Thursday, October 25, 2012

If there's an October Surprise... will most certainly be Mitt's.

No way there's an October Surprise for Barack. He may very well be the most investigated man in history.

I base that conclusion on the sheer power and range of today's investigative tools wielded by the mostly right-wing zealots with a hard-on for Barack Obama. If there were any damaging secrets in Barack's past, we would know them already. City and country blocks around each location Barack has ever been have been excavated and sifted through by miners with the black-hearted souls of Dickensian villains and the eternal optimism of the '49ers.

One thing about which all Americans ought to be sure is this: Barack Obama is exactly who he appears to be--an ambitious, thoughtful family man with an abiding love for his wife and children and a desire to do right in the world.

In rather surprisingly stark contrast, Mitt Romney is the most opaque and guarded man to have run for president in my memory, which does run as far back as Ike and Adlai, both of whom, by the way, projected authenticity, itself a separate deficit plaguing Mitt. Together the lack of transparency and the lack of authenticity suggests that Mitt has secrets, some of which might be significant enough to assume "October Surprise" proportions.

Of course, for all I know, Mormonism and its sincere practice might somehow shore Mitt up in a way that makes his deficiencies less problematic. But I doubt it. We just might not ever know.

In any case, we do know this. Barack is a straight up, honest guy. Such secrets as he might have will be very much like the rest of us. Bad, embarrassing, pathetic, whatever, but the secrets of a man who might very well be an exemplar of honest. Rather like a previous president from Illinois.

Which all brings me to consideration of the Chicago Way a term currently being pounded by hard right columnists and bloggers, like Victor Hansen; a concept likely to be the jumping off point for my next post.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Obama's Wednesday Night Failure

We need more Grant, less McClellan

Just like everybody else, or like tens of millions of people, we watched the debate on Wednesday night. Obama was not okay.

I've always liked him as a person. We don't have the same style, but he seems authentic. And on Wednesday night his authentic self appeared too troubled, by far.

He's never seemed a courageous man to me. (I say that with no intention of portraying myself as his opposite. I'm more than a little ambivalent about the strength of my own heart.) But I haven't been expecting courage from Obama--or innovative and radical policymaking--though that is exactly what we need. What I have always liked about Obama is his thoughtfulness and intelligence.

As it turns out, for purposes of the debate, it was his habitual lack of courage that made the difference. Obama is just not in the habit of fighting back. For all the Republican insistence that he rammed the healthcare bill down America's collective throat, there simply wasn't (and isn't) anything hard to swallow about it. The Affordable Care Act (or whatever, call it ACA), will result in covering, what, 40 million more Americans.

And it won't raise the cost of health care very much. Its flaws are that it doesn't go far enough (among other deficiencies, it doesn't direct use of the government's purchasing power to lower health care costs). In short, Obama didn't "ram" ACA. He just didn't get any Republican votes for it.

The Republicans, some of them, know that ACA, in the form that actually passed, was not a truly progressive accomplishment. But it did edge closer to a slippery slope.

Some conservatives may be genuinely and honestly concerned about the direction ACA traveled toward more government control of health care, but the Republican ox that ACA (or, rather, what ACA might have been) threatened to gore is private profit and the income of the one-percent. Everybody, including Obama, knows this. Or should.

The trouble is that some Republicans are, in fact, successful (and generally cynical) communicators. They have made even liberals a little uncomfortable about "Obamacare." (Come on, Mr. President, don't embrace that term, don't 'kind of like' it.)

What I'm saying here is this: the missing element, in the whole first term of Barack Obama, was courage. Evasions, clarifications and constant compromise were not occasional tactics, they were the strategy. (A further, even uglier, truth is that liberals haven't been very brave for a long, long time, but that is another story.)

Look at the last four years. A timid stimulus package. A policy that included both a surge in Afghanistan and a timeline for withdrawal. Promises to bishops followed by broken promises to bishops. Letting Goldman, Sachs fail and then running away from the implications of that policy in favor of "too big to fail." Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Baby steps and half-way measures. And so on and so forth.

Never a strategy for the meaningful presidency we thought was possible. Only engaging in battles and then retreating to the nearest safe haven.

There is one (audacious) hope, here. That Wednesday night's debacle will be a wake-up call and that the next four years we will see a little more Grant and a little less McClellan.