Maybe it’s just me, but some things don’t make a lot of sense. I mean, I can understand why the same Republicans who four years ago were saying that the president (then George W. Bush) had no power to control the price of gasoline are now blaming Obama for the high price of gas. Hey, that’s just politics.
But, as I say, some things just don’t make sense. Here are a few that have been puzzling me of late:
- How can John McCain sound so nutty one minute and so intelligent the next? The latest example of that oddity is his insistence that the U.S. needs to seriously consider yet another war or two (in Syria and Iran), on the one hand, and his strong statement against the attack on women his party is conducting with respect to birth control, on the other.
Has this guy ever seen a country in turmoil that he didn’t want to bomb before trying diplomacy, which is, of course, exactly the opposite approach to use if you want diplomacy to work at all? Moreover, doesn’t he learn any lessons from history? I mean if he didn’t learn anything from his own Viet Nam experience (where he spent five years as a prisoner of war) shouldn’t he have figured out from the more recently disastrous escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan that war is not a great option even under the best of circumstances?
But McCain sounded like a true statesman on domestic matters this week when he strongly suggested that Republicans should get off of the women-bashing that has seemingly become the party’s new cause célèbre. He sounds like a true statesman in telling his party to get back to issues of concern to all Americans if it has any hopes of regaining the White House in the fall
Tone deaf in one area; courageous leader in another. Hard to figure, but there you have it.
- And speaking of hard to figure, what’s with this Obama guy? How come he’s so dynamic and inspiring when he’s campaigning and so commonplace and desultory when he’s actually doing the work of running the country? Are the two roles so different as to require completely distinct personas?
As a candidate, Obama captures the imagination of his audience. He speaks intelligently, but without sounding like an egghead. He strikes themes and fleshes them out with specifics, thereby both engaging and educating his listeners.
On the stump, the guy is hard to dislike (unless you’re convinced he’s out to destroy the country, of course) and, in fact, seems like the perfect politician: forthright and decisive, a fighter for causes he believes in, and someone who can rally a nation around him.
But in his work as president he’s been as lackluster as some of his predecessors (Jimmy Carter comes to mind, just to mention another major figure of the recent past who was hard to figure). Where a fighter is called for (as when the opposition party is playing games with his legislative proposals), he gets all wonky and feigns mild disappointment that others aren’t seeing what he sees.
What makes this dichotomy even harder to understand is that Obama has amassed an impressive record in his first term, both in foreign and domestic affairs. He’s kept the country free from terrorist attacks and has largely defanged our principal adversary, al Qaeda, by killing its leader and several of his lieutenants. And he kept the country from an economic freefall and now has it on the road to a gradual recovery that might actually start to feel pretty good in another year or two.
But in terms of keeping the country with him as he has moved it forward, it’s almost as if he either didn’t care or didn’t know how. His amazing powers of communication while he is on the campaign stump somehow turn to the typical politician’s rhetoric when he is in his office.
A powerhouse when he’s running for office, a milquetoast when he’s actually in it. Once again, hard to figure, but pretty much undeniable.
- And then we have that most august of American institutions, the United States Supreme Court. Comprised of nine of the country’s best and brightest men and women of the law, this single branch of government has perhaps more power to change the broad course of our developing history than any other entity or individual. And yet, it acts in the kind of that might have existed in the darkest days of Soviet control of the Kremlin instead of opening itself to public view as the bastion of freedom and protector of individual rights that it is.
A perfect case in point will occur next week, when the Court will hear three days of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform law that Republicans derisively refer to as “Obamacare.” The arguments will be attended by members of the press who will report on it in varying degrees of unsophisticated media-speak. Perhaps a hundred or so regular citizens will be able to attend for short periods as the relatively small courtroom is periodically emptied to permit as many as possible to see a little of the “action.”
And, the arguments will be recorded for audio, but not video, same-day re-broadcast. Amazingly, even that lifting of the opaque curtain surrounding the Court’s work is a major concession by the justices, who continually refuse to allow the hearings to be aired live on television, and usually even prohibit same-day release of the audio recordings.
C-Span, the commercial-free, non-partisan public affairs network has asked for permission to set up cameras in the courtroom to show the country in real time how the arguments on the healthcare law proceed, but it has been denied, as have any others who have deigned to request such a monumental privilege on behalf of the very people the Court is supposed to serve.
In a third-world country such disdain for democracy would be expected, if regrettable. In the country that espouses all the freedoms democracy promises, it’s an outrage.
It doesn’t make sense, but, as I say, maybe it’s just me.