Clarence Jones is a living legend. When I was chief speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Clarence accepted our invitation to visit with an ad hoc group of Democratic speechwriters on the Hill. For more than two hours, he mesmerized us with stories of his friendship with Martin Luther King and his prominent role in the Civil Rights movement. Clarence not only had a courtside seat to watch history unfold; he was an active participant.
Clarence visited with us in the Capitol less than a week before President Obama's inauguration. That's what brought him to town. He waxed poetically about the meaning of the moment and the pride that King would surely feel. But he was also a realist, noting that the election of Barack Obama was not enough. The hard work of governing hadn't begun yet.
That's why I was surprised and disappointed to read Clarence's recent piece breaking with the President and calling for a 2012 primary challenge.
It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.
I understand and share the frustration that many Democratic faithful feel over the tax cut compromise, the slow progress on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell and escalation of troop counts in Afghanistan. All three issues were cornerstones of the President's 2008 campaign, and Democrats have every right to feel let down.
But let's not lose the forest for the trees. In less than two years, this President has:
- Signed an historic health care reform law that, while admittedly imperfect, expands coverage to more than 30 million Americans and reduces the deficit substantially.
- Negotiated an investment in the American auto industry that not only saved thousands of American jobs but may end up making money for the government.
- Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that, by all objective measures, has been a major success that saved and created more than one million jobs.
- Made significant and improbable progress on education reform, re-writing the traditional playbook that Democrats won't clash with teachers' unions.
- Ended by executive order the ban on federal investment in stem cell research, which gives scientists new tools to fight fatal diseases.
- Signed consumer-friendly credit card reform legislation that protects Americans from financial predators.
Respectfully, the decision by Clarence Jones and some other liberal leaders to abandon President Obama at this moment reminds me of an investor who panics and sells all his shares in a blue-chip company because of one bad quarter. These may be the darkest days of the Obama presidency, but as Rev. King said himself, "We are not makers of history. We are made by history." Yes, history dealt President Obama a tough hand, but his leadership and accomplishments these first two years have earned him -- at the very least -- our patience. The White House is adjusting to the new political reality of divided control in 2011. The sausage making will only get uglier. But President Obama remains the most popular politician in town - and our best hope for progress.
David Meadvin was chief speechwriter for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He is president of Inkwell Strategies, a Washington, DC-based speechwriting and communications firm.