The President’s Self-Respect

Posted on November 4, 2010 by

The number one talking point for republicans since they took the house is to repeal “Obamacare.”

They use that term to deliberately mock the president.

They proudly and openly proclaim their mission to destroy him and his administration and they’re baiting and bullying him every chance they get.   

Obama supporters are going nuts (watch Ed Schultz).

Everywhere you look, democrats are imploring the president to take a break from his offers of conciliation and compromise.

At this point, it’s not just about strategy.

We want to see him stand up for himself.

Didn’t we just learn that if you’re constantly giving in to your opponents, they’ll just keep rolling you; all the while chipping away at your stature, credibility and power?

President Obama’s temperament has worked for him in the past.  It could very well be that his decency and humility will start to shine through, igniting the voting public’s admiration as the 2012 election approaches.

Or it’s possible, I suppose, that Obama is “rope-a-doping” the republicans, holding his punches until the later rounds when they’re overconfident and most exposed.

In any case, we need to do more than rely on a backlash against conservative extremists or a Sarah Palin nomination.

I’m open to suggestions.

Because underlying all the chatter on our side – including my own – is a growing suspicion that Obama just doesn’t have what it takes.

And I desperately hope we’re wrong about that.

Comments (14)


  1. Karen says:

    I’m sorry you don’t think Obama has what it takes. I’m tired of all the negativity and I’m sick of people picking on Obama. There are other REAL problems in this world. Please work to solve them.

  2. I think this president is holding up, and holding up well, under the kind of constant scrutiny, and criticism, from both left and right that could easily result in his locking himself away for a month like Abraham Lincoln did, and letting Michelle take over.

    The fault, dear Brutus, lies not with our stars, but with ourselves. Those who want to organize the poor, and the working classes, as well as anyone who might be sitting on the fence, and calling themselves “independent” while doing so, must be made aware of the falsehood that is the Republican line, and of what the stakes are.

    The issues are always greater than the man. It’s time for all Democrats, and progressives, to roll up our sleeves, and commit to work hard to further an agenda of economic equity, choice, affirmative action, and justice for all.

  3. Joe Uehlein says:

    Could be that in hard times people want a fighter, not a negotiator. Obama is not a fighter, at least not yet.

  4. Martin Jay says:

    Let’s look at this from a larger context. Ronald Reagan took a shellacking in his mid-term election cycle – and so did Bill Clinton. They both went on to re-election – handily.

    If there ever was a sign that the people weren’t happy – it was clearly evident last year when Scott Brown won the
    Senate seat in Massachuseets. It wasn’t any old Senate seat. It was Ted Kennedy’s. Ted Kennedy – The Lion of the Senate. The Liberal Lion of the Senate.
    That’s where the shellacking started. If there was anything that Barack Obama didn’t get – it was that.

    Now – the economy has a long way to go – and there are 2 years to the election. The economy is improving – abeit – ever so slowly. When the economy improves significantly – whcih it most probabaly will – Barack Obama will be re-elected – handily.

    To quote a famous pundit – we all still see in the news.
    It’s the economy – stupid!!!

  5. Greg says:

    Martin, I beg to differ, all that you say about the seat Scott Brown won is true, except it wasn’t about Obama, it was about Scott Brown’s opponent. She wasn’t a politician and made horrible, horrible gaffs. He campaigned. She didn’t. She made fun of him for standing out in the cold shaking hands. She didn’t know their baseball team. That loss had nothing to do with Obama.
    On the other hand, the difficulty Obama is having has everything to do with Fox Noise and the unresolved racism problem we have in this country.
    It’s clear we are not as racist as we used to be, but it is truly still there. That’s why the teapartiers want to “take our country back.” That’s why they say he wan’t born here, it further identifies him as an “other.” All of their coded language is about him as someone who does not belong where he is. And we the citizens need to do a better job at dismantling that. The most recent Fox noise lie is that his trip to India is costing us over $100 million a day. He’s taking 2000 staffers with him and they are taking over the biggest, most lavish five star hotel in India. You may not believe it. But those who listen Rush and wash Noise do.

  6. Michael says:

    I don’t see criticism of Obama as Obama bashing. It ‘s the non-critical true believers who are a danger. While I think Obama is a very good man, he has not been an effective president for progressive causes. His rhetoric is generally in the right place, but one doesn’t compromise with racism, or corporate theft, or lack of humanity. I thought we elected him to lead a full bore assault on the Reagan-Bush tradition, not to reconcile with it.

    I am disappointed that he didn’t accomplish more with a Democratic House, and I will always be critical of presidents who have failed to live up to their promise. Obama needs our support but also must expect our criticism.

    Most importantly now, the Senate has to hang tough until there is a chance to regroup. And I agree, this is a time to put the disappointments aside, to organize, and to encourage our representatives and President to fight.

    Bailing on the Democrats isn’t wholly unreasonable, by the way, and Independents generally have good reason for doing so. I vote almost exclusively Democratic but I am thoroughly disgusted with them and have been for forty years. I vote Democratic only because we don’t have a democratic system and the Republican alternative is obviously unacceptable. Democrats have failed to represent my (and I suspect, many of your) interests. We need, I believe a strong grass roots movement to reframe the “progressive” agenda and make it truly progressive again.

