OBAMA: A TALENT TO DISAPPOINT
After all, my erstwhile dear,
My no longer cherished,
Need we say it was not love,
Just because it perished?
Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Passer Mortuus Est,” 1920.
I won’t go on at length about this. It is entirely too sad. Just to mention two numbers Obama omitted in his demonstration, last night, of just how much he begrudges his own success. He never mentioned thirty (30,000,000) million folks who will be covered by health insurance, beginning in 2014. If handing over $700 billion to bail out nine giant banks, at the behest of George W. Bush and Hank Paulsen, in 2008, was an investment, why is spending $716 billion to cover thirty million people and prevent untold suffering, and in each and every case, more serious disease, with money saved from Medicare NOT an investment. Because banks are people, and Mitt Romney said, albeit to another, smaller audience, that 47% of Americans (the other of the unmentioned of the two numbers) simply don’t count in Romney’s calculation of who are and who are not, “people.”
Romney told a national audience, lately, that his “replacement” plan for health coverage would guarantee insurance to people with preexisting conditions. A day later, a spokesperson clarified Romney’s position – on the TV equivalent of page 56 of a newspaper. No, Romney would not guarantee coverage for preexisting conditions, where coverage has lapsed. The issue is, I hope you agree, not so much coverage of those with preexisting conditions, but that Romney cannot be trusted to mean what he says. That observation would have opened the discussion of Romney’s constantly altering and rearranging his positions on issues vital to the American people.
Take income taxes, please! Here, Obama has only himself to blame. Like calling the health insurance public option but “a sliver” of Obamacare, instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and declaring that rich people should pay A LOT MORE in taxes, Obama has said, timorously, that the rich should pay “a little more.” Well, if “a little more” is the issue, that leaves Romney sounding like a statesman when he said the rich will pay no less in taxes than they do now. Is Obama just not as smart as we thought he was? Has he been educated that far beyond his intelligence? Romney was saying that there would be no repeal of the George W. Bush tax cuts AND that the rich should NOT pay a greater percentage of the country’s overall tax bill than they do now! How could Obama have missed that: his immovable diffidence towards the white, country club wealthy?
Unlike John F. Kennedy, who positively enjoyed flattening questioners with his grasp of numbers, Obama scorns the very “arithmetic” with which Bill Clinton tried to tutor Obama at the Democratic Convention. Is Obama simply unable to add sums in his head?
As a lawyer, I have often sought to puncture the myth that Obama gave up a lucrative career in a prestigious Chicago or New York law firm in order to devote himself to the causes of the poor and the displaced. Obama would not have lasted twenty minutes in a law firm! Obama simply does not know – and will not learn -- how to structure an argument. Did he somehow miss the fact that Romney has both law and business degrees from Harvard? Did he forget that Romney has been successful at business negotiation amassing a personal fortune of a quarter of a billion dollars – or more? In dealing with Congress, Obama has failed time and time again because he cannot tell the difference between propitiation and negotiation. A glimmer of that denseness recurred when Obama actually said that he and Governor Romney have no differences over Social Security. Why was he trying to placate Romney? The issue is not what Romney says, today, about Social Security but whether he would sign or veto legislation urged by the far right of his party, including his Vice Presidential comrade, to privatize Social Security.
My suggestion for future debates is that instead of being “prepared” by a born loser like John Kerry – who LOST in 2004, maybe Obama should be prepared by a team comprised of Alan Dershowitz and Oprah Winfrey! In the alternative, if Obama is going to keep up this kind of performance, maybe it were better that he resign the nomination and turn over the presidential candidacy to Joe Biden, who is far from perfect and no genius, but who is, at least, always loaded for bear!
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2012. All rights reserved.