This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 25, 2009.
President Obama made his first speech as President to the entire Legislative branch and the American people last night. While I’m more aware of his clichés and boilerplate than I used to be, Obama is still master of the mike and even his minor errors of procedure – he stepped on his introduction by the Speaker of the House – is endearing. He also hates shill applause. Obama does not speak in sound bytes written by others, he speaks in paragraphs, and applause breaks the rhythm of delivery. Applause is often insincere, it’s scripted, it’s childish, and that’s not Obama.
I think linking health care to our financial recovery is both wise and the one road that will work. I like the clear linkage between education, industrial production, jobs, and revival. I like it when he sticks it to the big three CEO’s, and tells high school drop outs they failed their country, a macho challenge that will burn, big time. I’ve been in jail. I know. It will constructively sear the targets.
We’re going more into more debt, which a few years ago the GOP said didn’t matter because Reagan had proven it didn’t matter. But it somehow does when the Democrats are in charge. Fortunately, Obama knows it always matters. Whether he believes that reducing our Iraq expenditures will allow the debt to fall by the end of his first term is iffy, but I think anyone who heard him believes he’ll honestly try.
After the speech got going, there were a lot of grim faces, and mostly they were those of the Democrats in charge, who must be staggered by the wreckage Bush left. We’re in a lot of trouble and it’s not just a financial one as much as a crumbling of the mythology hawked by Reagan, one so shallow and indicative of bogus values that the Republicans could think of nothing better than to wheel forward the Governor of Louisiana to reply to Obama and reference that stale myth. Bobby Jindal is of eastern Indian heritage, and that was the reason – let there be no doubt – the GOP allowed him his moment. It’s the same reasoning that led them to appoint Michael Steele, an African American and former Lt. Governor of Maryland, to head the Republican National Committee. If Joe Biden were President, these would not be the respondents the GOP would choose. The powers in GOP land see minority members of their party – the few – as mere faces for the public while the real power is behind the scenes. It’s a relatively benign social bigotry they’ve lived all their lives, and they apparently cannot adapt, and think the public is composed of idiots.
They have been gobsmacked by the first black American President, something everyone chatted about as possible for decades, and it gives the face of the Other to the Democrats in older Republican eyes. If Obama wasn’t so unnervingly popular, they’d be far more outwardly divisive and racist, but since he is President by talents and competence they don’t comprehend, they can only conceive of an image rebuttal full of supposedly inspiring narrative tales like Reagan told, and which John McCain tried to substitute for policy through last November. Now, the GOP reactively wheels forward their minority members to dubiously show they are not racist, to tell folksy stories like Jindal did. Last night, he sounded like an idiot.
Jindal gave a rebuttal that would embarrass anyone, because he sounded like the opportunistic social climber he is, willing to pander in any direction for popularity from those in power, whether arch-conservative closeted bigots or the exorcist vote. His delivery was in a sing-song condescending style with which a new nurse might address an elderly demented man in a wheel chair. Last night he had the gall to damn the federal government as the font of all evil. That took, as they say, crust, given the federal money he’s spending.
What collapsed last night was the myth of rugged individualism the GOP chants about and rarely exhibits, given their protection of inherited wealth and corporate socialism. The danger of a bought off mob with entitlement delusions, the conservatives’ underlying fear about Democracy, is quite real, however. What was inspiring last night is Obama not only confronting the GOP myths but the Liberals’ as well. We have to work, we have to produce, we have to snap to, and no damned whining.
He didn’t say that, but we all heard it.