Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FDR, Obama and the Tearful Wah Wah Republicans

One important quality of leadership is the ability to recognize when you can reason with your opponent and when you cannot, when you have to stop talking and hit him between the eyes.

Even our greatest President was guilty of not realizing when his opponents had stopped listening. Listen to his first Inaugural Address given when seven states had already seceded. No cannon had fired on Lincoln's Fort Sumter, but every Southern voice was rife with rancor. And Lincoln's response? "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." And he appeals to "The better angels of our nature."

Sounds like President Obama appealing to John Boehner to come by and play a round of golf, to Mitch McConnell to drop by the White House, while McConnell, lips dripping with the venom of contempt, says from the floor of the Senate his first priority is not healing the nation's economy, but his first and highest and only mission is to remove President Obama from office.

Consider how another great President began his First Inaugural Address: "Our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts...The rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence...Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."

Was this President Obama speaking? If only. No, this was Franklin Roosevelt.
Look how skillfully he alludes to the Bible, the plague of locusts, the money lenders in the temple. He doesn't have to thump his Bible, he knows his Bible, and he brings the weight of morality into play.

Oh, the class warfare!

"Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers."

Again, look at the imagery of these phrases. The Republicans are tearful, weak, wringing their hands, sobbing that there is nothing they as elected government officials can do--only the private sector, those mysterious, fabled, unseen captains of industry and commerce can rescue us; we cannot take action ourselves to help ourselves. We need to await the arrival of white knights on horseback to slay the dragons of recession and unemployment. This describes John Boehner and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor as clearly and precisely as it described their Republican ancestors. They are all cut of the same pin striped cloth.

"Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This nation asks for action and action now."

Well, here we do hear something familiar. Finally, Obama begins to echo Roosevelt. Pass my jobs bill and pass it now.

"It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources."

Hear an echo in this chamber? Has Obama not re invented this particular wheel with his hope for jobs in the green sector, jobs in clean energy, jobs to rebuild infrastructure?

"Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money."

No, that is not Obama speaking. Were it only. That's Roosevelt in 1933.

If those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, have we not found ourselves sliding down that path to a repetition of the Great Depression, with the Wah Wah Republicans crying great howls of protests about government Regulation, Roosevelt called it "supervision." Regulation got us into this horrible Recession the Republicans all wail, from Susan Collins to Olympia Snow to Rick Perry, they all read from the same hymn book. Oh, government's the problem.

But listen to FDR, and let us hope, President Obama catches some of his fire.


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