Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama Homers; Republicans Strike Out. Again.

Last night, President Obama hit the ball out of the park with the seeming effortlessness of a Ken Griffey, Jr. home run swing. In ringing, confident tones, he called on the Congress and the American people to regard the economic crisis as an opportunity to get things done, to recognize and fix the problems created and left in place by the Bush Administration, and to create a better future by ending decades of political procrastination and tackling the issues of health care access and energy independence. Obama gave a sweeping, epic performance that once again displayed his remarkable connection with the American people: CNN's instapoll showed that 92% of people who watched Obama at least somewhat approved of the speech (68% strongly approved).

Throughout, Obama linked individual accountability -- from teenagers to bank executives -- as a critical to national recovery. In this way, he involved all Americans in the success of his enterprise in a way Bush never did. At the same time, he successfully co-opted what is left of the tattered Republican mantra of personal responsibility, extending it from would-be dropouts to the conservative constituency of bankers and executives. By the time Obama finished, the message to the Republican party was clear: We the people are taking the country in a new direction. You are welcome to join us -- and he offered the Hatch-Kennedy bill promoting volunteerism as a means of getting on board -- and if you don't, that's your problem. It was a bravura performance, one that actually left T. and I clapping...

The MSM and the punditocracy has been moaning all week that Obama was not being "positive" enough about the economy. As he has many times before, Obama showed how far ahead he is of them and standard political analysis. At no time during the speech did he paint the economic challenge facing the country as anything but extreme. He was positive about the ability of his administration and the American people to meet the challenge. IMHO, that's the kind of optimism voters respond to. Claiming that things look good when they plainly do not appears out of touch because it is...

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's broadly panned response to Obama exemplifies the Republican political dilemma. First of all, the 37-year old came across as callow, glib, and insubstantial; if this is the best of the Republican bunch, then they have a mighty thin bench. But even more telling were two failed attempts at humor, the first of which taunted Democrats for including funds for volcano monitoring in the stimulus bill. As Thom Hartman pointed out on Air America this morning, the bill indeed includes money that allows the United States Geological Survey to upgrade and maintain equipment left to rot by the Bush Administration. Among many other things allowed by the bill, the USGS can upgrade equipment used to monitor volcano activity.

But here's the thing: Those of us who live in the shadow of a volcano want the USGS to have modern, functioning equipment. We don't think of it as pork; we think of it as essential. To us, Jindal's jibe came across as a typically divisive Republican remark aimed at blue states intent on wasting the hard-earned tax dollars of red states. This kind of politics went down to defeat last November, and it's telling that the Republicans can't articulate an alternative.

Then there was the bizarre lesson Jindal drew from the Bush Administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina, namely, that the federal government cannot be counted on to deliver on anything at all. Now, one might suppose that the actual lessons lay elsewhere: That Republicans can't be counted on to respond successfully to a crisis requiring massive federal intervention, and that the government's ability to respond to crisis must be continuously monitored and maintained. Oh, and that the head of FEMA probably ought to be someone with experience in disaster response and not a political flunkie with a background in horse breeding. Just saying, is all.

And there's another level to consider as well. Many political analysts have concluded that the Republicans lost the 2008 election in September 2005, when the Bush Administration responded so poorly to Katrina. And yet here's the governor of the state most harmed by the Katrina fallout using this catastrophe as fodder for a lame attempt at a right-wing joke. How out of touch can you get?

The Republican party is in trouble, and the full dilemma of their self-made predicament is not well understood, most of all by them. There has been no shortage of helpful statements of the obvious -- I could tell them that they are short on cash and need to attract minority and younger voters while moving to the center. For that matter, so could my grandmother, who died in 1979. But how do they get there when their base regards Arlen Spector as a flaming liberal? Or when a majority of the electorate regards them as both out of touch and incompetent? And when their every action confirms that they in fact are out of touch and incompetent? (How many people who saw Bobby Jindal last night would be comfortable with him running the country? One, two, three...that looks to be about it.)

Last month, for Oklahoma congressman and original Heritage Foundation fellow Mickey Edwards -- who represents the shrinking Republican intelligentsia as well as anyone -- penned a self-serving op-ed piece in which he cloaked himself and those like him in the mantel of Ronald Reagan and then washed his hands of the hard-right base of the Republican party. The party, he wrote accurately if hypocritically, 
that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, of Ann Coulter, of Newt Gingrich, of George W. Bush, of Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party, it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power.
In other words, "Don't blame me. It isn't my fault." And wouldn't it be pretty to think so. 

Except that Edwards and Reagan and the rest of the Heritage Foundation ilk are culpable. After all, it was Reagan who began the practice of bringing ideologues into the executive branch. It was Reagan who encouraged ridicule of the opposition. It was Reagan who opened the GOP to the Christian right, encouraging the assumption that these people could always be controlled. It was in the Reagan Justice Dept that the careers of John Roberts and Samuel Alito took off.

