Waiting for “Barack the Battler,” like waiting for Godot By Robert S. Becker

By Robert S. Becker
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
January 26, 2010

Mr. President: in your Friday Town Hall speech, you tried to reinvent yourself by going in the wrong direction – backwards.  In this corner, we have Barack the Battler, getting in shape by repeating “fight” ten times:

So long as I’m President, I’ll never stop fighting for policies that will help restore home values, to redeem the investment that folks have made. I’ll never stop fighting to give our kids the best education possible; to take the tens of billions of dollars we pay banks to act as middlemen on student loans and invest that money in the students who need it. 
I’ll never stop fighting to give every American a fair shake.

Sorry, but your combat footwork is nearly as obscure as Joe Lieberman’s integrity.  Or Arlen Specter’s principles.  Or Rush Limbaugh’s human kindness.  Or Sarah Palin’s mastery of law, history or geography.

Are you not by design Mr. Risk-Adverse-No Drama Obama, Mr. Bipartisan-Non-Confrontation who’d rather switch than fight?  Repeating the word “fight,” absent new agendas or directions, is fiction or cheerleading, not heroic commitment – reminiscent of W. dressing up as fighter pilot.  Or Snoopy saving the day by playing the incredible Capt. Sully Sullenberger of Hudson River plane crash fame.

Fewer coming attractions, please, and more prime time execution – otherwise waiting for Barack the Battler becomes like waiting for Godot, the most famous character in western drama never to appear.

Ex-Heavyweight, Now Lightweight

Is this the bold, smarter Obama, acknowledging what VA, NJ, and Mass. mean?  How can we believe you’ll “never stop fighting” when you’re not yet out of first gear?  “Well begun is half won,” says the proverb, but your defenses invoke the favorite in a horse race so far “fighting” to get out of the starting gate.  How do we measure success – hills taken, recalcitrant Democrats win over, crowds rushing in or fleeing in droves?

The only casualties visible after a year are you, your cabinet, advisers, and the Democratic Party.  You can’t even help moderate Democrats get elected in moderate states.  And why now drag up, in fact brag you just had to amplify unpopular Bush Stimulus notions, then bail out sclerotic auto companies and corrupt banks?  Why, that’s so yesterday, old news from early last year.

Still running?  Didn’t you win?

Most curiously, I heard a candidate tossing off promises, not a transformational president enacting still undelivered ones:

I didn’t run for President to turn away from these challenges. I didn’t run for President to kick them down the road. I ran for President to confront them – once and for all. I ran for this office to rebuild our economy so it works not just for a fortunate few, but for hardworking people in this country.

Why you “ran” is truly old news, 87 cycles ago.  Excuse me, but did we go out for popcorn, missing when you vigorously “confronted” anyone, whether bitter foes or fellow Democrats – or do I repeat myself?  In fact, haven’t you kicked “down the road” all big “challenges,” whether Afghanistan, terrorism, or the economy (why not one FDR-style jobs intervention)?  Did we overlook when you “jawboned” the medical establishment (with private, sweetheart deals) or when top aides, invariably representing the “fortunate few,” offered blarney but no job creation to “hardworking people” no longer working, hard or otherwise.

Ambushed by history?

Follow-up Sunday from your campaign mastermind, David Plouffe, echoed puffery, “Instead of fearing what may happen, let’s prove that we have more than just the brains to govern — that we have the guts to govern. Let’s fight like hell.”  “Prove,” as in the future?   Massive anxiety of “what may happen” is here and now, rampant because millions see neither brains nor guts at work.  Why didn’t a change-reform administration merge guts with brains on Day One, and if not, why not?  Flummery, not accountability.

Or are we all ambushed by history? That’s the plea of every Obama defender I know, captured here by a savvy, celebrated business journalist, “I’m at a loss why Obama is underperforming so badly, though pros I know think he’s basically playing the hand he was dealt, like all presidents. We tend to project all our hopes onto someone, but there’s a real limit to what any individual can do, especially with the pile of manure he stepped into.”

But only bad presidents are bogged down by what “they’ve been dealt.”  “Nothing is written,” declares Lawrence of Arabia – and true leaders define history, sound the alarms, set forth impossible quests, then charge ahead.  Disaster doesn’t mean you can’t still lead, au contraire, spurring new visions and new openings.   Anything but deferring leadership to this sorry Congress, like a prime minister in a parliamentary system.  Why as president did you never establish your health reform bottom line, then deal?  Why are you not producing compelling frames and sound bites to drown out hardly brilliant, frequently moronic GOP messages?

No mystery about the good fight

Are you so bereft of choices, puzzled what to do, unsure of your presidency?  Take any one item on David Michael Green’s list and “fight like hell:” [http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/26260]

Do the people’s business. Become their advocate against the monsters bleeding them dry. Create jobs. Build infrastructure. Do real national health care. End the wars. Dramatically slash military spending. Produce actual educational reform. Launch a massive green energy/jobs program. Get serious about global warming. Kick ass on campaign finance reform. Fight for gay rights. Restore the New Deal era regulatory framework and expand it. Restore a fair taxation structure . . . Humiliate the regressives in and out of the GOP for their abysmal sell-out policies.

State your demands and strategy.  Take a risk. Threaten heinous damage to foes, Democratic and otherwise. Better to fail nobly than crash ignobly.  Dump one or more major economic advisers, one chief of staff, and one political adviser until things improve.  What presumptive transformational president would do less?

Transformational Manure

No doubt today’s predicaments test systemic capacity, and first solutions may well fail.  But isn’t that’s all the more reason to start early and start big, say a Quest to Save Our Country by Saving Our Planet?  Because national security has never before been so enmeshed with global mandates, this is the battle of the age most worth fighting for.  Needing brains and guts.  First up, energy conservation and independence, forcing every nutcase, global warming denier to realize our gaudy lifestyle dies in 50 years without resource and power source revolutions.  Better to take on critical, people battles we must win than stay bogged down in wars of choice we will never win.

One’s man’s pile of manure is a greater president’s political capital.  You need not be a messiah to rise as far above mediocrity as Bush plunged below, with modest, cosmic rebalancing.  Even the greatest hero sustaining 90% of failed Bush policies will fail, operationally and politically.  Uphold your flawed mindset, and craven appointments that reek of the very establishment your campaign vilified, means disgrace and early retirement.  You appear to be getting crucified on the same entrenched cross you carried to victory.   Is it ironic or tragic for a candidate who articulated a riveting gospel grown so risk-adverse in power you side with the high priests you were hired to expel?  Yes, use guts and brains, but in the service of reform, or it’s a deep fall off your wobbly tightrope.  VA, NJ, and Mass. prove you’re pushing your luck.


[DS added the video]

“White House to Main Street” Town Hall: Elyria, OH

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