Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ho-Hum Obama

I'm sorry, but I think Barack Obama is a boring president.

I know the executive office promotes caution. Your enemies are ever on the alert to twist your words and to provide a sinister context to every action but still.....what is the point of making it to the pinnacle of American politics if you don't act with courage. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Leaving a legacy stamped with your own individuality?

Of course, Barack Obama has already secured his place in history in a way no one else will ever be able to match, being the first African-American president. Maybe he doesn't want to take a chance on doing anything to tarnish that Wikipedia achievement. Or it just may be that he is a man naturally characterized by caution. Somehow, though, timidity doesn't match the change mantra on which he campaigned. Change is inherently daring.

I understand that presidents are limited by our political system so that they are not able to single-handedly put the country on the path they believe it should go. But, their greatest advantage is the bully pulpit. They can at least encourage, urge, cheerlead their people in the right direction. Their words can resonate across the world stage and possibly change the course of history. If nothing else, there in more honor in going down fighting for principle than standing fearfully in the shadows.

I was not at all a Ronald Reagan fan, especially in regards to his domestic policies, but could any American not feel a thrill of pride when they heard Reagan exhort - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  No beating around the bush, no fear of offending,  just four words that told the world exactly where America stood. And the wall did come down and Ronald Reagan will forever get the credit for at least punching a hole that allowed the flood of freedom to begin rushing through.

John Kennedy told us we were going to the moon and we went. Lyndon Johnson told us we were going to become a country where civil rights meant something and we did, although he wounded his party for decades by doing the right thing.

Harry Truman desegregated the military and  fired the soldier/hero, MacArthur, for not following orders, both unpopular stances, but he had the courage of his convictions.

Bill Clinton's first order of business was to try to end discrimination against gays in the military even though the old Bull Democrats in his own party defeated his effort in the end and stuck us with the perversion, that is Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I wish our current president would make a statement similar to Reagan's about the Middle East. I don't know enough about the delicate house of cards on which our foreign policy rests to know what actions could lead to detrimental consequences. (I'm aware that Libyans protesting Khaddafi don't want us to intervene militarily) but President Obama should at least head the freedom march by making an inspiring statement of solidarity with people, wherever they are, who are risking their lives to overthrow the repressive regimes. No pussy-footing around power gluttons like Mubarak and Khaddafi.

And speaking of solidarity, I wish Obama would make a trip to the Wisconsin Statehouse in a show of support for the workers in their efforts to retain their right to bargain collectively. God, isn't this the very heart of what the Democrats are supposedly all about, ensuring that working people have a level playing field on which to negotiate with their corporate (and in this case, governmental) bosses)?  My Grammie used to say she was a Democrat because they were the party of the Little Guy, while Republicans were the party of Big Business. I think it has been a long time since the Dems were the party of the Little Guy but they used to make a gesture in our direction every now and then.

I wanted Obama to make a grand plan to rebuild New Orleans as one of his first acts. If we could go to the moon, we could certainly reconstruct a city! I wanted him to say that allowing a great American treasure to remain on its knees simply wouldn't be tolerated. I wanted him to give us updates on progress being made until, before the end of his first term, he could triumphantly declare that New Orleans was back as good as it was before Katrina with stronger levees now in place to keep it safe.

I wanted him to forcefully assert his heartfelt repudiation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I listened to Obama's speech about the budget this week. Not carefully. I was on the computer and heard it in snatches via the television in the kitchen so maybe it isn't even fair to make a judgment but from what I did hear, it sounded bland. Nothing I heard made me want to go listen more closely-  "shared sacrifice...blah, blah, blah....bipartisanship...blah, blah, blah...investments in our future....blah, blah, blah."

Presidents can't always unilaterally act but it is their grand responsibility to speak for America, to let the world know in soaring words what elemental moral principles they believe our country stands for, not in timid tones, but boldly.