I'm surprised at how relieved I was last night to watch a President speak before Congress and not have Dick Cheney alternately glaring and falling asleep behind him. Other bloggers have posted the entire transcript of the speech
, and the New York Times has the video
. And if you're like me, he had you at recognizing his wife along with Congress.
It's surprised me in recent weeks how people whose religion is NOT the doctrinaire right want this president to succeed, how much they realize that if Barack Obama fails, we fail, and if he succeeds, we succeed. Of course the Limbaugh minions, including people like John Boehner and Richard Shelby and yes, Bobby Jindal, the male Sarah Palin whom the Republicans see as their Great Hope for 2012 under the racial corollary to their Field a Candidate With Tits And The Women Will Vote For Her doctrine, are going to continue to froth at the mouth, but out here on Planet Consensus Reality, people are frightened and they want this to work.
For better or worse, Americans have a tendency to think of the Presidency as the National Daddy. Part of the outrage at Bill Clinton's behavior was that Daddy just doesn't do that sort of thing (and when he does, the child doesn't know about it). When Daddy cheats on Mommy and Mommy gets made, the family might split up, and this is frightening to a child. For the last eight years, the American people looked to President Daddy to keep them safe, but President Daddy turned out to be Peter Griffin
instead of Robert Young
. In fact, the Republican icon against which conservatives judge all other presidents, Ronald Reagan, was hardly the Wise Daddy they still believe he was, but more like Homer Simpson
-- a hapless, delusional man whose heart may have been in what he believed to be the right place, but who left his "family" -- the American people -- to clean up the mess he made, albeit nearly three decades down the road. This president, Barack Obama, may be the first one in my lifetime to treat the American people like adults; to give them credit for understanding what's going on around them and to enlist their help in resolving the national difficulty in which we now find ourselves.
The salon to which I go to get my hair cut and colored is in a New Jersey town that seems to be constantly struggling. Surrounded by more affluent towns on three sides, its own downtown seems to be a constant parade of failing businesses. The guys who own the shop own the building, so they aren't going anywhere. Their shop is the kind of place that hasn't been updated since 1972 and the average age of its clientele is somewhere north of seventy. There are no Jersey girls with Soprano Woman hair, no sullen artistes
, just good color and good cuts that leave thin hair like mine looking good. But this shop struggles, and one of the owners, like many working Americans, has been known to spout off about those down the economic ladder as being the source of all our problems. But no more. Last Saturday, he was talking about the plan to assist homeowners, and he was all for it "as long as it helps people instead of banks."
There's something going on out here. The Washington punditocracy doesn't see it. Congressional Republicans don't see it. The right-wing talk radio lunatics don't see it. Those whose religion is supply-side economics don't see it. But it's out here and it's real. Barack Obama sees it. I don't think he's even built it, but he sees it. It may not be permanent, but for now it's real. Americans have woken up, and to at least some degree, they've grown up. They're no longer looking for President Daddy to tell them everything's going to be OK and to let him handle it. They're willing to get out there and help him wash the car.
In his response to Obama's speech, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, the son of Hindu Democrats who converted to Catholicism in High School and why may very well have issues with his parents that put those of George W. Bush to shame, tried to make the case that government isn't equipped to solve this country's problems by using the response to Hurricane Katrina as an example. But as John Aravosis graphically and succinctly points out
, it's REPUBLICAN government, the very kind which Jindal wants to restore, which is incapable of helping ordinary Americans.
I'm still skeptical as to whether this mess can be fixed. In my lower moments, I believe that this country's economy is a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg; that the insatiable greed of the Bush Junta and its cronies, and guys like John Thain and Vikram Pandit and Bernie Madoff was allowed to go unchecked for eight years, and now they've stolen everything and they're not going to give any of it back. At those times, I look at my retirement plan statements that used to show us well on our way to being able to take care of ourselves in retirement and now I find myself hoping that by the time I'm old they'll allow us to just check out painlessly because it's better than being homeless and living on the street in my seventies and eighties -- because there's no way these losses can be recouped in the decade and a half before I hit my late sixties. And I don't see any way out of this.
But if you still have hope and confidence that we are not irrevocably in decline, this speech, and the response to it
, should bolster that confidence.
Labels: Barack Obama, economic death watch