Posted tagged ‘Obama’

A Gnashing of Teeth (State of the Union)

January 26, 2011

Obama must really frustrate the GOP.   For months, some have painted him as an anti-American (as well as non-American) totalitarian mastermind determined on jamming things down America’s throat in order to bring her to her knees.   (Stephen Colbert had a wonderful rif on this after Obama’s speech in Tucson accusing Obama of causing him to be moved by Hitler.)

Obama’s inherent “otherness” has contributed to this caricature:  his mixed race, his articulate and complex intelligence, his Hawaiian birth, his school experiences overseas, even his bony physique are atypical of U.S. politics (and not exactly “Reaganesque”.)   On top of this, his intense decorum, which sometimes translates into a kind of aloofness, have kept him from directly responding to the kind of crazy character-assassination that has dogged him through the last election cycle.

But he has taken the national stage at some very charged moments recently-from pushing through compromises at the lame duck session, to the Tucson Memorial, to last night’s State of the Union–and unmistakeably (and on television) shown himself to be compassionate in ways that are tied to religious as well as moral precept, and to be open, thoughtful, serious, pro-progress, and notably unvengeful, petty, or throat-jamming.

One imagines a great gnashing of teeth (some of them tea-stained.)

PS – Although, at first, I found it a little disconcerting, I was happy for the absence of endless applause lines in the speech.  Also, I was very glad that O. left out the traditional phrase  = “the state of the union is strong.”  Yes, I want it to be strong, but I’ve always found this phrase to be somehow, well, childish, as if the president were playing doctor.

PPS – don’t forget to check out “Going on Somewhere” by Karin Gustafson, Diana Barco, and Jason Martin on Amazon!   (The state of its poetry is strong!)

Obama’s Speech in Tucson

January 12, 2011

Just read the text of Obama’s speech in Tucson, and I take back everything snarky that I wrote in my prior post re references to prayer by politicians.  Yes, I was thinking, when I wrote that earlier post, about Sarah Palin’s references to prayer, more than Obama’s, but I still take it all back.   In the interests of not criticizing anybody (in the aftermath of Obama’s speech), I probably should just remove the post.

The text of Obama’s speech is incredibly moving; his references to scripture and prayer and life and death are poetic and beautiful and comforting and wise.    Here’s hoping people hear him.


PS – Here’s the link to the video of the truly wonderful speech.

More on Tax Deal – Moving On

December 8, 2010

My view of the deal has been pretty blurry.

Further to this morning’s post about the proposed tax deal between Obama and Congressional Republicans.

I am embarrassed to say that until recently I have only looked at the deal in extremely brief installments, both hands over my eyes.  The rhetoric about Obama’s “caving” has been so intense in the media (reported by some as a nearly shameful failure of will) that I  couldn’t stand to make myself read the details.

But finally, this morning, I listened to Obama’s press conference about the proposal;  his frankness, pragmatism and articulate good sense immediately made me feel better about him and the future of his presidency.

Now I’ve made myself read more details of the proposed plan.  Come on, people!   I mean by that, come on, liberals!  (I have a sense they are the only ones that read this blog.)  It’s not that bad.  The estate tax provisions call for the return of the Federal estate tax with a $5 million exemption and 35% maximum rates.  That’s pretty reasonable from both sides of the aisle.  Unlike the 2010 provisions (in which the estate tax is abolished but so is the capital gains step-up), the proposal favors the middle class.  It also covers some concerns about the increasing stratification of wealth.  (Although, frankly, wealth and income divisions might perhaps be better addressed through better education, support for families, and a shareholder crackdown on excess executive compensation than simply through estate tax policies.  Few really like the idea of of confiscatory estate taxes.)

The proposed deal is undoubtedly superior than any Obama will get after January.   And some are pushing to simply let the Bush cuts expire under their own terms, the ensuing stalemate would be a terrible quagmire.   (For which, Obama would be blamed no matter how many times Republicans voted no.)

Obama – Moving On (Rather Than “Move On. …”)

December 8, 2010


Obama, bruised but not broken

Further to yesterday’s post re not being able to read the newspapers over the last few days due to a feeling of sick stomach, sick heart.

