Obama has been taking serious flak from both right and left. In particular, those on the left who feel he has abandoned the base of the party. Sullivan shows two different complaints about the president: the first from an independent who voted for Obama, and the second from an opponent of FDR's New Deal as anti-working man. The tenor of each is eerily familiar.
In Obama we have a president who has eschewed the nihilism of the past eight years in favor of a reasoned approach to actual governance. In proposing bold legislation for health-care reform, in proposing the closing of Gitmo, in crafting cap-and-trade legislation to combat global warming, Obama has taken the path that to do nothing would harm the country in ways that we can't even imagine at this point. Health care, as it stands, is unsustainable. Killing the legislation, in the way Republicans are hell-bent, is just plain cruel to Americans who are one emergency room visit away from bankruptcy or to small business owners who can't provide health insurance coverage for their employees. Gitmo is a symbol of America's past obsession with 24-style torture techniques, as though every person held in that facility held knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack and needed to be tortured nearly to death in order to get that information; its continued existence is a rallying point for jihadist recruiters all over the world. Closing it will heal relations with the Muslim community everywhere, beyond the healing that happened after Obama's stunning Cairo speech. And cap-and-trade is a practical, down-the-middle approach to global warming that acknowledges the difficulty of a carbon tax while reminding businesses that there has to be some serious commitment to cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, some serious thinking beyond the asinine simplicity of "Drill Baby, Drill." Obama's commitment to these complex issues is a frank statement that he doesn't really care if he's only a one-term president.
His major flaw, however, is that he has gotten lost in the weeds of these projects. His electrifying campaign speeches are a distant memory, in contrast to the quiet wonk we have seen the past year. He seems content, as Fareed Zakaria puts it, to behave "as the head of the Democratic Party in Congress, working almost entirely with and through that caucus, slicing and dicing policy proposals to cobble together legislative majorities." And I have previously championed this approach. Congress is, after all, the body responsible for actually legislating. But my support of letting the three branches operate as intended doesn't mean I'm content to let Obama abdicate his responsibility to lead. His speech last week in Ohio was a taste of what can be when a president steps up to the microphone or in front of the camera and delivers directly to the people a vision, a commitment, in terms that sustain our confidence and faith in leadership.
In my job, I don't look to the senior executives who run the company to explain to me how to sell mortgages or even what new systems are being put in place to make my job easier. What I expect from them is a broad vision of what's working and not working company-wide and where the company is headed, as well as some nugget of what's in it for me and my family.
So, with Obama's State of the Union speech coming this Wednesday at a most opportune time, I am looking to see how President Obama will outline his vision for the next year, his message to Congress about what he expects from them, and his restated commitment to fight for all Americans, regardless of politics (and with healthcare reform alone, he has done that).