Yesterday, December 7th, President Barack Obama let it be known in his press conference that he was in favor of extending the Economic and Jobs Growth Tax Reconciliation Acts of 2001 and 2003 respectively, colloquially known as the “Bush tax cuts,” that were set to expire on December 31st. This was a highly controversial plan that George W. Bush was able to push through with his GOP congressional authority during his first years in office. Part of that new plan cut the tax rate for the wealthiest income earners in this country more than for those at the bottom of the income scale; lowered the tax rate on capital gains; and lowered the maximum estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping tax rate. Essentially, those making less than $100,000 a year saw the least amount of change in tax rate reduction, and those making under $30,000 saw no change at all. The only change those in that income bracket were that the richest people of the country were getting a tax break.
Bush met a lot of opposition from the left for this, naturally. But he had his blessed mandate in the House and the Senate respectively, and Democrats were powerless to do much about it but stomp their feet and gnash their teeth. Fast forward to today and a slightly disillusioned Democratic party, liberals and progressives alike have been left scratching their heads as Obama agreed for an extension to the Bush tax cuts. Obama favoring the Bush tax cuts, however, was in order for the GOP to support the extension of long-term unemployment benefits to be extended for the next calendar year of 2011.
In all things equal, one would call this a compromise or better yet, what bipartisanship actually looks like.
Yesterday, on December 7th for some reason, there was a culminating affect throughout the black blogosphere and even into the media on the Al Sharpton Show that has had black folk giving the president a grade. Even tonight on a local radio show, a young brother on a gospel station had callers chiming in on this topic “What grade do you give the president?” Largely what I’m hearing is mostly conjecture based on half-truths and gut feelings when folks give their reactions. From persons that give Obama and A+ to those who give him an F, or the more colorful callers who give him a T for terrible.
In short, this is what I’m hearing:
He’s not confrontational. I’m all for fair and level criticism. I think that as an American electorate we should do a much better job of presenting fair and honest criticism of our elected officials. As far as Obama is concerned, I think this is a relatively common and appropriate criticism. However, in the interest of fairness, Obama never presented himself as confrontational. We saw this through how he handled the Jeremiah Wright debacle and how he handled Sarah Palin in the campaign season. Even after elected Obama has never gotten bent out of shape when dealing with the Tea Partyers and other naysayers. He was even called a liar to his face, in the middle of a speech–and he still remained calm.
I think it’s more indicative of our own projections when we expect people to act out of character than what they have previously displayed in the past. Its unfair to expect Obama to be confrontational simply because he’s “our guy” who’s in office. I think many of us are actually incredulous that Obama’s living up to the image he projected: calm, cool and collected. We didn’t elect a hot head, but rather someone who thinks relatively slow and deliberate. We see that in how he draws out his words letting us know that he’s very careful about what he’s going to say. In fact this was so much a part of his character that many liberals lauded him for his ability to do so!
And let’s be honest, Obama still can’t afford to come off as Angry Black Man. Conservative talking heads are just waiting to use their Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson comparisons as ammunition against Obama. Not to mention there’s a fair segment of liberal whites who see this concept of post-racial as already being here, and they won’t shy away from saying that “Obama isn’t president of just Black America.” And for for them, no longer seeing Obama as “safe Negro” could certainly pose a threat for a campaign season that sadly, begins next month.
He’s not listing his accomplishments. Again, I think this stands as another criticism that’s fair, but is probably symptomatic of the Monday morning quaterbacking the Democrats are doing on the recent November election. By that token, it’s not so much that Obama needs to list his accomplishments as those Democratic candidate hopefuls should have been listing their accomplishments; the president’s accomplishments speak for themselves.
However, this 24-hour news cycle I believe has successfully warped the American electorate consciousness. One could easily list 100 items that Obama has accomplished from health care, to handling the BP oil spill, the draw down of troops in Iraq, the success of the US auto bailouts, credit card reform bill to simply paying for White House redecorations out of his own pocket rather having the federal government foot the bill or simply holding the first seder at the White House. But, because of all of the noise from both sides of the political gamut about absolute rigmarole, Obama drawing down troops in Iraq barely makes a full seven days in the news cycle.
