A Nail Biter

If President Obama can hold his lead for just one more month, Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast envisions a second term:

I still think he can be a transformational president if he wins a second term. The economy will improve. If he gets a grand bargain, even if he does it on terms that liberals like me will be somewhat unhappy about, it will be recorded as a huge win. It might even tame the GOP a little. He can and should immerse himself in the implementation of health care. I think many aspects of Obamacare will be more popular once they’re in place, but there’s no question that the mandate will be a hardship on some families, and he’ll have to address that and maybe fix it if fixes are needed. With luck (and no, I’m not wishing death on anyone—maybe an Anthony Kennedy retirement, say), he can transform the Supreme Court and leave a center-left majority. And on foreign policy, well, who knows. There’s always the potential there for huge trouble, but at least as much potential for great triumphs.

But after President Obama’s abysmal first debate, Andrew Sullivan delivers a bleak judgment:

My worry is that his phlegmatic, even temperament may blind him to what we just saw: a president incapable of defending his own record clearly, of rebutting the mis-statements and arguments of his opponent, and of telling us what he’ll do for the next few years. Do that again, and you’re sinking.

He’s already sinking. But for the 7.8% jobs number and the rake-in of $186 million in contributions in September to bolster the final push, he’d already be sunk.

I myself am flabbergasted by President Obama’s late meltdown. In contrast with the plastic Romney, he seems genuinely warm and  offers some nuance and push-back to the plutocratic lobbying machine in Washington. And he’s more likely to keep us out of wars than Romney is. That’s not something to sneeze at.

And Obama’s a lawyer, for goodness sake. In this last month, he better remember how to be the people’s advocate and then, if he wins, to keep being that for four more years. Michael Tomasky puts it this way:

On the judgmental side, well, pal, millions of people are kind of counting on you here. All Americans, even the ones who hate you, need you to do your best every day to fix the economy, and you owe that effort to them—even the ones who hate you. Ditto to do your best to protect everyone from violence or attack. And to the people who support you, you owe something else: your best efforts to advance the agenda they wanted you to advance when they voted for you.

It’s strange that this is even having to be said. I want the old Obama back. Where’s his mojo? Surely the poem of the march from Martin Luther King to the nation’s first black president shouldn’t end with a couplet like this:

A presidency that once rose with logos,

Ended oddly distracted, lacking eros.

What we don’t need now is equanimity and “low T.” Obama can take up the way of the quiet introvert (nature walking, book reading, yoga, Buddhism, and meditation) after this month. Lincoln too was an introverted person. But count me as one American who wants to see, at least for October and the first week of November, an angry black man.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to A Nail Biter

  1. mhasegawa says:

    I have come to believe that President Obama plays the long game by temperment. I’m not saying that he messed up the debate performance on purpose, but I do think that he was going to be low key and not attack Gov. Romney by fact checking. At first, I agreed with what Andrew Sullivan was tweeting/blogging, but now I’m not so sure he totally lost. Everyone is talking about two things: The jobs numbers and Big Bird. (Maybe three if you think about Jim Lerher.) And the fact checkers are taking Romney to task. But performance does count and I think you will see a different Obama at the next debate.

  2. Staffan says:

    It’s possible that he is very tired and depressed, maybe even clinically depressed. That’s how he looked in the debate, not introverted but depressed. Perhaps he doesn’t even want to win anymore.

  3. colinhutton says:

    “And he’s more likely to keep us out of wars than Romney is. That’s not something to sneeze at.”

    Appeasement may defer wars, but will not ultimately avoid them. Obama has been an appeaser from the start, exemplified by disgraceful apologies for the quaran burning and for the recent tawdry little film.

    As an Australian I will follow the foreign policy debate with a selfish, single-issue, interest.

    If Romney were to say that he will be pointing out to failed islamist states (both ‘allies’ and foes) that freedom of speech and secular government underpin the US success story and should be emulated, while warning those states that further incidents of fomented mayhem and murder of US citizens would result in massive retaliation……………….well, he would get my (hypothetical!) vote.

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