Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Monday, April 11, 2011

My God, Mr. Obama, Why Have You Forsaken Us?

And you have Mr. Obama. You have forsaken the little people - little people like me, little people who heard your call for change, little people who worked tirelessly for your election, little people who by the millions went to the polls to cast their votes for you because you gave us hope for a better future, and little people like me who have relentlessly defended your decisions in the face of harsh criticism from the far left.

You need not worry; I doubt that I will ever become a professional Obama basher like so many on the left. In fact I will not welcome the usual litany of complaints from them here, but Mr. Obama, I am beyond disappointed right now; I am one angry voter. This time I cannot nor will I even try to defend the big sellout of America's poor and middle class - her seniors, her sick, her homeless, her jobless, and her children.

Bi-partisanship was a noble experiment on your part. Had you been dealing with the Republican party of yesteryear, you might have succeeded. But the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller no longer exists. Civility, decency, honor and dedication to public service are no longer priorities for a party that has allowed itself to be usurped by far-right extremists. And you know something else Mr. Obama? Extremists do not believe in bi-partisanship. They want it all and "all" includes your presidency.

Like you, I am no economist but I know enough to know that taxing the large corporations and the wealthy would reduce the debt significantly. I know enough to know that cutting back on defense spending would go a long, long way toward easing our national debt. I know enough to know that ending these "military engagements" would add enormously to our coffers and save lives in the process.

Unlike Wall Street and the big corporations, I don't want it all Mr. Obama. I just want my puny little share. I just want the single mother of three who lives in my complex not to lose the roof over her head. I just want the man with the oxygen tank pushing his way along in a wheel chair to be able to continue breathing. I just want a better public school system so we aren't faced with another generation of people who don't know their Constitution, who don't have the ability to reason, and who aren't able to write a simple grammatical sentence.

Mr. Obama, I believe Mr. Paul Krugman speaks for me and millions of other profoundly frustrated Americans as he says:

"What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?"


I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.

And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.

But let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr. Obama have to celebrate his defeat? Did he have to praise Congress for enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history,” as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea?

Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent.

More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.


Krugman is not alone. Both Politics Plus and The Vigil feature an excellent article by Robert Reich, called Right Wing Bullies.

Alter Politics outlines point by point a new study entitled “Competing Budget Priorities: The Public, The House, The White House” by the University of Maryland’s Program For Public Consultation. It reveals that on nearly every single budgetary issue a majority of Americans who were polled preferred policies which would be classified as ‘liberal."


  1. It's disappointing, there's no denying that. Those of us who supported Hillary in the primaries worried that Obama wasn't enough of a fighter, and too often that's been borne out.

    Interestingly, Boehner is getting reamed by the teabaggers, who think he caved to Obama. Obama may have reason to widen the split by encouraging the view that things went his way and not Boehner's. It's not much of a defense, though.

    Still, there are other Democrats in power. If the Republicans want to make suicidal attacks on Social Security and Medicare, let our best people in Congress seize the opportunity to defend them, even if Obama doesn't.

  2. I posted this over at Penolan's blog, too. I am not saying that I really really like what is happening.... but to think that Hilary would have fared better, that anyone one would have fared better.... needs a another think... like.... what if??? McCain/ Palin.....

    Re: Hilary.
    just to add a bit of a caveat.

    Had she been elected, especially in the political climate that existed in the election of 2008, she would have faced the same opposition, in many regards, as Obama did... she, because she is a woman... he because he was black. Bandy the notion all you will.... but the election of Barack Obama unleashed all the latent racism in our country, just as an election of Hilary Clinto would have unleashed the latent sexism.

    Disagree.... but I do not think the notion can be disregarded.

  3. Obama should be ashamed of himself. He will come to rue the day he constantly caved in and failed to use his bully pulpit. We progressives have to stand together, caucus in next year's Democratic primaries, and make sure the party only puts forth progressives as candidates henceforth. These Reublican Lite blue dogs must GO!

  4. PS -- There's nothing wrong with criticizing the President when he falls short -- in fact, it's vitally necessary. He needs to feel pressure from the left as well as the right.

    My quarrel, and I think yours as well, is with those who claim that we should sit out elections or vote third-party, thus letting the far worse Republican alternative into power.

    Okjimm: I'm sure Hillary as President would have faced the same insane hostility as Obama has. So would a white male Democratic President. It's inevitable given how far the right wing has run off the rails these days. My point was that by nature she would have been more of a fighter and less conciliatory.

