Does Obama deserve a second term? Show, don't tell…

Last summer I did some thinking about Mr. Obama and the 2012 election. Specifically, would voting for him again be a good idea? I offered up several scenarios where I pondered ugly realities – long and short term – and concluded:

In the end, I don’t live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida so my vote isn’t likely to count. In that case I’ll be safe enough casting a protest vote for whoever lands on the Green ticket. If it turns out that Colorado winds up as a battleground state in a tight election, then I have some hard-core soul-searching to do.

Ultimately, though, I can’t shake the feeling that something dramatic, something earth-shaking, something seismic aimed at the very heart of the system is going to be required to break the cycle of corruption and incompetence and butt-ignorance that shapes the course of American political and economic life.

The whys are all laid out in the article and my thinking hasn’t changed much.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention lately, there has been an unmistakeable shift in the tone of the Obama camp. The president shows signs of finally realizing what everybody else has known all along – you can’t compromise with the TeaOP. You can’t negotiate with political terrorists, especially when they’re not only willing to shoot the hostages, they want to shoot the hostages. How many people do I know who sat around for the first three years of the Hopey McChangy administration wondering how a guy that naïve managed to get himself elected. Unless, of course, he wasn’t naïve at all – he was one of them? Regardless, neither “clueless” nor “corrupt” inspires much energy as people consider how to spend their spare time during the coming campaign season.

That shift in tone, and a potential accompanying change in strategy, is addressed in David Corn’s new book, Showdown: The Inside Story of Obama’s Fight to Save His Presidency. Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, describes the new awareness in the White House:

“This isn’t about class warfare,” he said. “This is about the nation’s welfare.” Afterward, Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign chief, sent out an email to supporters proclaiming that this approach “will inform every discussion we have with undecided voters over the next year.”

Two weeks later, the House Republicans helped make Obama’s point for him: They refused to go along with a bipartisan Senate compromise to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut for two months. But Obama now felt emboldened to confront GOP obstructionism, and the Republican leadership blinked; Boehner ended up embarrassingly losing this game of chicken. Soon afterward, the president would issue a recess appointment for Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—in defiance of Senate GOP filibusters. And in a feisty State of the Union speech in January, he laid out the choice: “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot.” At stake, he added, was nothing less than “American values.”

Obama’s new tack did seem to yield political dividends. By late 2011, he scored better than Republicans when poll respondents were asked whom they trusted to handle the economy and even the deficit. Plouffe could barely believe it—he told people it was as if the Republicans were ahead on the issue of children’s health care. A core GOP strength had been neutralized.

This article is worth a read an I suspect the book will be, too. The thing is, I’m still not convinced.

See, the 2008 cycle proved that Obama is a deft campaigner. He’s very good at knowing what to say and even better at saying it. He conjures hopes and dreams as magically as Kennedy ever did and he has a gift for convincing you that it can happen. Hope. Progress. Change You Can Believe In.

Sell-out. Because as I think I make clear in my post last July, the talk and the walk intersected pretty much nowhere. And that leaves me in a tough spot come campaign time, because you have now proven to me that I can’t trust a word you say. When you silk tongue a room with pretty words, I no longer come away feeling positive about the future. I come away marveling at your pretty, altogether empty words. It’s like in a relationship. When she says she’ll never cheat on you, and then she sleeps with your best friend, it’s hard to believe her when she says she’ll never do it again.

Is it possible that Obama has learned his lesson? Is it possible that what Corn describes is real? Is it possible that Obama 2.0 would use his second term to eradicate the Tea Party and every hateful, ignorant, anti-human idea it ever had? Is it possible that four years from now I’m writing about Obama in the same terms America reserves for its greatest leaders and suggesting, with a straight face, that he belongs on Mt. Rushmore?

Sure. Anything is possible. But right now all I have to consider is a record of inspiring rhetoric and an administration that has all too often been indistinguishable from the debacle that preceded it.

I hope Corn is right. But when I step into the voting booth on November 6, my decision will be 100% unaffected by anything the president says between now and then. I can’t trust his words and neither can you. Which means that Team Obama has slightly less than eight months to demonstrate, with its actions and its policies and its objective record of governance, that it deserves a second chance.

It’s like I always tell my students when we’re discussing effective writing: show, don’t tell.

10 replies »

  1. He did get Health Care. That’s a legacy by itself. Obama’s or Romney’s or Clinton’s or Nixon’s plan will change health care access for the poor. Yes, it was Nixon’s plan in 1974. Apparently he grew up poor and had two brothers die of tuberculosis. Obama has also tamed the war machine and avoided embroiling us in Egypt, Syria, Iran, and almost Libya, and we’re now out of Iraq. He refused to let the Koch brothers build a pipeline through the nation’s breadbasket / Mississippi River basin. Some days I think the Republicans are so vitriolic because they planned to have us all in work camps by now and Barack Hussein has somehow thwarted their plans.

    He never closed Guantanamo, but maybe he can’t because of Congress or the Pentagon or the CIA or something. Oh yeah, and he sent a SEAL team into Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden. The Two Minutes Hate feels hollow and forced without Emmanuel Goldstein on the screen. The top story on Fox News right now is Bristol Palin, again. Four years ago I believed we were doomed. When Bush cut that $800 billion deal with the banks, I thought it was New World Order time. The outlook seems a lot better than it did in those days, and I like to give our president some of the credit for that.

