Got people stocked in every shade,
Must be doing well with trade.
Stamped, addressed, in odd fatality.
That evens out their personality….
It’s the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging,
All ready to use…
“The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging,” by Genesis, from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
One of the main reasons I’ve offered occasional support for Barack Obama is that he has always strived to maintain his poise and professionalism even while subjected to a constant flurry of ideological, philosophical, and racist attacks. But yesterday he let me down.
When he moved in to the Oval Office, the position Obama had been elected to had suffered, devolved, its most recent incumbents having both abused their powers and embarrassed their constituents. It was a hard, uphill climb to restore the dignity of the office, and I always respected how seriously he took this task and how hard he worked at it.
This respect that I’ve developed for the man overcomes many of the disagreements I have with his policies and with his approach to governance. Perhaps because of that allowance I now feel compelled to speak out about the press conference he held yesterday with regard to the last-minute fiscal cliff negotiations.
I was—to understate my reaction—surprised and disappointed. Instead of the meaningful and critical update I was expecting, what I saw instead was a tactless, rude, manipulative performance.
You led a parade of stock characters out before the hungry cameras, Mr. President, and then you laughed and joked while telling us almost nothing. No deal was made, no agreement reached. It was a PR stunt, a photo op.
Even worse, it was arrogant.
It seemed like you hadn’t read the memo that you, yourself, had written: several million people were on the verge of panic because their unemployment benefits were about to run out; everyone with a 401(k) or an IRA sat nervously, split-screening your speech with the stock market ticker on CNBC; small businesses everywhere were still wondering what would happen to their tax rates; and hundreds of thousands of employees chewed on already quick-bitten fingernails, wondering if they were going to lose their jobs because of the cuts packed into sequestration’s poison pill.
But you had little time for those concerns. You had time, instead, to offer meaningless homilies and to make jokes:
I have to say that ever since I took office, throughout the campaign, and over the last couple of months, my preference would have been to solve all these problems in the context of a larger agreement, a bigger deal, a grand bargain, whatever you want to call it, that solves our deficit problems in a balanced and responsible way, that doesn’t just deal with the taxes, but deals with the spending in a balanced way so that we can put all this behind us and just focus on growing our economy.
But with this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time.
And what is it you half-managed to actually accomplish, what you weren’t even sure would get done when you so brazenly took that podium? Nothing but a cosmetic patch on a foundational crack, a deal that kicks the can down the road (again). Yes, you’ve assuaged some of the fear (particularly for the chronically unemployed), but other than that you’ve primarily avoided any of the really important questions. The monster is still under the bed and we’re still trapped. Your flippancy was grossly misplaced.
What you should have been was chastened. You should have walked out their alone, without that grand parade of lifeless packaging behind you, and you should have apologized to the American people, told them that it’s a struggle, and one that won’t easily go away no matter the crisis, no matter how close to midnight the striking clock sits. You should have told them—told us—that even a temporary fix is something, that it will preserve our sanity for just a little while longer, and that the work will continue. Instead you made a couple of references to Congress’ inability to get things done, and even wisecracked about being invited to someone’s house for a New Year’s Eve party.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not in any way assigning blame to you for the situation we find ourselves in, this “déjà vu all over again.” There’s blame a-plenty and, the vast majority belongs to the Tea Party caucus that insists on holding our country hostage as they work to impose their own warped ideologies on the rest of us. But your minimal blame doesn’t give you carte blanche to act the way you did.
You sounded victorious and were gloating about it when, in fact, the only victory you’ve won reminds me of the Pharaoh in Exodus who refuses to listen even as plagues attack his people.
This isn’t supposed to be about you, but yesterday that’s what you did. It was an embarrassment, and all the more so because you’ve done so much to restore the capital “P” to the Presidency these last four years.
I may not be your biggest fan, but I’ve always treated you with respect. I expect--and deserve--the same in return.