  5. Spot on, Leslie.

    Only I would like to echo Infidel's observation that there is nothing wrong with criticizing Obama -- on the contrary. I believe that the term "professional left," used pejoratively every time progressives criticize the Presidents and/or Democrats, is a nifty propagandist trick designed to deflect just criticisms and marginalize the critics.

    I'm not a member of this mysterious "professional left," but I've been critical of Obama since the bungled health care "reform" "debate" of the summer 2009. My disappointment with him has only deepened since.

  6. @Infidel: Ha! I love it that the TP is giving Agent Orange hell. You bend over backwards to be nice/court someone and you end up with teethmarks in the arse - and he deserves everyone of those bites.

    Yes, there are other Dems in power but between the Blue Dogs and the DINOs, there's much to worry about.

    @okjimm: I totally agree with you about the latent racism and have called it for what it is since Day One. Certainly we've seen plenty of blatant latent sexism. Btw, both are characteristics that I mention in my previous posts.

    I have no doubt that Hillary would have faced the same obstacles and believe that any push for HC reform would have been met with even more resistance than Obama received. There are too many in Congress today, including Dems., who have bitter memories of the package she proposed during BC's administration.

  7. @Jack: I think he will too and it may, but not necessarily, hurt him in 2012. I truly think he is a smart and honest man, albeit maybe not as tough as we'd like. I totally agree that progressive have to get active in caucuses and start working from the ground up in order to influence the next election. I'm not one to even entertain the idea of a third party because nobody would win - except those on the Republicans.

    @Infidel: Maybe I should email a link to my blog to the WH? Think anyone would read it?

  8. Great post!

    How do we keep Democrats united to vote for Obama? They have good cause to vote some other candidate, split the vote, and (God forbid) end up with Palin, Bachmann, or worse as President. To be honest, that's the only reason I will vote for Obama again.

  9. @Elizabeth: What a delight to see you here. Woo hoo.

    First, I want to make an announcement: I have never said or even implied that we should not criticize Obama. It is both necessary and healthy. I don't use terms such as far-left, professional left, or hard left to be pejorative or as a propaganda trick. They are just convenient labels that I, at least, use to distinguish them from centrists, liberals, progressives and even many on the left. I don't know what else to call them. I have a few thoughts on that but the labels I have in mind would go beyond being "pejorative" - trust me.

    I know you - and others, including yours truly - have been disappointed in Obama, some more than others, but I have never read anything by you that would approach anything I've seen from these people. You are much too reasoned and I have never seen you resort to vicious personal assaults. For example:

    "Vicious epithets directed at the President of our United States are limited only by their crude imaginations. One side is just as repugnant, tasteless and vile as the other. Epithets from the right include: Spoiled Brat, Obama Bin Lyin, Half-breed Muslim, Barack Hussein Obama, No Clue Balls Obama, Robbing Hood, Nazi, Terrorist, Barack the Magic Negro.

    What’s the difference between that kind of toilet tank talk and this used by far-left bloggers? Barack Bush, Nel, HomophObama, Pootie Tang, the Black Mr. Rogers, House Negro."

    This is contained in the post linked below, and I see nothing in it that describes you:

  10. Great read L! I'm a little surprised tho, I didn't know you were this disappointed. Only the hardcore Obama lovers can ignore the numerous times he has caved and disappointed his base. I sure hope his second term shows us a much stronger and progressive Obama. We desperately need it.

    It really doesn't matter who the Democrat in the White House is, the GOP will spend the whole 4 or 8 yrs doing NOTHING but fighting to get back the power. They are despicable power driven whores who care not a bit about the American people, only their own selfish need for power. This is why I hate Republiscums...

  11. @Tom: Well, I certainly won't be voting for him as enthusiastically as I did in 2008 but, like you, the right-wing Republicans are off the charts and are downright frightening. Maybe if someone like former Republican WY governor Simpson came out and said what he did today on Hardball:

    "We have homophobes in our party. That’s disgusting to me. We’re all human beings. We’re all God’s children .... I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, 'moral values'—while you’re diddling your secretary while you’re giving a speech on moral values? Come on, get off of it."

    @Sue: I will confess that this time I'm not just disappointed. I'm pissed.

