Oval Office Address Open Thread

Standard

President Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of the official withdrawal of combat forces in Iraq.  I am interested in your thoughts regarding the address and ask that you consider the following questions:  (1) Do you believe that the combat mission in Iraq was worth the cost in blood and treasure to the American people?  (2) Do you believe Bush’s trillion dollar imperial crusade improved Iraq in any way at all?  (3) Did the President reassure you that he is sufficiently turning his focus to domestic concerns–the economy in particular?  (4)  Does Obama look comfortable sitting behind the big desk and if not, why not? (5) What didn’t you hear that you expected and needed to hear?

Talk to me.  Don’t be shy.

Advertisements

Kendrick Meek: Movin On Up

Standard

Whenever I think about writing, for some reason the soundtrack of my mind comes up with something apropos. I heard a familiar sitcom jingle and concluded that Kendrick Meek is synonymous with the iconic TV Negroes we came to know as The Jeffersons.  While Kendrick ain’t looking to snag him a dee-lux apartment in the sky, Carrie Meek’s baby boy has clearly been dreaming of movin’ on up to the Senate for sometime and has positioned himself accordingly.  His personality is best described as more Wheezy than George  because he is both humble and sophisticated.  Possessing a common touch that belies his power and status, Kendrick has always struck me as more of a regular everyman than a silvery tongued pol.   More Forrest Whitaker than Denzel Washington, Meek has a fierce battle to convince a skeptical electorate that he is the right man to represent them in  the patrician Senate.

Until a few months ago,  Meek thought he had a clear field and would coast to the general election facing the winner of a bloody and protracted GOP primary–then everything changed.   Gov. Charlie Crist’s statehouse rival, Marco Rubio, made the Governor’s centrist politics a centerpiece of his strategy to seduce the right-wing and hit paydirt. Mired in second place in the polls, the GOP Governor bolted the party and started wooing Independents and Democrats.  To add insult to injury, Meek picked up a  credit default swap billionaire as a primary challenger, Jeff Greene.  Meek suddenly had to tap his carefully husbanded $4 million dollar bankroll to defend himself against a fusillade of negative ads.

What looked like a competitive  but uphill two-party contest has degenerated into a three-way free for all.  A carefully orchestrated whisper campaign to challenge Kendrick’s electability caused White Democrats to defect en masse to Crist or remain neutral.  Meek is polling a very weak third place and was until recently in second place in the Democratic Primary.   What looked like a handkerchief head move to endorse Hillary and cozy up to the Clintons in 2008 looks shrewd today given the weakness of the current president’s poll numbers and the universal popularity of Bill Clinton.  Slick Willie has been down to the Sunshine state several times to fundraise and politic with his boy Kendrick and will be back again sometime in the future.  I heard tell last week that Obama is fixin’ to go down shortly.  Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s right hand, recently headlined a fundraiser as the Administration looks to be step up it’s efforts to help a brotha out.

Kendrick’s polls improved once he made it clear that his opponent was not a real Democrat and that the source of his money is proof of the adage: behind every great fortune is a great crime.

I am convinced that Kendrick can win this thing if he woo’s back White Democrats and unifies the Democratic Party behind his candidacy. Some folk don’t believe that Kendrick is worth voting for.  For example, the bloggers over at Down With Tyranny have their boxers in a bunch over a few bad votes Kendrick cast over the last eight years.  I acknowledge their legitimate concerns and their distaste with his fundraising from lobbyists–black lobbyists in particular have rallied around him. To borrow a phrase from The Lady Chablis in Midnight In The Garden of Good And Evil:  if Clinton and Obama can pull one over on progressives  by openly colluding with the corporate power structure, then Kendrick’s little corporate whoring around in Washington, DC, is not going to mean anything to good Democrats in Florida. Especially not when the alternatives are a wingnut, a soulless opportunist or a damn crook.

It is finished

Standard

Late in the midnight hour, the President addressed the nation basking in the glow of a landmark political triumph over right-wing massive resistance to health care reform. His understated demeanor and measured words belied the enormity of this breakthrough.

Ted Kennedy would be so proud that his dream of universal health care is on the path to reality. His instinct that Barack Obama was the president we needed was vindicated in last night’s roll call. At the president’s side in this fight was the most effective Speaker of the House in living memory, Nancy Pelosi.   She refused to let this effort die and she helped revive the push for reform the pundits thought dead.

Nobody but Barack Obama could have pulled off this legislative victory.  Behind the genial exterior and megawatt smile is a disciplined, ruthless, pragmatic pol equipped with a flawless mastery of policy minutia.

The president’s  politically expedient compromises with the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies greased the skids of the legislative process and ultimately resulted in the enactment of a recycled package of Republican proposals from the last health care showdown 16 years ago that provide at last a framework for health insurance for most Americans.

While others focused on progressive goals like covering everyone, bringing down health care costs and providing competition, Obama focused on getting a passable bill that partially addressed those goals. This President is interested only in the art of the possible.  Ideology is secondary.

