President Obama talks with the Republican Caucus in Baltimore –a low profile “yes we can” canny triumph! The unique Obama at his very best

Twelve months ago, Barack Obama in his Inauguration Speech talked to the nation in terms of Hope and Change and “Yes We Can”. It was an exhilarating experience for a lot of people. (It also upset the more extreme segments of the opposition to him. We understand that –no body likes to lose, though many on the Republican side realized why they had lost. Many many more people wanted change –wanted Barack Obama– than wanted “Bush-3”, as John McCain was often called.)

Let us not forget that many Conservatives (–led by Bombastic Limbaugh- Sean With-the-built-in-Sneer Hannity-And Screaming Mark Levin–) spent many months stabbing John McCain in the back. He was “NO Conservative”! He was a RINO –(most people know that this stands for “Republican in name only”!)

Indeed, if McCain had ANY CHANCE AT ALL of winning the 2008 election, our Toxic Threesome surely took care of that. They spoke of how good, how cleansing, it was going to feel for them to lose, so they could clean house and get rid of those damn Moderate Republicans.

“Spend time in the Wilderness” , was the way they put it. Come 2012 and they would be swept back into power. Karl Rove’s prediction of a Generation of Republican rule starting in 2008 didn’t materialise. Now the Toxic Threesome was promising a Generation of Conservative Rule.

[ Do not underestimate the propagandizing power of the Toxic Threesome. Just think for a moment: Three Big Mouths ranting on and on for 3 hours a day EACH –from noon until 9 PM — for months and months and years even, at non-stop fever pitch. Example: Screaming Mark Levin on Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, screams: “Peace Prize? PEACE PRIZE? ( searches frantically for the right word for a moment). It’s not a Peace Prize…..it’s a….it’s a TYRANNY Prize!!!. Mark can and does scream and roar and yell for 3 hours. I HAVE heard him catch himself once of twice about bringing on a heart-attack. Nine hours a day of an intense shouting match: what can you say –no doubt it turns some people off, but –make no mistake: this is the furnace forging the Tea-Bag “anger”.

The year of 2009 has turned out to be one of severe recession, not utterly intractable –there have been a few indications of amelioration– but the unemployment figures continue to depress. And the nation has been shell-shocked.

And progress has been hard to come by in the other fields, health care in particular: the ground-in Party-of-No politics are especially dispiriting, with Democrats doing their own dispiriting imitations. Both parties sometimes vying in the ungentle art of Self-Destruction.

And the coming battle over Bank Regulation is not a happy prospect: there seems to be no end to The Arrogance of Bankers, their sense of entitlement,–and the general populace’s zoned out lethargy.

Everybody is….frustrated!!!

And nobody seems capable of explaining why. Frustration is the word.

[ And not just here. Everyone in Haiti is….FRUSTRATED: food and water is not arriving quick enough. I seem to remember reading about a lot of rubble; downed buildings everywhere; docking facilities collapsed…..a tiny airport.
The word “Frustration” essentially means that somebody ELSE is stopping me from getting what I WANT. The situation in Port-au-Prince is indeed pitiful; there has been great suffering; and sadly there will be much more –years of suffering. (As well as a chance to rebuild, to renew, to rededicate.) No doubt the system of distribution could be improved; it seems to me that most rational people could examine the world’s attempt to help Haiti and find several ways to improve it.

To me, the US Aircraft carrier with the hospital aboard and the 19 helicopters seemed like a good old American Can-Do approach (in contrast with Katrina where we saw the new Can’t-Do –or should I say Won’t Do, or at least Didn’t Do– approach –and that was for our own New Orleaneans. Our OWN people.

But, frustration? The word that looks for someone to blame. I note that the Toxic Threesome had a field-day with Criticizing and Blaming –with everything laid at the door of The White House. Yes, the Buck Stops Here. Even though many bucks had gotten off the bus on its way along Wall St.
[But –enough about Haiti for the moment; enough about frustration for now… ]

Back to the Barack visit with the Republican Caucus.

There have been days, I confess, when I look at Barack Obama and try to read his mind –especially on the questions of “Is there ever a point at which he says to himself, ‘You know –I’m beginning to wonder if being President is worth it.” I can sometimes see Michelle slowly shake her head…

The game of politics –the way we play it in this country, these days– is… so absolute, so unrelenting, so Total. And of course, so partisan & polarized. It’s like an ultimate game of chicken, where both sides seem motivated ONLY by the desire to win, to make the other guy look bad. I’ve seen it just in the last few days when the favorable, better-than-expected GDP figures –transitory as they may prove– really seemed to upset many Republicans, who gave the impression that they really would have preferred Bad News.

That’s serious –when you are betting against the nation!

[Although –to be truthful– who among us have not felt certain twinges of Schadenfreude ourselves in unguarded moments in the past. I say this in the spirit of aspirational intellectual integrity.]

In his meeting with the Republican Caucus a few days ago, President Obama –in that elegant way he has– elegantly highlighted this political contradiction that his opposition finds itself in the middle of.
The electorate was telling the politicians to stop worrying about their own “job security” and start worrying about the nation’s job security. (Except he put it with more felicity: that was a really powerful point. That is the way for Barack to play this game –appeal to the best instincts, and show up the worst. It’s a form of Stand-up Comity.)

There were many such moments in his fearless engaging of “the other side” many of whom seemed to agree that they had substantially failed in their mission of Loyal Opposition since losing the election. Barack made that very point several times in several ways. Loyal Opposition, he said, was essential. A duty.

He wanted Republicans to stand up for their beliefs. He wanted the benefit of a strong debate with people who took the opposing view. (He himself, of course, has the reputation of being a formidable debating opponent.)

All the while he held in his hand a Republican folder which read “Better Solutions”: he didn’t necessarily agree with them all, but, he said, lets find the common ground and press ahead on that.

His logic was, if not unarguable, at least very convincing. He was –he reiterated more than once– up for discussing everything. He was utterly reasonable. It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone would not agree with that.

At one stage he took an accusation made by Rep. Mike Pence –on the subject of the cost of creating jobs– and appealing to reason, showed Mr. Pence that his charge made no sense. Only the direst conspiracy-buff would have remained persuaded by Pence.

This approach was most effective. I certainly hope to see much more of it.

Because it achieved many things in just one hour. It got the two parties together. It showed them having a civilized debate. It showed Obama at his most engaging, with no rancor. It showed him open to listening to and working with the Republicans. He made the point that now that there were 41 Republican Senators, that THEY now shared the responsibility of governing and not behaving like the Party of No, which of course they had been doing .

And it also put the Big Loss in Massachusetts in a different light, a different context. The loss came across as an opportunity for the nation to get back on track, with Obama looking very much like the leader we hoped he was going to be, and the Republicans forced into something approaching their proper role of Loyal Opposition.
[Which –by the way– was the way I had recommended the so-called Big Loss in Massachusetts be regarded.]

“All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds”.

Old Doctor Pangloss raises his head yet again!


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