Post-Thanksgiving Reflections

11/26/2010 03:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

During this Thanksgiving day holiday , as I read various magazines and newspapers and and watched different TV news and commentary shows report on international and domestic events, three things came to my mind, in no particular order.

The first was the question asked by the Boston lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the 1954 United States Army McCarthy hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin: "Senator, have you no shame?" The second is the haunting memory of Rodney King, beaten unmercifully by LA police (who were acquitted), who asked, "Why can't we all just get along?" The third is Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken."

Frost 's eloquently wrote about the nature and dilemma of choice and decision; of the intellect and emotion involved in the choice of going in one direction rather than another, and how one feels after having chosen a direction, and about the choice of direction not taken:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In earlier blogs about President Obama, the midterm elections result, the need for presidential leadership on our deficit and cumulative national debt, etc, my attention was directed at Obama and his relationship to those voter segments of his "base" that elected him president. All of these were and are relevant to addressing and developing programmatic "answers" to those critical social, economic and political issues essential for our national governance and survival during the years ahead.

I have recently been in engaged in an analytical search for answers on how the "change" so many of us had hoped for in 2008 can be successfully achieved in 2011-12 and beyond.

Against this background, I read that Sarah Palin has commenced criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama about remarks she made, taken out context during the 2008 presidential campaign, and her recent efforts to raise public awareness about the health risks of child obesity. That's when I thought of Joseph Welch's question, referenced above, to Senator McCarthy.

Governor Palin, have you no shame?

To John Boehner, Senator Mitch McConnell and members of the Republican and Tea Parties, I ask the same question posed by Rodney King in 1992: "Why can't we all just get along?"

Barack Obama as president and chief executive officer of the government of the United States is strategically important to the resolution and consequent implementation of any programs congressionally approved to reduce our spending and federal debt. My previous blogs suggested that we had to look primarily, if not exclusively, to Obama, as president, as the "cure" for our problems; that he is "the one" who will save us during these perilous times in which we live.

Time for a collective "reality check."

Whether or not any meaningful programmatic resolution of our domestic and foreign policy problems will occur may not be principally or primarily because of what Obama does or does not do. The "reality" is that he is neither our "savior" nor the 21st-Century Messiah. It is unlikely that he can or will principally develop and implement those necessary solutions to the problems we face as a nation.

There are constructive lessons to be learned from the Tea Party. They have reminded all of us about something that is a staple in the political lexicon of community organization and progressive movements for systemic change.

Many of us who complain that Obama has not done this or that seem to have forgotten the guiding principles affecting fundamental political, economic and social change.

The most powerful and enduring lesson from successfully bringing about "change" is recognizing the primary strategic importance of local community engagement; and, the attendant community organization required to build any strategic political consensus among the base of the "movement" whose influence and impact you seek to expand.

Why did so many of the progressives and independents who voted for Obama "stand aside," so to speak, and let Tea Party persons locally reach out and to talk to people in our communities about the everyday bread-and-butter issues affecting most people in their daily lives? Why did we stand silent as more and more people throughout our nation become frustrated and angry over their perception of the loss of a moral and relevant leadership compass among state and congressional leaders?

Why didn't we challenge, chapter and verse, on a daily, grassroots basis, the repetitive statement and circulation of an obvious "lie" that Obama was not an American citizen because he was not really born in Hawaii; or that he was not really a devout Christian, but a 24/7 Muslim?

Some of us may have been so euphoric over the election of the first ethnically authentic African-American as president of the United States that we failed to appreciate the magnitude of the enmity and unwillingness of a large segment of white America to accept this politically historic achievement.

From the stammering of Chief Justice Roberts in administering the oath of office to Obama as our 44th president, to a member of Congress shouting "you lie" during Obama's first State of the Union Address, to the right-wing newscasters saying in effect he's not really one of us, that he is a "socialist," to the highest threats of violence against President Obama in the history of the Secret Service, to the organizing theme of the Tea Party "to take our country back," the common denominator underlying all of this is that Obama is "not one of us"; he is an "illegitimate" occupant of the White House.

Setting aside the question as to whether Obama can be reelected in 2012, the only thing now that is critically important for our country is the exercise of presidential leadership on foreign-policy matters and a solution to our national debt and operating deficit

Yes, appropriate security measures at our airports to detect terrorist threats are important to our safety as a nation. However, "presidential" leadership must be quickly, forthrightly and publicly exercised, demonstrating that Obama really understands "the fierce urgency of now."

Such leadership is mandated by the North Korean shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, Iran's continued intransigence to international inspection of their nuclear facilities' potential for developing nuclear weapons, the need to achieve an Israel-Palestinian two-state solution with a cessation of settlements agreement (in the face of newly-elected Republican congressional leadership encouraging a no-compromise hardline by Israel), China's management of its currency, comprehensive immigration reform, domestic unemployment and priority attention given to the control of spending and our national debt. Unless this is done Obama risks becoming irrelevant and, aside from being elected as the first African-American president, who also received a Nobel Peace Prize, he will be relegated to just another an chapter in the history of the United States.

Leaders in and outside of government often make history. Sometimes, unique historical events propel a nation's leader to greatness and are an extraordinary exercise of leadership in response to those events. Obama has the opportunity to demonstrate whether he has the capacity for presidential leadership to exert the immediate management and control of our national debt and deficit, reduce unemployment and successfully navigate through the underwater mines of American foreign policy.

These are unavoidable choices confronting Obama as president. He does not have the luxury of speculating about choices not made like Robert Frost in his "The Road Not Taken."