Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Cower or Punch
Whimper and hide or growl and fight seem President Obama and the Dems' choice after the Massachusetts Senate results yesterday. Those are clearly expressed in two columns this morning, one from the risible Globe guy Jeff Jacoby and the other from Financial Times Contributing Editor Simon Schama.
The former only has two tools — cheap malice and wishful thinking. He saw Scott Brown's defeat of Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate as proof positive that Obama and his cohort have to surrender. Health reform and the rest of the big Dem issues have backfired and all the goodwill is gone. To Jacoby, MA voters "have killed ObamaCare. In so doing they have provided the president a priceless second chance to adjust his political course."
Back on planet earth, Schama has the much more grounded view. He writes that this is proof positive of something entirely different. He calls for Obama to stop the silliness of appeasement. This is the time for overt calls to populism, the bell to the opening round.
He lists the numerous big accomplishments of Obama's first year, domestically and a non-disastrous foreign policy. Schama diagnoses the President's malaise as one I see similar to Coakley's, a failure "in the exercise of the talent those of us who have watched him a long time assumed he had the mastery: taking control of the American narrative."
Art note: I claim fair use of the snatch from the FT's Ingram Pinn's fine editorial cartoon.
Despite the winger fabulists' tale that a 5 to 6 point Brown victory is a total rout requiring Dems to surrender all and forever, Obama's directive is something else entirely. Fill the vacuum of passion created as he changed from candidate to top manager.
Schama notes that Obama to a big extent (and I would add Coakley in her timid nature as a miniaturized version) let "the hard right (roar) with infectious histrionic rage." He calls for the President to get down and dirty and avoid "the rarefied air of legislative achievement. American politics 'feeds instead on sound and fury; it is Mr Obama's job to make it signify something."
In this case, even if health reform is delayed for killed, financial regulatory reform is a great place for a battle. "Take it to the bad guys, Barack. Remind the country where it was when Republicans were still in the White House.
Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, Brown, Obama, special election, U.S. Senate, Financial Times, Schama