The Obama Presidency – Year One and the State of the Union

Broken HeartI’m disappointed.  I’m frustrated.  And my patience is wearing thin.  Before any Obama fanboys – or fangirls, as the case may be – begin trying to espouse the progress that has been made in year one or hammer away on keyboards, indignantly crafting a laundry list of reasons I suck, hold your breath and count to ten. 1…2…3…feeling better? 4…5…6…7…it’s okay…8…9…10.

Now, put your Jump To Conclusions Mat back in the cabinet. I’m aware of what has been done to this point and that doesn’t ease my disillusionment.  Before offering specifics, I need to put the impending criticism of President Obama in perspective.

I first laid eyes on Barack Obama when he spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. For the first time in my life, I began to understand the capacity of a great orator to inspire, galvanize and motivate a previously blasé and apathetic generation.  I had never seen a modern day politician or public figure whose vision so closely mirrored my own.

I listen to the rousing speeches of President Kennedy. I sit in awe of Martin Luther King, Jr. and marvel at his command of language and emotive elocution. I admire their masterful command of cadence. They were both great men and consummate public speakers.  They were men of vision and of purpose, with an undoubted willingness to back up their words with decisive action.  More than that, though, I believe them.

I believe in their commitment. I believe in their devotion. I believe that beneath the rhetoric, measured intonation and carefully crafted prose were decent and honorable men.  I recognized those same qualities and attributes in Barack Obama.  I was bowled over by his allegiance to justice, fervent optimism and recognition of purpose.  I saw striking similarities to President Kennedy and Dr. King.  As I watched then Senator Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention I said, “This man is a leader and he will be President one day.” And I was right.

Beating The Drum of Change

I bought into the “rah-rah” of the Obama campaign. For those of you who know me at all, you know how unlike me it is to respond to hype or hop onto the proverbial bandwagon, but I believed that change was possible. I believed that with the right leadership this country could crawl out from underneath the mountain of corruption and deep-seated avarice, to once again live up to the claim that America is a glowing example of democracy.

I counted on Barack Obama to be just such a leader.  For the first time I would be casting my vote in favor of someone in whom I had the utmost confidence, someone I believed in and someone who would move this nation in the right direction, rather than simply voting for the lesser of two evils.  I expected that Barack Obama would surround himself with those of like-mind and similar vision. And I assumed he would live up to the promises he made on the campaign trail.

I was so sure of it, in fact, I shed my cynic’s jacket, put aside my propensity for snark and actually involved myself in his campaign.  I joined the cause, I canvassed neighborhoods in my home town and I communicated with potential voters – both online and in person. I educated people. I helped people understand what was at stake. I knocked on doors like a goddamn door-to-door salesman, selling the image of Barack Obama like a shiny new Kirby vacuum cleaner.

The promise of accountability, the bold commitment to fight for middle class America and the assurances that he would do away with the status quo and open the door for real social progress sucked me in like a moth to a flame. His campaign capitalized on desperation and exploited the American propensity to hope in the face of hopelessness.

A Year Later, Hope Springs Eternal

Thus far many of those campaign promises ring hollow. Don’t give me the, “But fewer people are losing their jobs now than they were last year at this time…” argument. Fantastic news! I’m sure the 45,000 or so people that died in 2009 because they didn’t have health insurance feel better already.

The taxpayer bailout of the financial industry was, and continues to be, an utter debacle.  None of the massive loopholes worked into that deal on the Bush administration’s watch have been closed by the Obama administration.  Banks are still accountable to no one.  The same executives responsible for the disaster continue to call the shots.  And, adding insult to injury, those executives have been paid billions in bonuses for their bang-up job.  That is utterly inexcusable.

At least that whole health care reform thing is in the bag and we now have the public option that poll after poll after poll show a significant majority voters, and – wait for it…DOCTORS and NURSES – support. Hang on.  That actually HASN’T happened, has it? Oh, and it’s not going to?? You don’t say…

So, with a Democratic super majority in the Senate, an overwhelming Democratic majority in the House and a Democratic administration, Congress can’t manage to get anything done – even something that has the overwhelming support of the American people. What…the…HELL?

A Laundry List of Unfulfilled Campaign Promises

  1. Guantanamo Bay is still in operation.
  2. The war in Iraq rages on. ~ UPDATE: not anymore…well, “technically” anyway.
  3. Our military efforts in Afghanistan are ramping up. Awesome, because we obviously have the financial resources to pay for that with all the additional tax revenue millions of unemployed Americans are contributing to the system. Oh, wait…eh, never mind – it doesn’t really matter in the long run, right?
  4. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has not been repealed. ~ UPDATE: it has now. Hooray for civil rights.
  5. The preposterous Wall Street juggernaut that brought the global economy to the brink of complete collapse continues to operate under the same SOP, with no semblance of regulation or accountability whatsoever.
  6. Corporate executives in the financial system are rewarded for their massive failures with seven, eight and nine figure bonuses. As if still having a job in the first place shouldn’t be considered bonus enough!
  7. Banks that are, by design, too big to fail, continue to be bailed out with hundreds of billions of tax dollars from hard-working, honest Americans with absolutely no strings attached. And the best part? This “too big to fail” financial oligopoly proceeded to sit on those funds, rather than lend them, as to pad bottom-line revenue numbers, falsely inflate the value of stock and get bigger bonuses. How industrious!  I see now why these guys make the big bucks.
  8. Everything that has ever been wrong with the health insurance industry is still wrong and profits are still more important to that industry than human life.  Well, some things never change.  Pardon me if I find no peace of mind or comfort in that.

