Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Big Picture: Grading a tough week

It was a good decision by the Strike to get out of D.C. for the weekend, because that city lived up to its worst reputation as a swamp of corruption, cowardice, group-think, shortsightedness, superficiality, rife with whiners, self-aggrandizers, nihilists and clowns. If last week we were reminded of the skill and power of Barack Obama, this week we were reminded, in excruciating flashbacks, of why Washington has failed to solve, or really even address, our nation's problems for four decades. Health care reform, ostensibly a central goal of the Democratic Party for more than 60 years, has become perhaps irrevocably bogged down thanks to the corruption, cowardice, etc. etc. of a sufficiently large segment of the Democratic Party. Watching the Blue Dog Democrats posture for the cameras, filled with, shockingly, as much self-importance and self-righteousness ("the leadership lied to me," Rep. Charlie Melancon whined as an explanation for his following the Republican "tear down Obama and the Democrats" strategy to a T) as their arguments lack coherence or consistency, which I didn't think was possible. These people voted for tax cuts for the rich and destructive foreign invasions among countless other wasteful spending, but claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility to oppose reform that would pay for itself and bring down costs, even as they also moan about cost-saving. And in the Senate, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, continued to dilly-dally, assuredly joining the Blue Dogs in enjoying their position of power to the fullest, preening for the cameras, getting wined and dined by lobbyists, if they get a runny nose getting world-class treatment because of the top-notch government-run health care which they refuse to provide to other Americans. We're reminded that this is the Baucus who shepherded through the Bush Administration's insanely irresponsible, unfair, and stupid $1.6 trillion dollar tax cut handout to the top 1%, voted for the war, stood against financial regulation, and on and on. The point is, Barack Obama's agenda is in deep trouble - not only is health care reform now stalled past the well-deserved month-long Congressional recess, but that is also putting off dealing with other pressing items on his agenda like financial regulation, consumer protection, climate change legislation, and other job-creating ideas. And it's in trouble thanks to his fellow Democrats, who apparently are too stupid, or too corrupt, to realize that the fate of the party, their own political fate, depends on the success of Obama's agenda.

What makes the week even more disturbing is that Obama did what we've been asking him to do: push all-out for health care reform. And yet his message is not getting through. I'll have a column later tonight about why it's not working and how Obama can be more effective. But frankly, he has been doing his job: explaining to the American people why our present course is unsustainable, laying out in detail how we're going to change it and how that will improve people's lives. But the message is not getting through to Congress, the media, and the public - the same Congress, media, and public that enabled the Bush years, that supported the failure to address national problems for decades. Obama just seems like a lonely prophet, trying to save a nation that doesn't want to be saved. He didn't help his cause by politically incorrectly saying the Sgt. who arrested his friend Henry Louis Gates "acted stupidly", which of course has been jumped on by a media eager to stir the paper-selling pot of racial tension and soothe its own resentments by trying to tear down the President. So I'm concerned because, in the past it seemed that when health care reform was struggling we knew we had Obama in reserve, but now he's out on the field, and it seemed to move backwards. I don't think I can bear the specter of a gleeful Republican Party and a "I told you it would never work" media dancing as Obama fails and the country continues to prove incapable of even beginning to solve its most pressing problems. As a personal grade I would give Obama a B for a good effort but stepping on his message, but the week was a D for the progress of his agenda.

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