Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bullies and Pulpits


"Commander in Cute" - This is Getting Scary


Lately, Barack Obama has been acting more like the president of the PTA than the president of the United States.  Instead of leader of the free world  he’s been in Daddy in Chief mode, frenetically hopping from one school to the next to push for public/private partnership in his “Race to the Top” initiative.  Instead of leading the battle of the budget, he’s talking about dealing with playground bullies.  Instead of condemning the Republican assault on unions and the McCarthyesque hearings against Muslims, he's sent out an email called “Commander in Cute.” The official White House photo Thursday was of Barack hoisting an adorable four-month-old in the air. It was a parody of a campaign photo. This guy has never stopped running. On average, he spent every other day on Air Force One last year, crisscrossing the country for town halls and backyard schmoozes.

And we thought George Bush was not up for the job with all his brush-clearing jaunts to the Crawford ranch.  Where the hell is Obama?  This week, he’s played a game of football in the Oval Office with the Australian prime minister. Today he’s hosting a White House Conference on Bullying with Michelle. Don’t get me wrong, I hate bullying.  One of my children was a bullying victim 15 years ago, when it was still considered just a normal part of growing up, and my complaints were not taken seriously by school administrators. Now that cyberbullying has started causing kids to actually kill themselves, we are finally addressing it on a national level. But is it necessary for the President to devote what seems like an entire day to it? 

He Likes to be the Only Adult in the Room

I am beginning to think of the President as a figurehead or a public relations front guy. He is kind of like Prince William or Prince Charles, appearing at one charity event, one factory, one school, one photo-op after the other.  He is a Royal who poses, but does not truly govern. He does not lead. His own Party is beginning to complain about his total failure to deal what appears to be an imminent government shutdown.
“President Obama is the only person in the country with the clout to reframe the debate on public sector unions in a more sensible manner, and he seems to have wrapped himself in a radio silence,” writes Sasha Abramsky today in Salon.com. “….he’s not only the president, he’s also a first rate orator with an almost preternatural ability to get people to see things his way when he really wants them to.”

When he wants them to…. There’s the rub. I don’t think Obama really wants people to see anything any particular way, unless it has to do with him or the corporations which he serves.  Remember his groundbreaking speech on race during the 2008 campaign, after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle?  That wasn’t really about his concern over racial inequality. That was Barack, soaring rhapsodic, to save his own candidacy. We have not heard one thing about race from his lips since he became president. Not one word about poverty, even though a quarter of all children are officially poor. Not one word about gun control since the Tucson Massacre two months ago. Not one word about the illegal vote in Wisconsin destroying collective bargaining. Not one word since Feb. 17  when he made a non-committal remark that Governor Walker appeared to be assaulting the unions. I rejoiced when I heard that the Organizing for America wing of the Democratic National Committee had gotten involved in the Madison protests. I despaired when I heard that Obama caved when House Speaker Boehner demanded that he back off, and he obliged by angrily ordering his renegade organizers away from the scene.
So, when Abramsky writes: “Mr. President – Use the Damn Bully Pulpit!” I can only reply that Obama will never do any such thing. Theodore Roosevelt coined that phrase when he was president, and he was referring to the use of the White House as a platform from which to advocate policies and agendas. A century ago, “bully” had a different meaning than it does today. Far from being a perjorative term for an abusive person, it used to mean “great” or “superb.”

The Original Bull Moose

Obama fits neither definition of the word.  He is not an in-your-face bully in the vein of Teddy, or Chris Christie, or LBJ. Nor is he superb.  He's an empty suit in front of twin teleprompters, uttering so much canned pablum that even infants in photo-ops and his staunchest supporters are beginning to tire of it.

26 comments:

Denis Neville said...

Obama rose like a rocket,he fell like a stick.

Anonymous said...

Well, you wanted someone that was articulate, looked good on camera, and was not "W". Two out of three ain't bad! Next time try adding "has a record of acomplishing things" too.

Richard

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

So sadly true, Karen. I am so disappointed with this President and so angry and frightened for our nation.

Draft Spitzer said...

