As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been a harsh critic of Obama’s leadership or lack of it since he took office, not because I supported Clinton (which I did but I got over it), but as someone who understands the responsibilities of a chief executive to create meaning, articulate a vision, and put forth an agenda for people to work from. From the time he was elected until now, his vision kept shrinking rather than expanding and his penchant for appeasing even the unappeasable has been nothing short of maddening.
That unwillingness to put a stake in the agenda ground left the Democrats in Congress adrift. The result has been that even when Obama scored accomplishments such as heath reform, it never felt like a victory. Because it was never clean cut, never a righteous fight.
But I have to say he knocked it out of the ballpark tonight in his State of the Union Address (full text here). His energetic delivery, piquant story telling, and frequent appeals to the highest American values made me remember the Obama I voted for in 2008 and thought had disappeared entirely.
I’ve been critical of the President’s leadership in the past, and wrote this about a previous State of the Union address. But I’m rooting for him to be at his rhetorical and persuasive best tonight, not so much for his re- election prospects as for the good of the country.
Candidate Obama had a large vision during his campaign and it called us to our higher selves. In part his decisive 2008 victory was due to America’s exhaustion with George W. Bush. But a big factor was Obama’s vision and his promises to lead a progressive agenda once elected.
Instead, once elected, he focused on small vision projects and on doing deals rather than articulating the ideals that had propelled him into office. Tonight’s speech gives him a new opportunity– the last such chance he’ll have during this term–to give people that bigger vision and not just to say things that are safe. To come out swinging at the Republicans
A political consultant who taught me lots about the workings of the lawmaking process when I was new to retail politics told me that politics is in the end all theater. Rarely has his analysis seemed as accurate as watching the House Republicans today try to justify holding American citizens in a state of suspended animation, wondering what’s going to happen to their paychecks next year or whether their unemployment check will continue to come. One aim of the Republicans is to get voters to hate government, and that seems to be the one thing they are succeeding at. So I found Politico’s question today a little facile, but I answered it anyway. I’d love to know what you think , please.
Arena Asks: House Speaker John Boehner has predicted that the House will reject the Senate-passed payroll tax holiday bill during a vote today. The two-month package would extend rates on the payroll taxes that fund Social Security, unemployment benefits and Medicare by increasing certain home-mortgage fees.
If paychecks go down in January 2012, who will they blame: House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Congress in general or President Obama?
It’s clear that the Republicans orchestrated all of this. Why is there even a question?
Please read this article, and just as the steam is coming out of your ears, go sign the petition and leave your comment for the president. It’s up to us to hold him, and all politicians, accountable.
Out of patience with Obama Administration betrayals on health issues, a coalition has launched a petition demanding an agenda that is fair to women.
It wasn’t the first time that President Barack Obama played to a right-wing constituency at the expense of women’s interests, but the reversal last week of an expected decision on emergency birth control provoked perhaps the most critical reaction so far toward the administration by women’s health advocates and feminists across the nation…
Not that I had time for it today, but I couldn’t resist answering this one. What’s your take? Why isn’t Newt getting the criticism he deserves for his past deeds? Will they eventually come back to haunt him? Or will he on his own make so many missteps that he destroys his own candidacy?
Arena Asks: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is threatening to discuss what she learned about Newt Gingrich from a 1990s ethics investigation. Pelosi, like Gingrich a former House speaker, hinted that she would one day discuss the “thousand pages of his stuff” that she rifled through in the late 1990s while serving on a panel that was investigating him for tax and ethics violations.
But would that really hurt presidential candidate Gingrich, considering the information has largely been aired publicly before? Is Gingrich politically inoculated on these and other old controversies, including the circumstances of his first divorce?
My Answer: Newt may be on the road to discrediting himself without needing Pelosi’s help…
Will new allegations that Herman Cain had a 13-year affair be the end of his campaign? Should this come up as an issue at all? Why is no one talking about Newt’s affairs any more?
Arena Asks: An Atlanta businesswoman says she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Herman Cain, prompting a preemptive denial from the Republican presidential candidate. Asked earlier in November about sexual harassment allegations if he would leave the race, Cain responded, “Ain’t gonna happen.” Can Cain stick to that now, and still win the GOP nomination?
My Answer: Exhaustion from these continuing allegations of Cain’s sexual misconduct has overtaken what was left of his flash-in-the-pan campaign…
Silly question today but I decided to answer it anyway. More to the point, what in your opinion should be the next steps? Who should take leadership?
Arena Asks: Congress is bracing today for the failure of the supercommittee, which will most likely fail to submit paperwork to the Congressional Budget Office by its Monday deadline.
Is this a big hit for Congress, which had a nine percent approval rating in a recent poll? And why was the supercommittee unable to make ends meet?
My Answer: The supercommittee was doomed from the start because the Republicans have less to lose politically by being intractable on revenue. The supercommittee process played right into their hands and the Democrats took the bait…
You know how first they laugh at you, then they try to kill you, then you win? Occupy Wall Street has moved past getting laughed at and is now under attack. Today’s Politico Arena question asked whether OWS has accomplished anything, taking off from a slam by Rep. Peter King (R of course-NY) who charged the movement is “disorganized.” Below is my response to Arena. Enjoy it while playing this video performance art, and do let me know your thoughts:
ARENA ASKS: In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) had tough criticism for the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I mean, what is their position?” King asked. “They’re mad that other people are making money?
The Arena Asks: Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new proposal would let Americans choose between their existing income tax rate or a new flat tax of 20 percent. Will Perry’s flat tax plan restore him to the GOP presidential primary lead? Will his new campaign team help? And what do you make of Perry’s recent birther-curious comments?
Rick Perry might not know how to govern the country but he knows how to win a race by adapting and persisting. The unifying thread connecting these three changes in Perry’s campaign is this: the man is a learner with an almost feral competitiveness that turns obstacles into fuel to propel him to his goal…
I’m in SC today speaking to the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association Women Lawyers and Leadership Conference. Everyone is looking for leadership, but we need to remember that a leader is somebody who gets something done. And then go do it. Same advice I have for members of Congress in my Arena commentary today. Read on and let me know what you would tell the complainers:
Arena Asks: President Obama’s sagging poll numbers have many Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2012 running for cover. And discontent with the president is growing on the House side, too: In his retirement statement Thursday Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) ripped the Obama White House for what he called inaction on the housing foreclosure crisis. Will President Obama be a political albatross for Democratic congressional candidates in 2012?
My Answer: As a lawyer, President Obama should know the first rule of debate: whoever defines the terms is most likely to win it. His failure or perhaps intentional reluctance to do that is the real albatross weighing down members of Congress and causing him to lose the extraordinary voter enthusiasm that swept him into office…