Copyright © by Len Holman, 8/22/13
When the wind blows, there isnít much a person can do about it but to
get hunkered down and wait for it to stop. No amount of prestige or
adulation, no title or position of power or influence can make the air stop
moving. Even a President of the United States must accede to this natural
phenomenon and admit he or she is powerless to do anything, no matter what his
or her approval rating is. It is said that the measure of a great President
is largely a matter of circumstance. A President, it is said by the sages
of the chattering class, either grows into his job during a calamity or is
cruelly crushed by it. He or she is either up to the task of stopping the
wind or is blown over by it.
President Obama is operating under a constant onslaught of
hurricane-force winds which have spring up all around him and he is slowly but
surely bending toward the ground. For a man of his temperament, his
attitude, his promise, and his sense of self-worth, the realization that the
middle is not holding must be particularly galling. And the middle is NOT
holding. When the trees are bending to the pavement and the rivers are
flooding and the rain keeps falling, whatís a President to do? This
President seems to go for more of the same. He has not decreased his drone
campaigns. He vacillates on Syria (did Assad use chemical weapons and
cross the ďred lineĒ or did the rebels do it or did anyone do it?).
The decision on Egypt has been made, but it is typically vague, ambiguous, and
has the punch of a vanilla milkshake (shall we hold back the next check or some
of the next check or let the Saudis pay the freight until this little tempest
administration has more prosecutions under the Espionage Act (8) than all
previous Presidents combined. He had a hand in humiliating the president
of Ecuador, who tried to fly home from Russia and whose plane was diverted and
forced to land (I suppose the Obama administration thought Edward Snowden was
hiding in some luggage on that plane). His decision on the Keystone pipeline is
nowhere to be found (so far, but Iím sure itís coming soon). He
canít seem to put a foot right with Republicans, and there is a rising,
serious, effort to derail the Affordable Care Act and a rising, serious effort
in some statesómany statesóto return the U.S. to the days of James Polk, who
acquired the Oregon territory, or the Days Gold when women and gays and
immigrants knew their place.
Obama may be credited with helping us out of the recession of 2009, but
the cost was pretty high, with his administration filled with Wall Street types
and Big Business moguls. The Arab Spring has turned into a bitter winter,
while Obamaís pledge to make America respected and a partner in the Muslim
world has turned to a shaky, whispered hope in the White House night. One
intercepted phone call from a guy in a ragged tent in the Yemeni desert can
close American embassies around the world, and he seems hopelessly irrelevant in
domestic and foreign affairs. That Affordable Care Act has been
ďamendedĒ to allow business to forestall implementing it, while America
turns into a nation of part-time workers with no benefits and sick,
undereducated kids. We plan to spend millions (billions?) on keeping
people out of the country, but canít seem to work up the will to spend
anything on infrastructure or education or well-baby clinics. Yes, the
opposition party is obstructionist, but thatís part of their job, and
Obamaís job is to lead, to cajole, threaten, use the bully pulpitóall of
which he is lousy at.
So letís try to put Obama in a list of good, or great presidents.
In that list there are the usual suspects: Lincoln, FDR, Jefferson, Andrew
Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and maybe Truman, Wilson, Eisenhower, and James Polk.
Obama rates maybe 15th best, given Americaís climb out of the
recession, but look around. The country is mumbling, discontented, spied
on, lied to, and spawns one terrorist after another. Obama has had, and
continues to have, opportunities to be great, to be a leader, to see down the
road and lead us there, but so far, everything he touches seems to turn to
ashes. Some of this is our fault, more is his, and perhaps more than a
little fault may be placed on the structure of our political system.
For instance, there is increasing talk that Hillary Clinton, who is going to run for the Democratic nomination unless Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck pushes her in front of a train, will raise 2 billion dollars for her chance to snuggle into that Big Chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Two billion dollars! Thatís the GDP of a lot of countries, and way too much to spend on a position which is not as important as that of a primary care physician or a teacher or police officer or EMT or mom or even park ranger. Add the cost of all elections for governor and congressman and senator and councilman and the myriads local officials around the country, not to mention the campaign ďadvisors and ad folks, and see what that total is. Itís enough to fix a lot of festering problems here. Itís enough to educate, heal, fix infrastructure problems, and itís enough to show other countries what it takes to have a democracy. The wind is blowing very hard now and Obama is not standing tall. He is looking for an umbrella and seems puzzled that his rhetorical flourishes donít have any affect: air pushes against air. If that is Obamaís legacy, then I rate him low, very low.
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