Obama’s Chance for Redemption
Has President Obama, in the hot political jargon of the day, regained his mojo? In other words: is the Barack Obama of the presidential election campaign back in full view?
I write this not knowing what has been said in the State of the Union Address scheduled to be given by the President tonight (I wrote this on Tuesday morning, January 25), an address that is to be given in a new atmosphere of politeness. If the Dems and the GOPs haven’t been speaking with each other, they will at least be forced to sit with each other for the duration of the speech, which could get awkward.
The President’s long-standing unwillingness—some have said inability—to fight with the GOP toe-to-toe seems to have paid some dividends. The new age of cooperation, and a growing political assurance on his part, let the President come out of the ashes with some momentum after the Republican’s spectacular victories in the mid-term elections, which saw them regain control of the House of Representatives. Eager to extend the Bush tax cuts—largely benefiting the wealthy—the GOP bartered away opposition to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, went along with the nuclear arms reduction treaty extension, and extended unemployment payments and allowed benefits for 9/11 survivors.
As they say in politics, you never know what can happen; things can change on a dime. And the shocking, tragic shootings in a Tucson, Arizona Safeway parking lot gave President Obama the opportunity, and perhaps the responsibility, to reemerge as the inspirational leader of the country, the great uniter.
While liberals and conservatives were shouting at each other, the President rose above us all with great heart and inspiring rhetoric, asking us to look to our better selves. He was moving and convincing; he eulogized the victims and placed no blame on the National Rifle Association or anyone else for the tragedy.
He was the President many of us have wanted him to be for some time, and the State of the Union address is another opportunity for him to rise to the occasion. It is an opportunity to test and be tested by the new Republicans in Congress. There are some, like Mitch McConnell of the Senate, who insist that the main GOP business is to make sure that Obama doesn’t get reelected, a purely political goal not appreciated that much in troubled times.
Obama showed his statesman-like qualities during the State visit of the Chinese President who, when pressed by Obama, admitted that China might improve its human rights policies. When is the last time a President has been able to negotiate with China on human rights?
More than that, Obama is looking to the future of foreign and national investments to put large dents into the deficit, as opposed to wholesale cuts in spending programs.
Here the GOP has to deal with its Tea Party firebrands, some of whom wouldn’t mind cutting out the Department of Education, slashing social security, and burning the health care legislation on the steps of the Capitol.
We’d like to think that the President has found a way to use his special gifts: his ability to inspire the people, to negotiate and work with opponents, and persuade those remnants of moderation in the GOP ranks to resist the slash and burn tactics that come from the Cantors andthe Tea Party maximalists. Can he do it? Stay tuned. In fact, tune in, and let me know what happened.