Unprecedented is a word we like to bandy about these days, whether referring to weather extremes or the President of the United States appearing on The Daily Show, and it seems to be applicable.
Now, I think we can all safely say that our hopes of President Obama being, well, the second coming of Jesus, have waned substantially since 2008. However, if you’re me, at least, there is always a sense of longing when the President speaks, for his beautiful, inspiring rhetoric to be true. Call me a cockeyed optimist or a crazy dreamer, but I still cling to that hope. And so it was in that spirit that I sat down to watch my beloved nightly fare.
What I found was something totally different, and it wasn’t, for the most part, about the actual substance of what was said. This wasn’t a candidate on the campaign trail, make no mistake about it. This was The President of the United States, and his demeanor was commanding, if not slightly adversarial.
Jon Stewart, fortunately, was Jon Stewart, a whip smart man who manages to temper tense situations with humor, and yet never backs down from asking and saying what, most of the time, I am thinking. And so it was that he asked what I wanted to know – where is the audacity? Why wasn’t the reform as sweeping and bold as the campaign rhetoric?
I suppose that’s where the tone changed to one of defensiveness on the President’s part, and where, for a brief moment, I caught a glimpse of the frustration of this man to whom we not only entrusted our nation, but on whose shoulders we placed the burden of our unprecedented troubles, without taking much responsibility for them ourselves. We are, after all, Americans. Why can’t we have instant gratification without sacrifice?
President Obama ably listed the litany of legislation his administration accomplished in his short time in office, and how it stabilized the economy and spared us another Great Depression. He told us of the expanded national service, the historic healthcare reform, the regulation on the credit card companies, and the timbre of his voice seemed to be saying, “I’ve done more than any other guy who’s had this job, let alone in eighteen months. What more do you want from me? What will it take to please you?”
Granted, that’s my interpretation, but still the answer is simple: We want jobs. We want decent, affordable healthcare. We want to stay in our homes and not lose what we’ve paid for them. We want the retirement we paid into for all our working lives to be there when it’s time to actually retire. Heck, we want to be able to actually retire. And from our perspective, many Americans have none of these things. While we are hurting, there is nothing that can be said that will drown out the deafening enormity of our own pain. And that, unfortunately, is the truth that puts our President in the current position he’s in.
If his base (me), who called Senators, and carried signs, and rallied the troops for healthcare reform, if I don’t have health insurance after the reform passed because my premiums went sky high and are simply unaffordable for me now, then he’s got a real problem. And it’s not the upcoming midterms and the potential Democratic seats lost that is at stake. It’s his presidency. We are not a nation who particularly cares how hard one tries. We care only about one’s success. And fair or not fair, we are unforgiving when it comes to that.
I disagree with Jon Stewart on one thing he said. I don’t think it’s the campaigning congressional Democrats that are saying, “Please, baby, one more chance.” I think it is the President. The amazing thing is that, even battle-weary, frustrated, and defensive, President Obama still exudes some internal quality that makes me want to give him that chance.
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