I finally was able to listen to Obama’s press conference on the tax cut issue.  I really recommend it (here’s the link) as it assuaged some of the sickness.  He’s pragmatic; he’s empathetic; he’s biting the bullet in a manner that avoids egotism and sanctimony (pretty unusual in politics).   He has a long-term perspective.

The fact is that the current tax deal is the just about the only practical response to November election.  The Republicans won.  If Obama pretends that they haven’t won, he is just prolonging the same losing election battle.  Instead he is moving forward, changing the terms of the debate to questions of budget cuts, problem solving, rather than hysteria of tax issues.

I feel a little worried here about the image I’m presenting personally.  I’m not against the wealthy!  Some of my best friends are wealthy!  I am simply concerned about (i) the long term health of the economy; (ii) schools!  roads!  the environment!  any social services.  And also, I admit, I am also worried about the dangers of living in a society in which the divisions of wealth are so stark and extreme.

Apparently, there is a rumbling of mumbling among liberal democrats about a primary challenge to Obama.  The mumblers misunderstand the intense conservatism and fear of the American people (and also, perhaps, the passivity, when it comes to voting, of some more liberal Americans.)   Secondly, it seems to me that it’s the Democrats in Congress who’ve failed here more than Obama; they allowed all the misstatements over the last year; they’ve failed to stand up for anything clear; they’ve ducked and ducked and ducked.  Now they’re stuck.

But he’s not.


(P.S. after posting this, realized one point that Obama seems conscious of.  People say they want change, but what drives them, and the economy, crazy is prolonged uncertainty.   He’s creating a stable, if not preferred platform, from which to keep working.)

Can’t read the paper (not a problem of eyes.)

December 7, 2010

Lately I just can’t make myself read the newspaper.  Everything turns my stomach.   The New York Times especially.

I’ve even begun  to wonder whether the paper is following its ordinary lay-out; nothing holds the eye.

 This is not because the news is sad–some of it, such as the death of Elizabeth Edwards, certainly is.   Oddly, I can stand to read that story even though I  feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Edwards and certainly her children; there are elements of courage, strength, tragic loss.

Is it just me?  My over-stimulated ADD?

Or are stories laced with greed, posturing, and self-righteousness more sickening than stories about cancer? 

All the tax business, all the Wikileaks business, all the posturing, self-righteous business, all the posturing in the name of ‘small business’ business, all the greed.

I don’t think I would mind it so much if people flat-out admitted their weaknesses—if the New York Times, for example, in connection with its publication of all the Wikileaks stuff, said, “look, we want readers.”   

If the Republican leadership flat-out said, “look, we serve the rich.”   

 If Obama just said, “look, they’ve got me in a stranglehold.” 

Actually, I guess Obama is kind of saying that.  My eyes, heart, stomach, simply find it very hard to take.


Legally Blonde- Legally Brunette? Palin and Popular Culture

November 7, 2010

Legally Brunette?

Taking a brief break from Nanowrimo with some thoughts re the mid-term election and the seeming ascendency of Sarah Palin.   (I say, seeming ascendency because the failure of Palin-picks, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, would indicate some question about Palin’s  influence.)

Commentators have given all kinds of reasons for the “tsunami” of Republican/Tea Party victories: Obama’s failure to communicate, resistance to health care legislation, a still-faltering economy.

To me, part of the appeal of Palin and certain Republicans, and the corresponding disaffection from Obama, comes from the popularity of a “Legally Blonde” approach to the world; the triumph of the cutesy outsider over the elitist professorial.

Now I liked Legally Blonde as much as the next person.  (As an unlikely blonde female matriculant at an Ivy League law school, who roomed with a top-notch though even more unlikely blonde female matriculant, I probably liked the movie even more than the next person.)

But the movie’s immediate lessons that (i) a thorough knowledge of hair care, (ii) shoes, and (iii) sassy toe-tapping combined with (iv) a fervant belief in one’s client/cause are sure tools not only to success but to justice should not, in my view, be taken as perfect paradigms for modern governance.

