The president sure can give a good speech. That has never been in doubt and probably has done more to scare the opposition than anything else. But oratorical excellence does not sound public policy make. The awkwardness of that last sentence is intentional but the point is crystal clear: Namely, there is a time for conciliation and a time for confrontation, but there is never a time for capitulation, and I cannot help but feel that the lack of a boldness evinces stoic resignation and a bow to the obstructionist politics that has characterized the last five years.
The president has essentially had a five-year pass from progressive-minded liberals due to the obstinacy of the opposition. As a veteran of political and policy battles over four decades, I can say with some degree of assurance that those of us who believe in the potential for positive change through government action have been hesitant to attack Obama as he tackles the wistful and whimsical nature of the current Republican Party. However, the eloquence and calm demeanor that he has exhibited from Day One has not had the transformative effect that resounds in his words, both on the campaign trail and in his inaugural addresses.
On what many like myself believe is the seminal issue of the present and the future, climate change, he has thrown in the towel and decided that fossil fuels will power the world economy into the foreseeable future and that the corporate take-over embodied in the current Trans Pacific Trade Partnership will be legacies upon which his administration will be judged. And if that is the case, the Obama administration will be judged harshly by those who will bear the brunt of these fateful decisions: namely, our future generations.
I simply cannot express my depth of my disappointment at the president's refusal to chart a bold course forward, particularly now that he enters the twilight of his political career. I completely understand the arguments that posit how strategically important it is that Democratic control of the upper Chamber is the preeminent consideration as we move forward. I get it but I do not agree with it. Dumbing down the true crises that confront the nation and the world in favor of a political calculation is the height of cynicism and leaves many less rather than more hopeful of the prospects for a brighter future.
I respect the president for what he has accomplished personally but I cannot help but feel betrayed and abandoned by his decisions to forego the hope and change mantra for a practical set of political equations that to date have not moved the country forward. An aggressive program and campaign to address income inequality and unemployment is welcomed and positive. But if the negotiating styles that brought us an inadequate economic stimulus and a missed opportunity on health care are employed one has to question whether getting the best we can get is quite simply good enough? Where is the power of the bully pulpit, where is the inspiration that moved many of us to tears five years ago, where is the siren call for a new frontier, a great society, a new deal? What we are left with are half measures and unsatisfying deals that are now reflected in not just actions but the words themselves.
I have never considered myself a one-issue voter but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that the overarching issue of climate change and the resistance to confront the continued reliance on fossil fuels will have the largest impacts on the future, will saddle future generations with horrendously difficult decisions, and continue to spawn cynicism in the electorate that government and our leaders are simply not capable of handling the most precious and important responsibilities entrusted to them and that is a solemn duty to protect the public.
I can honestly say that I hope I am wrong. But there are no scenarios on the horizon to suggest that we are prepared to face the problems of the future and thus we are failing our children. And Mr. President, that includes your little ones too. Political calculations have trumped policy considerations once again and that is the crux of the toxic environment (political and physical) we currently find ourselves stuck in. And it represents a failure on the part of all of us to demand accountability, transparency, political courage, and policy convictions from our leaders. Muddling through has brought us to the point where we are today, with more than 3 in 5 Americans convinced the country is on the wrong track. Words cannot cure the reality of the current situation but they can inspire a belief that we can change it. Yes they can!