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Props to Obama

January 31st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

It would be unfair of me only to blast Obama when he falls short of my expectations yet never offer any praise when he actually does something I find praiseworthy.

This is nothing major, but it was a brilliant political move that deserves some credit. On Friday, Obama met with House Republicans and absolutely bitch-slapped them all over the floor. Seeing as how I’m always whining about how he never seems to stand up and fight, it’s only appropriate that I give him some credit when he does fight, and when he does it so damned effectively that I actually experience a few fleeting moments of pride that this is the guy in charge. During the hour-long Q & A, he acted like the kind of president I’d hoped he would be during the campaign.

This is the most compelling political television I’ve seen since 2008, so if you haven’t seen it I’d say it’s well worth watching, far moreso than the State of the Union. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

No need to go into excessive detail about what was said. Basically, a Republican would stand up and launch into a talking-point-disguised-as-a-question, and Obama would rip him apart with a cold, calm, undeniably reasonable, rational response. Not only that, but he didn’t shy away from calling them out for their bullshit. For example, a Republican would get up and talk for three minutes about how much Obama is spending and finally ask, “So when are you going to stop spending so much and putting our grandchildren into debt?” and once the applause died down Obama would immediatley call him out for being disingenuous! My god, the man has some balls! He would then launch into his explanation for why he had to spend so much, followed by pointing out that A) he’s going to freeze spending next year and B) the republicans are monstrous hypocrites considering how much they spent under Bush.

Another Republican would get up and make a speech and ask, “Why are you shutting us out of the debate? When are you going to listen to our ideas and stop excluding us from the process?” Obama would then point out, in a confrontational but not argumentative tone, that he’s been taking Republican ideas and suggestions all year and not getting any credit for it. Why isn’t he adopting the Republican health care plan? Well, because the experts say the plan wouldn’t work! He takes the ideas that do work and incorporates them into his plan, but gets absolutely no cooperation from the other side. He pointed out that if you want to get anything done in Washington it can’t be all-or-nothing. A democratic president with a democratic majority isn’t just going to adopt 100% of the republican proposals, especially when those proposals don’t stand up to the test of whether they’d work in reality.

Most importantly, he very clearly pointed out the underlying reason nothing gets done, which is all the political posturing from the right that makes it impossible to compromise. When you demonize the other side, he said, you box yourself in and deny yourself the ability to negotiate. If you tell your constituents that the president is some kind of radical socialist ideologue who wants to hurt seniors (and Obama actually used this terminology) then you sure as hell can’t compromise with him or vote for anything he proposes. As a result, nothing gets done. You’re not running the country—you’re running for re-election.

Obama’s responses were devastating. Any reasonable, unbiased observer would come away from watching this event with a clear impression of the president as a strong, reasonable, rational, capable leader who was willing to work with the other side to accomplish positive things for the country, while the republicans are just playing petty short-term politics at the nation’s expense.

That’s probably why Fox News cut short the broadcast by 20 minutes. Apparently “Fair and Balanced” means not letting the president respond to direct criticism from the opposing party. They constantly lambaste the president for not listening to the other side, and when the other side gets a chance to confront him and he is forced to respond, this network decides it’s not really newsworthy. If there’s anything conservatives hate it’s being confronted with reasonable, rational counter-arguments to their paper-thin shallow talking points.

Now, to be fair, I’m still very disappointed with Obama overall and one little Q & A session isn’t going to reverse that. It is just rhetoric after all, and we already knew that Obama is a master rhetorician. But there are two important things about this. First—he didn’t use a teleprompter, so I hope we can put this nonsense that Obama is lost without his teleprompter to rest. Watching him speak off-the-cuff was way more compelling than seeing him read a pre-written and focus-tested speech. With regards to influencing peoples’ opinions I think this was way more effective than the State of the Union, though unfortunately less people are going to see this.

Second—this was an excellent tactical move on the administration’s part. The republicans didn’t want to let the cameras roll during the Q & A but the White House convinced them to let it happen. Somehow the republicans thought that they were going to tear him a new one on live television, forgetting the fact that they have no ammunition. None of their criticisms (he’s a socialist, he’s a radical, etc.) hold water in the light of day. By maneuvering so that the president would get to respond directly to all these criticisms and reveal how groundless and empty they are, he really delivered a heavy blow to the opposition.

And all the while he maintained his calm and presidential composure, completely believable in his insistence that he’s willing to work with the other side. Up until now that’s pissed me off, but he also made it clear that if the other side isn’t willing to work with him, there’s not much he can do. Apparently this is how Obama fights. It may not be the most emotionally satisfying style of fighting—I wanted to see him get up there and scold the opposition directly for their behavior—but this passive-aggressive approach was surprisingly effective and probably smarter politics.

So anyway, that’s my only pro-Obama blog post of the month. It may end up being my only one of the year.

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