Gonzo Meets the Press #25 September 21, 2011
Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008 raised high hopes of lifting America
out of the doldrums after eight years of George W. Bush. Nearly three years
later, President Obama’s “change we can believe in” is running out of
Remember January 20, 2009 in Washington: Barack
Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States – the first
African-American to make it to the White House – as a million people gathered in
the mall to celebrate the historic event, and soul singer Aretha Franklin kicked
off the proceedings with a superb rendition of My Country Tis of
There was a sea of hope and humanity for the new president.
Twenty-one months later, many of those hopes have been dashed. A promise to
close Guantanamo unfulfilled, universal health care still not a reality, and
unemployment stuck at 9.1 per cent have pushed Barack Obama’s approval ratings
to a record low of 43 per cent. (The ratings story: http://wapo.st/n2cLYC)
What happened? Well, the Tea Party’s surge in the 2010 mid-term elections saw the Republicans take
over the House of Representatives, and the debt ceiling debate saw a plague on
both sides of politics, with a last-minute deal saving the world from another
financial crisis but not fears of a double dip recession. To make matters worse,
the IMF this week magnified the threat of another GFC, saying recovery has
stalled and the world economy faces the increasing peril of turmoil as well as
Who’d want to be president (or prime minister for that matter),
given the state of the world and politics?
Well, Barack Obama obviously still wants to be president, since he virtually launched his 2012 campaign this week
with a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next decade,
including new taxes on the rich, and means-testing Medicare for the wealthy.
Taking on the rich is always risky in America, but for a Democratic
president, who has pledged to look after all his citizens, it’s a risk worth
taking. Among his new taxes, the Buffet Rule, named after billionaire Warren
Buffett, which calls for Americans earning more than $1 million a year to pay at
least the same share of their income as the middle class. Buffett reportedly
pays 17 per cent tax. His secretary, who earns $60,000, pays 30 per
cent. Buffett says that’s not fair.
Of course, the Republicans, the party of the rich, responded by calling the Buffett Rule “class warfare.” The House
Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, said: “It will attack job creators, divide
people and it doesn’t grow the economy. Class warfare may make for really good
politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”
President Obama replied: “This is not class warfare. It’s math.” He added: “Middle-class families shouldn’t pay
higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straight-forward.
It’s hard to argue against that.”
Indeed it is, and the President needs to keep his nerve, as his bold statements are just what the Medicare doctor ordered
and Americans want – leadership and a chief executive fighting for the little
guy. Those long-term unemployed in small town Pennsylvania who were described as
bitter and frustrated by Mr Obama during the 2008 campaign will be raising their
beer and shot glasses to the new tough-talking president.
Barack Obama really has nothing to lose. More than two-thirds of those who voted for him say things
are badly off course, and 53 per cent disapprove of the job he’s doing overall.
His figures are starting to resemble Julia Gillard’s, and she’s started doing
what Obama is doing – returning to Labor (Democrat) values – and pointing out
the hypocrisy in the Coalition arguments. The Left of the Labor Party, where
Julia Gillard came from, see nothing wrong with on-shore processing. Let her
come up with a mantra of her own: “Let’s protect the boats … and process them
when they get here.” Instead she is taking up a different tack on Tony Abbott’s
“stop the boats” slogan: “What he wants to see for this country is more boats
because he believes that will serve his political interests.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Let Julia be Julia and Barack be Barack.” I hope
we don’t have to wait until November when President Obama visits Australia and
lets Julia Gillard bask in his well-known charisma.
Remember how much support Kim Beazley lost when he didn’t take on the Howard government over
asylum seekers? He was much better off when he was just being Kim Beazley, and
not trying to out-Howard John Howard.
The arguments over asylum seekers in Federal Parliament have been less than edifying. Neither side is paying any
attention to the other, and bipartisanship has as much opportunity of getting a
look-in as a boat-load of refugees in Sydney Harbour.
About the only good news for either the president or the prime minister this week was the repeal of
the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US, under which gays could serve in
the military as long as they didn’t openly admit they were gay and their
commanders weren’t allowed to ask. (Here’s a link to how the US media covered
the story: http://bit.ly/qw8s6k)
Now gay men and lesbians in the military no longer have to hide who they are and
servicemen and women who were discharged under the policy can re-enlist. Jim
Messina, the campaign manager of Obama for America, barackobama.com, the
official re-election campaign website, described it as one of the
administration’s signature achievements. Messina went even further in his
praise: “Before my current job, I was in the White House working on getting this
done, and I can honestly say that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is one of
the greatest things I have ever been or ever will be a part of.”
I guess the only thing that can possibly top it would be the re-election of Barack Obama.
It’s fair to say that Jim Messina and the president are going to need a few more
achievements like this one to keep Barack Obama in the White House.
Julia Gillard, please note.
PS And if you haven’t been following Doonesbury in The
Australian, you should check it out on page two of the Business section.
The cartoon is now satirising the new Joe McGinniss book on Sarah Palin, The
Rogue, and how the right wing is trying to put the best possible face on
gossipy stories about Palin, including a one-night stand with an
African-American basketball star, an affair with her husband’s business partner,
snorting cocaine with her husband and last but not least, she is more interested
in shopping than politics. Given the state of US politics, if journalists ever
discover she had an affair with Dominque Strauss-Kahn, she’ll be a shoo-in for
the Republican presidential nomination.
Tom Krause is the supervising producer of Ten’s Meet the Press. His views are his own; always have been.