Of Bully Pulpits and Magic Wands
The media are taking the American Jobs Act and President Obama and dissecting them for all they’re worth when they’re not busy following Sarah Palin to her latest gaffe. Memes are afloat! We’ve got the “He’s finally taking to the bully pulpit” on the Left to the “We can’t tax the rich because of Jesus” on the Right.
Naturally, the disgruntled blame the President for his many failures and cynically eye up his next defeat, which they are sure can be blamed on his lack of balls, evidence of which they tell me is apparent in his capitulation to the Republicans.
This self-defeating prophecy of doom feeds right into the Republican long term goal (recently admitted to in a must read article published on Truthout and written by a former Republican staffer) of causing Americans to hate and distrust government, so they can prove that contrary to the liberal belief (pardon me while I remind us of what we allegedly believe) that government has a role to play in the lives of the people, government actually sucks. Why not dismantle it since it clearly doesn’t work? It would be best to privatize government! The Koch brothers would do a better job for less money. Surely Wisconsin is proof of that. Yes, you’d all better just give up. Don’t vote. The Republicans will be so pleased and while it might pain us all to make them happy, it’s worth it just to spite the ball-less Democrats.
It would be in error for me to point out that we are asking the wrong questions when we debate whether or not the President is using the bully pulpit or is, in fact, an epic fail. The list of “proof” of his failures is long, but usually starts with the Bush tax cuts and the Stimulus being a Republican Gift Bag, in spite of the Tea Party willing to bring down the entire country for passing it.
In the past, the President had something to lose by not negotiating with the Republicans. In the Bush tax cuts example, he stood to lose the extension of the UE bennies for the working poor, a class Democrats and liberals are supposed to stand for. So he was forced to give in to get what he wanted for the working poor, and yet this is still used as proof of his epic fail. Yes, Obama, why did you not let the poor starve so we could punish the Republicans? Loser.
In this case of the American Jobs Act, Obama has nothing to lose at this point. He can take his case to the people and with public support, put the GOP in bad position of owning protecting the rich if they do not pass it.
That said, it would be remiss to the narrative to point out that the President takes to the bully pulpit and is roundly ignored, warped, and attacked, thus lessening public support for what he’s pushing which leads to weakening of his position.
Pardon me if I get weary of certain factions of Democrats destroying the power of their president every single time by buying into right wing frames cleverly masquerading as the height of intrepidly cool and world-weary intellectual cynicism.
The epic fail of the Stimulus that gave birth to long term paradigm shifts toward ideas liberals supposedly stand for is obvious. He gave in. Never mind the funding for alternative fuels and other liberal ideas. It’s best not to look too closely when it’s so obvious that he caved on the tax issue, even though the Stimulus did as economists suggested by lowering tax rates on the poor so they could spend money.
Still, it’s obvious that this President is not a liberal. Just look at President Bush and his massive success using the bully pulpit! Why won’t our guy do it? Bring the cowboy and the Rove thug and make it happen already!
Of course, Bush didn’t get all that he wanted, especially in his second term as the Republicans in Congress didn’t take to being bullied by an uneducated thug (Rove, not Bush, but I can see how that wasn’t clear). It’s not just Obama who has to compromise? No, Dorothy, they all have to do it and some of them get it and some of them don’t. If in doubt, check on that privatized Social Security Bush wanted passed. The one where we all would have lost even more of our retirement savings because we would have been in the USA! market of free enterprise for the job creators and Jesus when the Bush Stock Market Crash of 2008 robbed us of our last penny.
Then we are told that only Obama would be so lame as to let Joe the Traitor back in. You know Joe. He was good for that 60th vote on healthcare, but then healthcare was an epic fail and who can we blame for that? Not ALEC certainly.
If we want a real liberal, we need to elect Bernie Sanders.
Of course, he would be stopped by the very same forces who put the beat down on Obama, and the very same Senate that is not doing their job as a check on the tyranny of the majority from the House, but still. He does stand for everything we want.
But then wantin’ ain’t getting’, and even Bernie, whom I would vote for in a hot second, couldn’t change the House that Republicans built.
