Wednesday, February 3, 2010
state of the rhetoric
I know it works for some, but being a ‘happy idiot’ and foregoing awareness has rarely provided lasting results in my own life’s experiences. And so I think that President Barack Obama’s attempt at frankness during his Q&A/therapy session last Friday with members of the Republican Party in Baltimore was understandable. For the most part, civil behavior ruled the day. But, in the end, I don’t think the political machine of the Capitol will respond much differently, or be interested in further analysis. I may, however, be able to envision a reunion for a game of chess perhaps. Planning one move ahead could be good practice.
During their meeting Obama said ‘we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.' I would love to see this happen. But where do we start? And are politicians really equipped to even know how to do this? The reality of politics is that any pointed comments about the lip service of another party, no matter how well intentioned, are typically not well received by the other side. Politicians are not introspective. Elected leaders are pragmatic at their best and in denial at their worst. More than likely, the goal here will be to prove the ‘other guy’ more rhetorical. The President fairly stated that the rhetoric comes from both sides. And the proof is easy to find.
The Obama Administration has focused an inordinate amount of time and energy on health care reform this past year. I think this would have been great if we had something to show for the effort. But we don’t. What we have is national unemployment that has been averaging between 9 and 10 percent for many months. Some individual states like Nevada with 13% and Michigan with 14% unemployment are struggling even more. And specific segments of the work force, such as graduating college students (ages 20 to 24) are dealing with unemployment percentages in the 16% range. In the days leading up to the State of the Union address last Wednesday jobs were called priority number one. Without substantive job creation so far by the Obama Administration, couldn’t that be considered rhetoric? Even at the Florida high-speed rail project, which Obama visited on Thursday, construction jobs are not expected to begin until 2011.
Politicians aside, the rhetoric is hardly just contiguous to Washington D.C. It permeates throughout the American landscape. I have CNN, FOX NEWS, CNBC and MSNBC bookmarked on my desktop because I try to be informed of various opinions. I occasionally listen to both liberal and conservative talk radio when I am in my car. Far too often I am turned off by hosts or guests on these news outlets zealously defending every single move of the party they support. It’s just impossible to agree with any individual, or any organization all the time. Though risking credibility, many continue to beat their drum.
Appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live the night before Obama’s address, Stephanie Miller, liberal radio talk show host of The Stephanie Miller Show, was so over the top in her support and anticipation of Obama’s speech that Penn Jillette, a libertarian and guest on the show, posed a tongue-in-cheek but appropriate question. Seemingly tired of Miller’s unalterable passion for Obama, Jillette queried ‘What could Obama say that would make you not agree with him?’ Thankfully, upon being drawn out, an enlightened and comedic Miller replied ‘He would have to come and pee on Larry’s desk. I don’t know.’
180 degrees to the right in opinion and 360 degrees back to chancing credibility, I listened to The Rush Limbaugh Show on my car radio while taking lunch the day after Obama's State of the Union Address. Limbaugh, the well known conservative political commentator, read a piece he called ‘Dear Mr. President.' I thought it was anything but endearing. I found it to be a rambling attack on President Obama in which Limbaugh said of Obama ‘It’s time to man up.’ He accused The President of having ‘no tolerance for debate or dissent.’ Limbaugh continued down a derisive path and felt it was important to remind Barack Obama that ‘Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky are not our Founding Fathers.' During his oration, he even somewhat theatrically called out to Obama ‘You are delusional. You are delirious.’
I am not a fan of unbendable support or exaggerated ramblings. But I certainly wouldn’t want freedom of speech to be a casualty of my disdain for this form of rhetoric. I would just rather debate ideas that flow from thoughtfulness as opposed to ideology. And our nation needs some quick thinking on a myriad of issues including jobs, taxes, deficits, banking, investment company regulation, security, climate change, energy, wars, terrorism and yes health care—just to name a few.
I am a believer in awareness. Clarity though is a step ahead. The Obama loyalists will be forever supportive of him. The hard line conservatives will be against him. And the GOP is what it is. They are the other party, hoping to forge ahead or play to a stalemate. The latter seems most plausible when realizing that effectively clearing gridlock involves putting commonsense movement over self-important movement.
Obama needs to gain back the middle ground. And the only way to do that is with results. Yes, he inherited a yeoman’s task. But Bush is gone now-we all know that history. Perhaps great speeches, debates and reflection can come later. Right now, the country needs jobs-that is the present. Currently, the focus needs to be much more on the unemployment ticker and not the front door of the GOP retreat house.
(c) 2010 Christopher's Views