Saturday, November 5, 2011

Are the President's Successes His Failures?

There was hope among so many that the election of our current president would help move us to a more post-racial, post-partisan nation. That was the promise and even the Hope of that campaign, wasn't it? Something went terribly wrong. Don't get me wrong, I still really like the guy and his political philosophies are so close to the ones that I have independently developed over the years I can't help but like him. The lack of anything but craziness and opposition in the opposition leads nowhere but to Romney, the obvious result as we ask what it is that they really stand for? Because, of course with Romney, it could be anything. But we'll deal more with Romney later.

And we'll put the "easy" issue to the side, at least for a moment. It's basic human nature in American politics that the current president is held responsible for the current situation of the economy. It’s a simple formula. If there is a big boom (unlikely) or even a stronger wind at the back towards a boom (possible), President Obama wins in a landslide. If the slowest recovery in history continues to eke (most likely), he has a chance. If there is a double-dip, even if on European debt or something else outside our borders (hard to tell), he loses and we can only hope and pray that Romney can run the country as well as he did the Olympics.

But my weak brain is stirring on some ideas I may need some help to understand or to articulate. It should have been no surprise to anyone that the President would do health care reform. He ran on it. He took Republican ideas and every compromise to make it as palatable to the Congress and the public as possible. And he got it--and the backlash. While no more radical than Social Security or Medicare - in fact not nearly as all-government-encompassing as those programs as private health care and insurance are big beneficiaries - the Republican Party simply refused to engage and the Tea Party response was amazingly boiled over. There was something else at work here.

Of course, the bi-partisan and last-administration-initiated TARP was controversial, but we did stop the economic free-fall. In fact, it was stopped just after the administrations changed and has been slowly but steadily climbing back since - even if nobody seems to pay attention to that because the lingering effects are still too painful. Too many people are out of work and our economic system remains confused. And the Stimulus helped too, but it did not bring the economy back, it just helped it to stumble along and improve, ever so slightly. On the left they say it wasn't big enough. On the right they say it was too big. I felt maybe it was just right in a Goldilocks sort of way.

Some say that health care reform was at the wrong time because of the economy. A good friend with New York financial experience told me there is no way businesses will invest in growth as long as there is uncertainty about the expenses they will have if it is implemented. They could, of course, just accept it and make it work with any necessary amendments as somehow happened with Social Security and Medicare, etc., but that took some time, too (and needs fixing now). There doesn't seem to be any other alternative on addressing the issue of health care which would seem to me more important than the general economy on the basic premise that if you’re not well (or alive) you can't work and invigorate our economy. No one seems to have any better ideas than simply not to address the health care crisis and let free markets reign under some "Ebenezer-Scrooge" theory of society. There must be some way to address the escalating expense of health care that does impact us all and our economic well-being. That leaves us all waiting for the Supreme Court to rule as the Congress, the President and the public are stuck in an implementation stalemate with the status quo that, at least for now, it is the law of the land. We have yet to see if it's supreme (as in Art. VI).

That might be part of the stalemate problem in Congress right now. Forget for now the hopeless House with its Speaker unable to control his tea party faction, the real interesting situation is in the Senate where the Minority Leader has been using the threat of filibuster on nearly everything to force the Senate, on purely internal rules alone, to require a super-majority of 60 to pass anything at all. The Constitution allows the Senate to establish its own rules - that's clear even if this situation may not be exactly within any founders' intent, much less the good sense of our current statesmen and women of that august body. It used to be that these rules were used only in the rarest and most drastic situations like ensuring that no challenge to slavery or segregation would ever come forward to disturb southern white power (sad, but absolutely true story - we really do owe a lot to Master of the Senate Lyndon Johnson who broke that hold in the 1950s and 60s - better than with a war as in the 1860s).

The Majority Leader’s strategies may be motivated by his frustration and anger with the President’s success in getting that health care reform passed under his nose when his party was all smug on that win in Massachusetts with Scott Brown. I knew the President already had a bill passed by each house in his back pocket and could get it done. McConnell and his party were outsmarted and outmaneuvered and I think he resents it personally. I think a lot of the public does as well (but far from a majority, just a loud minority). McConnell has admitted at least that his number one legislative goal is to see the President defeated for re-election – which is a little odd since it isn’t the role of the Senate to decide the election of presidents. But he certainly has his ability to obstruct the system if he thinks that could promote his cause and his vindication.

