"If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness."
--Teddy Roosevelt, and carved forty-feet high on the walls inside the entrance to the Museum of Natural History.
I understand that the president's State of the Union address must focus on job creation but if that is all that it does it will be a squandered opportunity to course correct his so seriously off-track presidency.
We need some bold policy initiatives, yes, but what we left, center and independents desperately need to hear from our president is some righteousness.
So far, with his domestic agenda, what has Obama chosen? Peace or righteousness? Over and over again he has chosen peace and lost. Appease Wall Street, appease every faction in the health-care debate and then hope that those whose interests are diametrically opposed to what you believe best for the people will magically convert to allies, like the Grinch or Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
Obama is certainly righteous against foreign extremists (while his domestic opposition derides him even on this). Will he ever learn to be righteous against his enemies at home? Does he watch Fox news? Listen to Mitch McConnell? They righteously demonize him every day. They blame him for all the ills continued from the Bush Recession and he rewards them by blaming no one in particular. Giving populist rage no where else to land, the president's over-civility to his domestic enemies ensured that the rage of the many landed on him.
You don't get points for playing nice. You get points for getting the job done and making a real difference in the lives of real Americans.
Republicans understand this in their bones. Actually, the less power they have the louder they seem to shout. They understand that their actual political gravitational pull is minimal right now but if they make enough noise they can bluff the Democrats into pulling the debate on a variety of issues back towards them.
Look, none of this is new. Democrats know that rightly or wrongly they have been perceived as weak for years. If they want to stay in power they have no choice but to get angry and fight from a fixed, principled position. Then don't back down. When Dem congressman Alan Grayson refused to apologize to the GOP for insulting their lack of a health-care option, not only progressives cheered. Everyone wants strength from their leaders. So Democrats, even if it's against your nature to be tough, if you like your job you have no choice but to act it.
Which brings me to health care. As someone who underwent a kidney transplant two weeks ago, the state of the American health care system is a subject near and dear not only to my heart but also a bit lower down my body cavity. If it weren't for Dan Workman, one of my two best friends from the fifth grade, I'd be plugged into a dialysis machine right now. I have wonderful insurance and they covered the operations.
However 45,000 other Americans will die this year because they are uninsured. 45,000. That is more than the entire population of Culver City, California. Imagine if Osama threatened to drop a bomb on a city of that size and vaporized the entire population every year. Then would the Democrats find a little righteousness?
In his State of the Union the president needs to stand up and shout that those uninsured will be insured. That overly inflated health-care costs are strangling our prosperity and will be contained. That the forces arrayed against these changes have spent tens of millions of dollars spreading lies and, dammit, he will not let them win. They are hurting all Americans and actually killing 45,000 of them. Not on his watch. Not now. Not ever.
I know it's against his nature. He out Spocks Spock. An unrepentant racist shouts, "You lie!" at his last State of the Union and he doesn't even raise a Spock-ian eyebrow. Well when 45,000 lives are at stake that cool will be the death of your presidency. Glenn Beck can cry at a car commercial. Sure he's either acting or emotionally unstable, but he projects to his audience that he cares deeply. If Obama wants to save his so far only moderately successful presidency he needs to consult his friends in Hollywood (including Culver City, home to Sony Pictures) and learn to emote.