I thought Obama hit just the right notes at his speech in Tuscon, and since he reportedly stayed up much of the night writing the speech himself, it obviously came from his heart. As a number of my conservative friends remarked, "He was presidential." Words for all of us to keep in mind:
"To sharpen our instincts for empathy...(to) make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle." Text.
In the age of the Internet, where billions of people can speak their mind, there will always be unreasonable and extremist voices out there. By reacting so frequently -- indeed by defining ourselves mostly in reaction -- we give extremist voices the thing they desire most -- attention -- and don't communicate what we really stand FOR in a positive way, just what we stand against.
That sort of clear-eyed, even-handed, common sense commentary exemplifies the “discussion” some of the town criers around here claimed to be conducting, even as they seized the earliest unwarrantable opportunity to smear the victims’ blood on the hands of their chosen political targets. Their shamelessness in that regard apparently has no limits.
You and I are probably miles apart politically but I agree completely with what you said, and have tried to convey the same message (quite unsuccessfully) since this thing began. Actually you haven’t really said much at all over and above what could be said based on what is known,, which is why it makes so much sense.
It is good to know that there are people remaining on both sides who can disagree on most issues yet refrain from trying to rip the opposition’s throat out in blame every time some random lunatic snaps, or at the very least wait until some semblance of supportable evidence comes to light. Hearing you alone (I think)on the left echoing my exact sentiments gives me some badly-needed hope because the depths of the political sewer-dwelling on this one is among the most indecent and depressing of any “discussion” I think I have ever followed around here, from people who I thought were above it.
The sewer is always out there for anyone who wishes to dwell in it. I know "liberal" activists who have long since abandoned Daily Kos because of the acerbic attacks on them and on Obama from the left. I used to be disturbed by the Internet's empowering of the voices of the fringes. And yet I don't think they represent a statistically larger percentage of people than they did before the Internet was invented.
It's easy to attack one's opponents at their weakest point, to presume their motives are always base or self-serving, to denigrate and demean through distortion and ad hominem attacks. That's a kind of pollution. The challenge is to honestly wrestle with their strongest points.
Some of us define ourselves by what we are against, the unreasonableness of the left or the right. But it's impossible to sustain that outrage on a daily basis forever -- at some point you do have to look inward and see the flaws in your own logic.
Joel Achenbach: "Will Obama's appeal to the better angels of our nature succeed? It hasn't yet. It probably never will. Because the market favors rancor. The technology favors the judgment-rushers, the instant reaction, which by definition can't be terribly thoughtful. The TV ratings favor the furious."
Interestingly, the author of this blog quit the "progressive" DailyKos communal blog because of the "non-stop abuse" she said she was receiving for her decidedly upbeat posts on Obama. Others there -- ideological purists, I guess -- were more interested in expressing their frustration and dissatisfaction with the President.
CBS News poll illuminates the public relations challenge facing President Obama and the Democrats this year. Asked whether they approved of the health care legislation, just 42 percent say they do. However, this was up from 37 percent support before Congress passed the legislation. To preserve the Democrats' congressional majority, the percentage of people supporting the legislation probably needs to rise above 50 percent.
Nate Silver of FiveThirty Eight.com pointed out in a December analysis that 12 percent of the opposition to the health care reform legislation came from the left, while 31% of voters said the bill was about right. If the left unites behind the legislation, that would put support at 43%. About 20% of voters then were undecided or unsure, while 35%, the Republican base, said it went too far. So the challenge for both parties is persuading the undecideds.
If the 20% of undecideds split evenly, that puts support for health care reform at 53%, approximately the percentage by which Obama won the presidency and won his 60-seat majority in the Senate. So the challenge for Obama and the Democrats is to shore up and keep the support they received in the 2008 election.That's a special challenge in an off-year election where people are less engaged and tend not to vote than in presidential years. Historically, the people who are most motivated to vote in off-year elections are angry opponents of the president, whoever he is.
Newsweek's Howard Fineman interprets Rasmussen and Gallup Polls on health care reform as bad news for Obama and the Democrats, though they essentially track the same as the other polls. Perhaps Obama, the Democrats, public relations and political advertising firms will work together to reassure undecided voters, neutralize the opposition and allay fears. A significant plurality or majority of Americans are afraid the new health care law will:
harm the U.S. economy (44–34 percent).
harm the overall quality of health care in the U.S. (55–29 percent),
Health care reform, many people fear, will adversely affect
"the health-care coverage you and your family receive" (34–24 percent);
"the quality of health care you and your family receive" (35–21 percent); and
the "costs you and your family pay for health care" (50–21 percent).
