During his first run for the presidency Republican's rap against Obama was that "he could give a good speech, but that was all there was to the guy." We progressives bristled at the notion. Surely this was more about race than competency. To white conservatives Obama was nothing more than the preverbal, "well-spoken negro." Surely that was what they were really saying.
He was well-spoken, for sure. He talked and talked and talked and, every time he talked we listened and we hoped and we waited and we watched.
Then we began to see things that worried us.
Rather than punishing the Wall Streeters and bankers who had raped and pillaged the financial system during the Bush years, he bailed them out. No punishments were forthcoming. We were disappointed. But, hey, maybe he had no choice, we told ourselves. Maybe the economy was in such perilous shape when he took office he simply could not risk pulling the plug on some of the world's most entrenched financiers. So we gave him a pass.
But then, rather than truly reforming America's broken healthcare system, he handed it right back to the very private sector insurance companies that had failed consumers while raking in trillions in profits.
Okay, but there was one remaining hope though, an idea that could give consumers an refuge from healthcare profiteers and provide private insures with their first genuine competition; the Public Option.
Then we woke up one morning to discover that Obama had given up on that too, giving the insurance industry everything it wanted - a continued stranglehold on America's healthcare consumers.
Imagine if he had fought, Bush-like, for the Public Option and won. The problem he is facing today, with cancelled private health insurance policies, could have been fixed in five seconds, by him, without congress. All he would have had to do is issue a simple executive order directing the government-run health insurance entity to cover those cancelled by the private sector companies. Duh.
But alas, he did not fight for the Public Option, or for that matter, anything else. Oh he talked a lot. He talked so much that columnist Maureen Dowd recently dubbed him "Prince Lecturealot."
Lecturing is fine. You can get a lot of good ideas across if you're a good lecturer. But then someone has to execute on those ideas. The "build it and they will come" theory just does not work in politics.
Lyndon Johnson knew that. Lyndon was shorter on words and much longer on action. He told an aide one day that the secret of a successful presidency is to "make sure you have their (opponents in congress) balls in your pocket." And, when they gave him trouble, Lyndon knew when and how hard to squeeze, until they coughed up the goods. That's how he got the Civil Rights Bill passed at a time when Southern state members of his own Democratic Party were some of the biggest racists in Congress.
Johnson was the last Democrat president who knew how to fight for what he wanted. No one picked a fight with Johnson without paying a political price. That's politics. I wish it were less that and more Romper Room-like, bbut alas, politics is like warfare... long periods of boredom, punctuated by moments of high drama, crisis -- and there are always casualties. It ain't pretty. It just is what it is.
I don't know what's with Barack Obama, but I suspect he simply wanted to be America's first black president. He did it, then almost immediately got bored with the job.
Yeah, bored. I know, you are wondering, "how could anyone get bored in such a demanding job?" Well it happened - twice now. First W. Bush achieved his highest level of incompetence, and immediately wondered when he could go back to Texas and return to his cherished near-do-well rich kid of leisure lifestyle. So, instead of hands-on governing, he let Dick (Strangelove) Cheney drive while waited out his sentence.
Barack Obama doesn't have a Cheney. So he just keeps talking, hoping that someone will freaking do something and actually implement his well-intentioned ideas. I think he views being president as though like it's talking to those university students in his former lecture classes, after which they obediently turned in their assignments.
But these "students" didn't. Instead they threw spitballs, lit his lecture notes afire in the back of the class, drew rude caricatures on the blackboard and were unruly in class and out.