Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Premature Exaltation

I don't feel much like writing tonight, or doing anything much tonight for that matter, probably because I have too much I need to do.

But anyway, President Obama apparently delivered a campaign speech the other day that has his fans all aflutter. Steve Kornacki was so worked up that he posted two pieces on Salon, Monday's "What a president with a strong hand sounds like," and today's "The evolution of a populist." Robert Reich chimed in with "The Obama we've been waiting for."

Understand, what got them all hot and bothered was a speech, not any kind of action. You would think that they'd know better: Obama has talked tough before, usually when an election was involved, and each time retreated to his centrist Fortress of Solitude as soon as the votes were in -- except to scold the insufficiently loyal among Democratic voters.

Reich's piece might just be the worst of the three.
Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008. Since then we’ve had a president who has only reluctantly stood up to the moneyed interests Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin stood up to.

Hopefully Obama will carry this message through 2012, and gain a mandate to use his second term to take on the growing inequities and game-rigging practices that have been undermining the American economy and American democracy for years.

"Hopefully"? I think "hope" and its derivatives have pretty much lost their luster over the past two and a half years. The notion of a mandate is interesting too: Obama had a mandate in 2008, but he pissed it away. And let's not forget, as both these writers seem to have done, that simply securing a second term for Obama is not going to solve his political problems: the Democrats will also have to regain control of Congress. It could happen, but I don't see it happening unless the economy improves dramatically in the next year.

Kornacki was dishing out the same swill, though.
Apparently, Democrats in the Senate will soon call for a vote on a tweaked extension plan, one that would impose a smaller surcharge on millionaires and make up the difference with an assortment of revenue enhancers that Republicans have previously backed. Maybe this will attract more Republican support; but even if it doesn’t, Democrats are making it clear they’ll keep pressing their case through the end of the year if need be. This is a new phenomenon in the 112th Congress: Obama and his party seem to have the upper hand — and they know it.
We've heard this sort of thing before. I'm not persuaded, let alone convinced.
In a way, Obama is still playing uniter-in-chief. But instead of trying to coax Capitol Hill Republicans into compromise, he’s now more interested in rallying the 99 percent against them.
Oh, really? And how do you think he's going to do that? A good many of the 99 percent have learned to distrust Obama the hard way, through his betrayal -- whether by design or through incompetence -- and it's going to be very difficult for him to win them back. Even if we don't blame him for the Republicans' successful intransigence, why should we believe that he'll be any more effective against it in his second term?

As Ari Berman wrote at The Nation,
That will entail, however, a shift not only in rhetoric, but also in policy for a party and president that has too often been seen as prioritizing Wall Street over Main Street. Nor is it realistic to think that the Obama campaign will suddenly win over disaffected former supporters with a series of speeches. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street is aimed as much at the president and the rigged political system in Washington as it is at the nation’s largest banks. As one OWS leader told New York magazine: “These [protesters] aren’t out here because they’re offended that they haven’t been spoken to nicely. They’re out here because they owe shitloads of money in student-loan debt and can’t find a job. Or they can’t afford their mortgage. And if Obama thinks that they’re gonna be able to divert this energy by talking about doing something, he’s got another think coming.”
Obama may not be able to divert the attention of the mass of the population by talking about doing something, but the ploy clearly works on Democratic pundits.

Kornacki also posted a piece today about Rush Limbaugh and his "crush" on Newt Gingrich. Kornacki is really not in a position to cast the first stone.

Incidentally, Obama kicked off his new populist offensive with a decisive move against the People, or at least 51% of them: his Secretary of Health and Human Services overruled an FDA decision to allow emergency contraception to be sold on pharmacy shelves, and without prescription to women under 17. And if you think that one of his Team of Rivals went sneaking behind his back and violated his wishes, Obama has confirmed that, while he was not "involved," he supports the decision:
President Obama said today that “as the father of two daughters,” he supports his health secretary’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of the Plan B “morning after” birth control pill to girls under 17 years of age.
Which is not exactly surprising: Obama's the guy who joked that if some guy makes a pass at his daughters, he'll take him (and probably his whole family too) out with a predator drone.

This lends support to Katha Pollitt's concern that he will "yield to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which has lobbied fiercely for a broad religious exemption from new federal regulations requiring health insurance to cover birth control with no co-pays—one of the more popular elements of Obama’s healthcare reform package. Talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent."