This is not America’s Finest Hour

As I watched President Obama address the nation on July 25th, I found myself trying to bring back the happiness I felt when I voted for him to be the leader of the free world. Then a familiar sensation enveloped me as I realized that I had done with candidate Obama what I had done with most of the men in my life, from my very first boyfriend, to my ex-husband, and on thru every other man I ever fell in love (or convinced myself I was in love) with. I listened to their story; let them tell me about their feelings, their dreams, what moved them deeply, how they saw the world, what they wanted to do, and all of the wonders that accompany discovering someone new. But what I almost always failed to recognize was that their words were both the truth and a combination of how they wanted to experience themselves and how they wanted to be seen, and I had the audacity to expect them all, including the President, to be everything they promised to be. 

President Obama’s speech was followed by a rebuttal delivered by Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, which basically boiled down to saying, “NO!” to every insight, every position, every passionate idea, and everything else the President offered to the country to help us get through these turbulent times.

Unlike the President, I had no illusions about Boehner. You know how it is. No matter how hard a sweet talker tries to win you over, there’s no real sweet there. No sugar, just a well-packaged chemical sugar substitute. The whole time he spoke his only slightly hidden agenda was obvious, and his attempt to bury his arrogance under a barrage of words that pretended humility failed as he became a salesman pushing the idea that he had the public interest at heart. Maybe it’s just me, but the message I got was not so much that he cares about us, but that he wants us to think he does so he can have his way with us. Clearly, I am not bipartisan. 

In his address, President Obama included a reach-out to Americans, asking us to contact our members of Congress to tell them where we stood on the debt limit and its attendant issues. Considering that after Speaker Boehner walked out on budget negotiations and the President of the United States, a petition that hit the Internet asking Boehner and the GOP to, “stop holding the American economy hostage to secure tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires,” yielded 200,000 signatures in a snap, it was a pretty safe bet he’d get a good response. I heard a CNN report on July 26th that Senate and House switchboards for both parties were going wild, leaving callers with long waits, and there was such heavy traffic on Congressional websites that it actually caused them to crash. It’s been a couple of days of fine high drama. It would be great if anyone out there, who has not yet contacted the switchboards or the websites, would follow suit. Call in. Offer your opinions. It’s also a good idea to be clear that you think there has been enough vicious and dangerous partisan squabbling going on between the Republicans and the White House. Enough is enough.

If we want to live in a country that offers actual liberty and justice for all, then it is up to us to participate in shaping the course of our history, and as you can see, there is a lot for everyone with progressive views to do. I hope you will accept “Don’t Just Stand There. Do Something,” as a reminder that even if you have already been busy “doing” you can always find more ways to participate. For decades I have refused to listen to anyone who complained about the government or politics who did not also take some action, however small, to address their concerns. Our laws grant us very powerful inalienable rights, however I’m pretty sure that the right to bitch and moan from the couch without contributing in some way is not what the founding fathers had in mind. 

Whether you are on the right or the left of the current crisis, please take this opportunity to take an informed stand. Notice I said informed, not knee-jerk, not coming from hyper-partisanship on either side, and surely not underestimating the importance of the moment. I make no secret of being pretty far left of center, but not to the detriment of the greater good, which is what the hostility between our President and those who seek to lay waste to anything he puts on the table is beginning to look like. While Speaker Boehner conferences with the President, his intent is to bring him down. He says he won’t give the President a blank check and sings this refrain in harmony with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has unashamedly stated that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell has even come up with a plan; an August 2nd artificial deadline by which the country's debt-limit must be raised. Republicans are insisting on major budget cuts to reduce the deficit. Obama and the Democrats have offered budget cuts that come with tax increases. Of course the Republicans won't buy in to it. Pay their fair share? Really? They have no intention of finding a resolution and are already living in “next” election mode.

