Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All The President's Men

I wanted to get out ahead of the president's State of the Union address, with several observations.

The president would do well to jettison his closest advisers. I prefer to call them handlers, however. One reason: They're too much involved in the critical decisions he's required to make on a daily basis, and are more concern with the political fallout of those decisions, rather than the rightness of them.

On Haiti, the president made a good start. He pledged a hundred million dollars, activated the military, and other support staff, sending his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, early into the relief effort.

But then came the criticism from the Right, Rush Limbaugh, for one. He criticized the president for his quick actions, and his response. He accused the president of making some kind of appeal to the black community, those from the dark and the light community, as though blacks live in some kind of apartheid community that's divided up along colorlines.

And as other criticism came in from the Right, the president left the stage, and he hasn't spoken on the matter since (nothing that I've heard, at least). Perhaps he'll talk about the Haitian crisis and relief efforts during his State of the Union address tonight. Maybe not.

I suspect that additional troops are being dispatched to Haiti to quell a potential major outbreak of violence that might be used by the Right to further criticize the president. Although no such violence appears imminent, it quiets the Right, but the action is heavy-handed, and unnecessary. The relief effort is now being seen more as an invasion of Haiti than a relief effort. This is unfortunate, but predictable, given the counsel he's receiving from those around him.

And there's no coordination of the relief effort. All the aid groups in the country are pretty much operating from the seat of their pants, and on the fly, without one group knowing what the other is doing.

To be truly effective in the future, the nations of the world, upon whom such relief may be sought, will have to come together, along with major private relief providers, and develop responses that are targeted to the disaster, coordinated, and strategized. This will require the development of an international relief response under one umbrella, with everyone talking with the other, and answerable to one central agency.

With the threat of global warming looming, such disasters are only a few years away. If we don't develop a coherent, international response, more Haities are sure to test our limited resources, and relief responses will prove to do as much harm as the natural disasters that called them forth.

The president need more men that speak truth, and not politics, and fewer like Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke (who will probably win another term), and Larry Summers. These men are of the school that says all ships rises when one rises. That's not necessarily true. We're seeing a rebound for Wall Street, and the stock market, but the economy, especially the housing market, is still in a slump, and unemployment still stands nationally above 10 percent, and higher in some regions and states than that.

His supposed plan to call for a "spending freeze" for some government programs is nothing more than a concession to the Tea Partiers, and smacks of another failed attempt by his handlers to navigate shark-infested waters unscathed.

When the president follows his own mind, he's his most effective. When he listens to Rahm Emanuel, and his other advisers, he goes into reactive mode, rather than proactive mode, and he's seen as weak, and perennially on the defensive.

As I observed in another blog entry Jump (For My Love):

"Democrats, and the president in particular, can't jump each time Republican critics attempt to use an event to make them look soft on terrorism, dovish on war, and weak on national security. Jumping is not going to make Republicans love you more, nor diminish their attacks. Republicans have a plan: to take back the seats of power by any means necessary. And the method they're using now is to make Democrats and the president look foolish, and ineffective."

Jumping is not good for their health. It's one exercise that is sure to kill their agenda, as well as a second term in the White House, and control of the Congress.


Ernesto said...

BD...oh Wise One, once again you hit the nail squarely on the head:

"he goes into reactive mode, rather than proactive mode"

That's precisely the problem. He must lead by ACTION, not REACTION, and especially not reaction to the disgraced and despicable bunch that comprise the extreme right wing lunatic fringe, which we call today's Republican Party. Back in the '60s they called these people "John Birchers" and they haven't evolved one bit. They deserve NOTHING but scorn from anyone with a lick of sense.

I watched part of the speech tonight. I recorded it and will watch it all later. I still like the man and I am proud to call him "my president" but at the same time I am disappointed in his first year and the squandered opportunities and boneheaded moves like letting Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman destroy HCR. Yes he does need to axe the Clintonistas and Wall Street insiders, for they are the death of hope and change we can believe in.

If Republicans take over Congress this year everything goes right down the sewer. There's still time to prevent that, but it's going to take a LOT of action and not just words.

Black Diaspora said...

Thanks, Ernesto.

I did watch the president's address in its entirety, and the Republican's response, which was as predictable as a hangover after a night of binge drinking.

No, I don't drink.

Once again, the president became their public conscience, but he's appealing to those without one--hence, I strongly doubt if they'll desert party unity, and cooperate with the Dems on behalf of the American people.

We know the president can talk the talk, but now we need to see a president who can walk the walk, and deliver for the American people.

What we need is action, and more action. The president will succeed to the degree that he turns words into action, using whatever means necessary, short of putting people on an actual rack.

A virtual one is okay as long as it delivers the desired results.

I like the president, too, but we have to make sure he's working harder for us than for bipartisanship.

The Democrat seats in the house and the senate don't have to be lost, but the president has to start making a difference by creating jobs, and putting America back to work.

That should have been job one, from jump street. It should have commanded as much of his attention as health insurance reform.

After listening to Bob McDonnell, the new Republican governor, give the Republican response to the president's address, I was left with a little acid reflux, and puzzled as to how, and why, the people of his state found that, and similar rhetoric, so compelling that they made him governor.

The president's chiding of the Supremes for their recent ruling was well worth the time spent watching the address.

It was a priceless moment. If you have it on tape, you can visit the moment again and again, and I'm sure with as much delight as with the first hearing.