I Ask You: What Has Changed?

The nonsensical pursuit of solutions that will appease congressional Republicans has left both the Democratic caucus and The White House playing Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy, having the football of legislative progress mercilessly yanked away, time and time again, as Republicans gaffaw – saying to themselves, “I can’t believe he fell for it again!”

This iteration of the Republican caucus is interested in nothing more than obstruction. They seek to halt social progress of any kind in order to make sure that they and their corporate pals continue to profit handsomely, the rest of the country be damned.  They are interested only in breaking President Obama politically and stopping his agenda from moving forward at any cost.  While tonight’s State of the Union speech was a rhetorical success, lines like, “We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions,” fall on deaf ears throughout the Republican caucus.

While a select few Republicans may not share this unrelenting self-centeredness, that tiny minority is crushed under the weight of the party and ultimately default to blind allegiance to the party leadership. Congressional Republicans don’t have the best interests of middle America at heart, and never have. They have no hearts, no conscience and no sense of decency. In short, they have no souls.  Appealing to their better instincts is futile.

The message of congressional Republicans is one of lies and deceit. Republican Senators, like Chuck Grassley, willfully and purposely scare the elderly with despicable tales of fictitious death panels. The purposefully divisive efforts are designed to convince the weak-minded and fearful that any health care reform efforts will result in the government having the power to pull the plug on Grandma.

Faux grassroots movements, funded by Republican corporations and special interest groups, bus in pawns to disrupt town hall meetings, barking nonsense that health care reform of any kind is the equivalent of “government run health care”.  Everyone knows that government run health care is Socialism, right?  The use of buzzwords that whip ignorants into a fearful and angry frenzy are a hallmark of this campaign of delusion.

Perhaps someone should tell the manipulated and misinformed suckers screaming, “HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE!” and “OBAMACARE IS SOCIALISM!” that Medicare is the epitome of “government run health care”. Oh, the painful irony! Republicans fan the flames of ignorance while fools shout “Socialist” with one breath and “Fascist” with the next.

What is President Obama’s response to all this balderdash? He specifically applauds Chuck Grassley’s efforts to work with Democrats to find a bipartisan solution. Within days, Senator Grassley stood in front of 300 of his constituents stating, “We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”  That sure sounds like a guy who is working in good faith on a bipartisan health care reform effort, doesn’t it?  So, is the President a misunderstood political genius or reckless glutton for punishment? You make the call.

A Voter’s Plea to President Obama

Mr. President, the Republicans are making a fool of you. Congressional Republicans have shown their hand. They’ve made their choices. No matter what you do, no matter how many concessions you make, no matter how many Republican amendments are incorporated into a proposed bill, no matter how involved they are in the process and no matter how many times you turn the other cheek in lieu of calling them out as the obstructionist puppets of corporate interest that they are, Republicans will never – under any circumstances – vote in favor of any piece of legislation you or any other Democrat proposes.

There is no compromise to strike. Congressional Republicans are not interested in compromise. They are not interested in taking an active role in change. They like the status quo. They profit from the status quo. The current system gives them all the power. Washington DC is a petri dish of greed where the cultures of self-interest and all-consuming desire for wealth and power flourish.

The sole intent of right-wing obstructionists is to disrupt, stall and ultimately defeat any legislation that shows the slightest hint of social progress or reform. Their outward claims of a will to cooperate and desire to participate in bipartisan efforts to make progress are a smokescreen. And you know that. You know it.

It is time to make progress. Voters sent a decided message in November of 2008. We want progress. And we want it now. We gave you and congressional Democrats all the power necessary to make progress without a single Republican vote. Whether Republicans choose play an active role in that progress is their choice, but to let them derail the process under the guise of working together is disgraceful. They are making a mockery of American democracy. They are turning you into a caricature of big ideas – setting you up leave behind a legacy of feckless attempts at compromise.

Sir, your initial commitment to bipartisanship was admirable. Now it smacks of meekness. Either you refuse to admit that giving the Republican caucus the benefit of the doubt was a mistake or you still hold on to the delusion that they will, at some point, give in for the good of the nation and its citizens. They don’t care about the betterment of this nation. They don’t care about the American people. They have made breaking you and standing in the way of every aspect of your agenda their ultimate goal. And you, Mr. President, are playing right into their hands.

Congressional Republicans are holding the legislature hostage. Despite voters having handed the Democrats an overwhelming majority in Congress, still no progress is made. Independent voters and Democrats alike are frustrated, and rightly so. Your problem, sir, is not that your efforts and policies fall too far to the left, but rather too far to the right.

Your actions and policies do not live up to your grand rhetoric, Mr. President.  You defend the actions of Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke.  You campaigned against the Bush administration’s commitment to the status quo and lack of accountability, yet you perpetuate the problem by refusing to recognize the roles those men played both before you took office and since your inauguration.

As much as we want to believe, as much as we want to support and stand behind you, Mr. President, your actions and your policies do not mirror the image of change you painted so beautifully during your campaign.  Your policies must begin to exemplify your political narrative, Mr. President.  The Republicans want you to fail and they’ll do everything in their power to make that happen.  The American people want you to succeed.  Making campaign promises was easy.   You must step up to the plate now, Mr. President – politics as usual and bipartisanship be damned. - The hassle-free way to buy domains and hosting online
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