One of my favorite moments was when, after discussing how budget initiatives would take place in 2011, he looked directly at the Republican side of the chamber and said, "That's the way budgeting works." In fact, he did a lot of looking at that side of the room, first to coax a little smile out of them, maybe a chuckle, but he knows that that side of the room is full of people who want nothing better than to send him back to Chicago in 2012. In reality -- that place where Obama lives and that Republicans fear -- Obama has no friends in the other party, and he knows it. What he has is a group of opportunistic nihilists who want to undo and undermine everything he plans to do or has already done. It's that simple. They don't want cooperation or bipartisanship; when they say "cooperation," they mean "do it our way." When they say "bipartisanship," they mean, as John Boehner said this morning on NPR, that the "balance needs to shift" to their side. Well, Obama sure made it clear to Senate Republicans that he won't stand for their nonsense:
If the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.But enough about the enemy -- let's talk about the Democrats. In particular, the Democrats in the Senate. Sullivan commented: "I've noticed a lot of praise for the House tonight. The subtle message is that the Senate is the place where reform is being killed; and the lobbyists have more of a grip on the Senate." Their cowardice is palpable. In fact, Obama called them out for "running for the hills" since the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat. As if 59 votes can't get the job done. Ah, but this is where Obama hit guys like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and others:
Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators.I was also struck, as others were, by how relaxed Obama seemed, despite the daggers that were being hurled at him by a contemptuous Republican caucus. It's a reminder to those who voted for him (and a wake up call to those who didn't) that we have a serious president who is deeply committed to his job, who puts Americans before his political success, and who doesn't suffer foolishness gladly. And he does all that without getting dirty and without bile. In a way, he's like a political version of Bill Cosby, who can elicit howls of laughter without dropping a single four-letter word on his audience.
Before this speech, I felt like he had his eye on the ball, and it was the rest of us who had forgotten why we'd voted for him. And I still feel the same way. I felt so hopeful when I heard him say:
Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.This is truly a man who owns his wins and accepts the reality that men -- people -- fuck up.