Of course, good hair helps everything.   (I say this as a person who does not have it.  Thankfully, unlike certain politicians, a/k/a/ John Edwards, I don’t obsess over it. )

But there is a big tendency in popular culture to label any deliberate thoughtfulness, balancing and expertise, as narcissim, obfuscation, and venal elitism.  Such qualities are only truly acceptable in the fictional world if they are coupled with a great body or a hyperbolic ability to inflict corner-cutting violence; see e.g. Lizbeth Salander, Bones, Robert Downey as Sherlock Holmes, any of a whole host of movies I’ve not actually seen (due to my dislike of violence.)

To be fair to “Legally Blonde”, the movie does show Belle balancing big books on her stairmaster, but what ultimately saves the day is her knowledge of permanent waves and, oh yes, Pradas.

Great for the silver screen.

Wearing Obama Heart On Sleeve

October 29, 2010

In the last few weeks, the news of the elections has been so dispiriting I resolved simply not to care any more.  My external groan was ‘what will be, will be,’ but internally, I felt too disappointed with the muddled message and mission of Democrats, and even President Obama, to feel very motivated to defend them.

A part of me told myself that at least I have no children in the school system, that maybe I’d enjoy buying stuff with tax cut dollars, and that, at least, I’d probably die before the planet was destroyed.

But watching President Obama’s interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart yesterday, reminded me of why I love, respect and support him.

The guy is smart, articulate, practical, honest, careful, thoughtful, realistic.

Yes, conditions in this country are terrible.  But people forget how much worse they were when he took office.

As Stewart emphasized, many voting for Obama feel that he has not brought promised change, but the fact is that we live in a very conservative country that has been going through a gut-wrenching crisis.  While a crisis may potentially bring opportunities for change, it raises an immediate panic that clings to the known.   (In the middle of a torrential rain storm, everyone wants the roof to be patched, few want it to be dismantled and replaced, and only the most calm and foresighted welcome a discussion of solar panels.)

A lot of persuasion is needed.

Which takes me to my point:  in our channel-changing, gotcha culture, aura often takes the place of substance.

Obama has substance.  But all the badmouthing, falsehoods, and difficult compromises have tarnished the glow that enveloped him at the time of the election.  This tarnish is difficult for Obama to dispel simply by being measured, intelligent and dignified.  (Especially while being dignified.)

Those on the more liberal side have contributed to this loss of aura by their contempt for the doable, fortifying the notion that ther eis no difference between parties and candidates.

Unfortunately, the adoption of this type of hopelessness is a gateway for a longterm series of abuses.  (See e.g. Berlusconi in Italy.)

So, how about some enthusiasm, people!?   Does anyone really want to play the role of angry Prom Queen whose suitor got the corsage but not the limo?

And, of course, vote!  Even if you are not thrilled by your choices, make one!

PS  – I want to send out best wishes to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their rally.  I really wanted to go but alas my old dog Pearl is not allowed on Amtrak and is a little too frail right now to be left behind, even with a good friend.

Double Standard re Facts – Tea Party – Obama

August 23, 2010

See Footnote 1*

Footnote 1*. Mamas do often know, but this knowledge generally arises from careful (both short and longterm) observation, attentive listening, even spying, and not from “just kindaness.”

Lies Around Obama – Bad Dream

August 19, 2010

I dreamt the other night that Obama was resigning as President; the reason – the war in Afghanistan – his feelings of sadness, culpability for, the losses.   He did not know how to stop the deaths, but, at the same time, felt that he could not go on participating in them.

I tried to convince him to stay in office; tried to convince him that no one else would be able to do better; that his sadness and sense of responsibility was part of what would allow him to fix things.

I woke up in a lot of pain – this had something to do with some really-messed up muscles in my neck and shoulder–but also was the residue of the dream, the thought of Obama not being in a position to govern.

Yes, I know O is not as clear a spokesperson as he might be; he may try too hard to appease a side that will simply never be appeased (and I don’t mean the Taliban here, but the right wing at home.)  He may not have handled legislation in the exact right order, or with the exact right force; he may have made mistakes in pursuing the wars; he may not be the magical action figure that some (now disgruntled) supporters had hoped.

But I am deeply troubled that so many chips are stacked against him, so many crazy lies.