We should have elected the shroud of Nixon. On domestic issues, Nixon's record was far to the "left" of Obama.
Makes you realize how drastically to the right (not even to the right but to the benefit of corporations) this country has drifted.
Glad you mentioned Teddy. The public option was his idea ( he stole it from Otto Von Bismarck.) Decades after that, it was adopted by Richard Nixon, as part of his health care reform package (1972 or 1973?) but Ted Kennedy shot it down.
Very few Democrats, and even fewer GOP'ers would ever admit the public option was originally a Republican idea. The worst thing is the President who resurrected the public option (Mr. O) failing to point out that it was always a good, solid, conservative idea.

Draft Spitzer said...

Sorry, I referenced two Teds. To clarify:

Teddy Roosevelt introduced the public option in the form of a national health insurance plan.

Ted Kennedy shot down Nixon's HCR package, which included a public option.

Marina said...

I don't know that you could call Nixon's Assisted Health Insurance Plan a public option--could Draft Spitzer give a source, please?

Karen, I look forward to seeing ads on your site (much as I don't personally like them. I pay the big bucks for NYT content that I don't read (Brooks, et al.)--I wish I could afford to pay for you. Since I can't, ads are welcome.

Re: Obama--people were so ecstatic, and so politically involved and motivated when Obama won...and he pissed it all away. Walker and his ilk wouldn't have won if Obama had continued motivating the base.

With best wishes from a sanctimonious purist.

Marie Burns said...

Excellent post. Maybe we need an Olbermann-style countdown clock, as in "87 days since President Obama said anything leaderishy." It's obvious Obama is operating in full Clinton-school-uniforms mode.

The Constant Weader
27 minutes since I've written anything snarky

Draft Spitzer said...

Hi Marina,
Regret that handheld doesn't let me paste links on Karen's blogspot, but please go to Democratic Underground and search for "nixon:Socialist Liberal?"
Nixon's plan mandated that gov't would subsidize cost of health insurance for those not covered by medicare or employee coverage, the latter two expanded under Nixon's plan. DemUnder claims it would have been a national health insurance plan, i.e., a public option, but I think you may actually be more correct, I say this after reading his plan in his own words on Kaiser's site.
Is it technically a "true" public optiona la Bismarck and .R.? You may have got me there, and I'll certainly apologize if wrong, but even if that were true, I think it's more than fair to assess Nixon's plan as both more generous AND less punitive than Obama's plan. Part of that, however, is simply the less corrupt, less money-driven environment in which Nixon's plan would have been implemented.

Anne Lavoie said...

Hi Marina,

You WANT ads on this site, like there aren't enough everywhere else? Are you shopping for something in particular? I don't get it.

One of the reasons I like this site so much (besides the great writing) is the lack of clutter, ads and video links. As much as I really enjoy reading Marie Burns' writings also, my old laptop usually freezes up trying to load all the stuff on her site, so I can't even check it out, sadly.

The only part of 'Bully Pulpit' Obama has mastered is the bull and the **it.

annenigma

James F Traynor said...

Jesus! When the hell are we going to get serious and try to re-take the Democratic Party from the DLC. And I kid you not, the DLC is not disbanded, it's become the Democratic Party! The Clintons and Obama are prime examples. I'm a spear carrier, looking for a good nco, the officers aren't worth a crap.

Marina said...

In response to Anne's comment regarding me wanting ads: I don't want ads per se--they annoy me just as they do you--it's just that I really appreciate Sardoniky, and I'd like to see Karen receive some revenue from her writing (which, as fun as it is to read, is also work to produce). However, If it turns out that Karen is actually independently wealthy, or raking in the big bucks through her career, a la Prof. Krugman, then please consider my suggestion for ads officially retracted.

Draft Spitzer said...

Karen,
Don't be so selfless, run some damn ads.
BTW, has anyone been able to detangle the severability issue in the ACA?
TPM had a story on it months ago. Sorry I can't paste links here.

Karen Garcia said...

No, I'm not independently wealthy, and the only bucks I rake in are my widow's disability benefits, plus my near zero-interest premature- retirement savings.

There is no way I will ever put AdSense ads on this blog. For starters, they pay pennies per gazillion hits, plus there is no choice in content. Example - if I wrote a post critical of Sarah Palin, that could feasibly generate a SarahPac ad.

If I ever come close to destitution, I will probably insert one of those "tip jar" voluntary donation gizmos, so people can give a buck or two if they are so inclined. Plenty of blogs have those, because most bloggers are unpaid. (see my previous post on Arianna and HuffPo). But as of now, this is done for my own enjoyment and the (hopefully) enjoyment of others, and to let off steam a few times a week. It also makes me feel better on those days when my NYT comments are rejected or buried at number 198 or so!

