When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.
President Bush didn't get a bounce from his admission that mistakes were made, "where there were mistakes," and things are a hell of a lot worse now than in January 2007. Both of those goddamned wars are still raging without end, millions more unemployed, millions have been through or are facing foreclosure, and the economy isn't showing signs of life for the tens of millions affected by it. In additon we've seen racism refueled and an uprising by Tea Baggers and the hardcore Republican base is angry and energized in contrast to 2007.
It's a shame this health reform legislation wasn't passed already by late summer 2009. Perhaps Obama could have done more, pushed harder, had more heart-to-heart conversations with the American people about the urgency and importance of the legislation. Perhaps he tried to be too bipartisan in a new world where the differences between the left and right are no longer similar to a reconciliation between opinions in Oregon and opinions in Missouri. These days the contrast is more like Iowa and Iran.
Obama clearly has made some mistakes. But it is equally accurate to say he's not 100% to blame. Our dysfunctional Congress gets their share. Congress is like a faulty automobile assembly line trying to pump out vehicles which are acceptable to the public by welding parts from a Hummer onto a Mustang and thinking we wouldn't notice all the ill-fitting parts, and providing us with absolutely no clue when we can get the lemon fixed.
If we truly want to move forward, it's not enough to have a president who can move his mouth and make inspiring words. We need a president who isn't afraid to crack a whip. More importantly, we need to repair the factory. We need to stop outsourcing to corporations and lobbyists. The factory needs new management. The workers need better training and some workplace diversity classes. They need to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time. And the assembly line might need to be stripped down and replaced.
Nothing coming out of Barack Obama's mouth tonight is likely to change those facts.
“Democrats are really looking for that spark again,” said David Young, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. “We feel like we may be off track and we’re looking for the president to come out with bold initiatives and to lead.”
With a quarter of his first term behind him already, I suppose now is as good a time as any. Whether or not that will be enough to get us progressing remains to be seen.
I have my doubts.