Aside from the particulars of the policy proposals made by the President last night, I was happy to hear his robust defense of the role played by government at the federal level. Our ideal of a representative democracy composed of 50 states is not 300 million maverick independent contractors trying to cut in line to get the best reward. There has to be a fair balance of competition and cooperation. Some things, big things, as he said, are done best when we act together. Some things won’t get done unless we act as a majority. At large in the land is a gathering attack on the idea of governing at the federal level, of national public action funded by tax dollars. I won’t repeat Pres. Obama’s examples and exhortation to get back on the high road of responsibility and vision. I was glad to hear his words on this and his passion. There is a reason that places like Massachusetts chose the word “commonwealth” as a way to describe the organization of the state. The “United” in USA doesn’t mean that certain states share borders like Vermont and New Hampshire. The President talks often of the nation as a work-in-progress making its way to a “more perfect union.” I liked his urgency last night. I liked his faith in Americans to do five things at once. To do big things now and for the future.
In today’s NYTimes, opinion writer David Brooks signs on to President Obama’s jobs surge plan outlined last night in a pumped-up speech to Congress and his fellow Americans. Brooks writes:
There is clearly now a significant risk of a double-dip recession. That would be terrible for America’s workers, fiscal situation and psyche. This prospect is enough to shock even us stimulus skeptics out of our long-term focus. It’s enough to force us to contemplate the possibility of another stimulus package.
In his new column, opinion writer E. J. Dionne, native of Southeastern Mass., urges President Obama to roll out a BIG Plan for jobs and real economic recovery that reaches everyone up and down the socio-economic ladder. Read his column here, which I picked up from the Washington Post, a newspaper I used to like a lot better in the old days of the 1970s.
Here’s the latest POTUS vacation dispatch from the Vineyard by our faithful, far-flung correspondent, Ray LaPorte.
Air Force One flew over Vineyard Haven harbor last evening on a glide path to Otis Air Base. Its shimmering light-blue hull and contrails in the fading sun at 10,000 feet signaled that within the hour an armada of helicopters in military formation would soon fly the First Family to their vacation home here on Paradise Island. And thus would begin Fox News’ endless assault on the propriety of presidential vacations, especially on toney Martha’s Vineyard, when the world is swirling down the drain. This will soon be followed by the family-values crowd chiming in with something nonsensical and hypocritical about him, despite the fact that this President spends lots of vacation time with his children. But I digress.
I had every intention of posting my “Apocalypse Now” video of the low-flying helicopters and their impressive formation and noise and the accompanying speeding Coast Guard cutters while coincidentally aboard my friend’s sailboat participating in our highly competitive weekly Thursday evening club race. However, with a reef in the main and gusts to 20 knots, I had my hands full trimming sheets and jockeying around marks and 15 other boats, so my Blackberry remained in my bag below. My Francis Ford Coppola helicopter scene will have to wait. Suffice to say that I have seen it many times here, and it is still impressive. They sure know how to make a grand entrance laying a heavy carbon footprint.
Unlike the very social Bill and Hillary here a century ago, when they would show up anywhere and at anytime (even at my neighbors’ place once), the Obamas remain very private and out of sight. Their rare and spontaneous public moments are telegraphed only when the advance team in ninja SUV’s descends moments before their arrival. The sad post-9/11 reality is that their free movement options are limited for security reasons, which must be a source frustration especially during the few vacations they take. At least that hideous black tour bus didn’t come with them.
Gotta go, GaGa’s outside!
Hold on. False alarm. It’s the President going to the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore (no kidding, real time)!! Now I’m stuck inside the security perimeter and can’t get lunch. We pray for Labor Day.
There’s a lot of turmoil today among liberals, progressives, Democrats, or whatever label fits for people who are more inclined to like and support President Obama than not. Maybe it’s time to step back. I just read Nicholas Schmidle’s account in The New Yorker of the raid in Pakistan that put an end to Osama Bin Laden last May. This is an enormous accomplishment. Read the article here, which I picked up in a link from huffpo/aol because my copy hasn’t yet come in the mail—and get the magazine if you want more.
The President, Joe Biden, Leon Panetta, and Hillary Clinton, all Democrats, repeat, Democrats, with Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, did what they had to do on the policy side to get the job done—and the Navy SEALS of Team Six, combined with the best military experience, talent, and operations in the country, went in to close down Bin Laden as a dangerous person.
Everything is connected. I wonder if the intimate collaboration with military personnel of this caliber somehow changed Barack Obama the politician? I wonder if there’s a key in the episode to understanding how he has handled this debt ceiling crisis invented by extreme anti-government national Republicans? Is he repulsed by the selfish politicking of some of those in Congress who attack him compared to the values and behavior of the volunteers in the military? Some of those same SEALS and Pentagon officials may not agree with Obama’s policy vision on the domestic and foreign sides, but they worked with him to achieve something important on this high priority assignment, something that was important to people in this country and beyond.
One thing I imagine is true is that the same Republicans were scared for their political lives after the President and his team on their watch worked with the military’s elite fighters and planners to track down and eliminate Bin Laden—something their guys in the White House had not been able to do in seven years of trying. I wonder how much the killing of Bin Laden is now driving the national Republicans in their fevered opposition to all things Obama, including a housekeeping task like raising the debt limit? What’s at the bottom of their willingness to crash the economy to deny Obama a procedural win in raising the debt ceiling?
From boston.com there’s an Associated Press report on the latest developments in the struggle over raising the national debt ceiling in Washington, D.C. Read the article here, and get the Globe if you want more. Note the quote from President Obama to a group of students as he was talking about the reality of politics in a democracy: “You don’t get 100 percent of what you want.”
Today, the Chinese government criticized President Obama for meeting with the Dalai Lama. We owe a lot of money to the Chinese. I don’t want the Chinese telling my President he can’t meet with somebody like the Dalai Lama. Put that on the list of why we have to get ourselves out of debt and out of complicated relationships with people to whom we owe a lot of money. I don’t want my President to have to think about what our creditors might say about our political and human ideals.
I don’t think of NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd as a sentimental person, at least not from her opinion pieces, but in her latest op-ed column she gets a little misty in between her wise-gal lines as she writes about the Irish embrace of both Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama. Read the column here, and get the NYT if you want more.
There’s a trio of good reads in the NYTimes op-ed section today, and a column to mention from Sunday.
First, Tim Egan looks at why President Obama’s past as a community organizer may have something to do with the patience and persistence that were required to nail Bin Laden. Read his opinions here.
Second, David “Uncle Dave” Brooks offers an unusual take on the dangers of long-term unemployment of young adult men in the US. He has his social science hat on again and is looking through his cultural telescope. Read Brooks here.
Third, columnist Roger Cohen is eloquent and intensely personal in his summary about the Bin Laden matter. Read Cohen here, and get the NYTimes if you want more of this kind of writing.
Two days ago, Sunday, Maureen Dowd of the NYT was righteously indignant about the after-action criticism coming from some quarters regarding the way the Navy Seals found and killed Bin Laden. Read Maureen’s strong words here.
What kind of nation are we living in when 47 percent of a sample of admitted Republicans respond to a NYTimes/CBS poll question by saying they don’t believe President Obama was born in the US? Opinion columnist Timothy Egan of the NYTimes lays out the dangers of demagogues like Donald Trump in today’s paper. He mentions George Stephanopoulos of ABC TV recently confronting the bizarre Republican US Rep. Bachmann with proof of the President’s birth in Hawaii. “Well, then that should settle it, “ she said. Fat chance for people who apparently don’t want it to be true. As we observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, such contemporary social behavior should be a concern to all. Read his column here, and get the NYT if you want more.