As far as hyperlinks, video embeds, etc., I am still so technically inept I wouldn't know how to do it. You are dealing with someone who never even made a comfortable transition away from a manual typewriter to an electric one. That explains the bare-bones appearance here.

Marie Burns said...

Looks as if Obama reads Sardonicky. Within hours of this posting, Obama called a press conference, where he took questions on a range of subjects. Way to smoke him out, Ms. Garcia!

The Constant Weader

Karen Garcia said...

Yeah, one of his minions alerted him that the base is getting restless again, the bunch of sanctimonious ingrates! I missed the press confab, but seems it consisted of his denial that he caused the rise in gas prices. Reactive, not proactive. I think this guy is afraid to have an unscripted moment, since the brouhaha over the Beer Summit gaffe. He has very few press conferences and the ones he does have are limited as a result of his long-winded replies.

Draft Spitzer said...

Hey, Karen and Marie,

While we here "on the beach" in California pray for friends/famiglia in Japan, and await what the local media assures us will be wind clouds of radiation hitting our shores "at any moment" from the damaged Japanese nuclear plant (more or less radiation than going without sunscreen by the time it reaches Land's End?), can you do us a favor and look into "whatever happened to" the severability issue? I'm back on the laptop, which permits me to paste a link:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/conservative-suit-against-the-mandate.php

Where does this issue stand now? How or why did Team Obama leave out the severability clause from the final legislation?

Draft Spitzer said...

For Marina:

This is not in any way confirmation that Nixon's plan included a public option, but as long as I can paste links, here's one from Paul Krugman about the superiority of Nixon's plan over Obama's plan:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/opinion/31krugman.html

"As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.

"Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures.” No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems."

another excerpt from the same Paul Krugman piece:

"...growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress."

End of Krugman excerpts.

Separately, I do want to add a note about the dreaded mandate:

Nixon's mandate was for employers to cover their employees. Obama's plan doesn't mandate employers to cover employees. Rather, Obama's plan mandates that employees (not employers) are obliged to buy insurance from large insurers - insurers that are even less regulated and even more corrupt than they were in Nixon's day.

OTOH, Obama's mandate appears to be fairly toothless - don't get insured, and skip paying the fine and forget about it, as it appears non-payment of the fine will not result in criminal punishment. (So, then, why include a mandate? Who knows?)

The real issue seems to be 1) the utter disregard for the necessity of regulating the large insurers, and 2) the utter disregard for reining in costs, which would require a) addressing the perils of a money-driven health care system, and b) beginning a very aggressive program to reform the habits of actual citizens, as an inordinate amount of health care spending is going to T2 Diabetes and heart disease, which are almost entirely preventable through diet and excercise.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is wondering why Obama is school hopping it's because he if working to end the PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM that has served the citizens of this country for so long. It is the same plan Bill Gates pushes with his corporate made foundation. The point is more Charter schools and do away with the public schools. Like everything the right wing is at first it is subtle and obviously few are aware of where all this school hopping is going. Obama has abdicated his role of President of the People of the U. S. He has chosen instead to make himself the puppet of Corporate America. It is very scary and where we are headed is bad news. Obama is cooperating (in the phony name of compromising) to destroy the very institutions in this country that are fair and serve the people. I haven't heard a word from him about Wisconsin workers or MI turning over the governments of towns and other public entities to corporations if the state deems it so. Not a comment from this pretend Democratic President. Sure, it states' business but it is perfectly proper for the president to take the side of his party. He does not.

Frankly I think he's a put up job. The biggest trick Republicans have played on the country so far. Things are spinning so fast I can't even keep up with the radicals who used to be called Republicans. They are radical (and call themselves conservatives) and before Americans catch on it will be too late.

So I wish to say to all Americans. Be careful who you vote for. The 2010 election is a case in point. People were dissatisfied with the President and the progress of recovering so they voted the Democrats out but what they got is 100 times worse and perhaps even incurable – UNLESS Americans vote them out in 2012. I think there is a lot of voters' remorse in the country right now. The Republicans are so radical now and have no intention of serving the needs of the MIddle Class or poor. They may not even be aware themselves that they are securely in the dangerous hands of the ultra rich and corporations and doing their bidding. It has nothing to do with cutting the deficit. It has everything to do with enriching the ultra rich even more. That always means pushing millions more Americans into poverty.

