On Not Getting Fooled Again

(Update: apparently I forgot to linkify things that were supposed to be links!  I was sure I had done.  That’s what I get for posting on only one cup of coffee.  Fixed now.)

As most people probably know by now, on Friday President Obama accepted an invitation to speak to and answer questions from the Republican caucus at their annual retreat — on the condition that the news media be allowed and the speech and Q&A session be broadcast live.

And as most people probably know by now, the Republicans are almost certainly thinking to themselves, “how could we have been so stupid?”  (The answer, I think, is that they got so used to the lies they use to keep the rubes voting for them that they kind of forgot they were lies, and they honestly believed their sad little talking-points recital would leave Obama transfixed and tongue-tied, and he’d eventually have to break down and admit they were right about everything.)

If you haven’t seen the video, you should try to find time to do so — it’s a bit over an hour, but it’s pretty remarkable.  Each time someone asks a question, it’s clear they think they’re scoring a major point, and that there’s just no way the President can refute their argument.  And each time, he calmly, reasonably, cuts their head off.  You can see the whole thing at Shakesville (with links to more discussion), and TNC provides the soundtrack, but I’ve provided some highlights below the fold.

So in short it was pretty awesome.

Here’s the thing, though, as I wrote on Facebook:

[I] finished watching the President’s Q&A with the Republicans.  Quite a performance — reminded me of that one guy who was campaigning back in ’07-08.  You know, the one with the powerful message, the detailed, nuanced command of the issues, the rhetorical virtuosity and the solid, workable, moderate-liberal plans.  What was that dude’s name?  I think it started with an O?  Anyway, shame he’s not in charge.

And there has been very little indication over the past year that that guy, the Barack Obama who ran for President, is running the show; the Barack Obama who is President appears to have rather different priorities.  Friday’s confrontation was great TV, and great politics, but it needs commensurate follow-through to also turn into good policy, and following through on his powerful and inspiring speeches with actual leadership that gives the rest of the party a clear direction and set of priorities, and where the executive branch can, with direct, immediate action, is something that Obama and his administration have been, frankly, terrible at.

Thus this post’s title.  I want to believe we’re going to see more of this President Obama from now on.  The temptation not even to believe, yet, but to consider the possibility the past year was him running a giant rope-a-dope on the Republicans and now he’s going to come out swinging, is immense.

That’s because it’s the temptation to hope.  It’s the temptation to believe things will get better.  It’s a powerful force: Obama knows that very well, and he very deftly constructed his campaign to appeal to it.  If we feel there might be reason to hope, we often tend to jump right into that hope, even if it means disregarding past evidence.  There is too much past evidence, here: there’s a full year of it.  A year of broken or delayed promises, of continuation of some of the previous administration’s worst policies, of failure to be even a lukewarm, let alone a “fierce” advocate for the marginalized groups to whom he pledged his support.

I would dearly love to hope to see Candidate Obama take the reins from now on.  Friday might have been a good start, or it might have just been a calculated political move to quiet a dissatisfied base so they can go back to conceding their purported agenda, point by point, to conservatives and business interests.  No hope yet, Mr. President.  No credit, not after the past year.   I’ll need to see the color of your money first.


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