Left with Frustration

Many people on the political left are frustrated, including me. We are frustrated with hearing liberal arguments and points of view with which we agree, only to realize that their proponents have no practical ideas and/or no will to enable action to promote their beliefs. Tom Friedman and President Obama are unfortunately good examples.

Friedman generally provides very cogent analyses of the problems with America’s approach, or lack thereof, to energy policy, among other issues. And then, as is his consistent wont, he fails to suggest solutions with any basis in the realities of having the slightest chance of being enacted when he proposes legislation or being acted upon when he advocates social or economic changes in behavior. Ironically, he has just written a perfect description of Obama’s ability to verbalize issues and his lack of will in personally taking them on. As Friedman observed in today’s New York Times:

“President Obama has the right convictions on … issues, but he has not shown the courage of his convictions (while) the Republicans have just gone nuts. If you listen to Obama, he eloquently describes our energy, climate and fiscal predicaments: how we have to end our addiction to oil and cut spending and raise revenues in an intelligent way that also invests in the future and doesn’t just slash and burn. But then the president won’t lead. When pressed on energy, he will say that he just doesn’t have the Republican votes for a serious clean energy policy. But the president has never gotten in the G.O.P.’s face on this issue. He has not put his own energy plan on the table and then gone out to the country and tried to sell it. It is what a lot of Obama supporters find frustrating about him. They voted for Obama to change the polls not read the polls.”

I agree with Friedman but again, he outlines the problem without offering a solution. Mine is that the president and his closest advisors should stop worrying about his reelection, for three reasons. First, the Republicans do not have a viable candidate. Second, the Republicans do not have a viable agenda. And third, the only thing that can compensate for the first two Republican deficiencies is the president’s continuing failure to provide a clear definition of what distinguishes him — and equally important, the Democratic Party — from Republicans. On issue after issue, President Obama does not draw the lines from which the electorate can make differentiating judgments. It has nothing to do with whether he has the votes in Congress or whether he ultimately wins or loses on any particular issue. It has everything to do with how he frames the debate and lets people know where he and his opposition stand.

On health care, the argument should have been that our system costs families, businesses and taxpayers too much; that the insurance companies rake in the profits, not the doctors and health care professionals; that only the wealthy are assured the best care while millions of American families get little to none; and when Republicans claimed that we have “the best health care in the world” they simply flat out lied as proved by virtually every comparison of our system versus the rest of the developed nations. If the president had made that case, “Obamacare” would never have become a drastically compromised reform and ultimately a dirty political word.

On extending the Bush tax cuts, the only way to have lost the argument that the wealthiest Americans should pay taxes at the rate established during Ronald Reagan’s presidency was by not making it. And the only way to have allowed the insanity of the Bush tax cuts to continue for the wealthy in the face of growing deficits, a struggling middle class and increasing poverty was to fail to call the Republican bluff that if the wealthy don’t get continued tax breaks, then no one does, and that they would not support additional benefits for the unemployed unless the rich got their ongoing tax benefits. If ever there was an issue that could convince middle America that Republicans couldn’t care less about them, this was it. The lack of presidential resolve on this issue was mind boggling.

The bottom line for me is that when your opposition is the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum. Rich Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, Michele Bachmann, Haley Barbour, John Bolton, and yes, the very essence of imbecilic mendacity, Donald Trump, you have nothing to worry about except your own propensity to listen to the clowns who advise you instead of following the instincts that got you to the White House in the first place.

You are the president of the United States, Mr. Obama. The only thing that matters is what you think, what you say, and what you do. And that is for you and no one else to decide. Follow your own advice, but if you want mine, it is simple. Stop running for office and start running this country. It’s time you started being the leader you promised us when you campaigned for this office. And I suspect you will feel a lot better about it if you do. Because right now, you look like you are just left with frustration. And so are we.