2010-02-04 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Obama Must Transform Gift Of Gab Into Real Results
By Neil S. Friedman

Weeks, if not months, before President Obama’s constitutionally mandated speech last week, Americans from coast to coast and border to border were well aware of the state of the union — AWFUL!

From the snail’s pace economic recovery to a record deficit — exacerbated by taxpayer-funded bank and corporate bailouts — to the health care reform impasse to terrorist threats at home and abroad to the ongoing ideological battle between red and blue states that will intensify when this year’s campaign season kicks off, things are about as bad as they’ve been since the Great Depression — before most of us were born.

When Barack Obama campaigned against Sen. John McCain his words inspired the hearts and minds of voters, resulting in a historical election victory with hope and promise in the offing. However, in his first year most of the great expectations have not been achieved and, as a result, Obama seems out of touch with supporters who anticipated instant gratification from a president working with a party of nervous Democrats — and hostile Republicans — more concerned with staying on Capitol Hill than facing constituent fury back home.

Sure, the president has had a lot of pressing issues to juggle in his first year and office. Sure he made a lot of campaign pledges that only a fool expected him to fulfill in the first quarter of his first term. Sure, Obama now shoulders the blame for the weak economy that the stimulus barely nudged, but some of the problems, in fact, are residual effects from the mismanagement and/or neglect of a looming crisis ignored by the Bush administration. Regardless, Obama is in control and must get things on track at home and abroad if he expects to get back in the good graces of a dissatisfied public.

Early in last week’s speech President Obama called for a new jobs bill, touted his tax cuts, promised to make college more affordable and criticized the far-reaching influence of Washington lobbyists. He also pushed for Congress to overcome the bitter partisan bickering that has hampered its ability to pass vital legislation.

Meanwhile, the president must realize that the drop in his popularity is chiefly because many Americans, especially the unemployed, are frustrated and upset while they still are forced to pinch pennies in the face of mounting debts because the economic recovery has yet to trickle down to them as fast as it has to recovering corporations bailed out with taxpayer money.

The results of a poll taken days before the speech indicated a majority of Americans felt Obama wasted too much time trying to get a health care reform package passed. Those who feel the president wasted time on health care, while other matters seemed relegated to the back burner, are most likely satisfied with their present coverage. But they ignore the fact that nearly 50 million Americans don’t have any insurance. They only want fair, affordable coverage — like our elected representatives receive with their taxes. That is why in last week’s speech Obama pledged “health care reform for the next generation.”

Health care reform may not be at the top five of some people’s agendas, but for families that struggle to put food on the table and avoid foreclosure by sacrificing health insurance, due to excessive costs imposed by a health care industry more concerned about bottom line profits than health care, reform is a must.

Even as Obama calls for bipartisanship, it may not be feasible in a deeply divided Congress, but his solutions are hardly pie-in-the-sky answers. Remember, while opponents constantly criticize him, they have not come up with salient alternatives.

In the speech Obama acknowledged personal disappointment in the steady decline of his approval rating that has leveled off at about 50 percent after it was about 25 points higher after his inauguration.

“I campaigned on the promise of change. I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or at least, that I can deliver it. But remember this — I never suggested that change would be easy or that I can do it alone.”

With a 24/7media and the ever-watchful blogosphere focused on Obama’s every move, no president has ever faced such intense scrutiny, plus the pressure to fulfill pledged ambitions, as the 44th president. That scenario gives him less breathing space than any predecessor.

Yet apart from achieving his legislative agenda, Barack Obama’s toughest challenge may be reviving the faith and confidence most of the American public had in him a year ago.

Hopefully, after a tough year, this president, who stirred passions with the gift of gab, now has to reconnect with a nation hungry for effective leadership that wants real results because it is fed up with empty promises and pandering rhetoric.

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