  12. ROFLOL. Instead of "bi-partisanship" I wrote "non-partisanhip." Didn't anyone notice?

  13. I, for one, didn't notice, Leslie.

    I'm pissed, too.

  14. Well said, Leslie. It is disappointing to see Obama drift steadily to the right. And in doing so, he is causing undo suffering and pain to those who spirits he raised with his eloquent campaign speeches. Unfortunately, the speeches are gone, and his actions have not fulfilled his visions.

    It is a shame. The only thing worse would be a republican victory in 2012, so I guess we are stuck with at best another 4 years of Obama.

  15. I have a lot of complaints with this President, and I hardly qualify as a "professional." Or, if I am, I am a damn lousy one.

    Wednesday will either show us (1`.) if the President has actually decided to adopt his own "change" mantra, or (2.) has decided on the theme for his 2012 campaign. I hope for 1, but I am bracing for 2.

    I haven't forgotten how Chimpy would position himself in the center for campaigns, and then return to the lunatic right after the campaigning was over. This President has done a dance with the left, and then done the same shift. One can only hope that he'll actually follow through on the dance.

  16. @Elizabeth: Hopefully no one else did either.

    @JC: When one looks at the whole big picture of all the Draconian legislation the GOP is introducing all across the country, It should really send up red flags. To vote for them - or a third party candidate - is a recipe for disaster. We can only hope that if Obama is re-elected, he will stop all this nonsense about bi-partisanship and grow a spine - and "restructure" the Supreme Court while he's at it.

    JR: I guess the thing with me is that I have come to the reluctant conclusion that his words don't mean very much.

    I am going to replace such labels as hard, professional and far with "extreme" - if for no other reason than I find their language and images as offensive as what I see on the far-right. And there are a lot of other traits with similar characteristics - none of which I see from JR or Elizabeth - but I think it's time to move on from that subject.

  17. to Infidel's point.... No, A White Male Dem, I do not think, would have come close to experiencing the obstacles Obama faced, or Hilary would have. No, he would not have been home free, but my point... is that racism, and sexism have played a huge role in his opposition.
    My REAL hope.... is that the far right, teabaggers have exhaused what cache they had in support from a scared middle class. A second term (and really, what choice is there) will provide him with more support. the fresh man class of 2010 came in screaming for bllood... almost with a lynch mob mentality. If there is a Dem candidate out there... well, he hasn't come forward yet.... and any in the Rep group resemble more the studio audience on "Let's Make A Deal" than astute Politicians. Fixing 8 years of Bush was going to take more than two years.... even with help.... that Obama did not get.

  18. Maybe I should email a link to my blog to the WH? Think anyone would read it?

    Someone there probably would -- it couldn't hurt.

    Another point to keep in mind is that the drop in turn-out among the disappointed purist left in 2010 sent a clear message to Democratic politicians: Those voters can't be counted on. That may account for some of the moves toward the center by Democrats -- they're seeking votes there to hedge against the risk that a lot of those who sat out 2010 might sit out 2012 as well. The budget deal that averted the shut-down is actually polling well among independents, for example, even as Obama and Boehner are being denounced as traitors by their respective hard-line partisans.

  19. @okjimm: I totally agree. Like I say, I'm not about to jump ship but I'm bitterly disappointed this time around and I'm very concerned about the plan to shave Medicare and Medicaid. I think it's foolhardy to expect any president to accomplish everything we think he should overnight - especially when faced with a bunch of Yahoos.

    @Infidel: Voters are similar to fair weather sports fans. When their team has a winning season, it's all cheers. When they don't, it's time to fire the coach.

    I sent a copy of this post to the WH - excluding Krugman's article. I'm sure it has been read and analyzed by everyone who walks through the portals there.

  20. I was never so enthused over a candidate as I was over Mr. Obama--so much so that the amount of $$$ I contributed to his campaign earned me an invitation to one of the inaugural balls. I'd never done that in my life.

    Feeling a bit weak-kneed these past months, I nevertheless have remained loyal to him hoping to understand what he is doing or trying to do.

    Remember what he said during the presidential campaign? I can't quote it exactly, but it was something like "there is no red America or blue America, there's only the UNITED States of America." And then the quirky thing when he would end a talk, instead of saying "God Bless America," he would say "God bless the UNITED STATES of America.

    Since his days in college he has always been a conciliator--wanting to please everyone.

