Thursday, June 17, 2010
REACTIONS TO OBAMA'S SPEECH AND ACTIONS: HERE WE GO AGAIN
The Democrats, and left leaning folk, at least those that get involved in politics, have a tendency to eat their young, or form a firing squad into a circle, or whatever cliched analogy or metaphor you want to use. And here we go again. The reactions to Obama's speech Tuesday night from Keith Olberman and others on MSNBC immediately afterward actually shocked me. Yeah, "shocked" is the word. I had just watched the entire speech myself, and though I thought it got off to a slow and stiff start—I could see Obama was taking too much time to warm up, he's not at his best alone before a camera, and from my performer's experience he actually looked nervous for a while—once he did warm up he came across to me as pretty candid about the problem(s) and focused on the solution(s).
Could he do better? Absolutely. Should he have done more by now and/or used this opportunity to push harder for measures to reduce our dependence on oil etc. Yep. (For an actually more productive and unique criticism of the speech see here.)
But—and it's a gigantic BUT—he's faced with some incredible obstacles that are real, not just intellectual exercises, and so far he's managed to make mostly good, and some great, decisions and take mostly good, and some great, actions to move us toward the "more perfect union" and the progressive future those of us who voted for him were hoping for.
The threats to his life, let alone his policies, are very real. It's easy for those of us watching the news to jump all over him when he doesn't make things perfect or perfectly reflect our intellectual conclusions about what'll make our world a better place etc. but this guy is daily getting more death threats than any president in my lifetime and probably in our history!
Add that to the opposition he's getting from a right that's more media savvy and media influential than anything coming from his own party, which is mostly the center, or from the left, and the increase in more dangerous elements on the right (hate groups have tripled, etc. etc.) and the many corporate-paid-for politicians in the Senate and House that he's got to convince to support his policies and decisions and he's treading a pretty thin line, and doing it very well.
He replaced the Bush/Cheney appointed oil shill that was heading the agency supposed to be looking out for safety in the oil rigs with an environmentalist! The left should have loved that or at least appreciate it. But she turned out to be ineffectual in the face of eight years of entrenched rightwing corporate lackeys working under her.
So he fired her and replaced her with someone tougher but equally environment friendly. He can't fire an entire agency, and even if he could it would be like FDR trying to "pack" the Supreme Court, an obvious power play that would offset any good it might do. If he had put the government in charge of the oil clean up immediately, he would have been criticized for "big government" takeover that the right could bludgeon him with, and he knew the government didn't have the expertise or equipment anyway!
Yes, I believe he should have done it even so, but it's easy for me to say. What if he had done that and we ended up in the same boat or better off but no one believed it because the "spill" (what an innocuous term for something so damaging and deadly, that's where Obama and his team and the Dems in general can use a lot of help, in framing the issues and situations and solutions in terms that better capture the reality from their perspective instead of always allowing the right to do that) continued.
(Like his critics can't see the depth of economic damage that may have been done if he hadn't taken the steps he took to limit the damage, i.e. the "stimulus" package, which his critics now beat him up for because it raised the debt and was framed by the right hypocritically as a bail out of "wall street" which actually occurred under the initial Bush bail out not the stimulus plan! etc.)
I believe all drilling and shipping of oil should stop, and all oil based products should stop being produced and "clean" energy and environmentally-friendly products should be used exclusively. But there's no such thing as entirely "clean" energy—yet—just "cleaner" and much of that generates other problems so unless I can perform a miracle and alter reality so much my ideals can be realized, I have to deal with what's real, which is what our president is doing as best he can.
Is he making mistakes? Of course. More than his predecessor? You kidding? He has accomplished more in his short time in office than any president in the last several decades. His decisions kept us from another Great Depression, greatly reduced the numbers of "American" casualties in Iraq and have led to our presence there being greatly reduced (I know I know it's not enough, but it's better than what Nixon did in Viet Nam or Eisenhower in Korea), he's giving Afghanistan one more try but I believe is ready to withdraw from there as well once the military have been given their chance to prove their "counterinsurgency" plans will work (or not), he's made healthcare more available and more affordable for more people than any president ever(!), he's reduced tensions in many places around the globe though his critics claim he's increased them in Iran, as though they've forgotten that Bush/Cheny and their followers were ready to INVADE it not that long ago (and now leftists are claiming that's still going to happen because the sanctions will make that more possible etc. but in fact the longer Obama can use dimplomacy (wow, that's a "typo" or post-brain-surgery "mistake" I have to leave—"dimplomacy" indeed) to ward off any military attacks on Iran the more possible a peaceful solution is, etc. etc.
I believe as many pundits have said that Obama may rely too heavily on Ivy League intellectuals for advice and for his own reasoning, and not enough on the examples of his mother and her parents and his in-laws etc. and the people he worked with as a community organizer in Chicago, but tactically, he's actually doing amazingly well considering the strength and influence of his opposition from friend and foe alike.
[PS: Before the comments come, I do believe he should have brought together more government resources and equipment and people to attack the "oil spill" more quickly, instead of relying on BP's assurances that their techniques were the best possible solution, but he did actually mobilize a lot of the federal government's resources once it was clear BP was just dithering with untried solutions etc. but his team should have made sure that was publicized better, all the boats and equipment and etc.]
[PPS: Reading over what I wrote above I would add that yes a better effort could have been made and can still be made to mobilize the world's resources to fight this gushing mile-below-the-sea broken oil pipe and wish he had and would do that more effectively. My post is more about the over-the-top angry commentary from fellow Dems and the left in general on Obama's speech (more so even than to his response to this crisis).]
[PPPS: Not to make this my longest post ever, but I also agree that he should have waited until he had the concession from BP or at least announced it in his speech more specifically (i.e. the actual 20 billion going into the escrow account for claims without being limited to that amount) for more political gain. But he still DID IT! He "kicked ass" as he said he would. Can you see Bush/Cheney making one of their cohort oil corporations pay more than a minimal fine etc.?]