I was especially sorry to see him wasting so much time on Biden, who only makes news when he commits a new gaffe.
But I perked up when Biden told his fellow Dems to “buck up” – that people should stop whining because the Obama administration is delivering on its mandate and deserves their votes this November.
I gasped. Surely this was yet another big Biden screwup. No Dem would dare risking alienating the progressive base with such a smarmy slogan as a way to breach the enthusiasm gap.
You sell us on your achievements. You don’t treat the base with contempt.
But now it appears this is actually a new campaign theme. President Obama himself used the phrase “buck up” in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
The biggest problem for Obama is that this “buck up” mantra is probably how he really feels. A technocrat to the core, our cerebral president was never the progressive many wanted him to be. But at least we thought he was smart enough to know that he would have to throw us a juicy bone now and then.
I, for one, wanted Paul Krugman as economic advisor. Many wanted him to prosecute Cheney for war crimes, or at least conduct hearings on torture. Others wanted him to nominate a Lawrence Tribe for the Supreme Court.
Instead we have Robert Rubin-proteges Larry Summers and Tim Geithner running the economic horror show, and Rahm Emanuel triangulating away any hope of real reform.
Obama’s rhetoric about doing what’s right rather than worrying about winning as second term sounds more and more like a prediction, not a principled stand.
I am beginning to think that there is a cabal of conservative elders who meet with each in-coming president the night of the inauguration. They sit down with the new prez, over cognac and cigars, and tell him how things really work – maybe show him a photo of JFK as a way to drive home what happens to those that don’t listen.
The message is simple – give the rich and the corporations that enrich them everything they ask for. Bleed the middle class and the poor to pay for a bloated military that forces the rest of the world to bend to our will. And the new wrinkle since 9/11 is to use that tragedy to persuade folks to give up what little liberty they had left.
How else to explain that Bill Clinton ran on a middle-class tax cut and then switched immediately to deficit reduction? How to explain Obama promising to fight for the health-care public option only to give it up without any fight at all? Or why our urban schools are little more than training grounds for the adult prison system. And Social Security is on the block.
Obama may be right that, especially in light of the Supreme Court Decision on Citizens United, corporations actually run the show. Maybe he knows better than we do that we had better placate our real corporate leaders, or they will squash us like bugs without even the pretense of asking for our votes.
It would actually be more inspiring to have him say that out loud than to blame us for being dispirited.
The more likely scenario is that Obama prides himself on being one of the sane ones – often the only grown-up in the room. The planet is boiling, the poor become increasingly desperate and many of us are holding our collective breath to see if the stock market survives October without wiping out what’s left of our retirement 401k’s.
Yet Obama stands there, serene in his personal belief that the answers require continued compromise and small steps forward. The rest of us, however, recognize that he blew the once chance we have had in decades to pass meaningful reform on the many fronts that need our urgent attention.
As someone far wiser than I said, you cannot cross the chasm in two jumps. Obama’s failure is that what he gave us was worse than a half-measure. A half-chicken in every pot?
But please don’t compound our disillusionment by blaming us victims for feeling too sad to drag ourselves to the polls on election day. That is truly adding insult to injury.