The President, who has been painfully slow to distinguish between compromise and conciliation, appears to also be juggling the roles of Barak Obama, President of the United States, whose primary concern is the country, and Barak Obama, presidential candidate, who is too often willing to find the middle ground in order to please as many people as possible. However, what we really need is not compromise, but strong consistent leadership. We need President Obama to stand up boldly for his beliefs and objectives and the agenda his base elected him to execute. We want him to win a second term, and though I am disappointed, I am hopeful that he can win, especially when I see the class and grace with which he handles the rude, disrespectful, self-righteous broadsides, the abject lies, the hate speech and faintly disguised racism that slips off the tongues of the usual suspects, other reactionary Republicans, and their even lower form, the Tea Partiers with their gun toting Sarah Palin, GWB light Rick Perry, and the semi-literate Michelle Bachman. Quite a line-up. 

But I personally believe that despite the plots, deviousness and slings and arrows of those listed above, we the people, including courageous-thinking conservatives and Republicans who, like courageous-thinking Progressives, Democrats and Independents, are too smart to be taken in by the rigid and religious right’s smug attitudes, lies and desperation. We see through their dependency on and their allegiance to the greedy entities that line their pockets, fill their coffers, and seek to shape United States policy through the likes of team Boehner/McConnell. And I believe that as Obama stands tall, we should ultimately stand with him. I want a government that cares as much for its middle class and poor as it does for those who think they can buy our America and redefine what we stand for. Please join me in making sure that our Congresspeople and the President know that we don’t want that to happen on our watch and that we will do our share (which by the way, he has invited us to do). 

How We Can Help:
Please take some time to check out the news to see where things are in the moment, since the situation is volatile and likely to keep shifting, then take more time to gather your thoughts. What are you thinking? How would you suggest your representatives and the President deal with everything from the debt ceiling to the hostility currently on display in the government? Write a respectful and personal note and send it off to them. You might want to engage your friends in doing the same thing.

Find your Senator at:
And your reps: 


  1. The problem is this country was hijacked in 2000 through tampering with the voter roles. In 2002, more tampering came with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)that delivered unverifiable, easily hacked voting machines. Something called the Elections Systems Task Force (ESTF) was the major lobbyist for HAVA. The ESTF's main purpose was to get Congress to foot the bill for e-voting machines ($3.9 billion) and moving the country away from an auditable system. The ESTF was comprised of Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, EDS and Accenture. These companies all have major government contracts, most with the Defense Department.

    Connect the dots, folks! The disintegration of our process of government is a direct result of these Corporate shills in government masquerading as representatives of the People. I firmly believe these are not our legitimately elected representatives. If you don't agree, how would you prove it? There's no way to verify elections anymore, and that's exactly how the Corporatists want it. We are no longer the United States of America. We're the Corporate State of the Country formerly known as the US of A.

    I don't know how you remediate a situation like this. Do you?

  2. P Gardner says: An insightful, civilized essay that makes you think about a lot of things that most people would rather not do. Terrific writing!

  3. Sally, I think you've got a powerful and important idea here: we have to be an active part of our world and not just stand by and let others take over particularly in these troubled days. My only difference with your opener on the debt ceiling is that I have a lot less, actually no, faith that President Obama is capable of doing what needs to be done now since he sold the farm with this deal. Obama is capable of speaking forcefully, but incapable of acting with strength. Instead of using the bully pulpit to decry the GOP stand, he either ignored or had his spokespeople attack his naturally allies, progressives, and then gave Boehner and McConnell everything they (and the tea party) demanded. From controlling one house in a tri-partite government, Boehner, McConnell and their cohorts now own all three - Presidency, and both houses of Congress. Ah, but you're right: we don't stand by silently; we keep fighting. And you're a multi-issue soul, here and around the world. For all this work I truly honor you.

  4. Well, a week has passed since I wrote the article and sadly, I too have less faith rather than more. I am longing for Obama to make us wrong.

  5. I agree with Ellen Levine's comment above - I do indeed applaud your call to action, your urging people to move off their couches and work for the type of government they'd like to see. But I, too, feel you've given Obama a pass, especially after reading Drew Westen's front page op ed in today's NY Times' Sunday Review section. The title of the piece? "What Happened to Obama?"

  6. Excellent summary of how many of us are feeling. I do need not to loose faith in Obama, even if only because of the the alternative.