Sometimes it seems as if there are two very strong groups in the country – the willfully-ignorant ignorant; and the willfully-misleading informed.  Lies are thrown around like eggs on Halloween; maybe they don’t break windows but they surely cause a tremendous loss in clarity.  People, like Obama, who are dignified, judicious, who refrain from the simplistic and the kneejerk (who refrain from basic jerkdom), are great targets for these lies.  (Remember, the guy who got spat on in To Kill a Mockingbird was Atticus Finch.)

Unfortunately, the lies stain, especially when they are thrown into niches of longtime prejudice and distrust.  Apparently 20% of Americans now believe that Obama was not born in the U.S.  (His birth certificate has been publicly posted, for Christ’s sake.)  Speaking of Christ – another big chunk believe Obama’s Muslim.   (He prays every day – not necessarily five times – frequently with Christian pastors.)

It sometimes seems to me that just about the only lie that people are not willing to believe is that black is white.  I don’t mean here that all of the lies around Obama are racist; but there’s an unwarranted distrust that racism seems to promote.

It makes me despair.  It also makes me blog.  I really do want to change what I’m doing here – I’m not even a political person – but the plethora of lies and disgruntlement  seems to call for a show of support, even from a tiny little blog.

“A Man Steals A Bicycle….”

March 11, 2010

Big Bicycle, Small Silver Box

Like many New Yorkers, I sometimes buy an egg sandwich in the morning from a little stainless-steel cart parked outside of my office building.

I love these stainless steel carts; my daughter calls them “boxes.”  While she was in high school, she would go out every morning at a time that was somehow called lunch, and buy “box coffee.” It was reasonably good, very cheap, reliably hot.

The carts remind me of little, square, Airstream trailers, everything silvery and compact, the glass of the little windows, as slightly dulled as the 1950’s, showing the Art Deco curve of crullers; the boxes of tea displayed on the top shelf, even green tea, brightly anachronistic.

My particular silver box guy is named Nick; he is from Greece.  For some years, I thought he was from Macedonia, and, trying to be nice, commiserated throughout the late summer of 2007 about the forest fires there.   But I have finally gotten it into my head (after several bemused corrections) that Nick is from the Peloponnese (Olympia).

Nick would be unlikely to make a corresponding mistake about where I am from.  Like almost every silver box guy I’ve ever dealt with, he has a memory akin to Borges’  Funes the Memorious.   He knows the caffeine, dairy, egg, ketchup, bagel and doughnut preferences of a few hundred regular customers, many of whom simply greet him with a grunt, or (the more polite ones), a nod.   (People waiting for coffee tend to be quiet.)

Nick and his some silver box occupy my corner every single weekday, rain or shine.  His only vacations come when the police cordon off the street.  His is one of the few businesses, other than Goldman Sachs, that has done well  in the economic downturn.  His prices for a substantial breakfast are so much cheaper than lunch prices in mid-town that, over the last year, more and more people fill up early in the day.

I really like Nick.  He treats everyone with friendly respect, never even rolling his eyes at  their requests for eight sugars, or their bacon sausage cheese, grape jelly, and ketchups on a roll.

Besides all that, I look like his mother.

He has told me this a couple of times.  I’m never sure whether to be insulted or touched.  (Nick is younger than me, but not that much younger.)  (He also once made a guess of my age, a wrong guess;  we don’t talk about that time.)

I asked Nick today about his mother.  He laughed and said that he had told her about me.    (This time I actually did feel touched.)  Then we moved on (it takes a while to cook eggs) to the Greek economy.  He shook his head sorrowfully, murmuring about the tough time people were having, the tough times that were expected for a while; higher taxes, higher expenses.

“A man steals a bicyle, he goes to jail,” he said.  “He steals a million dollars, he goes to…” he shook his head.

“The Ritz,” I finished.

We bemoaned stealing and dollars (both millions and the lack thereof).

I asked him if he could visit Greece soon; he wistfully shook his head ‘no’ again, wrapping my sandwich in thin silver foil, passing it through the small silver space.

“A man steals a bicycle, ” he said again, “he goes to jail;  he steals a million dollars….”

(Note re above post:  it’s not intended in any way as a criticism of what Obama has done, or is trying to do, with respect to overseeing and regulating financial system, executive compensation, etc.  )