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Saturday, October 02, 2010
 
TWO UNFORTUNATE APPEARANCES

The first reaction that I had to President Obama’s September 20th town hall meeting - or whatever else you might want to call it - was that his advisors - or whoever it was that persuaded him to expose himself to what turned out to be an ammunition trove for his next opponent - assuming he runs for reelection in 2012 - and for Republicans trying to regain control of Congress - should be fired or at least moved to a job where he can’t influence presidential decisions. Can you imagine Bush doing something like this - appearing before an audience that hadn’t signed a loyalty oath and without sworn assurances that no tough questions would be asked and for sure that no hint of disappointment or criticism will be voiced?

Yes, you can compliment Mr. Obama for having the balls to take on a crowd without knowing in advance who was there or what they might ask - but I think more harm than good may have come out of it. We’ve already seen how the meeting is being reported by the electronic media. They’re featuring what could best be described as "awkward moments" - like the African American woman who said she was exhausted from "defending" him and why hadn’t he made things better for the middle class!!! He tried to answer her with a list of all the things he has been able to do that should help middle class Americans - but none of what he said was what she and others who apparently were expecting miracles and rewards for having voted this man into office wanted to hear. Then there was the recent law school graduate who said he had been inspired to vote for Obama but who found that inspiration dying away because he couldn’t pay the interest on his student loans, couldn’t find a job and wanted to know if the American Dream was dead for him. Obama should have told him that self pity wasn’t going to help him achieve any kind of dream.

If Rush Limbaugh watched any of this, I’m sure he did it with an attitude of self satisfaction - and with a few belly laughs. After all, it was the Rush Mouth who dreamed up the mocking reference to Obama as "The Messiah" - an appellation quickly picked up by his information deprived acolytes and spread derisively around the Internet. But it wasn’t a joke to millions of Obama supporters - particularly young people who became involved in politics for the first time because they indeed came to regard him as some kind of Messiah.

Let me be clear. I too am disappointed in what has and hasn’t happened in the first 21 months of the Obama presidency. I wanted to see him fight for a public health insurance option and not resign virtually total control of healthcare to a handful of for profit companies. I wanted him to do something about "don’t ask don’t tell" by executive order. I wanted to see Gitmo shut down. I wanted an early major effort to remove existing tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas. And I didn’t want to see an increased involvement in Afghanistan - though it shouldn’t have been a surprise considering his emphasis on that misbegotten nation during the campaign. And that’s just a handful of things I had hoped for in his first 21 months. But I didn’t think he was any kind of Messiah and I knew he was a politician - and that politicians make a lot of promises when they’re campaigning that may not be that easy to keep once they’re elected and learn first hand the limitations of the office they’ve achieved.

If the President continues to have these kinds of town hall meetings between now and the November election, I hope he’ll stay away from trying to explain all the things he’s accomplished that should be making things better for the middle class. People aren’t buying it. Things aren’t better for far too many people. He needs to tell them that he’s trying as hard as he can to bring the kind of change that they’re looking for - that Republicans in Congress are doing everything in their power to stop his efforts and it will make it even harder to accomplish anything if people who voted for him in 2008 sit on their hands this November and let the Republicans take over. And he should quit telling people to "buck up" and tell Joe Biden to quit talking about "whining." Both of you are well versed in the English language. Choose some other words to inspire people to vote. If you need an example, don’t look to Carter’s "malaise" speech. Look to anything FDR ever said. Anything!!

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I can’t think of any other circumstance where I would be lumping Stephen Colbert and the President together on the same page - other than them both making "unfortunate" appearances within days of each other. And again, as on occasions in the not too distant past, I find myself agreeing with people with whom I rarely agree - conservative pundits and conservative members of Congress. Colbert had no business testifying on a topic on which he has no expertise and about which he has expressed little or no interest in the past. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren who extended the invitation for Colbert to make a mockery of Congressional hearings should be ashamed of herself. There’s nothing wrong with celebrities testifying on serious matters before Congressional committees if they have been long term advocates of some cause and have some genuine expertise. Colbert doesn’t fit that description. His non-comedic "expertise" - if you can call it that - is self promotion - at which he seems to be embarrassingly proficient.

I’m not going to waste time criticizing Colbert for some of his antics that I find questionable - among then accepting Congresswoman Lofgren’s invitation to make a fool of himself. I am questioning the dedication of members of Congress to the serious business of governance at a time when it is perhaps more needed than at any other time in recent history. I don’t know how "safe" the Congresswoman’s seat is in California’s 16th district, but if it’s in any way a swing district, she needs to hope that there’s a large contingent of "The Colbert Report" fans among her constituents.