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Capitol Idea: Mr. Obama And His Mojo

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In this space last week, I doubted that an address trying to sell policy prescriptions for high insurance premiums and pre-existing conditions could really be the catalyst that fundamentally reconnects Obama with the American people — particularly following the bitter town hall protests of the last month.

I think President Obama's Wednesday night health care speech proves me wrong. But in the end, last night's televised appeal probably will be remembered as the moment Obama reclaimed his presidency. That's because while the substance of his remarks dealt with health care reform, the president used his oratory to transcend that single issue. The speech was really about how Obama will relate to loud, angry, and even misleading opposition whether the issue is health care today, or climate change or immigration reform tomorrow.

In short, Obama once again took charge, and in doing so reminded all who watched why we elected him in the first place. It was a welcome departure from his much more tepid performances in his own town hall meetings the last few weeks, in which he seemed captive to all of the minutiae of reform and ceding all of the passion to his opponents.

Last night, though, Obama showed that he gets it.  He even began the speech by not even talking about health care. He started by talking about the ongoing recession and high unemployment. That's a tacit acknowledgement that the anger and anxiety that animated all of August's outraged health care reform protests don't really come from the health care issue, per se.

Rather, it comes from a widespread, free-floating angst as people worry the economy isn't improving. Health care reform opponents were simply clever in tapping into that worry and aiming it at health care reform as a target.  Last night, though, Obama took on trying to calm that apprehension right at the outset by acknowledging things aren't all better but also reassuring us his eye is still very much on that ball.

Obama, too, demonstrated with some fervor and passion of his own that while he prefers conciliation and negotiation in good faith, he will not be held hostage to those who would rather play political games, saying, "I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. … Not this time. Not now."  One can only hope and assume that warning will also apply when it comes time for Congress to pass his future reforms on other matters.

The same could be said of Obama's admonishment that lying about his proposals will not be tolerated; that he will "call out" those who do, now and later as well. Speaking of lying calls to mind Rep. Joe Wilson, the crude Republican who shouted "You lie!" at Obama in the midst of the president's speech.  Wilson's outburst is just the latest in what really has been a long line of boorish, crass and really lowbred things reform opponents have done in the name of their cause: including hanging a congressman in effigy and bringing guns outside of Obama's events.  As all of this loutishness has unfolded, I've often wondered just how much has to occur before a tipping point occurs. That is to say, how much bad behavior most Americans are willing to accept before they begin to see these opponents not as principled activists, but as unruly hyperpartisans.  Hopefully, if we hadn't gotten there before, Wilson's tantrum has laid this bare.

The coming weeks will determine just how successful in finally bringing to fruition real health care reform Obama was last night.  But win or lose on health care,  Wednesday's speech showed our president is still very much in the game.

About Scott Nance

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Clavos may be right, though. Gringo is a definite term of derision. A wetback speaks of white trash.

    Name your poison.

  • Clavos

    Nothing is “up to me,” zing, and I like it that way — totally absolves me of all responsibility for anything. But I’m proud of being a wetback.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It looks like you’re stuck with the nomenclature, Clavos, whether you like it or not.

  • zingzing

    clavos: “But I’m proud of being a wetback.”

    well, if given the choice, that’s fine, i guess… it’s not fine when someone else puts it on a person whether they like it or not. it’s degrading and cruel.

  • Clavos

    “Gringo is a definite term of derision.”

    Hasn’t been for years. It’s the preferred term in my homeland for all Americans, with no pejorative meaning whatever.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, that’s news to me.

    I was thinking of Gregory Peck’s last film, after Carlos Fuentes’ novel.

  • Clavos

    ” it’s degrading and cruel.” I have yet to meet a Mexican who takes it that way, even when we actually are mojados (see, we even call ourselves the same thing).

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    maybe it’s a reflection of the speaker’s intent more than the particular name?

  • Clavos

    Bingo, Cindy

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And they shouldn’t if they have an iota of pride – which no doubt they do.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It goes back, Cindy, to the idea of the
    “Contact Zone.” The “oppressed” may be oppressed, but their image of themselves doesn’t correspond to that of “the oppressors.”

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Well, Arch, I stand corrected. In your case, it is not racially motivated. You just hate all things liberal.

  • zingzing

    “I have yet to meet a Mexican who takes it that way.”

    well… i doubt you’d wander up to a random stranger who is mexican and call him “wetback” without thinking about it. and it’s got nothing to do with the particular term… just the arrogance, ignorance and plain old meanness it takes to use a racial epithet to someone’s face. unless it’s to a honky. fuck whitey.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    “…it could be about the blatant lie that we’re going to have a public option, insure millions of more people and not raise taxes or add to the deficit…”

    Well, you see there’s the difference. You say it’s a lie with absolutely no foundation whatsoever. You apparently believe that Obama is an evil person who lies for nefarious reasons.