    Obama seems to be focussed on keeping his pledge to work with the other side more than his pledges to his progressive base, no matter what the political consequences are.

    All I can do is continue to hope that somehow his strategy will work for the good. He is a long-range strategist, I think. Maybe it's me, and I just don't see the big picture--how his actions will make our futures brighter.

    I'm disheartened as well, but more angry with the crazies on the Right for not cooperating when the president has held out his hand time and again for that cooperation.

    I, too, have no problem with identifying myself as a liberal. I just wish Mr. Obama did too.

  21. House Dems try to stiffen Obama's spine.

    Don't forget -- Obama's not the only Democrat with power, and he won't be the only person for us to support next year.

  22. @Shaw: Beautifully stated, mi lady. Yes, he has always been a conciliator and there's plenty of evidence to support this. And despite my rant, I applaud him for it. It has to be a bit tough trying to accomplish conciliation with all the extremes and other groups clammoring for recognition and wanting everything their way and nothing else will do.

    I found two quotes which may be what you are talking about. One is, "There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America." The other is, "I don't want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be President of the United States of America." The latter was from a speech on 11/10/2007.

    I had to rant and in doing so I got it out of my system. Like you, and as I've so often said, we have a lot more to fear from the crazies on the right. They're like a runaway train.

    @Infidel: Thanks for the link. I read them both and am pleased that they are taking this stand. Hopefully others will get behind them. Like many Americans, any cut in my Social Security - and Medicare - would be a real disaster for me.

  23. I vote for sending the link. I've put the WH (and, call me a masochist, the SC legislators) in my bookmarks bar so I can fire stuff off to them regularly. Someone does at least scan them and crunch some data points that float around the WH somewhere. Probably worth more than a vote these days, in fact.

    For the last two days, I haven't been able to bear television or print news. The only thing I've been able to stomach is postings from blogrolled friends. Whenever that happens, whenever the disappointment (and resultant confusion, because it's CONFUSING to feel betrayed) overwhelms me, someone amongst my trusted friends fires me up again. Good work, Les, and thank you.

  24. @Nance: Have the WH url memorized! Don't have the TN legislature but they're about as bad as your home turf and I'm not that much of a masochist. Yes, I too turn to my fellow bloggers to fire me up - or to calm me down, as the case may be.

  25. Excellent post. And okjimm makes an especially insightful comment.

    For more that's critically insightful, do read an op ed at Huffington Post, "Why Progressives Keep On Losing and the Right Keeps On Winning."

  26. I think BHO is craftier than people give him credit for being. He's learned that sometimes it pays to hang back and see what the other guy's offering, before putting everything out front so it can get torn to shreds.

  27. @S.W.: Hey! Welcome back. Hope you and yours had a pleasant break and you're back and raring to go.

    I read the article you linked to. I don't know why people insist on comparing Obama to JFK or most especially to RFK. Or comparing any president to another president at all. In arguing why the Tea Party wins and why the progressives don't, he points out something that I think is absolutely true: "Activism starts at the ground floor, not at the top. While the President may not be today's JFK, much less its FDR, like any politician he's open to persuasion from progressives and the Democratic base. But progressives have to be willing to persuade - as gently or as strongly as the moment demands."

    paula: Oh, I think Obama is very, very crafty - but not flamboyant, so his craftiness isn't as apparent.

    Thinking his speech was scheduled for tonight, I missed it and only caught a bit of it on NPR while driving home. Thank God for the Internet -have downloaded a full-text copy, which I will read in the morning when I'm more alert.

    Being too tired to do anything significant, I've been trolling the Net to get a feel for reactions to Obama's speech. In general it seems pretty positive - except from the right-wingers, which is to be expected. Canter and Boehner were apoplectic. AlterNet and their kin were their usual snarly snarky selves. No surprise there and as usual, they singled out a few things they didn't like and threw out the rest, regardless of merit. Politics as usual.

  28. tnlib, I am indeed back and raring to go. That portion of Eskow's piece you cite is a more polite way of stating my idea, written when deep frustration, that Obama, like other presidents, sometimes needs a good swift kick in the butt to get him on the right track and moving.

    Re: making comparisons among presidents. It's inevitable. Some will be compared to our best, some to our worst, some at various times to one and the other. History is what we've learned, much of it through trial and error. George W. Bush could've learned plenty from Dwight Eisenhower's books and speeches. President Obama could learn a lot from studying what Harry Truman did, and how, and why. Not to try to be just like Truman, but rather to better appreciate that there is a need to fight for what you believe is right, sometimes even when you know you probably won't win. Truman knew that, and while he sometimes lost a fight, he was never bullied successfully.

