So here’s Bill Maher doing this thing and directing it at Obama. I think it’s good that Obama get some real criticism from his left, but still I just have to my roll my eyes on this one.
Particularly with the whole “this isn’t what I voted for” schpeel. Bill Maher should have done his homework. If he had read (like I did) both Obama’s autobiography but more importantly his political manifesto book Audacity of Hope, he would have known that Obama is a very cautious reformer. Obama likes all sides to play things out in front of him, wait to the direction turns in his favor and then insert himself into the mix. That’s his MO. Maher is pissed that Obama isn’t Edwards. Well, I suppose he should have voted for Clinton in the primary (maybe he did?).
Maher also should have read David Leonhardt’s brilliant piece on Obama’s economic outlook prior to the election. And/or Cass Sunstein’s piece calling Obama (correctly) a University of Chicago Democrat. Having done so would have allowed one to predict almost to the T how Obama was going to react to the financial crisis–seeing it as a banking crisis and therefore requiring a bank bailout.
The US discussion of politics assumes so much in the way of dishonesty and falsehood from our politicians. But if you actually read their writings, look at their (where applicable) legislative/executive histories, and read profiles of their personalities, the truth comes out in the wash. Politicians–particularly through a grueling primary/general election campaign like we now have–reveal who they are. They communicate how they will be for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. e.g. McCain’s history–and certainly his campaign–clearly revealed that he was not much interested in day to day running of affairs and we could have expected four years of insane internicine sibling rivalry and dysfunctional behavior from his staff and administration. Come on, VP Palin?
Same with Obama.
As a wise friend of mine says, when someone shows you who they are, believe it.
At the end of the day, I just don’t believe people really change all that much. Not really fundamentally. Politicians least of all. They change their positions on things sure, but they don’t change really who they are and how they operate at a fundamental level. Whether John Edwards was the 2004 Second Coming of Bill Clinton Centrist or the 2008 Neo-Left Wing Populist, he was still a raging narcissist.
Which means in the final analysis, Obama is never going to be the guy Bill Maher wants him to be. I happen to think that’s a good thing, but either way that’s the reality.
But deeper than Maher’s disillusionment–for which I think he has pretty much no one to blame but his own naivete–is a more problematic element. Namely the lack of any calling out Congress and putting everything on the President. In this sense, at least Maher is honest–he doesn’t care about The Constitution or the rule of law or the separation of powers. He wants a popular charismatic strongman who will push through the agenda Maher wants to see.
Maybe that’s too harsh. (Maybe it’s not). He wants, he says, Obama to be Bush and not care so much about his image and ram through his agenda come hell or high water. Except as I remember it, that’s a pretty poor historical understanding. Bush had a totally 100% subservient and highly disciplined GOP in charge of Congress from 2000-2006. Obama unfortunately (for him) is, as Will Rogers said, a member of no organized party. He’s a Democrat. Just a little Constitution 101. President Obama is the Executive. He executes the laws passed by the Legislators. If they don’t pass some laws, he (and those who support him) are just plain s–t outta luck. And it’s not because Obama is spending too much time on TV. He’s not all powerful; he’s in charge of one of the three branches of federal government. If the Congress doesn’t do its job I don’t know how you can blame Obama for that one.
To give Obama some credit where it’s due for the moment. He started off the health care debate basically saying here are some broad principles I would like to see and here are things I will vote for (and implicitly here are things I would veto), but the rest is up to Congress. That’s their job. Well unfortunately the Congress is run by fools who have long forgot how to do their job–if they ever knew how–so now he’s had to have a talk with Congress and tell the little boys and girls over at Congress how to play like grown ups.
The simple fact is that the Democratic Congress has no effective leadership. More disturbingly it is because we have three branches of government and one has completely abdicated its role. Spading and neutering is good to help control the pet population; it’s not so good when it’s self-inflicted by the US Congress. If there are not three legs planted to the ground, the stool will not stand. The GOP under Bush did stuff but basically just took marching orders from the President, but they didn’t have co-equal branch status.
The current congressional crop can’t even get themselves up in the morning to just be the President’s lackeys. Cuts into their tee time I suppose.
The Democrats in Congress need an enforcer. [The only guy they had to fill that role in the House is now the Chief of Staff.] I mean seriously–whose gonna be afraid of Dick Durbin, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and/or Steny Hoyer? It ain’t happening. As I said the other day for the Ds/libs out there I feel for ya. Honestly I do.
If Maher wants to be constructive he should aim his fire where it more pointedly belongs: at the Democrats in Congress. Otherwise his call is an unconstitutional imposition of presidential power, further expanding beyond its proper bounds, the role of the Executive.