What if this is as good as an Obama Administration Gets?Posted: December 26, 2010
Frank Rich, in today’s Gray Lady, asks:
From the link:
This month our own neo-Kennedy president — handed the torch by J.F.K.’s last brotherand soon to face the first Congress without a Kennedy since 1947 — identified a new “Sputnik moment” for America. This time the jolt was provided by the mediocre performance of American high school students, who underperformed not just the Chinese but dozens of other countries in standardized tests of science, math and reading. In his speech on the subject, President Obama called for more spending on research and infrastructure, more educational reform and more clean energy technology. (All while reducing the deficit, mind you.) Worthy goals, but if you watch “Disneyland Dream,” you realize something more fundamental is missing from America now: the bedrock faith in the American way that J.F.K. could tap into during his era’s Sputnik moment.
How many middle-class Americans now believe that the sky is the limit if they work hard enough? How many trust capitalism to give them a fair shake? Middle-class income started to flatten in the 1970s and has stagnated ever since. While 3M has continued to prosper, many other companies that actually make things (and at times innovative things) have been devalued, looted or destroyed by a financial industry whose biggest innovation in 20 years, in the verdict of the former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, has been the cash machine.
I believe there was a poll conducted not too long ago that gives a fairly good baseline from which to guestimate just how many middle class Americans still “believe” — I’m talking about that WaPo poll back at the end of October, which found that 53% of Americans are concerned about their ability to pay their rent or mortgage.
Getting back to Frank Rich’s piece, Rich concludes the following:
It’s a measure of how rapidly our economic order has shifted that nearly a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people in America on this year’s Forbes list make their fortunes from financial services, more than three times as many as in the first Forbes 400 in 1982. Many of America’s best young minds now invent derivatives, not Disneylands, because that’s where the action has been, and still is, two years after the crash. In 2010, our system incentivizes high-stakes gambling — “this business of securitizing things that didn’t even exist in the first place,” as Calvin Trillin memorably wrote last year — rather than the rebooting and rebuilding of America.
In last week’s exultant preholiday press conference, Obama called for a “thriving, booming middle class, where everybody’s got a shot at the American dream.” But it will take much more than rhetorical Scotch tape to bring that back. The Barstows of 1956 could not have fathomed the outrageous gap between this country’s upper class and the rest of us. America can’t move forward until we once again believe, as they did, that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland.
…which brings me back to what I wrote yesterday in my Saturday roundup, about America being locked in reflexive doubt, and that being as corrosive as blind faith.
A huge part of the problem is that we have an empty suit in the White House from whom the best we can hope for is that he simply lets other people lead for him and make something good happen once in awhile, if we are even that lucky. It’s a victory if he lets other people throw us a bone and fight the fights of ordinary Americans for him. Woo hoo.
Three years ago or so the Obama campaign started churning out posters with the word “believe.” The Obama machine wanted us to believe in an image, a brand. Whenever it has come time for Obama to get us to believe in ourselves, he quietly folds up his teleprompter and goes golfing.
For months on end we had the MSM trying to explain away Obama’s inability to communicate that he even cares. Oil gushed out into the Gulf, and all Obama could muster up was “I can’t suck it up with a straw.”
Sure he cares. Now watch this drive.
Whether it was letting Bill Clinton bring Euna Lee and Laura Ling home or letting Joe Lieberman lead the way to repeal of DADT, it seems this is the zenith of the Obama presidency. Letting other people do the actual president-for-the-people stuff while he enjoys the perks of Being President.
Ordinary Americans are just trying to survive in today’s economy, at a time when their own president does not think the sky is the limit in terms of the lengths to which he will go to fight for the American people but rather insists that the best he can do is talking point reforms with all the corporate benefits and backdoor privatization buried in the fine print, not to even speak of all the obligatory pork.
Asking or expecting people in such a hostile working/living environment to believe “the sky is the limit if they work hard enough” is essentially asking them to bury their heads in the sand. What is still left of Obama’s ostriches (think Dubya’s 23 percenters) can ignore reality all they want, but that will not change the fact that most Americans are invisible to this president and they know it.
We are stuck in reflexive doubt at this point, but how is having a president who reinforces all of those doubts supposed to help? At this point, I have no idea why anyone on the left still persists in the delusion that there’s any 2% less evil difference between Obama and the GOP.
From a recent Democracy Now interview with Chris Hedges (h/t Dakinikat), where he talks about his latest book, Death of the Liberal Class:
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama?
CHRIS HEDGES: A disaster. A poster child for the bankruptcy of the liberal class. Somebody who, like Clinton, is a self-identified liberal, who speaks in the traditional language of liberalism but has made war against the core values of liberalism, which is a concern for those people outside the narrow power elite. And the tragedy, if tragedy is the right word, is that Obama, who made this Faustian bargain with corporate interests in order to gain power, has now been crumpled up and thrown away by these interests. They don’t need him anymore. He functioned as a brand after the disastrous eight years of George Bush.
And what we are watching is an even more craven attempt on the part of the White House to cater to the forces that are literally destroying the United States, have reconfigured, are reconfiguring this country into a form of neofeudalism. And all of the traditional—the pillars of the liberal establishment, that once provided some kind of protection and, more importantly, a kind of safety valve, a mechanism by which legitimate grievances and injustices in this country could be addressed, have shut tight. They no longer work. And so, we are getting these terrifying, proto-fascist movements that are leaping up around the fringes of American society and have as their anger not only a rage against government, but a rage against liberals, as well. And I would say that rage is not misplaced.
And, there you have it. This is the difference between having Obama and having a GOP president.
So he lets Lieberman or Clinton or someone do something right once in awhile. So what?
I personally won’t waste time denying Obama the “credit.” While the soldiers and the activists who fought for repeal of DADT at the grassroots level are the ones who made this historic step in that direction possible and are the real heroes and sheroes of this story, the fact of the matter is that had Obama succeeded in blocking the DADT repeal, then the blame would have been piled on high at his doorstep.
So he can have the credit, but he also needs to take responsibility for the fact that simply standing back and allowing others to do the heavy lifting once in awhile is neither enough nor the vision of someone who thinks big or sets the sky as his limit for what he can do AS president for the people who elected him.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama set the limit to just being president.
No one would be happier than I would be if Obama would just prove this theory wrong. I have no Disneyland dreams or illusions that he will do so, though.