Obama’s Moment

30 Jan

It’s like the media wasn’t listening to a word President Obama said during his respectful and compelling dialogue with the House Republican Caucus yesterday.  Immediately, MSNBC, DailyKos, Huffington Post, and the left-of-center blogs began bleating about the President slaying lions and eviscerating his critics and taking it to the Republicans.  The right wing chatter (aside from RNC Sponsored Fox News) seemed to be shockingly open minded about the whole affair, including right wing demagogue Michelle Malkin.

What happened yesterday mattered and not just a little bit.  It mattered because it was not only great political theater, but because it was the first honest dialogue we’ve had about our national issues in quite some time.  It was the manifestation of what Andrew Sullivan wrote about Obama and his potential Presidency in December of 2007.

Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future.

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

Obama’s constant efforts towards bipartisanship can be intensely frustrating for liberals to watch.  I often want him to govern from the left and stop with his pandering to the center or his outreach to Conservatives who simply slap his hand away.  However, Obama seems to sense that further dividing ourselves along deeply partisan lines will only destabilize our republic beyond repair.  Perhaps he is right.  Maybe we need to change the tone of the debate to get to a point where we can have real discussions about left and right politics.

What he is right about is that this nation is in desperate need of serious discussion about issues of import.  We no longer have the luxury of the extreme in our government.  We need respectable debate about our national defense, economic system, long term entitlement costs and our general national priorities.

As in the SOTU, he addressed partisan political statements with his own, but then asked to change the tone.  Obama was trying to coach the Republicans to be more careful with their tone as they are backing themselves into a corner from which it is almost impossible to govern.  If they tell their constituents that Obama is dangerous and essentially out to destroy America, how can they then explain that they decided to support an idea Obama advanced that might be centrist and practical?  They can’t.

We’ve got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes, because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together, because our constituents start believing us.

Based on Obama’s actions in the past couple of weeks, it seems like he might have finally gotten around to reading The Art of War.  I’m intrigued by many of the parallels in his current strategy with themes from Sun Tzu’s tome…especially these ones, keep them in mind when you think of the State of The Union address, his meeting with the Republican Caucus and what will surely unfold in the coming weeks:

To a surrounded enemy you must leave a way of escape

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

and most importantly…

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

We’ll see if Obama can continue with his efforts to improve the debate and smarten up our politics.  Hopefully, he’ll also make a visit to the Progressive Caucus and make this interaction a semi-annual affair.

9 Responses to “Obama’s Moment”

  1. drmaddog January 30, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    The era of defining bipartisanship as I’ll hug your elephant if you’ll kiss my ass is so last decade. I’m not sure where this new sense of dialog is going, but I sure am glad it’s begun. I just hope it lasts longer than most of my New Year’s resolutions.

  2. frank wood January 30, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Your final comments state “We’ll see if Obama can continue with his efforts to improve the debate” … in my mind, what is more important is them on the left and them on the right who comment on what is seen by those whom we’ve elected. Just a few months ago, I recall Robert Gibbs said something like “Bush isn’t president anymore, for crying out loud, get over it already!” While I appreciate the words, the need for words of unity seem to be less important than the need for deeds of unity.

  3. Ethan January 30, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I like the strategy of obviating the Republicans better than working with them, when the only “good” that comes out of the latter strategy is more centration of the Dems and, of course, Obama’s reelection. But yeah, I’m left of the Dems, so I would.

  4. Dan Davis January 30, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    How do you have a dialog with people who’s only plan is the one that did not work and is willing to stake our future on it by telling lies and stretching the truth in order to deceive those that do not pay attention into believing they are right? Good luck America. The best we can hope for is for the economy to turn and silence the naysayers and those who somehow think they have lost something.

  5. RvrSide January 30, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Obama definately read Art of War, He takes the high ground. And in his case the High and Almighty ground.

  6. Colin January 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    To call a truce in the “civil war” that Sullivan describes would be a friggin disaster. Look at the terms of the “war” according to Sullivan — war, culture, religion, and race. To call a truce in these areas — to declare that they’re not important enough to justify the effort — would be to move this country several huge steps to the right.

  7. petrilli January 30, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Granted the optics appear quite Rosey. But sometimes fiction better captures reality:

    Republican Senator Moe Greene to POTUS:
    “You god-damn guineas–er–Democrats really make me laugh…Yeah, let’s talk business, Mr. President. First of all, you’re all done. The Corleo–uhm–your party don’t even have that kind of muscle anymore. The Godfa–a-ahh–majority leader’s vulnerable in his own state, right? You’re getting chased out of New Yor–uhm–Massachusets by Barzi–er–Brown and the other Families. What do you think is going on here? You think you can come to my retreat and take over? I talked to Barzi–ah.uhm–Lieberman. I can make a deal with him and still keep my hotel–I mean–fillibuster…Sonofabitch, do you know who I am? I’m Moe Greene. I made my bones when you were going out with cheerlea–uhm,sh*t! Uh…yeah, cheerleaders! “

  8. Tim January 31, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    Hey, Chris:  I just listened to you on Brad’s show…..I enjoy you on there.  However, I think you’re are wrong when you said that Reagan was blaming Carter’s economy 7 years into his presidency.  You seem and look like you’re too young to really remember those times………My memory is of him turning the economy around by at least ’83 and then being elected in a total landslide in ’84.  If the economy was still bad, that would not have happened.

    In fact, I am a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, and it annoys me no end when talks about writing Nebraska as an answer to the failed economic policies of Reagan.  I’m like come on Bruce, you wrote the songs in ’82, Reagan got in in ’81, how could have his policies even had a chance to fail yet.

    As you might expect I lean to the right, but I do think Obama did inherit a mess and I think he’s done a good job so far with it……….My point is I don’t remember Reagan blaming Carter much at all, and if he did, it sure didn’t last 7 years!

    • Dan Davis January 31, 2010 at 8:00 am #

      And, they all should have blamed Richard Nixon and his wage & price freeze that put the country into a tail spin that took almost 10 years to rectify.

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