The GOP of today did not spring out of whole cloth. Its genesis lies in the tactics of Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich, and it first expressed itself in a major way with 1995 government shutdown and the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton. I don't recall the Heritage Foundation jumping up and down to oppose either.

Its supposed noble heritage of classic European liberalism notwithstanding (Edwards actually claims this), the GOP's ugly secret is that it has been a haven for yahoos and know-nothings since the days of Joe McCarthy. (BTW, The Coldest Winter, David Halberstam's excellent book about the Korean War, successfully captures this period in GOP history.) This crew has finally taken over, ruined their party, and left the likes of Mickey Edwards wringing their hands from the ivory towers of Harvard while Rush Limbaugh cheers for Obama to fail.

Which brings me to the final horrid Republican miscalculation: They've gone all in hoping for the failure of a president that the country wants and needs to succeed. This is too much for even a mossbacked, theocratic stegosaurus like Pat Robertson, who pointed out the obvious:
That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.
This is what the Republican party has come to: Pat Robertson is the voice of reason...

A film is in the works about the last days of Hank Williams. IMHO, the indie approach gives it a better shot at honesty and empathy than a full-blown Hollywood treatment...

More on Bobby Jindal's brutal performance here. My personal fave:
Fortunately he has a lot of time to improve his delivery. In the year 2040 he will still be younger than McCain was in 2008.
NOLAmotion remembers Antoinette K-Doe...


Renegade Eye said...

Gov. Barbour of Mississippi, is refusing 50 million of the bailout. He is refusing $$ for part time inemployment benefits.

People should be out in the streets, over such an outrage.

Steven said...

I can see 2 volcanoes (Lassen and Shasta) from my house every day and I think you can see even more of them from yours. I kind of like the idea that someone else is keeping an eye on them - besides myself. What if I wake up late some morning and forget to look? So what's Jindal saying? My volcanoes aren't important?

So typical of Republican's...speak first and think later.

K. said...

When Bobby said what he said about volcano monitoring, my first thought was "What's wrong with that?" It's gotten to the point where their ridicule -- a style they've practiced well over the years -- doesn't make sense.

Apparently, another item this particular appropriation allows for is stream gauges. As in how rapidly water is nearing the top of levees. Like the kind all over Louisiana. Where Bobby is governor.

K. said...

Ren, the money will only go to shiftless people whose joblessness and poverty is their own fault.

Bill said...

Well, the mayor of Vancouver, WA was certainly not amused by Jindal's volcano quip:

I also read an article earlier today, which I can not find a link to now, about how USGS work in the Philippines helped keep not only 1000s of civilians safe from danger during Mt. Pinatubo's 1991 eruption, but also 1000s of U.S. servicemen and women living at Clark Air Base, which is located right beneath the volcano. And I thought that the Republican party was the one that cared about supporting the troops...

The Clever Pup said...

Appropo of nothing - thanks for favouriting me.

I checked out your profile. I see you like the Goblin Market. Do you mean Christina Rossetti's?

That is one very interesting, compelling and disturbing poem.

I have it around here somewhere with equally disturbing illustrations.

Roy said...

It's interesting to compare the two speeches - the President's so positive and forward looking, Jindal's so negative, mean-spirited, and stingy. I kept waiting for him to say "What? Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?" These guys make Scrooge look positively magnanimous!

And yeah, it's really scary when Pat Robertson is the voice of reason in the GOP.

BTW, that video, "Her Morning Elegance", is downright brilliant! Thanks for the link.

K. said...

Bill: How did you like Jindal's response? It amounted to "don't bother me with the facts."

TCP: Thanks for stopping by -- love your blog. I linked to it via Don Parker, Ink.

Yes, that is the Christina Rosetti poem. An article by writer and Seattle resident Jonathan Raban inspired me to read it, and I've read it a number of times since. My (brief) post about the poem -- with a link to Raban's article -- is here.

Joe said...

Yo bro,
Well said. Speech got good reviews here in the "other" Washington. Check out Bill Kristol yeserday. He's downright scared as it dawns on him that the country has left him and his ilk behind. Obama has miles to go before he sleeps, but when the GOP keeps trotting out Dick Shelby and Lindsey Graham (Not to mention young Bobb J.) as if they are some kind of viable alternative, you have to like our chances. Are there any Republicans left outside of the Confederate South? Why should we care what those guys think anyway?

K. said...

I hear there are a few in Utah and Idaho. Can't wait to read Kristol.

Ima Wizer said...

Oh I love the way you put right on! So eloquent! Now we need you to run for office!