Left, Right and Reality in Obamaland
December 29, 2009
If you traveled through the blogosphere this year, you would think that the country has three presidents — a foreign born socialist dictator; a tool of “business class rule and militarism” and Barack Obama who, despite the slurs being hurled on the right and left, is doing a pretty good job.
On the right are the “Teabaggers” who can claim President Obama is a fascist and a communist in the same breadth. The anti-tax Teabaggers were up in arms over the President’s stimulus package — even though it included the largest tax cut in history which will benefit 95 percent of working families.
Teabaggers wail about the deficit and Obama’s imagined Constitutional excesses, but strangely were silent during the Bush years when he squandered a record surplus or, in the words of conservative Republican Bruce Fein, “declared war on the Constitution.” More significantly, they claim Obama is ignoring the will of the people; but the will of the people is expressed at the ballot box and last November the people embraced the Democrats by a 27 million vote margin.
The criticism from the left is equally laden with contradictions. Liberals are crying foul over Obama’s Afghanistan policy when the hero they once embraced did exactly what he campaigned upon. It took Bill Maher less than five months to jump ship over Obama’s climate change legislation since it did not go far enough in reducing carbon emissions even though he was the first President to even attempt to tackle this problem.
The same is happening on health care. As President Obama stands on the verge of delivering what President Truman first sought 64 years ago — a health plan for all Americans, liberals are now organizing against the bill. There is no doubt that the President could have done a better job on this issue and there still remains hope that a stronger bill will reach his desk; but — at the risk of being called a “power-worshiping parrot” or “Obama sycophant” by David Sirota or others — I fail to see the wisdom in opposing a bill that would extend coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans at a time when 45,000 Americans die each year due to lack of health insurance.
I am reminded of Senator Pell (who died on January 1st) whose maxim was that “half a loaf can feed an army” since in the democratic process achievement of half of an objective is just as significant as achievement of the ultimate objective and makes it that much easier to do so. Pell should know since his Pell Grants grew from 176,000 recipients in its first year to 3.6 million by the time he left the Senate in 1996 and nearly 7 million under President Obama.
The same will be true with the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. Republicans know this all too well, as Social Security and Medicare has taught them that once the program is enacted the most they can achieve is to contain its growth — which is why they are so vehement in their opposition.
The worst criticism from the left is that President Obama is no different than President Bush. It was this same reckless intellectual laziness that led some on the left to embrace Ralph Nader and the decade’s biggest lie — that Al Gore and George Bush were one in the same — and look where that got us.
In judging the President, it is worth remembering that it is far easier for an incoming Republican president to have an immediate impact than for a Democrat. Republicans dislike government and need only to hit the off switch to see change. In contrast, a Democrat must both jump start and turn the giant ship of state – and Obama has done both.
President Obama not only stopped our economic free fall but a recovery is now underway; his stimulus package provided critical investment in our infrastructure including $60 billion for clean energy; Obama also increased fuel economy standards for the first time in 20 years; expanded the SCHIP program to provide health coverage for an additional 4 million children; strengthened gender discrimination laws; enacted credit card reform and is fighting to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency; ended the stop-loss policy; began bringing troops home from Iraq and closing Guantanamo Bay; and appointed the first Latino to the Supreme Court to name just a few accomplishments. As Andrew Sullivan, notes “no recent president has had such a substantive start since Ronald Reagan.”
As 2009 comes to a close, it is clear that the Oval Office is not occupied by a socialist, a corporate shill or even a messiah, but rather a very determined, hard working and entirely human President who spent the year making a substantial down payment on delivering change that we can believe in.