by Charles Marowitz
(Swans - August 24, 2009) Obama's Achilles Heel is the notion of bipartisanship. It's an understandable impulse given his community work in Chicago, a context in which compromise and amiability are essential tools in achieving social results. But the United States Senate is not a "community," it is a combination of two exclusive clubs that share the same premises but invariably proceed from different ideologies. Obama's attempt to achieve harmony with these factions, commendable as it may be, doesn't take into account that there is a festering hatred between the members of these rival clubs and no matter how benign their exteriors may be, inside their heads and hearts there is a loathing for the ambitions, principles, and beliefs that motivate both sides.
The sudden incursion of mob-rule at Town Hall meetings where members of the Senate have tried to elucidate the features of the Obama Health Plan is the clearest signal we have that a deep-seated bitterness, generated by Republican-groomed hecklers, is out to destroy the medical reforms that Obama first outlined in 2008 and which, given his sweeping election victory, was virtually mandated.
The villains here, you may assume, are the lumpenproletariat who, on instructions from Republican strategists, have been provided with "cue cards" by which rational discussion is methodically subverted. And although that is probably true, the greater villainy stems from Obama himself and his liberally-inclined cohorts who believe it is necessary to show the American people that there is some degree of mutual support for the changes clearly enunciated by the president. Instead of deriding the opposition and exposing the vested interests of those who wish to continue to prosper from a medical-styled Ponzi scheme and who refuse to forsake the gigantic windfalls they have been extracting from patients for almost fifty years, a majority of Democrats -- led by their president -- want to effect a coalition between the "needy" and the "greedy."
The chemistry behind these machinations stems from the fallacy that dyed-in-the-wool exploiters can be "brought around" by argument -- even when it is consistently demonstrated that sophistry and deception are the weapons being constantly employed.
Obama is too Lincolnesque for his own good. (Even Lincoln was able to fire his bungling generals when things got too tough.) Where Obama should be Napoleonic, he is Rooseveltian; where he should be enraged, he is reserved. Where persons have been denounced for allowing torture, he indicts the crimes but not the criminals who perpetrated them. He relies on rhetoric and calls for empathy from people who exploit his weaknesses, deride his moral convictions, and insult his character.
There is a breadth of evidence that Vice President Cheney was behind the wrongful dismissal of US Attorneys in 2006; a purge motivated strictly by political considerations, but the president has soft-pedaled on any criminal investigation. In the case of whether illegal methods of torture were employed in Gitmo and elsewhere, Obama's attorney general is tentative and overcautious. The president claims he would rather look towards the future than the past, but if crimes actually occurred in the past, it is the duty of present leaders to expose the instigators of that wrongdoing so that past crimes do not create a precedent for similar transgressions in the future. Or does Obama mean he cannot "out" scoundrels whose votes he may need for future legislation -- which, if this were the reasoning, puts into question the integrity of his own presidency.
Does he really believe that the hard-hearted exploiters of human misery -- i.e., the medical profession, the heartless insurance companies, and the mercenary conservatives both in the House and the Senate will ultimately bend to his will and "see the light"? His scruples have blinded him to the harsh realities of American politics where fraud, deception, and self-interest dominate the agenda and determine the outcomes. It is like having a wartime army led by a Boy Scout leader rather than a Patton or an Eisenhower.
The politics of the present controversy over universal health care and other noble objectives such as changes in environmental priorities and the dismantling of nuclear arsenals are tough roads to hoe -- especially when tweezers are being employed instead of tractors and pneumatic drills. There is such a thing as being "too good" to recognize the pitched forces of evil that surround you. The deeply-rooted Washington enclave cannot be moved by moral suasion; they are too immoral to do more than wink at scruples and try to evade the fact that they haven't got any. Changes in American politics are not like scoring points in a political debate. It is about formulating a tough agenda and then having the balls to carry it out. "Nice guys," said Leo Durocher of Yankee fame, "always finish last."
Let us hope that Obama, reversing Ecclesiastes, will learn to take up his ploughshares and beat them into swords.
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