Friday, January 23, 2009

President Obama... So Far, So Good?

Sitting here just a few days in and pretending to have any idea how the Obama presidency will turn out is a pointless and masturbatory exercise, but that's not stopping anyone else, so let's go nuts!

President Obama's speech on Tuesday afternoon worked for me, and I found the reactions odd, but telling. The pundits seemed to be hoping for historically soaring rhetoric, the type that'd be remembered for decades, ala Kennedy or Reagan. Instead we got a speech that was light on fancy, but was very sober and specific instead (and yes, he took some shots at Bush... you know, the very, very unpopular man whose messes he was elected to clean up) and seemed indicative of a man looking to get straight to work. After eight years of a man-child and his evil sidekick running the show, we had a President speaking to us like adults. As we're seeing from all the cable news freakouts over everything the last few days-- and sorry conservatives, I'm seeing a freakout, not a love-in-- it's obvious that pundits love the idea of Obama, but are shocked about just how serious he was about the promises of change he made. They like his pretty words, but seem uncomfortable by the boat-rocking we've seen (slow down, Barry, you're scaring us!). The status quo was going so well, you know.

In particular, I loved this line-- "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward." Not only was it a necessary swipe at the post-Reagan brand of conservatism whose failures became so evident in the last eight years, but it's also a point I've made myself many times. I only hope he really means it.

The first few days have brought a greater deal of activity from the administration than many--including me-- expected... executive orders to restore government transparency and openness, the immediate order to begin closing Guantanamo prison (newsflash to America: we're just going back to normal here, Bush's policies were the extreme), an end to the torture/rendition program, reversing Bush-era anti-abortion policies, and plans to sign legislation on equal pay and on children's health insurance. These are all encouraging early signs. But we're still in the honeymoon period, which I expect to be short-lived, not due to Obama's own failings, but due to increased GOP insanity (see last entry, for example).

The real test, of course, will be how Obama handles the economy. The stimulus plan is imperfect (it should be solely focused on projects of long-term benefit-- infrastructure, transit, job creation, etc-- and not short-term tax-cut schemes, but I've done that rant already), but remains the best idea we've got so far. The goal should also be to attach strings and oversight to every step of the process, to make sure the money is spent wisely, and not just turned into a free-for-all like George W. Bush and Henry Paulson's $700B Wall Street free-cash giveaway for failed banks. This is important because a) we all want to see the economy improve, and b) a failure to do this correctly will ensure Obama will never be able to get the rest of his agenda-- on health-care, energy, etc-- through Congress without a serious, and long, fight.

Already, conservatives are drawing a line on the stimulus plan. Why? They'll figure that out later. For all the hemming and hawing coming from conservatives about the plan, what is their counter-idea? (And no, calls for lowering capital gains taxes don't count). As in the general election, their primary argument is that Obama sucks, they have no real plan of their own, and that is why they lost. Luckily, Obama seems-- for now, anyway-- to remember that and isn't scared to remind congressional GOP leaders of that reality. And with well over 80% of Americans in support of the general focus on the spending, he has public support as a weapon in this fight. Bill Clinton caved too early and often. If Obama makes the same mistake(s), he will fail.

To use my favorite analogy, Charlie Brown isn't being "bipartisan" when he runs at that football Lucy is holding for him, he's just being stupid.

Like most Americans, I am continuing to give our new President my support, and the benefit of the doubt for now. These problems were caused over a long term, and they will be fixed (?) over a long term too. Hopefully, four years from now, Obama is beginning his second term... not because I like him, but because that would mean he kept his promises, and voters rewarded his successes with another four years. But that is unknowable.

For now, I'll just bask in the feeling of being proud of my country again, and hopeful for it.

Fair and Balanced

The right-wing decides to put partisanship aside and wish our new President success in these serious times...

Nothing To See Here, Move Along, Move Along...

Reuters: Antarctica is warming, not cooling: study

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama

Watch Barack Obama be sworn in as President-- despite attempted verbal sabotage by Chief Justice Roberts (jerk!111!)-- here. Speech text here. Thoughts on the next four years coming soon.

Watching Online


Welcoming Our New Overlords

We're now officially 12 hours away from the end of the Bush presidency (you remember, he's the guy said who said in his 2001 inaugural address that "encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats", that "government has great responsibilities for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools", and who warned that "if we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most") and the beginning of the Obama presidency (you remember, he's that guy who seems capable of actually doing the job with basic competence and dignity). So that's pretty exciting.

I'll be at work today (ugh), but will, like many Americans, I'm sure, be listening to streaming audio/video of the inauguration at my desk. It's hard not to like that this one event has the vast majority of Americans in an optimistic mood in a decidely un-optimistic time for the country. Can he follow through on that optimism? I'll follow the lead of the national mood and remain cautiously optimistic for now.

More thoughts later after the whole shebang is official. PS, Barack Obama is unelectable.

(Picture taken this weekend recreating the inauguration scene at LegoLand California)

Monday, January 19, 2009

One Last Goodbye

Keith Olbermann presents... the Bush presidency in eight minutes. Au revoir.