Monday, July 20, 2009

It's time, Mr. President, to talk often and talk tough

Things are starting to look shaky for Obama-maniacs.

Today's Washington Post poll reports his support down 8 points from April's 67 percent.
Fewer than 50 percent of Americans support his health care initiatives, The Post reports. (A USA Today poll found that by a margin of 50-44, Americans disapprove of his handling of health care..) And substantially more Americans are intent on "holding the deficit in check" than spending to stimulate the economy.

What is a president who inherited horrendous deficits and a collapsing health care system to do?

To me the answer seems clear: He needs to take off his gloves.

Ironically, Barack Obama's natural bent to be reasonable and conciliatory, to seek out common interest and common ground, serves him much better in an international arena than it ever will in the United States Congress. In Washington, he is dealing with an opposition party that continues to cater more and more to the fringe right. It never has had an iota of interest in bi-partisanship. Nor does it give a hoot about solving the huge and largely intractable problems the country is facing such as health care. No. It wants to keep the wealthy, wealthy; the powerful, powerful, and the public deluded (which, more often than not, a lot of wealth spun through lobbyists and ad men can succeed in doing).

Listen to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., on health care reform: "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo," he told Politico. "It will break him." Doesn't much sound as though he's looking for common ground.

Look at this wild scene, a forum at which Republican Rep. Mike Castle found himself before a flag-waving woman who first openly challenged the president's citizenry and then forced Castle to lead the overwhelmingly white audience in a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

To those folks, I suspect, you're either on "our" side or "their" side -- and if you're the president (read not white), you're automatically on their side. Either these extremists -- and they are just that -- will succeed in kidnapping this country through the venom of their minority views or a majority, led by the president, will manage to marginalize them enough to address some of the vast array of problems Americans face.

Like another president, John F. Kennedy, who in his time also was considered "different," Barack Obama holds the gift of language. He can move millions with his use of it. And as president, he can command a stage whenever he wants it.

It's time for him to remember this, every day if need be. He needs to speak to the American people -- in weekly press conferences, through formal speeches, in town meeting venues around the country. He needs to pummel the frightened conservatives and moderates of his own party by moving the moderates and independents outside Washington to dial their numbers. And he needs to marginalize the know-nothing, do-nothing, tear-down remains of the Republican Party. That, I believe, will be his best chance -- if not only chance -- of moving an agenda -- on health care, on cap and trade regulations for pollution, on a new consumer finance agency and more.

Barack Obama will not succeed as a leader within the Beltway. He has the wrong pedigree.
He was never allowed to join the right clubs. His race remains an obstacle, whether Americans want to make believe they are color blind or not.

Just ask Sonia Sotomayor. Last week, she had to sit through a week of insults in front of the good ole white boys' gallery called the U.S. Senate. Her challenge was to keep quiet, to do no harm, and she succeeded admirably.

Barack Obama's challenge is to lead. And he'll never succeed until he understands the Jim DeMint's of the world for what they are, banner carriers for a United States of America that no longer holds the majority of power outside the Beltway but is still loud and strong enough to dump truck load after truck load of garbage into the middle of the highway.

Sometimes salvation can be found on roads less traveled.


Felicitas Baruch said...

This is a great piece, Jerry. I wish everyone had this journalist gene you have by being able to analyze, criticize and try to make people see beyond the obvious. Keep talking tough. Best!

Jerry Lanson said...

Thanks Felicitas.