    I do not. I don’t believe he’s lying. You simply hate everyone to the left of Adolf regardless of who they are. That is unenlightened, dogmatic, tight assed, old world thinking. If you harken back to some other era – some so called “good old days,” be mindful that there was no such thing. This country was never any better than it is today.

    B

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I happen to agree, zing. Clavos is whitewashing. There hasn’t been any love lost between the two cultures … and why? So who gives a shit about “gringo” no longer being a term of derision. They still despise all Anglos and for good reasons. Unless you want to believe in fairy tales.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes it was, B-man. When we were still “innocent.”

  • Clavos

    Neither of you knows jack shit about Mexicans or how we think, so I’ll give your pontifications the disdain they deserve.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t tell me now your culture wasn’t subject to the same forces of colonialism as any other. And you trying to deny that just rings false.

    No disrespect intended.

  • zingzing

    jesus, clavos, angst much?

    all i said was that archie has no right to call mexicans wetbacks. it’s racist. it’s cruel. it’s not a term of endearment coming from him. you can say mexicans would easily brush it off, but to have “disdain” when someone says people shouldn’t go around throwing racial epithets in peoples’ faces is pretty fucking weird.

  • zingzing

    why you’d take time to defend archie’s rather obviously disdain for your culture, i don’t know, and i don’t know why you’d get all dismissive of others just saying it ain’t right is totally beyond me.

  • Clavos

    “hasn’t been any love lost between the two cultures … and why?”

    Oh, I dunno…might have something to do with stolen territory?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    How should I argue this point, Clavos. Whatever the reason, it’s there. But perhaps, just perhaps, at times you fail to identify with the hoi poloi.

    Have a good night.

  • zingzing

    looks like clavos took his ball and left.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Clav,

    Are we talking about Texas? Hey, you can have it back, my friend. Shit, you can have Oklahoma and New Mexico, too. :)

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Roger,

    Were you being ironic? We were never “innocent.”

    Innocense pretty much left the building about the first time one cave man stole another cave man’s fire.

    B

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course I was being ironic. But still, B-man, we never suspected sixty years ago that there was trouble in paradise.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Oh, I don’t know Roger, 60 years ago we had just emerged from WWII. We were beginning our entanglement in Korea, and were embroyled in the early years of the Cold War and the atomic age – not exactly paradise.

    Certainly, as a kid I was totally unaware of all that or what it could have meant. But, I was also blithely unaware of how unstable my existence in middle-class, middle American suburbia was owing to my dad having started his own business, the early years of which were very iffy. I had no sense of that, nor did my older brother.

    Hell, in school doing “duck and cover” drills was a hoot – just a welcome time away from routine. We had little understanding that we were making, what in the end would have been useless, attempts to keep from being incinerated by a nuclear blast.

    Presumably though, most adults and, I suppose, older adolescents had some notion of just how precarious our existence was at that time.

    Just as there is no such thing as “the good old days,” there really was no period of “innocence.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    B-man,

    What I mean that the world, if it wasn’t, at least it seemed simple – only the Soviets were “the enemy,” jobs were plentiful, etc. Just look at the fifties’ movies, Doris Day, the drive-ins, soda-pop culture, and “Rebel Without a Cause,” e.g. (Not to say everyone shared this “happy life”), but this was the mood of the times.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Actually, “Rebel Without a Cause” was an early clue along with films like “Blackboard Jungle” that things weren’t all that great on the home front, despite the gawdy, garish lunacy.

    B

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Quite correct, B-man. I suppose my subconscious made me do it (not as a trick question, but simply because you’re not without a point). But I hope you see mine, too, however obscurely expressed.

    Good exchange.

    RN

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Oh, I think we are both right. The fifties and early 60s did have an air of innocence regardless of the Ruskies and A-Bombs. Of course our “innocence” was badly compromized by the JFK assassination and completely deflowered in 1968 with the intensified Vietnam War, the MLK and RFK assassinations and the DNC riots in Chicago. After that, it was an entirely new paradigm which is still playing itself out. The wide divide between the left and right pretty much began with the new liberal left co-opting the Democratic party along with the civil rights and anti-war movements, they all served to polarize the country in a manner not seen before. That polarization is still broadening and could end badly. This nation may be tested in a way it hasn’t been since before the Civil War.

    B

  • http://www.mobilfaktor.dk/mobilabonnement/ mobilabonnement

    Enough of the bible talk.. This is the 21. century! Baritone, Everybody knows that Obama is on a very diffecult task. But I hope for him that he can last longer than 2012. The states needs him.