Monday, April 12, 2010

Obama the Thinker

President Barack Obama has been the target of endless attacks and tirades from the Republican opposition, nonetheless, the president has remain poised as he has made progress on a wide range of important issues. But will the "Yes we can!" voters of 2008 be energized enough this fall to overcome those whose rallying cry is "Hell no!"?

The incumbent party almost always loses House and Senate seats in a midterm elections, and that will certainly be the outcome this coming November. While the president's decline in popularity may be a factor, these races are largely decided on local issues. Also, it appears that an "anti-Obama" spirit, especially in the South, has galvanized Tea Party members and conservatives.

Conservative leaders, like Mississippi Governor Haley Barber, know just how to tap into the emotions of their state's voters. Take the controversy over Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's declaration of "Confederate History Month" without mentioning slavery. Governor Barber was blunt; "It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly." Count secessionist Texas Governor Rick Perry's cries for "limited government," and maybe it's time to dig that Confederate money out from under the mattress because the South will rise again!

The Republicans, supported by right-wing talk show hosts, are accusing the president of a government takeover, socialism, and, even worse, arrogance. The deep hatred of President Obama seems largely personal and is often based on lies and deceit and not facts. Regretfully, some Americans don't want to know the truth, they only want to hear what they want to believe. This is great for entertainers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who can make big bucks fanning the flames of divisiveness.

Yes, President Obama's popularity has fallen below the 50% mark, as those who disapprove of his performance are now at about an equal number. But polls are a snapshot of feelings over a finite time period, and they often lag behind reality. At a similar time in his presidency Ronald Reagan had about a 35% approval rating. Further, how would President Obama do today if he were placed up against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? In fact, by Republican standards, Romney's pro-choice and universal health care record makes him a socialist!

On the positive side, President Obama's base has reason to be happy. The president courageously enacted a federal stimulus bill that slowed job loses. For the first time in nearly two years Americans have some hope the economy will get better. President Obama also continued government intervention in the banks that has stabilized the financial markets and earned the feds a profit. The president also intervened in the failing auto industry with generally positive results.

President Obama scored a historic victory with passage of health care reform legislation. Here he did what every president since Roosevelt failed to accomplish, and he has put in place a good package that will cover thirty-two million more Americans and will be further improved in the years ahead.

President Obama has taken the lead on the global stage as well. The president has implemented a well thought out plan to deal with Afghanistan and its erratic leader that has shown some promise. President Obama has intensified drone attacks on al-Qaeda bases. He is also continuing to draw down American troops in Iraq.

This week President Obama convened a meeting of leaders from 47 nations in Washington D.C. to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. President Obama warned the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon is, "The single biggest treat to U.S. security." He went on to say that al-Qaeda would have "no compunction against using them." In an important step the Ukraine said it would give up nuclear material, a long sought after goal of the United States.

In a major breakthrough, the White House announced that China would support tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear policy. The president had earlier negotiated the support of the Russians. Now a new set of U.N. Security Council sanctions could be ready within "a matter of weeks." This comes days after the presidents of the United States and Russia announced further reductions in their existing nuclear arsenals.

President Obama faces many difficult challenges, including an exploding federal deficit, high unemployment and the threat of a terrorist attack on American soil. He will also have to deal with financial and immigration reform in the coming months as well as the incoming fire from the right. Nonetheless, President Obama's accomplishments to date are laudable.

Is this the work of an arrogant man? Hell no! To quote Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, "The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people, I won’t name anyone by name, he’s a thinker. He thinks when he speaks."

No comments: