Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obama's Andrew Shepherd Moment

In the movie The American President, Michael Douglas' President Andrew Shepherd wants to be the adult in the room. His Republican opponent Bob Rumson (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and, by extension, the media are harassing him because he has a girlfriend, and Shepherd chooses not to engage.

"Nobody wins these fights; they go away," Shepherd told his best friend and chief of staff, played by Martin Sheen.

And so Shepherd turns a deaf ear as Dreyfuss' character drills him day after day leading up to the next election. Finally, with his polls numbers at an all-time low and a resulting inability to pass any legislation, Sheen's character gets Shepherd's attention.

"You fight the fights you can win? You fight the fights THAT NEED FIGHTING!"

That message sinks in, and Shepherd later interrupts a press conference to go on the offensive and call out his unworthy Republican opponent.

It's time for President Barack Obama to have such a moment.

Barack Obama is a  brilliant progressive thinker. If you don't believe it, just read his book, The Audacity of Hope.  After reading that book I bought a case and sent them to everyone I knew for Christmas. I also emailed his offices in Chicago to suggest that he had a higher calling . . .to run for President. He did so, of course, and rode a wave of popularity into office, popularity stemming from his message of hope and change in Washington.

Unfortunately, his arrival in Washington seems to have brought with it a certain amount of amnesia regarding the mandate that made him the first African-American to ever serve in that position.

Don't get me wrong, Obama has done some amazing things that helped America begin the recovery from eight years of disastrous George W. Bush policies. He's provided substantially better funding to care for veterans returning home, he helped provide health insurance for millions of previously uncovered children, restored federal funding for stem cell research, signed a treaty with Russia that eliminates a portion of stockpiled nuclear weapons, created a number of consumer protection policies, and the list goes on. For an exhaustive list, link here.

Of course, much of that was before the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Since then, governing has come to a standstill as Republicans have made it their stated goal to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything and therefore - they hope - to cost him his job in 2012.
After 2010 we did, indeed, see change from Obama - he changed into the same kind of political puppet that we were tired of in the first place. His economic policies are derived from Republican ideals and set in motion by former Wall Street and banking industry lobbyists who now make up Obama's cabinet. You'd think it would be a tip-off to the President when even the Republicans try to block their own ideas, but Obama keeps going back to the bargaining table to put more and more of the Progressive agenda in the trash.

Mr. President, you can't compromise with those who refuse to compromise, and when you try you can't afford to start on their side and then work even further right. You have to come in with a strong set of Progressive ideas and then find common ground. You're starting on the common ground and moving ever more to the right, only to be stabbed in the back at every turn by the very Republicans who set your current agenda.

The question is: when will Barack Obama have his tipping point? When will he finally realize it's time to stop pandering and start fighting for the people who put him in office?When will that Andrew Shepherd moment come?

As I write this, the billionaires who control the Republican party and their corporate-friendly media are preparing to spend millions upon millions of dollars to get an extremist elected President in 2012. Rick Perry is a money-hoarding, power-hungry Texan who has run his own state into the ground at the expense of infrastructure and public servants like teachers, police officers, fire fighters and forest rangers, and he is the current front runner. If ever there was a Bob Rumson - the devious, hateful character from The American President - this is the guy.

America can't afford another right-wing extremist from Texas, and if we're not careful that's exactly what we'll get.

It's time to take the gloves off, Mr. President. It's time to get back to your Progressive roots, to fight for the middle class and the poor, to stop pandering to those who only care about giving tax breaks to the extremely wealthy. It's time to reclaim the language of politics - let Americans know that when Republicans talk about the corporate billionaires as job creators that they're talking about creating jobs in India, China, Vietnam, and Korea at the expense of American jobs.

You fight the fights that need fighting, Sir, and this one definitely needs to be fought. Americans voted you their President in a landslide election, so what does it tell you that your approval rating is now hovering in the upper 20's?

The time is now. You can do it. All of us who are actually paying attention want to be behind you, we want to believe in you like we did when we saw you speak at the 2006 Democratic Convention, like we did when you inspired in us the audacity to hope for a better country. We're here, Sir, waiting for the change, hanging on to our last ounces of hope.

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson [John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rick Perry] is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. ... This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President."

Mr. President? Are you out there? The time for your Andrew Shepherd moment, if you have one in you, is now.


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