I actually began this column in April but set it aside after the first couple of hundred words because I felt it was premature to write off a President only a few months after his inauguration for a second term. Recent events, however, have compelled me to dust it off and finish it, just as those same recent events may have finished our President.
Barack Obama was elected twice, the first time because people were ready for a change after eight years of a Republican administration that rather frighteningly bungled the country’s foreign and domestic policies, and the second time because his opponent was little more than a wooden wind-up toy and pitch man for the American plutocracy.
President Obama’s supporters will one day look back and say, “he tried,” and will attempt to explain away his failings by saying he was ultimately undone by a spiteful, racially motivated congress that could not come to grips with a black man occupying the highest office in the land.
And while there may be some truth to the later part of their argument, it is the former aspect that is actually more troubling.
Did he try? Really try?
Most notably, during his first term he set out to change the health care system with the goal of bringing down costs. But before the debate ever really got underway, he yielded to pressure from the insurance and hospital lobbies and pulled the public option from the discussions that eventually led to the passage of what is know commonly called “Obamacare,” easily one of the most controversial and vilified pieces of legislation ever enacted.
By backing away from the public option, Obama rendered more or less meaningless everything he’d said about hope and change and proved he was no different than most everyone else in Washington D.C. who, once in office, adjust their behavior and their rhetoric with only one goal in mind — remaining in office.
Some may admire his willingness to compromise on the public option; others surely see him as having sold out.
I see his caving on the public option in the context of something my mother used to say to my younger brother when attempting to roust him out of bed in the morning: “For God sake, get up and do something, even if it’s wrong!”
Author and former presidential advisor Richard Neustadt, in his book “Presidential Power”, tells us “Presidential Power is the power to persuade.”
President Obama fails miserably in that most critical aspect of the job. Instead of working to persuade us that a public option might have been a good thing in the fight to control health care costs, he just took it off the table.
Maybe a public option was “wrong” as my mother would say, but if the President sincerely believed it was right, why didn’t he “get up” and fight for it?
Instead, in his second term, he decided to fight Syria and in the process committed a string of blunders such as the world has never seen. First, he fouled his chili by proclaiming the use of chemical weapons as a “red line,” then after Syria called his bluff he went on TV and tried to persuade us that, if left unpunished, Syria’s use of chemical weapons was somehow a threat to our national security.
Were you persuaded?
We were all sickened by images of children gasping and dying in a Damascus suburb but would the President’s proposal of a limited military strike designed to “deter and diminish” the use of chemical weapons really have prevented other children from being gassed? Would it convince the Syrian regime to apologize, admit what bad boys they had been then shamefully and voluntarily step in front of a firing squad? Would it rally the support of the United Nations Security Council and the world in general?
Under the circumstances, President Obama’s proposal to fire missiles into Syria was a stunning misstep that, justifiably, will be remembered as one of the great Presidential blunders in American history, and for all purposes one that has transformed an already lame duck into a comatose duck.
Blake Chambers’ email address is email@example.com