Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I thought Obama represented the end of Politics as usual

While many Americans hoped for Hope and gave their spare change for Change, it's not hard to see that in many ways, they're not getting what they bargained for. At least, not yet. While we can't fully hold President Obama accountable for the tone, tenor and strategies of the Republican party, he did promise us a new tone in Washington where we'd respect each others' differences, and return to a politics of respect and dignity of public service.

Yet to listen to the Republicans of late, they sound remarkably similar to the Democrats over the past seven years -- they are strident, angry and self-righteous. Whether the topic is health care (with the "we don't believe a government bureaucrat should come between you and your doctor" nonsense) or Iran (with the "it's not clear to us who's side Obama is on in this uprising" crap), the Republicans are out there trying to score "differential points" -- simple base-building building blocks that separate them in any way from the Democratic President. In other words, it's all about careers, and the country is merely the stage.

Speaking of stages, President Obama himself is quite the stage master, and uses his own presence as a platform for political success. For instance, in his latest press briefing, he strategically tipped off a reporter from Slate ahead of time to ensure he was there and available to be picked on. Why? Because Obama knew that it would be a very politically-savvy move to have a question asked by an Iranian through a U.S. blogger/reporter. This type of stagecraft is quite reminiscent of of the Bush/Cheney years, where every public event was staged to picture-perfect perfection.

Lastly, Obama has simply not wooed Congress to support his agenda. Not only hasn't he wooed, but he promised even more -- that he'd make headway in bi-partisanship. Not seeing much of that bi-partisanship happening, Mr. President, are we?

However, his relationship with congress is a double-edged sword. Constitutionally, the way he's playing it is probably the right way to view the role of the President -- set the agenda and stay out of the rancor and scuttlebutt. This is certainly different from G. W. Bush and his heavy-handed leadership of the congress. So, that's a kind of a Change. But the flip side is that for every disagreement between the Executive and Legislative branches, there will be a requisite political fights and posturing in order to get what each side desires. These fights will remind us all that it's essentially impossible to change the tone of Washington until every elected official truly feels like a civil servant instead of a career politician.