I suppose I should be glad that I’m not hearing that stupid 11 dimensional chess explanation any more. However, Bill Keller-who “stepped down” as Executive Editor of the NYT to return to writing still does a pretty good job of rehashing the same old lame excuses for why things are still so bad around the country. We still have Wars. We still have unemployment. We still have a terrible housing market. Well, you don’t need me to run down the list, do you?
Keller meanders through the usual talking points of Obama apologia before he finally comes to the place where the buck should be stopping. I’m not sure how many times I can hear about inherited problems from Bush before I start shouting enough already! The missteps since then have been so obvious that it’s hard to take the it could’ve been worse excuse as a justification. Here’s where the disappointed true believer almost comes clean; ALMOST. As he talks about the a President adrift, he still points to the usual White House talking point of poor messaging. That’s a cop out.
Obama can be faulted for periods of passivity (his silence as Republicans have sought to defund financial reforms), for a naïve deference to Congress (his belated engagement in the details of the health care bill), for a deficit of boldness and passion, for not doing more to stiffen the spines of his caucus on Capitol Hill, for not understanding — at least until his latest barnstorming on the jobs bill — that governing these days is a permanent campaign.
It is partly a failure of presidential communications that Republicans have succeeded in parodying each of his accomplishments, turning “stimulus” into an expletive, portraying “Obamacare” as socialized medicine and attacking the Dodd-Frank financial reform as an assault on capitalism.
It’s not just that he has failed to own his successes. He has in a sense failed to define himself. He is one of our more elusive presidents, not deeply rooted in any place or movement. David Remnick’s biography called Obama a shape-shifter. At the fringes, that makes him vulnerable to conspiratorial slanders: he is a socialist, a foreign imposter, a jihadist, an adherent of black liberation theology. To a less paranoid audience, his affect comes across as aloofness or ambivalence.
Progressives get blamed for having set their expectations too high. Gee, you don’t think the press help boost those just a wee bit, Mr Keller? Republicans get blamed for their intransigence. We all get blamed for not seeing the “real progress” in bank reform, health care, and his “approval” of the Get Bin Laden Mission. Oh, and did we mention he stopped a Great Depression from happening with his stimulus? See. It’s a line up of the usual suspects, isn’t it?
I didn’t expect celestial choirs from the man but I did expect something more than the passage of the 1990s Republican Dolecare plan response to Clintoncare IF we had to go there. I did expect a bold response to the unemployment situation right out of the box. What we got was a half-assed stimulus plan full of republican style tax cuts at a time when the entire country needed, wanted, and voted for something DIFFERENT from the usual Republican la-ti-da. I expected a Democratic President with Democratic policies at the very least. Frankly, if my expectations get any lower at this point, they’re going to be sitting on top of Mount Everest while my feet will still be planted not so firmly in the Louisiana Swamps. Yes, Bill, I will not vote for Rick Perry under ANY circumstances. But then, I may not walk down Poland Avenue and pass the old barn for the fire horses into the current fire station to cast a vote. That act–repeated enough times in the neighborhoods of America–could take down more than a few Democratic Senators and Reps and this President that never seems to rise to any occasion but a speech.