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What the Center Can Hold: a Holiday Wish

Obama is in a tough spot.

His biggest promise was to “change the tone of politics in Washington”, by seeking a return to respectful political dialog, careful deliberation rather than pandering to voters, and actual governance rather than sound bites. But in keeping his promise, he is being denounced as not being tough enough. Americans love to complain about partisan bickering, but if you aren’t partisan and dirty enough, they criticize you as weak and ineffectual.

He has also been the recipient of the Republican strategy of “throw out attack after attack, no matter how ridiculous or untrue, and see what sticks” (with the full cooperation of the media, eager to sell). I remember when they were attacking Obama because he was “doing too much”. That didn’t work, so now it has switched 180 degrees and all you hear is that Obama hasn’t accomplished anything. Do we really have that short an attention span?

For example, Newsweek blasts on their cover “Yes He Can (But He Sure Hasn’t Yet)“. Even Saturday Night Live piles on, saying that Obama’s two biggest accomplishments are “Jack and Squat”. This is plain silly.

Esquire magazine takes on this idiotic conventional wisdom in “Whaddaya Mean Obama Hasn’t Done Anything?“, which lists the impressive things that Obama has accomplished in his first year. You know, Jack like reversing the economic downturn and singlehandedly changing America’s reputation in the world, and Squat like banning harsh interrogation, funding stem-cell research, appointing Sotomayor to the Supremes, and cutting taxes.

Yeah, cutting taxes, remember that? How quickly we forget.

Not to mention that it looks like he will manage to get health care reform through Congress, despite insane opposition from the insurance and drug industries, the Republicans, other assorted wing-nuts, and even some of the more hard-line people on the left. Health-care reform — that’s something that even more politically savvy presidents like FDR and Clinton failed to achieve.

So on this Christmas Eve, let’s try to be thankful. I want liberals to remember all the things that Obama has done for them: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, ending Bush’s war on medical marijuana, reversing the total politicalization of our justice department, restoring funding for overseas family planning, and those things I mentioned above. I want conservatives to appreciate that Obama didn’t cut and run from Afghanistan or even Iraq, but instead worked with hard-liners like General McChrystal and Leon Panetta to keep America strong, getting tougher on Al Qaeda in one year than all of the attacks from the Bush years combined, and the above-mentioned $288 billion tax cut. I want business leaders to appreciate how he bailed out the economy, reversed the credit crunch, saved the American auto industry (did anyone notice that Ford Motors announced a billion dollar profit this week?), and managing to go longer without a major terrorist attack than when Bush took office.

As the Esquire article sums it up:

So the question, a year since we elected him, isn’t how much Obama has accomplished. The question is why we’ve turned so small and mean…

Let’s have some holiday spirit, and appreciate what we do have, instead of bemoaning what we don’t have … yet.



  1. Iron Knee wrote:

    Since I’m preaching, telling everyone they should be more appreciative, I guess I should be more appreciative myself. Here goes.

    I really appreciate all the smart, fair minded (and probably very good looking) people who post comments on this blog. This is one of the few blogs that doesn’t require you to log on or jump through hoops to post comments. Other bloggers laughed at me when I set it up that way, but for the most part people have been polite and insightful. They also catch my mistakes and keep me honest. Thank you.

    I appreciate living in a country where we can have conversations like this. Not everyone is so lucky. Even though I sometimes get scared or worried for her, I love this country and want it to be the best country possible.

    I appreciate that the government has been there when I needed help (a long time ago I was poor enough to have to go on food stamps in order to eat), but that I also had the opportunity to pay it back (one year not too long ago I paid more in taxes than most people earn in their entire lives).

    I also appreciate all the people out there on all sides of the political spectrum who work very hard to make this world a better place to live. The people who put service ahead of personal gain and greed. A rising tide lifts all boats — when I make this a better place for other people, I make it a better place for me too.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  2. Alvin wrote:

    I find it humerous that on the right of your webpage there is a stop government health care reform ad. But I have digressed. Too bad Obama has failed to uphold any of the promises he ran on… Such as health care reform not raising taxes, or pulling out of Iraq, or any of the other numerous statements he made while running. My main problem with him is not his flaming liberalism or his inability to accomplish anything, it is the fact that he ran his campaign on lies, and continues to run his administration the same way.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    Alvin, I take it you didn’t actually read this post before commenting. Either that or you are being incredibly ironic, and I simply don’t appreciate you enough.

    Oh, and I’m trying out a new advertising system called Idiot-Sense that detects what kind of person you are, and presents ads that are appropriate.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  4. Morrius wrote:

    Maybe people just like to complain.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  5. I’m honestly envious of you, Iron Knee. My experience has been less… hopeful.

    So I’m also thankful too you for your post in these comments, because it does give hope. Good gift for this day. Thanks.

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 5:56 am | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    As always, I agree with everything you said. Fortunately I haven’t watched television since about 1962 so I don’t have to have the Karl Rove brainwashing thrown at me. As Obama said in his speech yesterday, so many presidents tried to get health care reform through congress. The Organizer, compromiser was able to do it. In my eyes Obama can do no wrong. He listens, he thinks, then he acts. Thank you as always. Eva

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    And as I have said before, when Obama lets the tax cuts to the rich expire, this country is going to be in much better shape. I’m not the rich, but I have dividends. I will be hurt when the cuts expire. I will accept my lot. Eva

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink
  8. Mad Hatter wrote:

    I also was on the poor side but I’m thankful that after getting drafted, I was able to complete a college education using the VA benefits. Without the government assistance I probably wouldn’t have gotten the education. In addition to paying back with my prior military service, I too have more than repaid in taxes because of the high paying positions as a result of my degree. To me, progressive/liberal policies are all about providing equal opportunities for all which provides a good return on the investment and not hand-outs as the wing-nuts want to believe. Now what wing-nuts……

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Exactly, Mad Hatter! Wingnuts may call something socialism, but socialism says “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. What we are proposing is that everyone has an equal opportunity to realize their dreams and goals, but they still have the personal responsibility to earn it through their own hard work. The purpose of government is to invest in its people and country in ways that normal capitalist investment can’t. Government still has a responsibility to invest wisely, and only make those investments (in education, defense, roads, health, etc.) that pay off.

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
  10. DCG wrote:

    “managing to go longer without a terrorist attack than when Bush took office” Are you referring to 9/11?

    What about the June attack that killed Private Long? Muhammad was a jihadist that killed one soldier and injured another. Just five months into Obama’s administration.

    Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    According to US law, “the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” In other words, it applies only to civilians, not soldiers.

    I’m not trying to make light of the killing of William Long. It is just that people keep trying to use the word “terrorism” for just about anything.

    Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  12. DCG wrote:

    So the Fort Hood tragedy, which involved civilians and soldiers, is not terrorism? I understand semantics…just these jihadists in the US killing Americans…both civilians and soldiers. I don’t know what else to call the targeted killing of Americans, whether in uniform or not. Wish it would stop.

    Thanks for the article…I didn’t vote for Obama. I will give him credit for several things…others I don’t support. Look forward to your future postings.

    Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink