“We are amazed, but not amused, by all the things that you say that you do… But if you really want to hear our views, you haven’t done nothin'” — Stevie Wonder, in a song written about Richard Nixon
As the Obama administration “pulls out a victory” and trumpets itself as getting two sides to negotiate towards budget compromise, I can’t help but remember Stevie Wonder’s words. In the two plus years that President Obama has been President, I have to say that it doesn’t seem to me he’s done anything. Last week, I received an e-mail from Mr. Obama’s campaign asking me to support his upcoming run for a second term and — at this point — I can’t give it to him.
To be fair, Stevie Wonder hated what Nixon was doing at the time, and I don’t hate Obama for what he has done. It has not been 8 years of George Bush and the country isn’t getting worse. I feel bad for a guy who has worked as hard as he has to. Bush ruled because of 9/11. He took a tragedy and pressed his own agenda. Bush took the ball and ran with it — as quickly as he could and in the exact wrong direction, but he ran with it. This is not Obama’s fate. He has faced tragedy after tragedy and kept things from getting worse. From housing and the economic collapse to wars and a debt he inherited to BP and now to Libya, Japan, and an entire Middle East that’s unstable, Obama has handled it all. America is no worse, but that doesn’t say much.
It was said of Bush that he was “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple”. Obama was born on first base, has been removed from the field and thinks he’s playing. He’s not. Obama, a great organizer, is moving around deck chairs on the Titanic. He’s not actively dropped anchor and pulling us under the icy waters, but the ship isn’t going anywhere, either, and he hasn’t noticed.
That would be fine if were settled somewhere in a nice port, but we’re not — and that’s the problem. The visionary orator that I voted for promised to bring America together again by correcting the course of his predecessor. He hasn’t done that because he doesn’t want to say there was a problem. He’s moved to forgiveness for mean-spirited policies that separated most of us from our money and divided us as people along demographic lines — whites vs. everybody, men vs. women, immigrants vs. citizens, “real Americans” vs. “liberals” etc. He’s moved to forgiveness of prior administrations without making them work through the pain that caused us to get here. I voted for an idealogue because we hadn’t had a good idea come out Washington in years. Obama was — and is — an idea man.
What he lacks isn’t convictions, it’s the courage of his convictions I expected and haven’t seen. The closest thing to a conviction I’ve seen from him lately is his decision to go into Libya for a very short period of time. I’m a pacifist, but I understand that he was caught reacting to unrest instead of actively bringing about non-violent change. Obama’s doing what he feels he can. He quotes MLK on the idea that Kaddafi’s on “the wrong side of history” by suppressing the Libyan people and he’s right about it. Kaddaffi is wrong and evil and crazy and in control and he will fall from power because people can only put up with that for so long. But here’s the difference between Obama about Libya and Obama about everything else: He didn’t care what the Republicans or the Democrats or anybody else said. He had a moral belief and he acted like he did. The President could have told the banks to be on their best behavior after all of their economic swindles. He didn’t. He could have put Elizabeth Warren out front in cleaning up that oppressive mess. He didn’t because he didn’t want to fight anymore.
He could have told the Republicans and the Tea Party to “stick it where the sun doesn’t shine” re: universal health care and let everybody adapt because he felt like it was the moral thing to do. He didn’t. He could have said “Everybody out of Iraq”, but he didn’t. He could have actually closed Guantanamo, but he didn’t. And yet, I believe he wants to, or at least wanted to do all of those things. I wanted an actually moral president — one who would stand up to “the special interests” who get rich at our expense. Instead, Obama is timid and he seems to think that the old way was just fine. It wasn’t. Bush’s economic policies failed in ways that no one could have forseen. The House, at least, wants more of the same stupid, mean-spirited policies. Does Obama point that out? No, he does not. I want change if what we’re doing isn’t working. Obama promised change. He has not delivered — at least morally and with courage.
It’s not like I heard what he had to say and disagreed with him. I heard what he said and I voted for that. If that President were to show up in the White House, I’d vote for him. If the President we had didn’t give up on his own policies and did more than just chide the idiots out there who still care where he was born, I’d vote for him. If he could stare the Republicans down and say that his branch of government has something to say, I’d vote for him. Instead, we have a man who doesn’t push his own agenda and doesn’t get actively involved in the budget process until he thinks it’ll make him look bad. Then he “succeeds” at a half-year’s budget with people who want to trash everything he believes. That’s not success. That’s accepting half a loaf for the American people because the big people who really run the country say that’s the way it’s got to be. That’s not leadership. That’s reacting instead of acting. Leaders act and let everybody else react. I want a leader.
On balance, I don’t dislike Obama. I’m not against him. I don’t even see anybody else out there as qualified as him to run the country. But the word I keep hearing — and use myself — is disappointed. I want the guy I voted for. If he’d act like that guy again, I’d vote for him in a minute and I’d support his policies (except his nuclear energy policy, which I think is just wrong). But so far, he hasn’t done nothin’.