International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Reality Check
has become less about facts than emotions."
- Joe Scarborough
real political animals, know virgin territory when they see it.
This kind of thing can create weird currents and strange vacuums
and absorb concussive effects unrecognized to the untrained eye.
The efficient aggressor can use it as a rare opportunity for marking
territory. In fact, identifying uncharted political and social terrain
is one of this space's specialties, recognizing when events go sideways
and judging how the true professionals own it. Aristotle was a pro.
Cincinnatus. That crazy idiot who runs South Carolina.
This past Wednesday,
Barack Obama proved his political pedigree, unleashing his thus far
unforeseen feral side in an historic address to congress upon its autumnal
reconvening. All the tell-tell signs were there; the snarl, the unflinching
spring-loaded crouch poised to mutilate whatever remains of a National
Healthcare debate. It was evident in his tone; combative with overtures
of indignation and a sousance of schmaltz.
Presidents prepared to horsewhip lawmakers, plead with the electorate,
and make certain everyone within earshot knows whose boss can provide
a most revelatory experience. And believe me, political animals can
smell a member of the pride from miles away.
It was, ultimately, this president's finest speech, as noted by NY
Times columnist, David Brooks on PBS soon afterwards -- the best
since the campaign's Race Speech. But it was, without argument, overtly
and unapologetically political; from the opening salvo, which conjured
the independently spirited Teddy Roosevelt, whose anti-establishmentarianism
status has gained traction in recent decades, all the way to the shameless
grand finale, a tearful tribute to the Left's late hero, Ted Kennedy.
It toed the difficult line between paying backhanded lip service to
bipartisanship while ripping the opposition new holes. Mostly it accomplished
its only pertinent goal, to galvanize a recently dispirited and fractured
Democratic base spewing queer demands on half-baked ultimatums.
The address' most important point, however, was its stake of historical
claim, which is exactly what is transpiring in Washington right now
as you read this; for never in any lifetime has Healthcare Reform gotten
this must traction, caused this much furor, or moved this far down the
legislative line. For the first time even fellow cynics are willing
to admit that this puppy might even come to a vote, unlike the recently
quashed Cap & Trade fiasco.
There is a sense now, and you can almost feel it seep through the television
as Republicans squirmed in their seats, shouting random hoots and waving
copies of dissenting bills, that this idea of avoiding a head-on collision
with Joe Cool is a dream fast dying. Ask South Carolina congressman
Joe Wilson, who confused the chamber with a Dylan Goes Electric concert
and blurted out "Liar!" twice. By morning, reeling Republican
officials were shoving him out the door to blubber a half-assed apology.
It is becoming more and more evident by the day that this issue will
have to finally be settled in the realm of law and not in the ambivalence
of popular opinion or beneath the din of stupidity. The country is fast
losing patience with the issue, and the months of incoherence coming
from the founders of this movement has left ample room for Myth-Making
101. The president made more than veiled references to this throughout
the hour-long address, affecting an anger lost on his first nine months
It was crisp, chock full of luster, and at times a king-hell romp. The
problem is it is a speech he should have given three months ago. It
was nothing more than a pep talk, a call to arms. What was needed was
a final summation, a forceful, undeniable framework. But instead of
a singular push for one signature agenda, a strongly worded manifesto
for an actual bill the president would sign, we received vague examples
of what can be worked out through determination and an understanding
of its gravity. And although it is admirable this mostly liberal president
could begin to broach opening interstate insurance competition or visiting
tort reform, it has become laughable that a wide range of options and
back-to-the-drawing-board rhetoric is still passing for a proclamation.
The failure to hit concrete points like the who and how of its bankrolling
(made more curious the day after when even prominent Democrats were
waiting on number-crunchers to figure how in the world $900 billion
over ten years would pay for this thing) was manifest upon a reading
of the transcript the next morning. Without the drama and inflection
of the performance there seemed to be nothing in the text that answers
the key questions, and since the Democrats have no one even close to
this guy's ability to communicate, trouble still brews.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are also slowly splitting at the seams. There
is the tried and true political animal salivating from The Right refusing
to cast a vote for anything that would hand this president a much-needed
first term victory, one in which has avoided chief executives for nearly
a century. Then there is a growing contingent of moderates and survivalists
(political animals all) lead by Maine Senator Olympia Snow, who understands
all to well that being on the wrong side of history is not a wise move.
If the train has left the station, it is better to not be left on the
platform with nary a voice or anyone to bow to. But they have also learned
the lessons from the Democrats who voted with fervor for an unpopular
and badly conceived war, only to be buried by its abysmal results.
This has now become the new administration's gamble, as Iraq was the
last go-round. This time, however, unlike a few poor souls being shipped
halfway across the globe on the wave of flimsy excuses, we're all on
the front lines now.
© James Campion September 11th 2009
M Kennedy 1932-2009
Campion + Readers Responses
is a good thing Ted Kennedy is Irish Catholic. He's going to heaven.
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