    • Lou says:

      It’s painful to be critical of Obama but the intensity of the disappointment – and despair – among his supporters seems to be reaching a critical point.

      We want to stand up to his attackers but feel immobilized by his unwillingness to defend himself.

  7. Salvador Sanchez says:

    Incredibly, Obama lost control over his narrative in the last two years. I really thought that this guy started going down hill when he started bringing former Clinton’s advisors in his administration, i.e., Emanuel and Summers. I feel helpless, I see nothing but gridlock in the next two years. I will not be surprised if he is voted out in 2012.

  8. Bruce Shragg says:

    There are two recent articles from the New Yorker that I cannot recommend highly enough; an article on the Koch brothers, who are bankrolling the Republican Far Right and the Tea Partyers, and the article on Glen Beck and the Tea Party, which shows his connection back to the philosophy promoted by the John Birch Society. The forces pummeling Obama (most notably Fox News) are formidable. Somehow we have let the far Right co-opt “the people,” making the term synonymous with right wing ideology. It is disappointing that the Right has dug in its heels in an effort to destroy Obama over doing something productive for the country. And, as alluded to above (or is it below?), racism is lurking not far below the surface. Bottom line…if the economy turns around, Obama will be a two term president. If not, he’s gone. But in the meantime, Progressives must be more forceful in countering the anti-Obama machine, which has become well-oiled while the Left needs an engine overhaul.

  9. Bill Thomas says:

    Lou, since I am a huge Obama fan, I think I can say this as well. I am baffled by Obama’s muffled, poor-me recation to the so called shellacking. The President needs to find his cojones and show some leadership. Last time I checked, Mitch McConnell was the Senate Minority Leader, not the Majority, and presumptive House Speaker John Boehner will overreach– that is what Republicans always do.

    Much like Bush losing his way and the goodwill of the the world after 9/11, Obama seems to have lost the massive momentum he had two years ago. I think if he can find his voice, stop being so gosh darned polite and start speaking directly to the American people, Obama can turn this thing around. (Note to self: Obama heading out of town after the election not a good move.)

    The President can totally kill the Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 per year, and after that, focus attention on the fact that McConnell has said that the Republican’s number one goal is to deny him a second term, not focusing on jobs and the economy.

    Free tip: I would make that Mitch McConnell line a running joke, as in, “Well, if the Republicans would stop worrying about who is going to be president in 2012 instead of who is going to be unemployed in 2010, we might be getting somewhere.”

  10. Aaron says:

    Lou, I agree.

    Adding to everyones comments, I think the president has been taking a bashing before he was even elected, through his campaign and now two years in to his presidency. If anyone knows how to take a punch and keep moving toward his goal its Obama. The question is what is his or the democrats goal? I know what the Tea Party’s goal is.

    One of the many problems is that the democrats cannot ever pull together enough to really come together and be effective. The people in this country (a majority of us) have short term memoeries of what the right has done in the past (Deregulation, etc.) and when we start building up our foundation it crumbles quickly. Instead of cement the democrats build their foundation with clay. We had congress in the palm of our hands and could pass almost anything yet Obama decided to reach accross the aisle rather than solidify the left’s foundation. Reaching accross the aisle with the Right is like sticking your hand in a jar full of fire ants and hoping you don’t get bit.

    The Right sees Obama’s gesture as a sign of weakness because they do not want to compromise for anything. So the Right rallies together and low and behold the “Tea Party / Palin Express” emerges, the Right freaks out and goes on a blitz campaign to take out the left’s advantage and deliver’s a knockout blow (Taking the House).

    We are like the Clippers. We got the number one draft pick but can’t seem to pull together as a team to be successful enough to make it to a championship.

  11. Jeffrey Del Bosque says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if “change” was just a slogan to get elected. Obama, has been not only using Clinton staffers, but acting like Clinton as well. He seems to figure(like Clinton) that progressives are caught between a rock and a hard place and will vote democrat forever, even if the dems keep looking more like the Repubs every year. Either he’s too afraid to really stand up for change, or we’ve been duped and he’s really just another face for the Oligarchy that’s really running the show. So far his actions–bank bail out, no public option, running a top down administration, continuing the endless wars against terror, a budget commission that I’ve heard is going to gut social security, drone attacks and lack of respect for international law–show that he does not represent the real change our country and the world needs. It made me ill to hear him talk so gracefully about the “illegal” Iraq war as though we’ve done anything good or accomplished anything other than killing a whole lot of innocent Iraqi civilians and bankrupting the “Republic” for the whims of the Empire. Harvard Law Grad he is. Abraham Lincoln he is not.

  12. bill says:

    I can’t add to this conversation. I’d simply like to compliment the participants for their lucidity and lack of rancor. Well done.

  13. I dearly love Obama…he is a deeply thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate man…but he is so committed to trying to include everyone in the process and reaching a concensus, that it is preventing effective leadership. Compromising with the teabagging right wing only dilutes important legislation and no matter how much he compromises, they STILL will vote against him. Better to fight for the best possible legislation and LET them filibuster and make idiots out of themselves and get some good PR going on the left. The right wing philosophy is that government is ineffectual and bad – so they set out to make it so. We DESPERATELY need better PR to get the country charged up and recognizing the positive changes that have been made and that still need to be made and to point out how destructive and self-serving the republicans are.

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