsewhere, cartoons of bankers in overstuffed chairs, fulminating against the President, but no one had to Occupy Wall Street to tell the majority of Americans how to feel about them.

Now, in a 24/7 information era, Tea Party venom is stronger and more easily spread, but the most striking change in American attitudes, after almost a century of better education and a multiplication of media, is the flood of unreason and downright stupidity now besieging an American President.

Those who hesitate to renew their vows with Barack Obama will want to think hard about his successes in the War on Terror and back home his Detroit rescue and new Wall Street regulations, among other accomplishments, in staving off a global economic crisis back here.

The question for 2012 is not Ronald Reagan’s, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The question is where would we have been after four years of John McCain and Sarah Palin, and where might we be after four with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry or the winner of the Herman Cain-Newt Gingrich “Lincoln-Douglas debate.”

Barack Obama has learned the political equivalent of picking up his socks and putting back the butter in the refrigerator. Can any of the others tie their shoelaces in a dangerous and demanding world?

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