Obstruction at every turn seems to be the Republican response to our President. Listen to their debates and that theme is overwhelming. Most people are getting over the ridiculousness of birtherism, sharia-fear, red-commie-marxist-fascist-terrorist-pal obsessions, etc. And of course there are no racists left in this country except those accusing Cain of improprieties. So, I’m still trying to figure out what it is about this President that makes some people so anxious to oppose him on absolutely everything.

The President will return to his broader themes of a purple rather than a red/blue nation as he fights in the trenches of his tighter, and mostly popular, themes on the remaining pieces of his Jobs Bill. It worked for Truman to run against Congress – which is much less popular right now than our President.

The latest bi-partisan commission on debt reduction will continue to frame the fights, hopefully responsibly, with regard to our national budget including revenue enhancement with cuts and debt reduction. I hope the President gives them the support of his bully pulpit, but it is ultimately up to Congress and only with bi-partisan common ground will anything ever be accomplished--nearly impossible in an election year. What we need most is a vibrant economy to generate the revenues we need to be responsible for our growth together as We the People. How to get there, yeah, that rubs us all so wrong one way or the other. And the simple formula above tends to indicate the Republicans with their principal goal to defeat this President have no political interest in having our economy improve in the next year. They'd better be careful because that could certainly play into the President's Trumanesque themes.

Our President will also continue his foreign policy successes. I find it a little odd that he gets so little credit for this. It seems that Republican spiking-the-ball (in the wrong end zone – think “Mission Accomplished”) gets more attention than an actually competent and successful foreign policy. I concede that Secretary Clinton has done far better than I ever expected. We have renewed respect overseas (in spite of Republican delusions on that point). We’re pretty much out of Iraq (as even W finally agreed with the new Iraqi government). We’re coming to the same conclusions with regard to that in Afghanistan. We got that guy who led Al Queda and pretty much took out the whole senior operation. We have a renewed and successful NATO alliance with success in Libya. Tunisia went well for the world. Egypt still has a good chance of doing so. He has work to do. Some of it requires Congress to close Guantanamo, etc., and the President’s tone and policy on Executive War Power has improved from the Darth Cheney years, but has a ways to go yet for my tastes.

The Tea Party wanes as the Occupy Movement waxes. Certainly neither one of these is our answer. Yet they do contribute thought and movement on that thought in the minds of people as we move along.

Romney is moving towards the eventual nomination as the last one standing as one odd character after another drops out of the circus of their petty party battle for the nomination - and not a primary vote or caucus count yet!

I don't believe at all that Romney, even from out of my own religious tradition, has any divine mandate or revelation to set this country right. He is engaging in some rather erroneous and disturbing talk with his fantasies of anyone “apologizing” for America. I sure hope he gets rid of his neo-con advisors that gave us the W Bush and Cheney disasters. I don’t understand at all where Romeny is on domestic policy other than the Republican/Tea mantra that everything the President does is wrong because, well, just because. My best hope is that if he were to become president, that he would flip back to the slightly progressive Republican he was while running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate, and as Governor of Massachusetts. And I certainly don't think God called Perry, Bachmann, Cain or any of the other right-wingers to save our nation. Even as that "holy door" was finally closed on Palin, I just can't accept that it was opened for any of those others.

There is no objective answer or divine revelation to solve all our problems either in my own mind or the collective mind of the body politic. I do think though, and rather fervently believe and hope, that it is the process of that collective mind that is the only chance we have to attempt to solve these problems. The only way I can see forward to harness the power of that collective mind of our people is through Constitutional processes that while maybe imperfect, are established to have us as a people work towards that more perfect union. And then we hope that our weak efforts are blessed by a Divine Providence.

There is only one recent president who has ever had that kind of a political philosophy. I think we should keep him. Yeah, his “unfavorables” in the current polling aren’t looking great even if on a slight uptick. Yet he’s far from the least popular president we’ve ever had. My candidate for that would be one of the most popular now, and certainly my all-time favorite, Lincoln, the election of whom led to a good chunk of the country trying to leave—and violently so. President Obama doesn’t have it nearly so bad. And I don’t think he’ll have to do anything like sending Sherman to march through Georgia to help us keep our Union together. We, all of us, can do it together. Let’s not forget we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We, the People.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!