At the presidential news conference earlier this week, Barack Obama soberly dismissed his Republican torturers in a way that reminded old White House watchers of President Harry Truman who once took to a campaign train to whistle-stop across the country, ridiculing his "do-nothing" adversaries in the Congress.
Of course, there always will be missing legislators to alibi that their absence from Washington is necessitated by the urgent need to visit their families or otherwise keep in touch with their contributors in an approaching election year. It used to be called milking the cow.
This year, the Republicans, who aren't running for president, are pre-occupied with finding ways to rail against Medicare and other social programs. That prompted the president to sarcastically challenge the Republicans to stop protecting their fat cats' tax privileges. He ticked off owners of corporate jets, who pocket an estimated three billion dollars over 10 years, and hedge fund managers whose oil and gas tax credits net $21 billion. More than a week ago when he unveiled plans for a defense budget build-down that's been on many arms control experts' minds for more than a year.
Professor Gordon Adams, a veteran scholar who has studied defense budgets and arms control for a generation at American University in Washington D.C., wrote recently in the Washington Post that the president's proposal is to "reduce the projected [U.S. national security] budget by $400 billion over the next 12 years."
As Adams explained it, the reduction "is being driven by concerns over deficits, debt and a declining interest in having the United States act as a global cop." That's what Americans want to hear in an era of hard times: Halting the outflow of U.S. dollars before more of the U.S. treasury is sucked dry in part by the idealistic notion of subsidizing democracies in parts of the world that clearly demonstrate they do not have the stomach, the experience or the will for it.
Faced with devastating unemployment, saddled with bills to pay, bankruptcies or mortgages to cope with and medical bills or illnesses to confront, it does not take much brain power to realize that the country is being exhausted, demoralized, and its national spirit sapped by deficit spending.
Americans are desperate for change. They hunger for their imagination to be aroused and their can-do energy to find its way back into the country's bloodstream. If anyone can do that, it would seem to be Barack Obama in much the same way as he demonstrated it in Chicago's Lincoln Park and at the Democratic National Convention Center three years ago when he inspired the nation and accepted the nomination for President.
But he needs to bark or campaign once again, to call the nation to rally to his side, and it can't be done when so many Americans have been jobless for more than a year, when families are being forced from their homes and unfortunate children are facing the pressures of starvation and homelessness. Is this America? Of course not. At least it's not the America I remember from my days of growing up in three different foster homes during the Great Depression.
There's little doubt that the challenge is up to the president. He has it in his will and
capacity to energize the Democrats and independents by demanding that the Republicans abandon their gospel of tax cuts for the rich and hard times for everyone else. The GOP reveres them like the Holy Grail, which has to be put to rest once and for all. Otherwise, it will come down to class warfare which is nothing less than an obscenity.
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