  29. @SW: Maybe my use of the word "comparing" (and I wondered at the time) is misleading. I think your statement that studying a previous president, not to be like him, but to appreciate how what he did was good - or even bad - is very sound. And certainly Truman would be a worthwhile study. We'll see if Obama's speech was just campaign rhetoric or if he will back it up with action.

  30. I am as disappointed as you Leslie. It seems to be one thing after another to be upset about, but I'm old enough to have suffered from many disappointments in my life, some of them from people who love me, so I am not going to get to crazy of the latest setback. I don't mind losing a few battles (more than a few) but I want to win the war.

  31. @Holte: I think most of us want to win the war and I think most of us have a realistic understanding of how we do that.

  32. He's talking the fighting words. Now when I see some action to go along with the fighting words, count me in. I've heard the fighting words too many times before.

  33. By now you have probably read the full text of Obama's speech, as have I. I, too, missed it because I was having a medical procedure, but just hearing the clips later convinced me that Obama is getting the message. He seems to have his groove back and said all the things I had been hoping he would say.

    Now if he just follows his words with action we may be on the right track at last.

  34. Frodo does not know Paula, but he shares her opinion. Having played the game of baseball for most of his mobile years, the Hobbit learned "to foul off the curveballs, and wait for that dumb sonuvabitch to throw you a fast ball." There is no feeling on earth, including sex, that is as sweet as the sound and the vision of the long fly ball that results as it soars beyond the deepest fence in center field. The President just drilled one.

    Who doubts that John Boehner, et al aren't "dumb sonuvabitches?" The President has pulled down their drawers and put them on public display. He has revealed them as firecrackers, with no more than a two-inch fuse.

    Aw, did widdle Paulie Wyan stub him widdle toe?

  35. @JR: I think Obama is smart enough to realize that the days of trying to work with Republicans in any meaningful way is over for the most part. Frankly, I also think he realizes that if he gives away any more to them, his chances of being re-elcted may not be a given.

    @Darlene: Don't know why your photo isn't showing up. Anyway, the only criticism of his speech that I've noticed are from the usual ranks - on both sides and I have more to do than listen to their crap.

    @Frodo: You've said it well. David Brooks and David Frumm have said pretty much the same thing - just not in such entertaining words.

    @Everybody: I think we need to pay attention to the Democrats in Congress as well. No longer so spineless, they are beginning to stand up and be counted. Rep. Crowley gave a speechless speech using signs that was unique and on target. Pete Defazio lit into the GOP for killing youth programs that was very moving, full of facts, and about brought me to tears. And look at the Dems voting "present" on a bill even more draconian than Ryan's, forcing the Republicans to vote No on it - but only after they caught on. I think we may be seeing the dawn of a new beginning.

  36. The more extreme Republicans get, the clearer Democratic positions become.
    The Constitution set up a government for people, not corporations.
    With budgets (Federal and State) going deeper in the red, even conservatives cannot defend no new taxes (revenu).
    As illogical as politics is in Washington, and the general public, reality of Math will overtake ideology. I hope.

  37. @Tom: I'd like to think the Republicans are getting the message that people aren't too keen on the rich getting tax cuts while the poor and middle class are epected to pay even more. But it doesn't seem like they're paying attention.

  38. How did I miss this great discussion? Anyway I am also bitterly disappointed in the president but last I heard he had every intention of not renewing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy the next time they roll around. Clearly he can't do anything now, not with a republican congress in the majority.

    Finally, while I will continue to criticize as I see fit I will never join the ranks of the bashers, nor will I ever buy into the less than wise idea of finding someone to run against him in the primary. That will be certain defeat for the dems in 2012 and a Michele Bachmann will be sitting in the oval office. We can be hopeful that if he wins again, and if the dems stay united he will, that he will grow a set and start fulfilling some of those lofty promises.

  39. @Mike: For awhile, Mike, I was beginning to think that you and I and only a hand-full of others felt this way. Must have something to do with the noise level. ; ) But seriously, I'm encouraged by the signs I see elsewhere that we aren't a minority after all. Of course you realize that this makes us unrealistic - among other things.