By Jerry Waxman
As speeches go it was a very good one. The president is unexcelled in speechmaking by anyone in politics today, however he falls short of either FDR or JFK in his ability to be inspiring. They had a particular passion and a singular style that made you feel as though they were talking directly to you. Their impact hits you directly in the gut. When President Obama talks I feel like I’d better take notes because I’m going to be tested on it in a surprise quiz. Today was a little different because I felt like I was a board member getting a strategic plan by our CEO telling me almost everything I wanted to hear, and yet it fell far short of inspiring.
One of the reasons is that we’ve heard it all before in one form or another. The problem is that actions speak louder than words and so far actions by this president, his administration and too many Capitol Hill Democrats have not been consistent with their words. That’s not leadership. I’ve never said this publicly (I have privately) but the president acts more like a supreme con-man than an executive. During the campaign he made promises that so far he has not kept but he keeps us coming back for more. He’s one of the best three card monte or pea in the walnut shell men I’ve ever seen. As long as you concentrate on his voice you don’t notice what his hands are doing and he’ll confound you every time.
My feeling is that today’s speech was meant to shore up the base more than anything else. Let’s face it, progressives have been given short shrift in the last two years which has resulted in an extremely flawed health insurance plan (it’s certainly not health care), financial reform that’s a joke, a terrible education initiative and a horrendous Secretary of Education, extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, a non-existent energy policy and a continuing erosion of middle class working families. Two weeks ago his re-election campaign kicked off and said they had to raise a billion dollars to win. That’s not possible unless the progressive movement goes along, and even then he’s going to have to go to Wall Street to make up the difference and they are only going to give if they get something in return. This speech was specifically tailored to get the progressives to fall in line. I’d like to believe him. Yes, I’d love to take him at his word, but judging by his past performance I’m more than a tad skeptical about his ability to deliver. He has yet to demonstrate the kind of leadership that is needed to attain those goals. Why would we think that now things are going to be different? It doesn’t seem logical considering the Republican controlled House and several Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate who have bought into the cut entitlements myth.
Don’t get me wrong; I want him to succeed. If he succeeds the whole country, including the fraudulent Tea Party, benefits greatly. He stands undoubtedly head and shoulders above any possible candidate the Republicans can offer up, but that’s not saying much. The best way to help him succeed is to withhold all support and make him face primary challengers. Challengers such as Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich could force him to face up to the fact that he has not adequately represented his constituency so far. That’s why Democrats lost heavily in 2010, and until they learn that lesson they will continue to get beaten.
The big push for re-election has fostered a Facebook movement that asks you if you can be counted in. Over a hundred of my friends asked me if I was in. I ignored most requests but I did answer a few with a resounding “NO.” My time, money and vote are going to have to be earned and not taken for granted. The speech was a good start. Now let’s see if he follows through. That would be real leadership.