Am I the only one waiting for the real Barack Obama to stand up? Not by a long shot, according to the long faces I talk to.
My mother used to say, “I’m not a mind-reader.” While I mulled that over, she would add, “If something hurts… or something’s bothering you, honey… tell me.” Her “tell” had a warm extra beat in it that made it easier for me to speak.
Mom isn’t here and I don’t know whom to open up to, but something’s bothering me—a lot these days. All the more so now that we have the results of the Massachusetts’ senatorial election and I have to live with a Republican’s rightful claim to the seat that Ted Kennedy occupied for 46 years.
I brought up my daughters in a similar, but blunter, fashion than my mom raised me. When either would hem and haw and say, “I don’t know whether I should tell you…,” I’d say, “When in doubt, spit it out.” They always did. Full of doubt today, I’m following my own dictum, starting with:
I don’t understand where the presidential hopeful formerly known as Change We Can Believe In disappeared to. The campaign trail’s great communicator has become the oval office’s stage whisperer. We charged his predecessor et al, the Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal we couldn’t believe in, or even believe, with paranoid, unwarranted, unethically excessive secrecy. What do we make of this Obama-Emanuel-Axelrod coterie? If they’re conspiring behind closed doors, what’s the plot? If they’re biding their time, what are they waiting for? I cling to my charitable notion that my chosen president is playing possum. But how long does a possum wait before he springs into action? A threatened possum is supposed to growl and raise his voice. This one, if (understandably) feeling threatened, is threatening to become Rip Van Winkle.
When I elect a president, I expect him to take office. Not the space, but the province, capacity, authority and performance. If he’s not prepared to govern, or is inclined to continue doing what he already excels at, gathering forces as he gathers force, let him keep running. If he wants to be a philosopher-king, he’ll be more at home on a mountain top than on Capitol Hill. I’d read and listen to him as I would heed the Dalai Lama. But I think this country requires a thinker who knows how to twist arms. Good intentions alone don't sway Joe Lieberman. FDR thought he could handle Stalin. Who has Obama handled?
How do we protect our presidents from their ivory towers? Will the real Barack Obama finally stand up? And if so, to what or to whom? He quickly became someone he wouldn’t recognize. In just one day short of one year from his inauguration day, the president has out-Cartered Jimmy Carter. Could anyone be that naïve? Could I?—I’m still waiting to see the White House strategy unveiled. Trigger-ready to say, “Ah, that’s what he was doing all along! There’s the genius of the community organizer, taking and building everything step by cautious step! How clever he is! And at his own expense, without regard for his image or the polls!”
But while I wait… and wait… my sanguine expectation buckles under the weight of the words of philosopher/theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Man is a messenger who forgot the message.” Has my chosen leader forgotten the message, the task, the objective? Has he become the establishment he campaigned against, specifically the embodiment of the anti-establishment voter’s bete noir?
The voters of Massachusetts aren’t any dumber than the voters of any other state in this country. In choosing against the incumbent Democrats and their agenda, not only have they voted primarily against national health care reform, but also, they have voted, astonishingly, for the status quo of ungodly bonuses, unconscionable greed, and unbridled further self-serving of establishment bankers and Wall Street brokers. Maybe 52% of the state’s voters are dumber.
Our most steadfastly Democratic state to all intents and purposes gave the country back to the people who left it in ruins. They opened the door to let the lunatics take over the asylum.
I still believe in Obama. I have no choice.