Not to mention, I think Obama is in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position with many people. If he had decided to list his accomplishments even people on the left would have said he’s not humble and that he’s being too grand by doing that. Certainly seeing Obama as the pragmatist that he’s portrayed himself leading up to the 2008 campaign until just yesterday, I wouldn’t expect anything different.
He’s not cut out for the job. This is the one that really incenses me to no end. In the long string of persons who have inhabited the job, Obama certainly does not appear at the top of my list of those who are not cut out for the job. Presidents like Gerald Ford or Andrew Johnson perhaps are examples of presidents who really might have been in over their heads, and maybe one could make that argument for George W. Bush as well.
Obama isn’t in that number.
I think its illogical and borderlines on the fantastical to make the connection that if Obama doesn’t cater to your specific needs then he’s not cut out for the job. Seriously, I heard a brother on the call-in show last night actually say he gave the president an F and listed amongst his reasons that Obama hasn’t dealt with reparations for blacks.
And then there are others who appear to have a well-thought our argument as to why Obama is failing at his job, but really their argument is based on their personal biases. Those who take umbrage with how Obama has handled this latest compromise concerning the Bush tax cuts somehow are making this the final straw. Some persons have even declared that they wouldn’t vote for Obama again in 2012 or that they wish they hadn’t had voted for him in 2008.
I declare that people who believe that Obama isn’t cut out for the job, after having been in office for only two years, I believe are performing a “premature autopsy” on him and his administration.
The wordsmith that is Stanley Crouch wrote a piece entitled “Premature Autopsies” concerning American jazz and it’s strong roots in the black culture. Crouch being the unfettered curmudgeon that he is, was certainly writing that piece in response to the then burgeoning genre of hip hop in the late 1980s, and just how black cultural music was seemingly under assault in the public sphere be it historically or contemporarily. The concept that Crouch proposes however is something that I think invokes a strong image here: the death of Obama and his administration has yet to come, let us not perform a premature autopsy on his administration.
To anyone that seriously is “done” with Obama or strongly believes that he’s not “cut out for the job” then I strongly question your grasp on the political establishment in this country. It was the same case here in Chicago after Mayor Harold Washington was elected in 1983. By 1984, black folks were turning on him and failed to understand the “Vrdolyak 29” and the very famous Council Wars that gridlocked city government. Particularly with elected officials in executive offices, change does not happen overnight. In fact, I’d be in favor of extending term limits for the presidency if it meant that those who we elected were able to take the necessary time to carry out their plan.
And those same persons that are done with Obama, I seriously hoped that they didn’t vote in this past November election because it would make it all the easier for me to dismiss them. We, as an American electorate, need to be aware that we have elected persons to Congress who do not have our best interest at heart. Members of Congress are highly interested in catering to their big name donors at the thousand-dollar per plate dinners and functions, not to mention their own special interests and lobbyists. Our Congress has failed us more than what any of us can allege at Obama. Especially when much of what was passed by the House this last session stalled out in some form in the Senate.
For all we know, this could be part of some grand re-election scheme. It’s certainly not uncommon for the opposing party to take control of one or both houses of Congress, and now Obama can sit back and be able to point at the GOP and Tea Partyers who will undoubtedly not be able to do anything meaningful to jumpstart the economy and get job numbers to fall at least by one full percentage point by the end of 2011. That gives him fodder to campaign by saying he offered bipartisanship and compromise and they still weren’t able to do what needed to be done.
Not to mention that by all accounts, this could be some baronial parlor trick where Obama not only gets credit for offering bipartisanship, but Democratic members of the Senate actually do some good. Obama, believing Sen. Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP Senators wouldn’t vote for cloture on anything Democratic initiative, makes this move of compromise, but still has senators such as Bernie Sanders vowing to filibuster when it comes forth.
Obama, might be able to have his cake and eat it too!
Obama has more than earned the privilege and the right to finish out his term. It’s one thing to criticize him, but it’s another thing to start performing the last rites over him and declaring him a dead fish in the water.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL