Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mr. President, Please Channel FDR!

I'm still considering President Obama’s performance during the debt ceiling negotiations: the readiness to put Social Security and Medicare on the table; proposing just a 25% increase in revenue if the Republican hostage-takers promise not to further destroy the economy; not threatening to use the 14th amendment to solve the debt stalemate; not taking the debt ceiling fight on the road and railing against the Republicans, but instead relying on televised appeals and phone calls.

Whether it's the public health care option or the Bush tax cuts or the debt ceiling negotiations, this president simply does not pull out all the stops and fight. Whether he wins is not the ultimate point. The point is to fight as hard as he can and forgo his above-the-fray stance. The Tea Party-driven Republicans will hate him no matter what he does; their fanaticism does not respect compromise. I'm also skeptical that independents will respect Obama's unwillingness to draw a line on progressive principles. Indeed, as time goes on, I question which progressive principles Obama strongly holds.

The following speech by President Roosevelt in 1936 at Madison Square Garden is instructive. FDR spoke of the right-wing policies of previous administrations, including that of Hoover, and their indifference to the vulnerable and devotion to the powerful. Regarding those powerful financial forces, FDR stirringly stated, "I welcome their hatred." President Obama would do well to welcome their hatred more and appeal to their non-existent willingness to compromise less. Listen:

Roosevelt: For twelve years our nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to that government but that government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! And my friends, powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent to mankind.

For nearly four years now you have had an administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. And I can assure you that we will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

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