By the way, there is absolutely no evidence that Charter Schools are any better than the regular public schools. They may even perform worse. But they weaken the system we have. We need to focus on failing schools and not changing the whole system whch works well.

Marina said...

On the off chance that you haven't already seen it, I thought you'd like the following, courtesy of the Center for American Progress:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/02/tax_breaks_infographic.html

Steel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anne Lavoie said...

Hi Anonymous,

I just finished reading 'Lockheed-Martin, Prophets of War'. I already knew, by a lengthy NYT article in 2004, that they had contracts to provide services within nearly every single federal government agency for years now. But to my surprise, I learned that they have also been involved in 'nation building' activities abroad through one of their subsidiaries, and among those activities includes writing the constitution for Afghanistan. If that does not make them a pseudo-government, I don't know what does. Not being profitable enough for them, however, they sold that subsidiary, but I am not sure to whom.

So we find ourselves with corporations in the business of BEING the government. How convenient now that the governors of Michigan and Wisconsin and elsewhere just happen to be seizing the power to take over schools and other public services and turn them over to corporations by fiat.

The corporate coup d-etat is nearly complete. We have an alleged 'genius' President, a Democrat even, a semi-Black man, who is not simply failing to act, but failing to even open his mouth while our country is being silently taken over through privatization/corporatization of everything. Not only that, but he enables and assists them. By not simply allowing the tax cuts to expire as planned, he put the nail in our coffin. It is beyond ironic that he is serving corporate masters. It is tragic.

annenigma

Anonymous said...

The primary education system in Sweden (the place the Left loves to point to) has been undergoing a major change in recent years. There seems to be little discussion of the new "Swedish" model and it's improvements in education in Sweden taking place here in the U.S..

Sweden has a growing voucher system in place and operating in it's primary education system. The Swedes feel it is a major improvement. Here is a link to a U.K. article on the subject. The Swedes feel that education is too important an issue to grant a monopoly to any single approach.

Richard

http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/526631/part_3/made-in-sweden-the-new-tory-education-revolution.thtml

Anonymous said...

The conservative line is that higher taxes cost jobs because business leave for places with lower taxes, unions raise cost, emasculate and then eliminate them, and the health law is a job killer. Let's see if their theory in born out in Canada. Canada has unemployment at 7.5% and it has socialized medicine and 30% of the their workers belong to unions. Canadians don't look upon their government as the enemy despite the high taxes they pay: they see it as a necessary evil. Reagan said the government is a beast; the corptocracy that has permeated American life is the beast that needs to be leashed. Paul Krugman in a recent column noted there is no guarantee that a college education will put one in a good paying job, noting several examples of off-shoring that have taken place. He suggests the only jobs that are relatively safe are the low-paying ones that can't be farmed out. He concludes the unions are necessary to guarantee the survival of the middle class.

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

Amazing how you Karen are so quick to blame President Obama entirely for our country's political state of mind?
So I guess the rhetoric coming from across the isle have nothing to with the price of tea in China!

Draft Spitzer said...

Bigmac,
Isn't it, in this usage, "aisle" and not "isle"?
But to your point, I don't think Karen puts all the blame on Obama. I've frequently quibbled with her for her fierce criticism of Republicans, because, IMO, there is now so little difference between the two parties that it seems almost irrelevant.
I think most of our fellow Democrats and "progressives" agree on the fact that Obama has hardly stood up to the intransigence of the right. He seems most interested in handing over to them whatever they demand, with absolutely no fight. Well, you see where that has got us - an extension, potentially permanent, of the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich.
Karen is right to criticize both sides.

Karen Garcia said...

Dear Bigmac,

If you look at all my posts I think you will find I am an equal-opportunity blamer. It just happened to be the president's turn last time. Be advised, I don't even go looking for this stuff on Obama - HE (his staff) sends this information to me, and I just contrast it with what is really going on. When I am handed blatant propaganda, it tends to make me irate, okay?

Plus... I do hold the Democrats to a higher standard than I do the Republicans. I don't think we need yet another post ranting about what idiots Newt and Sarah and Michele snd the Huckster are. Actually, they serve their purpose of making Obama look so good as to seem almost centrist. Not quite, but you get my drift. Don't worry, I will be writing plenty about the Grim Odious Puppets. (GOP)