I’m not one to look back to the past. I definitely am not one to obsess on the past. It’s possible that my Buddhist training keeps me rooted in the pragmatic present. It’s likely that it had something to do with my bout with inoperable and deadly cancer. It took me at least five years to think beyond about one month. I completely lost my ability to project ahead during that time. While I have regained my foresight and I have an appreciation for hindsight, I’m still not one to rehash what coulda, shoulda, woulda been. However, Ruth Marcus shoved my thoughts back to the year of wishful thinking.
It was about 3 years ago when I started to realize who the only credible Democratic candidate was for the post-Dubya years. I came to that after listening to about three primary debates and reading a lot of background material. I was tempted by the lot of them but I always found it odd that the first one I discounted as more vice presidential material than presidential material given his appalling performance in the first primary debate wound up with the top job. The world keeps spinning on. We now have so many crazies in the Republican party that it’s a wonder they all don’t walk through the statehouse with a set of visible knuckles dragging the floor. The economy isn’t creating enough jobs to sustain us and we have people advocating the same kinds of policy that caused the great depression now. One of the worst ones wants to repeat the 20’s era Fed’s mistakes and is in charge of the House oversight committee on the Fed. Then, we have irresponsible tax cuts while running two wars. And THAT’s just a few of the economic policies ruling topsy turvy land these days.
So, again, my chagrin and thoughts were peaked by this Ruth Marcus Op Ed piece. So, I had to look back to read now and look forward.
For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.
Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence.
He didn’t want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration’s prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn’t want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn’t want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn’t want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it’s a swing state.
Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.
This tough assessment from someone who generally shares the president’s ideological perspective may be hard to square with the conservative portrait of Obama as the rapacious perpetrator of a big-government agenda.
Then, read on, the rationalizations are still there but we finally get back to the punchline: “Where’s Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he’s impossible to find.” I’d just like to say that any one with an impressive career of voting present so many times, who was known to hide out in bathrooms during the tough votes, spent his entire senate career campaigning and not voting, and only introduced minor legislation into the Chicago legislature after it was carefully crafted by others already had shown his brand of leadership. How a standing record that was way out of its way in proving “he who hesitates is lost” got translated into national ‘hope and change’ by so many people will be something I will ask myself whenever books come out with themes similar to Marcus’ WAPO musings. Past performance is usually an indicator of future performance. Next time, check your data. That is all. Back to the present for me.