On Monday I attended a campaign event for Obama in Los Angeles. I ate a very expensive dinner, had a very expensive photo taken, and settled in for a very expensive talk with the President and a Q&A session. He started out talking about the direction the country was headed... something about America as the land of opportunity... a positive vision... you know the drill, we've heard it before. The questions started, and he dutifully answered them. (Why did the FCC approve the Comcast-NBC Universal merger? How do we restore our standing abroad?) Then something happened. I'm going to paraphrase what he said, but it was something like this:
"I know you're all my friends here. But I know what you say behind my back. 'If someone else had been elected... maybe she would have been tougher.' 'I read Krugman, and I agree the stimulus wasn't big enough.' 'He's not really progressive.' That is a load of nonsense."
The tone of his voice had changed. He was out of Speechmaking President mode, and he was actually getting a little bit fired up.
"Let's talk about what's I've done. Equal pay for equal work? Check. Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Check. I got a health care bill passed, something this country hasn't been able to do in the past 100 years. And you guys are upset there was no public option? Really? Did I even campaign on that issue? You liberals focus on the 20% we didn't get instead of the 80% we did."
"You think I didn't fight for a big enough stimulus? It was bigger than the New Deal, adjusted for inflation! It was bigger than what Nancy Pelosi asked for! I don't have a crystal ball so I couldn't know in advance exactly how much was needed, but it wasn't skimpy -- you're all just Monday-morning quarterbacking."
"I've been governing, not politicking. I've been doing the right thing, even when it's not popular. If you don't understand why I made a choice I've made, just call me up and ask me. But we don't have the luxury of whining anymore, so it's time to get over it."
Thank you! This is the guy I voted for, unafraid to chastise a roomful of his biggest supporters like they were a bunch of preschoolers who needed to stop eating paste. I'll admit it, I've been a complainer too. But the president is right; we don't have the luxury of whining anymore. As he pointed out, 2012 won't be as sexy as 2008; he's "gray and all dinged up now." We need to support him anyway.
But when I want a rebuttal to a friend's trash-talking about Obama, where do I go to get it? Where has the administration made its case clearly, concisely, and convincingly? Where are my talking points?
I was in a room full of financial leaders, Hollywood heavy-hitters, and celebrities. will.i.am may have the Oval Office on speed-dial, but I don't. I need help if I'm going to start being an Obama advocate again, and I'm certainly not getting it from the New York Times.
So help us help you, Mr. President. Start beating us over the head with simple explanations of your choices that make sense. I don't want a policy paper -- I just want something I can say when someone says, "what was he thinking?" Give me nuts and bolts -- the grand vision of America as a ship tacking in the direction of justice is lovely but not getting the job done now. I'll quit whining if you give me something else to say instead.