Saturday, December 04, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Yes, I'm at it again. And this time, it's going snail-mail. E-mail is likely to be ignored. So is this, but heck -- I'll feel better.

Dear President Obama:

Please forgive the informality of this letter. I have something to say and since I’m sure the White House is buried in e-mails, I figured I would put fingers to keyboard and let you know what’s on my mind.

The clip art included in this letter shows something you need to use. It’s a “veto pen.” I suggest you find the drawer in your desk where that item is kept and get it out and inked up. And if you can’t find it, please ask the First Lady to get you one for Christmas. Or call me. I’ll give you one. I’d be happy to do so.

I have been a life-long Democrat. Actually, a tree-hugging, Birkenstock wearing liberal. I have voted in every election since I could vote. I voted for you.

And now I’m having a problem. My problem is you. I work at a university, with adult students, so I see the fallout from the economy: tuition benefits cut totally or greatly diminished; jobs lost mid-semester; reinventing yourself after a downsizing and paying your own way. These are adults who will be affected by what you do in the next year and a half, not counting how often you’ll be away campaigning.

Look, if you want to be a 1-term President, fine. But please leave our country in better shape than when you got hold of it. This is not the University of Chicago. This isn’t even “Chicago-style politics.” This is worse. This is a bunch of rabid rats that are teamed up to exterminate the black guy in the White House. Blunt, right? Well, that’s what it looks like from my seat. We Midwesterners are typically straight-to-the point people, so please hang on and listen to me.

You can’t negotiate with people who are determined to bring you down, and who apparently have the resources to make you look like the embodiment of evil. That’s what the Republicans are doing. They’re making your presidency as much of a joke in Washington DC as Blago’s stint as governor here in Illinois has become.

Conciliation doesn’t work with these people. I am reluctant, being an “elitist, over-educated liberal,” to call names, and I really don’t like the “these people” connotation, but when the shoe fits, you buy it. A total of 42 Republicans have signed up threatening to block everything you propose. And you’ve done what? Come on, Mr. President. I’ll give you your lines: “If you fail to give me what I want in the tax cut legislation, I will veto every bit of it until I get what I want.” Or better yet, “I will sign an Executive Order recasting this legislation in a form more conducive to the welfare of the majority of American citizens, not just the wealthiest 2%.”

Here’s another suggestion; you can use your own lines: Get the Democrats in line – it’s like Bo herding cats. Stand up and tell them to resolve their rectal-cranial inversion.

Look, it kills me to have to argue for you when I talk to people who are Democrats. There’s a wide swath of disillusion in the ranks of the Democrats. If you want to capture the “Yes, we can!” spirit of the election that swept you into the White House, you’re going to have to do more than make inspiring speeches. You are going to have to stand up to the Republicans, and some of your fellow Democrats. They don’t seem to have a problem standing up to you and rewriting the news to make it seem like you’re an idiot and they can manipulate you all they want.

Where are your advisors? And what do they say? Either way, if it’s not “You have to stand up for the people who voted you in,” then you need to reconsider who’s advising you. Unless, of course, as I said – you want to be a 1-term president. At this rate, a number of loyal Democrats I know would elect my half-blind 11-year old Siberian Husky as president rather than you. At least she barks.

You cannot cave in or compromise in the matter of tax cuts for the wealthy. You just can’t. You promised us. And that’s an easy promise to keep – much easier than the one you made (and summarily broke) to get us out of Afghanistan. You need to prove to us -- those of us who live in the rapidly dwindling middle class, who are for the most part employed for now, who may have kids who’ve moved back in because they can’t get, or lost, a job – that you are the man we elected to get the job done. Who keeps his promises to the people, not the cronies.

You don’t have to turn into a flaming ignorant jerk. But what you do need to do is get out of “collegial” and into “presidential.” I’ve been in higher education long enough to know that “governing by consensus” means that you spend lots of time in committee meetings and nothing really gets resolved. But you’re supposed to feel better about it because you’ve come to an agreement. Or stalemate, which is how I see it.

Let me put it in canine terms. We do a lot of rescue work and this past year, we added 2 dogs to our pack. When you have a pack of unruly animals, one of them has to be the alpha. In the dog part of our family, the half-blind husky is the alpha. If one of the other dogs misbehaves, she disciplines the rule-breaker and it's a swift and sure punishment, no questions asked. In the entirety of the pack (human and canine), I am the alpha. I didn’t get there by consensus. I got there because I know where I want my pack to go. I see where the future of my pack lies. And I know that I’m the alpha that they need to get them there. My kids will tell you that I don't operate by consensus; I operate in a framework of what needs to get done, who needs to do it, and when I need to see results. You can do this. I know you can.

Are you the alpha who can get us out of 8 years+ of mess? Or have we just elected a place-holder and is Rove’s dream of a permanent Republican majority going to come true? Contemplating that prospect gives me the cold shivers, because I don’t want my kids living in that world.

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