It takes more than ideals to govern effectively. It takes more than balls to get anything remotely helpful for middle class America passed with the Republican Party occupying their current hold in the House and obstructing from the Senate. It takes more than Democrats being elected.
Also, under the guise of freedom of liberal thought, one is allowed to emote regarding the president and accuse without a clear understanding of policy and acknowledgement of current obstacles and rules, but one is not allowed to cite facts and ask questions lest one be a bot.
It’s an odd ride we are on when extremist emotion as a result of a horrible economy is passed off as the height of intellectualism. I’d be the last to claim that Democrats deserve much credit for messaging. They suck at it, due in part to the inherent need for liberals to arrive at their own conclusions (or even worse, be able to claim they are while donning the Republican bred distrust of all things government). But Democrats are also hampered by a media culture that loves a sound bite and feeds off of drama.
Just take a look at how things are better now than they were under Bush courtesy of Steve Benen of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal:
“Everything is worse”? That might make more sense were it not for the fact that:
* American job creation is better now than when Bush left office.
* American economic growth is better now than when Bush left office.
* Al Qaeda is dramatically weaker now than when Bush left office.
* The American automotive industry is vastly stronger now than when Bush left office.
* The struggle for equality of the LGBT community is vastly better now than when Bush left office.
* The U.S. health care system is better and more accessible than when Bush left office.
* The federal budget deficit is better now than when Bush left office.
* The major Wall Street indexes and corporate profits are better now than when Bush left office.
* International respect for the United States is better now than when Bush left office.
We don’t hear much about any of that. Complex ideas just don’t break down very well into sound bites. The President has finally realized that he must sell his ideas but he is also in a better position to do so now. His largest flaw has been his assumption that we all know what he knows.
We don’t. The left is surely better than the Right who wanted Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber to run the world because they were just like them. We want someone smarter than us. We believe that someone who has a constitutional law degree just might know a bit more than we do about, say, constitutional law. We also believe in holding our Presidents accountable for things like extending the Patriot Act (the Senate voted 72-23 to extend and the House followed), as we should.
It’s worth noting that after the failure of Sen. Leahy’s 2009 proposed oversight bill regarding the Patriot Act, the executive branch did, via the DOJ, implement some key components of the bill, which resulted in PolitFact rating Obama’s Patriot Act changes promise as a compromise, instead of a fail. Is it good enough? Not at all, in my opinion. But it’s a far cry from what the Bush administration’s DOJ would have done (irony alert: God help us all).
Sen Leahy seemed to agree, writing in response to the DOJ changes, “I still believe that these important oversight and accountability provisions should be enacted in law, but I appreciate that by implementing key measures in the bill, the Department of Justice has embraced the need for oversight and transparency.”
So how do we get to the part where we elect the smart guy and then assume he’s stupid, cowardly, and impotent? These are the very labels the Right has tried so desperately to stick on every Democratic President, and we carry the water and wonder why we can’t get what we want.
When we lose in the court of public opinion, one would think we’d finally get it. The same balls we want Obama to have we should have. It takes guts to get in there and read and think and fight. It takes guts to stand up for the ideals we believe in. And it matters what we say and how we say it. Public opinion grants the President power or takes it away, as it does for every elected official. If this weren’t the case, the Republicans wouldn’t spend so much time and money using paid trolls to propagandize about their “both parties do it” narrative meant to kill enthusiasm and thereby votes.
No party is perfect and no president is perfect. But this American Jobs Act is pretty close and when the President announces his Buffett Rule tomorrow and the public sees that he’s fighting for jobs for them and asking the wealthy to do their fair share, chances are very high that the public will support that idea, as polls indicate.
Unless, of course, the Republicans figure out the fatal flaw to sell to the Left and the Left runs with it, never looking around to see exactly where that disgruntled meme came from and never questioning it because after all, their favorite pundit told them so. It would be nice if for once we let the Republicans kill attempts to help the working class on their own.
I have to wonder, am I watching the same President Obama as others?