I look forward to your take on tonight's speech. It will be a great speech only to the degree the president can turn words into action.

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sisterstation said...

I have a hard time criticizing the president, I don't know, I guess I think he's really done a decent job so far. I think he may be too much of a centrist, but I also think he's had a boat-load of balls to keep in the air this year.

Every one wants their problems attended to at once. But couple that with the notion that Americans have traditionally not wanted to see too rapid change, and add the fact that the extremist right has been nothing short of criminal in their efforts to derail the process of meaningful change.

When Bush was president, every body just lined up and went along with his agenda, democrats and republicans alike. Why, because of 9/11? What's different about the dangers we are facing these days...not really much I don't think.

Why are people not cooperating is what I would like to have answered. In that sense, maybe it is a good idea for him to jettison people who are close to him and yet getting in his way.

But I think it's also time for some in the democratic party to come clean about what their real agenda is.

By the way, I liked what Mr. Obama had to say about the Supreme Court. I didn't like it so much when Judge Aleito had to mouth his "that's not true" remark. Shades of Joe Wilson. Aleito acted like he just got in from a guest appearance on "Jersey Shore".

Black Dispora said...

sisterstation said...
"I have a hard time criticizing the president, I don't know, I guess I think he's really done a decent job so far."

It's not easy for me, either. For my part, I believe he's done a superlative job given the challenges he faced coming in.

I'm one of his biggest boosters, and would like to see him win another term.

Yet, I feel he's getting bad counsel from those closest to him. The Dems shouldn't have lost Ted Kennedy's seat. Someone was asleep at the switch, and took things for granted.

Here's what I propose for the president. Don't take anything for granted. Don't bolster up Wall Street and think that'll take care of main street.

He needs to take direct steps to make things happen, whether it's health care, winning a gubernatorial election, filling a senatorial seat, or creating more jobs.

Passing a stimulus bill was just the beginning of that. The rest required a hands-on approach to making it happen: strategies, tactics, actual on the ground effort to move it forward.

And I think he's gotten that message. He's taken on the Republicans at their retreat, a bold, calculated, successful attempt to call them out, and either make them a part of the solution, or have them be seen as the problem.

That's the kind of action I want to see from him. He needs to be seen winning, not sitting on the sidelines.

He needs to be seen doing something, not having things done to him, to be proactive, again and again, and out front with his initiatives rather than allowing the Republicans to set his agenda.

I think the gravity of the times is causing some nervousness and impatience. People are losing their jobs or living with the prospect of it. People are losing their health care or living with the prospect of it.

The president and Alito have a long history. Obama didn't vote for his confirmation, and he was the only justice not to be on hand when the president and Biden visited the Supreme Court shortly after taking office, and he offered no excuse.

That was a break with protocol, as was his mouthing his displeasure at the president's first State of the Union address.

Republicans have gained more by not cooperating than by cooperating. We'll see if the president's recent olive branch will win them over, or if it'll be business as usual.

After 9-ll we came together as one nation, Dems and Repubs alike. We're facing another 9-ll but this time an economic one--yet the country stands divided.

I've learned one thing from this: Dems and liberals are more people oriented than party oriented.

And as President Obama stated at the Republican retreat: "I'm not an ideologue."

And he's not. Those words were meant as a kind of criticism of Republicans who will allow their so called "principles and values" to take the lead even when they have been shown to hurt the country.

Here's an example: Tax cuts for the wealthy under Bush to the tune of a $1.35 trillion.

sisterstation said...

As always, BD you make excellent points and perfect sense.

I agree that relief to Haiti has been very disorganized, but I also have to say I don't feel ashamed of us as Americans the way I did after Katrina.

Seeing people rescued so many days after the quake tells me that instead of 30 or 40 teams, there probably needs to be 500 teams to search and rescue; I shudder to think how many people may have been tapping beneath that rubble and no one ever heard them. And I don't say that to criticize the rescuers at all...I think what they all do is unbelievable. You are right about global warming and the need for all of us to be prepared.

Another thing I take away from all the coverage about Haiti is this: people need to be prepared to take care of themselves for the first 84 hours..3 and a half days. My husband never allows his gas tank to dip below half a tank because he figures he can get 200 miles on that amount. I try to keep enough water handy. That being said, I think other local agencies such as churches and schools probable have to become depots for water and high calorie food supplies. I think it's probably even worth while to buy a can of powdered nutritional supplement, because of its long shelf life.

I am sad about, it but I don't think many on the right will take the olive branch, and I think that shows an extremely sad lack of character. I think Mr. Obama's request to televise the question and answer session was incredibly savvy. I am relying on this pattern of Obama's thus far, that he doesn't do anything without having truly carefully thought it out(with the exception of the freeze), and I do certainly still have faith that these thugs can still be trumped.

Black Diaspora said...

Thanks, sisterstation. I'm heartbroken over Haiti, yet I take solace in the outpouring of love, made visible by the response of our nation, and others, made palpable by donations in the millions, accentuated by the thousands who have traveled there, taking with them their skills, their tireless labor, and their desire to make a difference at a time when Haiti is sorely in need of a helping hand.

I agree: We need to be prepared for the unexpected, to be able to fend for ourselves until help arrives.

That was the lesson of Katrina. Many have taken steps that'll assure their survival in the case of a catastrophic event. We all live in areas with some threat, whether from flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes.

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