  2. He gets credit for health care when it benefits citizens as much as it does the insurance companies. Listen, I’m one of a VERY few people who that plan is actually helping, and it’s still costing me an arm and a leg. I’m willing to acknowledge successes, but I’m NOT willing to give him more credit than he has earned.

  3. If the health care plan is so great for big insurance, why do the Republicans want to repeal it? Or do you want a true one payer system like Canada has? Before, the only people who could get insurance were healthy, and if they got sick, their insurance company could drop them and refuse to pay. Now everyone will have some access to health care. That’s better than it was.

    • Republicans want to repeal it because it’s “socialism.” The insurance industry damned sure doesn’t – go back and have a close look at what happened to their stocks the day the bill passed.

      Everyone can now have access to health care … at the insurance companies’ pricing. In fact, 30M people are required by law to buy care, but there are NO COST CONTROLS.

      I remind you, I’m one of the people you’re talking about. I’m speaking with an intimate knowledge of some of these issues.

  4. I’ll write Donald Duck in before I vote Obama again. It’s not just that I want single-payer health insurance. It’s that it was never on the friggin’ table under Obama’s leadership. Regardless of his pretty signing statement and recent meaningless “waiver”, he signed NDAA. I trust his waiver on that as much as I trust his assurances that his administration wouldn’t go after medical marijuana. Then there’s that issue, which doesn’t give me much faith in him either. There’s the intense secrecy surrounding the tortured logic it would take to justify the nullification of due process for the purpose of assassinating US citizens.

    Those are just the issues that occur to me right off. Regardless of his many accomplishments (some more so-called than others), his policy positions in direct opposition to civil liberties combined with his double-speak pretty well guarantee he won’t get my support. Of course, I have the luxury of living in a state with a whopping three electoral votes, so it’s hardly like my vote counts anyway.

  5. Mr. Obama twisted the Iraqis arm to stay. He only left because they refused and the withdrawal date was established in the SOFA signed by Bush.

    He’s launched approximately 5 times (and counting) as many drone attacks in Pakistan as Bush did. He “led from behind” in Libya and take a long look at it now: it’s a fucking mess that isn’t going to be fixed. Iraq is a mess getting worse. Afghanistan, ya know, the “good war” is a bigger mess than when he took office. He kept quiet on Egypt until the decision was made for him, but there was never a question of sending the Marines anyhow. Iran and Syria are both still in play; he just seriously upped the contingent of mine hunting boats sent to the region.

    He has launched countless little wars and actions in the Persian Gulf region and Africa. Not only did he decide that he can assassinate US citizens based on his whim, he sent his AG out to declare that the Constitution guarantees “due process” but that it never really meant “in a court of law.” The President mulling it over with his advisers counts.

    I’ve got a long list of domestic policy issues too, but never mind them. If anyone believes that Obama has changed American foreign policy or its military “forward hegemony,” then they’ll believe just about anything.

    There are no facts to back up the assertions made by Joshua in the first comment; in fact, the facts are exactly the opposite … no matter what the Obama campaign wants us to believe.

  6. By all of the above i mean: i don’t give a flying fuck if i know that i’m the one deciding vote in the 2012 election, i won’t vote for the man under any circumstances. And, yes, i realize how much worse it would be under any GOP nominee; i’m not going to vote for any of those assholes either.

    I’m done playing their game, because in the end, 2% less evil is still evil.

  7. Hear, hear, Lex! I should own the “anonymous” comment above…that was from yesterday at work and I zigged when I should have zagged.

    Lately I’ve been going through old LiveJournal posts to sift the keepers from the banal chaff and realized I’ve been bitching about the president I voted for almost from the day of his inauguration. First, there was erection of a Wall of Wall Street around himself. That didn’t bode well. There was the round of failed nominations because his nominees couldn’t pass simple litmus tests like “pays taxes”. Even when he started off “strong” by signing a bill to extend benefits for children’s health, he did it on the backs of the undereducated, the poor, citizens of Nevada, Kentucky, and Ohio, and Native Americans/Alaska Natives by funding the health bill with a $0.62/pack fed tax on cigarettes.

    The failed nominees thing might just have been early botches at the presidential arcana learning curve, but now that’s he seems to have gotten really damned good at it, our constitutional scholar-in-chief seems to like crapping on the Constitution as much as the GOP.

  8. It’s like you guys don’t realize that the war machine is rigged so it cannot be stopped without disbanding the armed forces. It’s like you expected evil to disappear from the face of the earth when you cast your votes, and since it didn’t, you’re giving up on democracy. Well I’m not. I will choose the lesser of two evils. I will save this country through citizen participation. It’s been bad before, the Red Scare, the robber barons, Tammany Hall. Some people, like Lex, just gave up and let themselves be ruled by tyranny. Others chose to stand up against the oppression. But do whatever you want. I’m sure not voting will teach them all a lesson.

    • Ummm, Josh, where did you get the idea that I don’t realize these things?

      Actually, I have made the argument that ONLY not voting for them will teach the lesson. READ the article I linked and pay close attention to the part on “sending a message.” Voting for the lesser of evils – and you can call it whatever you want, but when you’re voting enthusiastically for a guy with OBAMA’S ACTUAL RECORD you’re either voting for the lesser of the evils or you’re actively corrupt – only reinforces the system’s structure.

      #Occupy is a way out of it, but Occupy isn’t about voting for Obama. It’s about bringing him and his ilk to heel.