Obama, I mean. Robert Reich provides us an annotated guide to the president’s speech yesterday in Osawatomie, Kansas (I love the name of that place!). Reich says, and I agree, that Obama hits all the right notes about the erosion of the middle class in America during and since the Reagan years. The speech is magnificently written; I haven’t heard the recording, but if Obama does one thing well, it’s to deliver a speech, and I presume he did.
The problem, of course, is that Obama governs differently from what he says in his stump speeches.
He mentioned the “raging debate” in America over how to restore “balance and fairness,” and even went so far as to mention both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (a first ever, I believe, though he did not use the name but instead circumlocuted). He spoke of the declining ability of the erstwhile middle class in America to raise a family, to own a home without risking personal financial catastrophe, to retain a decent-paying job working for a business that hasn’t offshored the work yet, and so on. Reich fills in some important details, but basically credits Obama with a right answer on this issue.
Obama does engage in politics: he criticizes those who suffer “amnesia” in wanting to return to the very same policies that caused our current train wreck… of course, a wholly honest assessment would have had him speaking of those who continue to pursue those very same policies, unchecked by his administration, because at least Wall Street and the banksters have never stopped those dishonest practices.
He alludes several times to Teddy Roosevelt and his New Nationalism, quoting TR quite amusingly:
“Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”
Oh, really, Mr. President? Do you think you have given the best that there is in you in behalf of that “real democracy”? Many of us aren’t so sure.
He draws the obligatory parallel between TR in his time and Obama in his own time, and talks about the obligations of corporations to provide workers income that does not result in gross inequality of financial status. Again… am I really hearing this from Obama?
And so on, and so forth. I at least was left with one burning question in my mind: Why does Obama not govern the way he talks? Is he an opportunistic liar spewing whatever the people want to hear in every stump speech? Is he incompetent to lead, to accomplish the changes he rightly says we need? Does he genuinely believe all this stuff, but when confronted with the reality of massive opposition from corporate America, which pays the political bills, simply backs off from his struggle on behalf of working Americans?
I would offer that the answer is “none of the above.” Rather, Obama is one of those unfortunates among extremely intelligent people (and I do not doubt his intelligence) who are able to hold two or more completely contradictory sets of ideas, or policies, or even goals, in his mind simultaneously, without mentally choking on the cognitive dissonance.
If that is the case, then he is a dangerous man to have in the Oval Office.
I’d almost rather think he was too damned dumb to see what he is facilitating. But I don’t. He’s smart. And I’d rather have a different, less internally conflicted smart person… I’m not yet sure just who… as president in these troubled times.