Obama won and left the Republicans sputtering unintelligible nonsense for over a year.  They showed their arses last night, every flat hairy butt cheek. They used every arrow in their quiver to defeat reform: fear, deception, xenophobia, and racism.  They still lost.

Over the course of the next few years, 32 million Americans will finally gain access to health insurance they should have had all along. It is the most expensive in the industrialized world and doesn’t cover what it should, but it is better than nothing at all. 

My hat is off to the Commander-in-chief for this triumph over unadulterated Republican evil.

I still want a public option.

“Victory”

Standard

On the cusp of a landmark “victory” on health care reform, President Obama dramatically addressed a boisterous throng of well-wishers convinced that his industry written reforms constituted positive change. The President glowed and fed off the positive energy in the air. He seemed revitalized and renewed as the crowd roared its approval.  The president’s earnest entreaties are beguiling and difficult to resist.  The recession weary public desperately wants to believe that “change we can believe in” is at last on the way. It isn’t.

Many on the left in the progressive blogosphere believe that “change we can believe in” was killed in the crib. The corporate infanticide of change was facilitated by a conspiracy between the Administration and the insurance lobby that gutted the public option, instituted weak cost controls, enforced a mandate to buy private insurance and left the anti-trust exemption, which allows insurance companies to engage in the most egregious price gouging, largely intact.  The reality leaves me drained and dispirited.

The average black person I meet is trapped in a post inaugural cocoon of black pride.  Any constructive criticism of the President provokes a defensive scorn, as if you called their upstanding, god fearing, churchgoing grandmama a trifling whore.  The relationship between the Obamas and the black community is not political but familial. They meet every benchmark of acceptability and are like the new bougie couple that just joined the church that everybody wants to get to know. We see ourselves in them.  Unfortunately, we’ve become so lost in the reflection of ourselves that we failed to notice that the black community is drowning in an ocean of narcissistic b.s. and benign neglect.

The Stockholm syndrome is so profound that if the Congressional Black Caucus had determined to sink Health Care Reform without a public option, blackfolks would have eaten them alive.  Some folk seem to think that God put them here on earth to be Obama’s pep squad.  The President may be black, but he is also a politician like all those that came before him who told us what we wanted to hear and then broke their backs to do the bidding of their corporate paymasters.

The absence of a real urban agenda, what some refer to as a “black agenda,” is a festering wound that will never heal without progressive policy solutions that address the corporate theft of predatory lending, support for mass transit, massive infrastructure improvement,  job training programs, de-escalation of both the prison and military industrial complexes and support for public education.  The president has done some good work on the education piece with a reform of student loans, but much more needs to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, the stimulus was a tremendous help in stabilizing the economy, but we are in such a deep hole that we need much more. Everybody knows that there ain’t no damn jobs out here. State budgets are still tight and teacher layoffs, public school closings, and the loss of thousands of state and local government jobs is still a daily reality. The president damn near had to fight the civil war all over again with some ignorant Republican from Kentucky just to extend unemployment benefits for a short time.

Here in the Carolinas, Republicans  in the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to the eliminate  state support for the entire budget for HIV/AIDS  prevention and assistance. That also includes the AIDS drugs assistance program that provides a lifeline to HIV positive people who cannot afford their anti-retroviral medications.  Republicans are the same people that spread the death panels red herring they claimed was embedded in Obama’s health care reform bill that would “pull the plug on grandma.”

The political calculus implied by this heartless proposal is that the people in the program are not Republicans and that helping them extend the quality and duration of their lives is unnecessary and too expensive.  Given the disproportionate numbers of HIV infections in black South Carolinians (8 times that of Whites), the racial animus behind this move is crystal clear. South Carolina has the eighth highest rate of new  HIV infections in the country and the Republicans in the South Carolina legislature would rather pretend that this isn’t a problem as HIV ravages the black community unchecked.

The Health Care Reform proposal making its way through congress will do nothing to stop state governments from making draconian choices like South Carolina.   I pray it will provide something commensurate in the way of relief for the victims of state sanctioned indifference.  Health Reform still leaves out 24 million people from coverage because health care, despite the histrionics of the socialist obsessed right-wing, is still not a right.

The gluttonous plutocracy that masquerades as American Democracy is alive and well. If we truly want the victory over our corporate overlords, we need to stop putting our trust in personalities and parties and stick with our principles.

The Health Care Reform Summit

Standard

The Republicans didn’t bring anything but the standard right-wing talking points composed of lies, misinformation and fear. They didn’t bring any policy ideas because they believe tactically that they must scuttle reform in order to gain seats and possibly take back the congress this year. They lost the message war today because they had nothing to offer but a lame arse call to start the process over which is nothing more than their way of trying to kill reform.  Nobody with a brain bought the b.s. they were selling.

