“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America ”
-President Barack Obama, Jan 20, 2009
Yesterday, a neighbor we hadn’t seen in a while ran into us at one of our local restaurants. He asked us if we still felt strongly supportive of President Obama after the election results ?
This is our answer.
On January 20, 2009 at 12 noon, as Barack Obama was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States, the United States was in a national economic emergency. As President Obama addressed the nation that day, a Tuesday, 25,000 Americans (based on that month total) lost their job. Total job losses that month were 750,000 Americans. That is ;
• 12 times the population of Oak Park, Il. where Carol & I grew up
• 7.5 times the population of Green Bay, Wis.
• 110% of the combined total urban population of Minneapolis and St Paul; including children.
At a average American family size of 2.5, that means that nearly 1.9 million people were affected by the job losses in January 2009.
Many were celebrating, with good reason, that day. Many Americans, though, were not.
For the Obama Team that crossed the threshold of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that day, President Obama included, the celebration was tempered by the knowledge that we were perched on a precipice and that nothing other than perseverance, hard work, determination, skill, luck, and yes, the grace of the Good Lord could pull us back from. We were in the midst of a total and complete economic meltdown. There was no system liquidity, and no expectation that there would be.
Across town, a different view had been reached.
While Americans were suffering, while jobs were being eliminated that month at a rate of 1,000 fellow Americans a hour, the Republican Tea Party had made a simple calculation. They were going to watch as Americans fell off the cliff, and blame it all on President Obama. They would even blame President Obama for things that had been initiated under President Bush. With clear focus, that is exactly the program they have executed. They would obfuscate, incite, and use fear as a political weapon. And that is exactly what they have done.
One simple example; when George Bush was elected in 2000, our total gross debt was $5.6 Trillion. When he left office in January 2009, the same debt was $10 Trillion. That is a nearly 100% increase in public debt and is directly attributable to the strategy of dropping tax rates () while fighting a shooting war. Talking about Democrates being financially irresponsible in the face of this set of facts is real audacity.
As the year progressed, President Obama and the Team was battered with hourly, daily, and weekly, twists that increased the system risk. These twists were aggravated by legislative conundrums, political dead ends, and external events (think BP). Through this all, President Obama stayed focused on the multiplicity of steps he knew were necessary to arrest the slide. At no time, did the Team choose political positioning versus simply doing the right thing. Given that we have now gained 874,000 jobs through October for the year 2010, we can be thankful for that focus.
But there has been a cost.
While a Strategy for Recovery was being implemented, the left saw only what was not getting accomplished; and the Right began the single minded mission of repeating the Big Lie(s) everywhere they could;
“Democrats are big spenders, high taxing liberals. They are different than us “Real Americans”.
The result of the President and Team keeping their focus is this;
• Economic disaster avoided through a $780B stimulus Bill
• Two Supreme Court Justices approved
• Health Care Reform passed
• Reform of a broken financial system
• Ended combat operations in Iraq
• Refocused our efforts in Afghanistan
• Consumer Protection Agency creation under Elizabeth Warren
• Signed the Lily Ledbetter law
• Restored faith in American diplomacy
• And so much more…………………………….
On Wednesday, November 3, we woke to a changed landscape. The US House, effective January 2011, will now be run by the Republican Tea Party and Speaker John Boehner. Democrats lost 60+ seats in the House and thus, control. The US Senate in Democratic hands.
What can we draw from this? Is President Obama’s early position to offer open handed cooperation the Republicans to blame?
One thing for sure is this; fighting a election coming out of a massive recession, near Depression, was sure to be a uphill battle. Isn’t this all just President Obama’s fault? That’s what the Republicans would have America believe. This is the politics that Barack Obama speaks against. One of division, name calling , and fear.
Last week, Michael Tomasky, published a article and book (s) review in New York Review of Books, added to the piling on to President Barack Obama.
Mr. Tomasky chose to survey the difficulties of the past year, and like many others, manage to conclude that recent political losses were the direct result of what Barack Obama did or did not do; the choices he made, or did not make. The “illusions” that Tomasky accuses him of laboring under. (illusion= Republican desire to cooperate in governing).
We know, as do you, that Barack Obama’s views and approaches to the vexing problems of our time are based on a clear-headedness regarding those who oppose a progressive America. But progress was planned and executed on what was possible with the entire landscape in view.
It is disappointing that Mr Tomasky, like others, continues to proffer a conclusion that, all evidence to the contrary, the economic rescue (TARP), health care, and other legislative accomplishments, would have passed in their most progressive form that some would have chosen to promote ( can you say “public option” ? ). That is a “illusion” that simply does not comport with the facts. These bills would not have been passed in their most progressive form.The votes were simply not there. And our Team knew it.
We don’t know if that should be called Survivalism, or Revivalism, as Richard Wolffe would characterize it. More to the point, it was Realism and led to the greatest legislative accomplishments of our lifetime.
Many now choose to sling darts and arrows at President Obama for the choices he made through this minefield of the recent past. Everyone has a view of what he should have been done and how he should have done it.
In particular, some now fashion themselves experts in how being on the attack would have produced a different political result.
Over the past two years, every day, President Obama and the entire team woke up trying to balance a thousand, no, million, moving parts, and competing alternatives, in a successful attempt to stear the ship of state through this minefield; the left crtiricizing him for being too timid, the right accusing him of causing the multiple crises in the first place.
At the first news conference after the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy repeated this observation by Spanish Bullfighter Domingo Ortega ;
Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full
But only one is there who knows
And he's the man who fights the bull
We listen, respectfully, to those who want to chart a different course.
We ask you to carefully consider how we can unite now, in common purpose, as we confront those who would upend the accomplishments of the last 2 years. Respectfully, we ask you to join this fight for our future by looking forward together.
The steadiest hand on the till of our ship, in the midst of the past 2 years, has been Barack Obama. Speaking of immigration reform at America University on July 1, he said;
“This is a emotional question, one that lends itself to demagoguery. Time and again, this issue has been used to divide and inflame-and to demonize people. And so the understandable, the natural impulse among those who run for office is to turn away and defer this question for another day, another year, or another administration…….This is why a broken and dangerous system that offends our most basic American values is still in place. But I believe we can put politics aside and finally have a system that’s accountable.
I believe we can appeal not to people’s fears, but their hopes, to their highest ideals, because that’s who we are as Americans.”
This is the man we elected 44th President of the United States.
In the fall of 2008, at the Chicago based Obama Women’s Leadership Conference, two weeks before the election, the last speaker said this;
“ When Barack Obama is elected President, and he will be, we each will think our work is over. I tell you it is not. It is each of our responsibilities to continue this work. After all, he is only a man and he will need each and every one of us to continue to perfect our Union.”
So we each have a responsibility to continue contributing to this work of our lifetime; thus, we will continue to point to ways we can each help. Multiple activities are now under way that will solidify how you can help, and we will share those as plans take form.
On Tuesday 11-30, a bi-partisan meeting will be held at the White House. Like you, we wish for success.
Can the hopes for a progressive America, the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama recover? The answer lies not only in his hands; it lies in ours as well.
In this new reality, we intend to be there, alongside you, fighting for our shared values, led by the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.
Our answer to the original question?
We Stand, With You, For Hope and Change
Lou & Carol Frillman