February 25, 2013

The “New” Barack Obama. ~ Tom Degan

It was heartening to say the least.

There stood the President of the United States, in front of both houses of Congress and the American people, talking like an honest-to-goodness, fighting liberal.

Did my eyes deceive?

 “Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.” ~ Barack Obama, 2013 State of the Union address

For over two years, I’ve been predicting that once he did not have another election on the horizon, Barack Obama would start acting like a true progressive. It wasn’t until his State of the Union Address that I knew I was correct. Until that moment, I wasn’t entirely sure. Welcome home, Mr. Prez. We knew you had it in you.

They deserve a vote.

My heart goes out to John Boehner. There he sat, looking as awkward and uncomfortable as I’ve ever seen another human being look.

But the high (or low) point of the evening came when President Obama demanded that the elected representatives of victims of gun violence all over the land be given the opportunity to vote for new and stricter gun legislation.

Boehner did not want to give this line the obligatory standing ovation that has become a joke with these events. But then he realized that he had no choice but to stand and clap like a seal begging for fish. You could clearly see the dilemma etched within the lines of his brows.

This was a chamber packed to the ceiling with recent (and very celebrated) victims of gun violence, including the parents and siblings of some of the little children who were murdered two months ago in Newtown, Connecticutincluding his former colleague, Gabriella Giffords. Even his own party stood up! They realized that by not giving a standing ovation to the memories of murdered five-year-old children, they were committing political suicide.

It was just too much for the Speaker of the House to bear. He rose, applauded halfheartedly and then sat back down as quickly and politely as he could. It really was a funny thing to behold.

The president also called for an ever-so-modest increase in the minimum wage, proposing that it be raised from $7.25 to nine dollars per hour.

That’s a good start, but the magic number should be fifteen—at least. Not that that’s ever going to happen, but when that number is on the table, settling on 10 bucks will seem like a grand victory to the lamebrains on the far right. With an offer of nine dollars, the “compromise” (if any) will end up at eight dollars—if that. Hardly enough. Obama needs to up the ante just a bit. Of course, any increase is too much for the Republicans to bear. Just decrease the tax rates of the rich, they insist. That’s their answer to everything, you know.

At the speech’s conclusion, there was the expected Republican rebuttal.

And like last year, one response wasn’t enough for these clowns. There was Marco Rubio representing the rank and file and as an extra-added delight you had Rand Paul standing up for the Tea party crazies. It was merely another illustration  of the GOP’s ideological disintegration. If the Tea partiers insist on a separate forum, it can only mean that they see themselves as an entity apart from “mainstream” Republicanism. As far to the right as the GOP has shifted in the last third-of-a-century, it’s still not extreme enough for Rand and his gang. You can count on them launching a third party uprising in 2016.

Gee, I can’t wait.

By the way, are you as suspicious of Marco’s little “Poland Springs Moment” as I am? He was nearly at the end of his presentation and yet he just couldn’t wait for that gulp. And why did he not have the bottle closer to him? Why did he need to reach so far out of the camera’s range? He obviously wanted it to be a moment that would be noticed and talked about, blogged about, tweeted and YouTubed. Paid product placement? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Would you?

The reaction of poor old Mitch McConnell the next day on the floor of the senate was fairly predictable. He called Obama’s address to the nation (I hope you’re sitting down) “Liberal“. Oh, heart of mine be still! Does this disgusting jackass understand that the days of “liberal-as-expletive” are over? Does he have a molecule of a clue that the people of this country have had it with conservatism? If he doesn’t get it by now, he’ll get it in 2014 when he is up for reelection.

I’m pulling for you, Ashley Judd! You’d better believe it!

Barack Obama is on the right track, but he and his supporters need to make certain “adjustments” in their collective thinking.

A few nights ago on his MSNBC program, Ed Schultz asked his viewers if they approved of this administration’s policy of killing American citizens abroad (whom they “suspect” of terrorist activities ) without the constitutionally-mandated due process. Astonishingly, a full 78 percent of the participants in the poll responded that they were perfectly content with the policy.

Ed was visibly shocked by the results. So was I. And remember, the bulk of Ed’s audience are “liberals”.

Let’s take a deep breath here.

Now admit it, folks. If it were the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doing this sort of thing, we “progressives” would be screaming bloody murder.

If the Bush Mob were sending unmanned drones into places like Pakistan, targeting certain terrorists but killing a whole lot of innocent people in the process, would we really be taking this lying down?

And don’t forget that someday there may be (but probably won’t be) another neocon neanderthal living in the White House who will abuse this drone technology to even more extreme ends.

If that unfortunate turn-of-events ever transpires, we won’t be in a position to self-righteously condemn anybody. In fact, we will be exposed as hypocrites. Honestly, we really need to rethink this one, kids. It’s high time for a serious reality check.

Fun Fact: The only policy of the Obama administration that the far right agrees with is his use of drone warfare. Does that tell you something? It must be wrong.

We need to understand that by doing what they’re doing, the Obama administration may be committing war crimes—at least that is how it appears to me. If that’s the case, don’t hold your breath waiting for them to be called to task in some international tribunal. George W. Bush and company proved for all time and eternity that there is no justice in this world.

The best that could be said for Team Obama is that they mean well….I think.

Do you think that the Republicans have been chastised by the results of the 2012 election? Far from it.

The recent confirmation hearings for Secretary of Defense-designate, Chuck Hagel, are a weird prelude of things to come, I’m afraid. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they will only be digging their political grave deeper in the next two years. There is a silver lining behind this dark and nasty cloud. Cheer up.

The next four years will be quite interesting, but we do live in quite interesting times, do we not?

Maybe this administration will get a progressive majority in the House of Reprehensibles in 2014. Congressional districts in key swing states have been gerrymandered to such a degree that it would seem that only an act of God will be able to prevent a Republican majority next year. They still control the House, in spite of the fact that more people cast their ballots for the Democrats last year, that is how badly they have corrupted the electoral process. Voter suppression was merely the tip of the iceberg.

But maybe—just maybe—2014 will be the year when the American people finally say, “enough.”

Stranger things have happened. We shall see.

Suggested Reading: The Defining Moment by Jonathon Alter.

In less than a month we will be observing the eightieth anniversary of the dawn of FDR’s New Deal. This excellent book recounts the first hundred days.

“Alter’s account has a refreshing buoyancy, not unlike its protagonist….He is a fair reporter, describing Roosevelt’s missteps as honestly as his triumphs….Succeeds in bringing a remarkable man back to life.” -Ted Widmer, New York Times


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Asst Ed: Terri Tremblett/ Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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