The Republican game was to look earnest in discussing health care reform with the president while offering nothing of substance. They used their time to pander to whitefolks fears. That is ultimately a losing strategy. It is a larger part of their strategy to demonize the president and scare the stupid into believing that the insurance companies and their outrageous premium increases and denials of care are as American as apple pie and something that they should accept instead of fight.

The president had policy, facts, and the American people on his side. The Republicans have fear. Fear lost today.  He handled his critics with his trademark grace.

The President elegantly byotch slapped John McCain during his angry tirade and told him gently but firmly, “…We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.” Barack Obama is what class looks and sounds like.  The Republicans cannot reconcile themselves with that reality.   So instead they deal the race card from the bottom of the deck and call him condescending which is a sophisticated way of saying the president is an uppity nigra that doesn’t know his place.

I am disappointed that he didn’t use some time to defend the public option which I believe to be critical to achieving meaningful health care reform. I will be writing my senator to ask why she hasn’t signed onto the public option.   It is probably in vain but I’ll do it anyway because she needs to hear more voices from the black community.

The President clearly enunciated his goals today:

Rather than start at the outset talking about legislative process and what’s going to happen in the Senate and the House and this and that… let’s talk about the substance: How we might help the American people deal with costs, coverage, insurance, these other issues. And we might surprise ourselves and find out that we agree more than disagree. And that would then help to dictate how we move forward.

His evenhanded and calm moderation of a serious discussion belies the wingnut talking points that attempt to demonize the president by painting a portrait of a violent, dangerous, left-wing radical.  The president is a centrist politician that seeks to govern by consensus.  He is not divisive or disagreeable by nature.  Any attempt to make it seem so is disingenuous.

In my humble opinion, the President won the day hands down and should now proceed towards reconciliation which includes a public option without delay.

A few thoughts on the Tavis Smiley controversy

Standard

I’ve seen some interesting commentary on Tavis Smiley deciding to bring back a black discussion forum on Obama’s. CPL over at Jack and Jill Politics and also Shanti over at WEE SEE YOU. Here is my take:

Given the remorseless hate, vitriolic racism and disingenuous histrionics that rain down on President Obama from the right, it is hard not to give in to the impulse to rally around the flag and reflexively defend his every action. Some on the left, especially the gay community, seem to think that projecting their hostility and frustration onto their Negro president, instead of fellow whites that have rejected every marriage referendum, will magically produce the civil rights they long for.

The same could be said of the “fauxgressives”—yawl’s word, frustrated by the health care stalemate. White fear, stoked by misinformation, is killing the progress that could be made in a progressive direction by this president. He has made some mistakes along the way. For example, he’s allowed himself to believe that he could work toward consensus with the insurance industry and bad actors on the right, but what really seems to be driving the debate about all things progressive are the ridiculous fears of some whitefolks that President Obama is somehow out to get them.

Support is collapsing for health care reform in some Democratic quarters on Capital Hill because some members of congress don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push back against the smears and are reluctant to confront the ignorance, racism and fear enveloping their constituents back home. They would rather cut and run or just plain cave in and validate the fear.

It is easy to be lulled into a sense of false security that an urbane, sophisticated, and intelligent President will come out on top no matter what happens, or that the compromises he inevitably makes will preserve the progressive change that people overwhelmingly voted for—that would be wrong. President Obama will only be as good as the pressure we apply. Holding the President accountable, as Tavis suggests, doesn’t mean that we don’t love and admire him and Michelle; it is that our love for them is not a substitute for progressive policy and will not sustain black and brown communities under siege by recession and centuries of racism and economic injustice.

While it is true that Barack Obama has done some great things, like the stimulus package, we need him to do some truly astounding things because times are so damn bad. In order for him to be the president we need him to be we can’t be afraid of criticizing him when it is warranted. Agreeing to a bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached was not the best move, lets be honest. Failing to stem the foreclosure crisis which is hitting black and brown communities particularly hard is yet another. Nobody has to like Tavis Smiley, you don’t even have to agree with him, but you should at least listen when he makes a valid point about a black agenda.

Let’s not mimic some whitefolks and project our anger and frustration over a lack of progressive progress onto those that don’t deserve it. We really ain’t mad at each other or Tavis Smiley for pointing out the lack of a black agenda. We’re mad at those on the right attempting to stymie what little progressive progress this president is willing to fight for. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are a little peeved with Obama for not fighting harder.

Obama in the Lions Den

Standard

Sorry, y’all.  I am one of the poor people that doesn’t have internet access at home and I messed around and got snowed in.   But if y’all ain’t seen this nearly hour and half long exchange with the President and the House Republicans, you really need to.  It is one thing to know the president is brilliant, it is quite another to see it in real time.  They knew the brotha was coming and they knew his purpose was to engage them in serious dialogue. They brought less than nothing to the table.  These are the fools the good people of Massachusetts sought to empower through the election of Scott Brown.  The Republicans are revealed here in all their ostentatious glory as the ignorant, obstinate, and fact challenged dilettantes that they are.  The president is nothing short of amazing.  This is the president that I voted for.