It will be interesting to see if, with concerted effort, these negative numbers can move before the November, 2010 midterm elections. The 35 percent (Republican base) who are vehemently opposed to the legislation will never be persuaded. But some strategically placed messages on how the health care legislation
helps the U.S. economy;
improves the overall quality of health care in the U.S.;
reduces the federal balance sheet;
improves the health care coverage you and your family receive;
positively affects the quality of health care you and your family receive; and
either reduces or doesn't affect the cost of health care for you and your family
My friend Bruce Johnson offers his reaction to the passage of health care reform legislation:
"The wonder I feel is easy, yet ease is a cause for wonder," T. S. Eliot wrote in "Little Gidding," the last of his "Four Quartets." I don't know if that exactly expresses it, or if it's more that I was disappointed so many times before I still can't quite believe it happened . . . In any event my feelings are more of relief than of the joy that I might have anticipated.
Finally. After given up for dead so many times. The dream that was the central goal of progressives for almost half a century has become a reality. The racial slurs yelled at John Lewis, the spitting on another black congressman, the gay slurs at Barney Frank, even the incomprehensible shout of "baby killer!" to staunchly pro-life Bart Stupak, the hero of both getting the bill passed AND ensuring that it will continue to protect unborn life, yelled out by a fellow congressman - none of that can change the fact, the legislation PASSED.
Like you, I too grew very weary of the posturing. There was one point where I almost gave up on Democrats -- when some of them would admit they were putting up a bill with no chance of being passed in the hopes of scoring points in the next election. Of course, the posturing from the GOP over the past year has been amazing.
I agree with you that the bill isn't perfect but it is a HUGE improvement. And I think Axelrod has it right. If the Republicans want to run on repeal, "we welcome that battle."
About the only provision that kicks in IMMEDIATELY is that kids with pre-existing conditions can't be denied medical coverage. I'd love to see some guy say he wants THAT repealed. Personally, I agree with the President - I think once people see it in practice, they'll see that all the Chicken Little types like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin who've gone around screaming "the sky is falling, the Commies are coming!" are going to be seen as having been just ridiculous. The sky isn't going to fall, America won't go communist, and people will see at least some improvements.
Check out David Brooks' piece, "The Dems Rejoice" in The NY Times. It was anti-Dem but in as thoughtful a way as you could imagine - a guy who grew up "with a poster of Hubert Humphrey over my bed" writing how watching the Dems in the health care debate felt like watching his family reunion, but why he doesn't feel he fits in the family any more. But he had a half-way wistful, regretful way of saying it, and he admitted he still admires Democratic idealism and passion for fairness and social justice.
I reported on health care policy for 12 years -- including the 1993-1994 Clinton health care reform plan -- but got frustrated by all the partisan posturing, windbaggery and lack of action to correct obvious flaws in the system. I could have built a huge bonfire from the reams of proposals and counter-proposals I collected that never went anywhere.
But the next 10 years, until 2020, are going to be very interesting times to be a health care reporter. There will be so much to report on as the health care system adapts (or doesn't adapt) to the historic legislation passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
Republicans are mounting a massive public relations campaign to inflame voters and portray the legislation as disastrous. Their hope is to win back control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections. But even if they do, chances of repealing the most popular provisions of the law are highly unlikely. Especially if Democrats mount a counter-campaign that persuades a majority of the public that the legislation passed represents real progress, and an increase in their personal security.
Of course few things in life are absolutely certain, and the legislation is far from perfect. Whether proponents' best hopes about the new law are realized remains to be seen. Opponents have a lot of complaints, which they will be pursuing in the courts, at the ballot box and in future Congresses. But for now, it's good to celebrate the triumph of action over inaction, after 100 years of proposals that went nowhere.
Here are some of the provisions of the new law, as proponents see it:
Despite negative public misperceptions, the 111th Congress is on its way to becoming the most productive since the historic 89th Congress of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society 11965-67, according to analyst Norm Ornstein, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Johnson. Click.
Obama has also reinvigorated America's regulatory apparatus -- agencies and commissions created during the progressive era to protect the public. Analyst John Judis calls this a Quiet Revolution.
The loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown leads me to recall a couple of blog posts I wrote way back in 2004 when the shoe was on the other foot. I quoted "Sam Rayburn's Law of Presidential Governance," which he declared after Franklin Roosevelt's landslide victory in 1936: "When you get too big a majority, you're immediately in trouble." I wrote then:
That rule certainly applied to 1964 and 1972, when Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon let their election victories go to their heads, leading to arrogance of power, a Vietnam quagmire and coverup of mistakes by Johnson and Watergate scandal coverup by Nixon and ultimately, his resignation. Arguably, it also happened after the 1984 election, when Ronald Reagan inspired Oliver North and crew to break federal law to aid the Nicaraguan contras.
I warned then that the Republicans, who had just elected George W. Bush to a second term and given him a 55-45 GOP majority in the Senate, were in danger of over-reaching. And indeed they did. The Democrats came roaring back in 2006 and 2008. Now the question is whether the Democrats have over-reached, with their (until now) 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, on issues like health care and overall government spending, while unemployment has not yet started to drop.
Back in 2004, I wrote that "over-reaching is typical pattern by the political party that controls both the White House and Congress." It's an instructive piece well-worth reading.
The jury is still out on the question of whether the Democrats have over-reached. We won't know the public's verdict until results from the 2010 mid-term elections come in. If history is a judge, they won't be able to sustain their 60-vote Senate majority. But they ought to be able to keep their majorities (now huge) in both houses of Congress. Omens from the special election in true blue Massachusetts are a warning sign of a potentially harsher verdict from the voters to come in November.
Barack Obama's splendid Nobel Prize acceptance speech is winning praise from surprising quarters: Republicans. But their compliments are rather back-handed, that the speech which challenges European pacifists and embraces the "just war" doctrine could have been given by George W. Bush. Not hardly. Obama made a definite distinction between his administration's policies and those of the Bush administration:
"Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor -- we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard."
He also spoke of the influence of the non-violent philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi on his views towards peace. He quoted King's Nobel acceptance speech from 1964:
"Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones."
Obama added: "As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King."
Those were not words that George W. Bush could have, or would have uttered.
Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Nobel Committee, explained that Obama was chosen for the award because of his commitment, and early steps, to unwind the worst policies and abuses of George W. Bush’s presidency. He pointed to Mr. Obama’s embrace of “multilateral diplomacy,” his offer to negotiate with Iran, his decision to ban torture, his efforts to revive arms control negotiations and address global warming. “President Obama is a political leader who understands that even the mightiest are vulnerable when they stand alone,” Mr. Jagland said.
Tonight on the bus in Kayseri, Turkey, the fellow next to me struggled to speak English. "America...beautiful!" he said. Then, "Obama....beautiful." He reached in his bag and gave me an apple. "Obama... peace prize!" he exclaimed.
"No more English," he said. Then, another phrase popped into his mind. "I love you," he said, waved, and stepped off the bus.
The fellow in the next seat also sought to speak to me, in broken English. "Obama
very good," he said. "Better than Bush...(he) never listened." Then he gestured as if Bush were pushing people away, afraid of opinions contrary to his own. "Bush an autocrat!"
These statements coming from everyday Turks in an overwhelmingly Muslim country represent, perhaps, the radical change in world perception of America's world leadership. Turkey got into a bitter argument with its longtime ally over American involvement in Turkey's next-door neighbor, Iraq. The Turks felt their knowledge and expertise were ignored by the Bush administration, and they refused to let the U.S. use Turkish soil to launch invasions of Iraq. Their primary concerns were that U.S. action in Iraq would embolden the Kurdish independence movement in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey, disrespected Iraqi sovereignty, and would potentially destabilize the region. But in the latter days of the Bush administration, the Turks found common ground with the U.S. on the Kurdish problem.
Even so, I was warned before I arrived in Turkey that two subjects I should never bring up with strangers were George W. Bush and American actions in Iraq.
Now, with Barack Obama as president, the Turks feel they can find common ground with Americans on Iraq. They've agreed to let the U.S. use Turkish soil to transfer troops, arms and logistics out of Iraq. Under Obama administration pressure, they've agreed to open their border with Armenia, and acknowledged that genocide of Armenians may have occured between 1914 and 1918, to be determined by an "impartial scientific investigation." An elaborate signing ceremony to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia was brokered with great drama by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other diplomats in Zurich, as the BBC reported.
Today's Zaman sums up Turkish diplomats' views of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.