I can tell that I must be getting old from all the people telling me how young I look. At fifty-two I may look like forty-seven but I certainly don’t look like twenty-seven. The compliment does not help me very much, other than to reassure me that I’m wearing my fifty-two-ness lightly. But their need to say it serves as an ominous reminder of the clock ticking merrily away towards oblivion.
This in a way disturbs me about Barack Obama more than anything else. We hear so much about what a new breed of politician he is that it drives home the reality of his dreary oldness. Beneath the dashing façade, the insouciant wink, the casual wave, beats the heart of the dreariest old political hack imaginable. He is a card-carrying member of the cliché clique, the bromide brigade, the platitude attitude and the banal cabal. Uggh!
Case in point, his latest contribution to the national conversation, quoted in a new book by Kenneth Walsh. Obama says that the Tea Party movement is inspired by race, by a sense that minorities are getting all these goodies from Washington. They are motivated, the President thinks, by “a subterranean agenda.”
This is such a piece of hackery and flackery, of puffery and guffery, of foolery and fakery. Politics at its rankest masquerading as analysis at its frankest. There is so much dirty laundry being aired here that I simply had to make a list. Every trick in the old, old playbook is on display.
1. ZERO PROOF. There is no evidence to support such a contention, nor is any offered. The most powerful man in the country picks on a bunch of little people who put their lives aside at great personal cost to make a political statement and he accuses them of base motives without proof.
2. WHY NOW? If the issue is that these people feel shortchanged by all the government largesse to minorities, this is hardly the time to organize. None of the new laws, like Obamacare or the wall Street reforms, are designed to help minorities in particular. Believe me, if there was a stat showing that blacks were more likely to be uninsured than whites, we would have heard it repeated ad nauseam.
3. WHY NOT BELIEVE THEIR WORDS? The Tea Party is a movement with very definite ideas, expressed in a spate of books and articles. This is not a group of conspiracy thinkers or Trekkies. They offer a straightforward “terranean” explanation for their positions. These positions are certainly defensible at the very least; nothing contrived or suspicious about them. In fact, the Tea Party gave up the best shot at Republican Senate seats in Nevada and Connecticut to be true to their ideology.
4. WHY IMPUTE AN EVIL IDEAL? It is one thing to observe that people are abandoning ideals in favor of self-interest. It is certainly arguable that Tea Party commitment to fiscal conservatism is a case of liking their money better than they like the wonderful improvements in society wrought by activist government. But to say that they care more about an anti-minority evil ideology than about their own pocketbook — to skip selfishness as an easy motive and choose malevolence instead – is gratuitously offensive.
5. WHY NOT ASSUME NORMALCY? It would be very classy for the President to say he has no doubt the opponents of his legislation only want what’s best for the country. He understands their concerns about massive shifts in lifestyle. He empathizes with their fears. He realizes the pressures felt by ordinary citizens during tough economic times. But he is confident they will look back later when things are more settled and they will see it his way. Why treat them as creeps?
6. WHY NOT PRAISE THEM? It would be even more classy to laud folks for getting involved and learning more about the political process. Imagine if he made a surprise visit to a Tea Party rally in Washington and asked to speak. Keep up the good citizenship, he would say, but keep an open mind and promise me that if things turn out well you will be receptive to change. His poll numbers would jump ten points in five minutes, and he would lose nothing.
Instead, we get this garbage about the Tea Party being prejudiced against coffee and trying to keep the leaves at the bottom of the cup.
What a shame! They offer hope and change, but what we get is bad faith and ill will and mean spirit. When it comes to subterranean agendas, all I see is the POTUS calling the kettle black.
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