Thursday, January 12, 2017

Obama place holder

     Let me tell you about the time I blew my deadline.
     The paper never reached for a column and came up empty. I like to think that's one of the reasons I still have a job.
     Trying to make sure it doesn't happen, I plan ahead. Tuesday I was going to deliver myself into the hands of the United States government, on a bus, hoping I had access to the Internet. But what if I didn't? What if Obama's plane was delayed, diverted, what if he never showed up and deadline loomed while I was shivering on a windblown tarmac? What if the press bus pulled into an unmarked warehouse and sat there for 12 hours? What if I couldn't file?
     Can't have that. So on Monday I cracked my fingers and came up with this, intended to be the Type O, Universal Donor, slap-into-the-paper-whether-Obama-shows-or-not column. 

     As it happened, Obama did show, did give his speech and I did write about it—I thought it lacked a necessary sense of outrage. This is the sort of thing that without a blog would never see the light of day. But since I'm driving down to beautiful Wayne County, Illinois, to research a story next week, and given that I think it makes a valid point, does have merit—at least I hope it does—I decided to share it with you here. As for tomorrow, well, I've never missed one of these posts yet either, in three and a half years, which I hope is an attribute and not a flaw. Something in Wayne County will present itself, and they must have Internet by now. If not, well, there's always a first time. I kept my working title because doing so seemed apt.

     So the story's ending, what's the moral?
     Okay, not ending. Barack Obama is leaving the White House phase of his career and entering a long golden twilight of speeches, fundraisers and golf. Something less frantic than the gerbil-on-a-wheel efforts of Jimmy Carter, hammering together low income housing and fighting tapeworm in Africa, but more visible than the vanishing act of George W. Bush. His own personal saga.
     What did it all mean?
     He was the first black president—did anyone mention that yet? They did, enough times that it became like a ball peen hammer on a sheet metal. Because Obama didn't have to do anything to be that first black president, once elected. Just show up. Isn't it the racism of low expectations to emphasize that now, after eight years? He was the first black president on Day One.
     Not to diminish the pride that black people feel, at his being president. You walk taller when the home team wins. I remember when Joe Lieberman ran as Al Gore's vice president in 2000, and a Christian columnist at another paper pronounced it no big deal. Yeah, I thought at the time, if you're not Jewish. If you are, nervously scanning the day to see if you should make coffee or flee for your life, then that kind of acceptance is welcome reassurance you can go ahead and grind those beans.
     So yes, the United States is not so stuck in the tar pit of racial bigotry that has dogged it for 400 years that it can't elect a black guy. Peal the bells, toss the confetti.
     But reassurance and complacency are cousins. Obama's presidency could just as easily be seen as a sign of how far race relations haven't come as how far they have. Sure, American's don't reflexively hate black people so much that 52.9 percent of voters, his most decisive victory, against Sen. John McCain in 2008--wouldn't cast a ballot for him. Not exactly a triumph.
     In office, Obama was opposed at every turn by an energized, maniacally-opposed Republican Party. The GOP gave him credit for nothing. They grudgingly acceded to his rescuing the auto industry, and the banks, and hauling the United States out of the cataclysmic financial crisis of 2008--an accomplishment that dwarfs the color of his skin, in my book--and then, when he did well, invented a fantasy administration of failure more to their liking. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when Obama took office; it's 4.7 percent now. Yet 64 percent of Republicans told pollsters unemployment rose under Obama. The Dow doubled during Obama's administration. Nearly 40 percent of Republicans think it fell.
     Has a single right winger said, "You know, the Obamas, they were a good first family. Daughters never showed up at discos drunk. First Lady of grace and dignity and beauty." Not one. Instead, as if the effort of holding their tongues was too great, the chorus of abuse swelled ,as if they were going to lose the chance. They hoped he would die.
That has to be, if not the moral of the story, then a hard lesson worth stating, because beneath the pride, I'm sure there is grim awareness that what I say is true. That a black guy can maybe snag a good job, despite overwhelming odds, excel against fierce resistance, and still have people calling his wife an "ape in heels."
     Then we elected Donald Trump, smashing the presidency as if it were a communal coffee mug that the new black employee had used.
     The senator I ran into quite frequently at the East Bank Club a decade ago was brittle and aloof. Being president made him warmer and more thick-skinned. Does anybody expect Trump to react that way? His bullying and touchiness will only intensify, if that is possible. And it will be hard for Americans not to claw the air where Obama had been, to wonder why the thoughtful, deliberate, intelligent man who was also black isn't here, to unchain the lightning of the English language and bind up our wounds. To, if not solve our problems, God knows, then make us at least hope our problems could be solved. Now we've got a president who doesn't heal wounds, he inflicts them.
     We're going to miss Barack Obama more than we realize now. I sure will. I'm missing him already.


  1. There's a U Texas study that when survey takers told people they'd receive a gift if their answers to these kind of questions were correct, suddenly the percentage of republican who were misinformed about President Obamas accomplishment dropped substantively. In other words a lot of these people know the truth but they are ( if they've got nothing to lose) answering based on pure feelings rather than on the facts, even when they know the truth.

  2. O'reilly said it best he's never seen a mainstream media so determined to destroy a president since Nixon. You people don't get it do you? We're tired of the jobs being shipped overseas, the politicians turned lobbyists for millions, no term limits, the same old RATS paid for by the same old ELITE that define the parameters of the debate and loathe our faiths, freedoms and just about everything else about us. I like this Steinberg I read him everyday. He's the pulse of the hate and rage of the Yaleees and Harvard folks that think they know what's best and any serious disagreement with their precious international Liberalism is hatred or bigotry. It's going to a long bitter nasty Freddy Krueger like claw fight for the next 4,sorry 8 years. We are behind our leader 100 percent. He speaks for the people whether you like it or not. God Bless America!

    1. mr. franklin, our new leader doesn't come across as real bright. he doesn't express himself very well, and he's mean. he seems misinformed , petty and vindictive . while his proposals to address trade agreements, jobs, healthcare, immigration and the plight of our veterans are aimed at important issues. his solutions seem ill conceived and short sighted. id like to support his administration i really would. I'm a tradesmen , self employed trying to put 3 kids through college .i didn't go. sadly often disagreement with the principles of " international liberalism" is based on hatred and bigotry. or fear . yes progressives are guilty of this same behavior. both groups seem unable to see this in themselves. lets try to show the ability as ordinary citizens to find common ground and work with civility regarding the issues upon which we disagree . this would benefit us all.

    2. "We are behind our [Dear] [L]eader 100 percent. He speaks for the people whether you like it or not. God Bless [North Korea]!

  3. Mr. Franklin seems to be blinded by beliefs. This is Animal Farm come to life, believing that switching one set of elites for another will change the outcome for those on the bottom. They are merely changing one set of Tyrants for another. And these new Tyrants hold beliefs that have nothing at all to do with patriotism or the idealism (flawed as it originally was) at this nations founding.
    "Speaking for the people" is not what President Elect does, and if that is what he is doing, then the people deserve the obliteration of their liberties for relinquishing them so freely.
    Whenever hatred and bigotry are the motivations for a movement, I always ask when those who supported the movement will end up on the list of those to be hated and scorned.

  4. A good assessment of the situation, particularly the concluding sentiment. In addition to many of us missing Obama, I expect there will, eventually, be a fair amount of buyer remorse among people of Mr. Franklin's ilk.

    My only quibble is with the slighting reference to Jimmy Carter's post=Presidential activities. The work of the Carter Center, particularly in reducing the incidence of horrible tropical diseases, has been markedly successful and has alleviated much human suffering. Even if it has been in far-off Africa.

    Tom Evans

  5. Glad you wrote and ran this, Neil.

    Michael Franklin: You do realize, don't you, that the person who destroyed Nixon was Nixon? If (when) Trump is destroyed, it will be by his own hand. Or mouth.

    Bitter Scribe

  6. That same rule holds for Billy boy Clinton as well.

    1. I am not sure which rule you are applying to Clinton.

  7. Rereading this I was puzzled by the sentence with the coffee reference. Was a word left out?

    In his press conference yesterday Trump expressed outrage at the Buzzfeed publication of unsubstantiated rumers about his bad behavior in Russia. Called them Nazis I believe. Almost as bad as someone spending four years pushing a lie (excuse me 'Fake News Story') about how a sitting President wasn't qualified because he was't born in this country.'


  8. Trump and the Republicans who shamelessly climbed into his clown car will try their best to vacate Obama's accomplishments in office, hoping to erase his legacy. Instead they'll cement it as we descend from class to ass in this transfer of power. With his own erratic, often bizarre behavior, Trump will accomplish the one thing he hopes to obliterate; Obama's place in history as a great president during troubling times.

  9. For the first time since my brother died 4 years ago, I actually cried when watching his final speech. He was far from perfect, but I'm morose over the idea that the American people elected a piece of human pond scrum to replace this smart, accomplished, elegant, kind, thoughtful man. Trump types called him horrible things, attacted his wife (an equally smart, accomplished, elegant person), and Mr. Obama never sent purile, whiny twitters condemning them. I'm planning on flying my American flag upside down on January 20...and maybe every day for the next four years.

    I understand what people meant when they said they wanted their country back, only I want my country back from the oil companies, big bankers and Putin.

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