My flamboyant friend came running fast round the bend in tie-dyed t-shirt, yellow shorts and red shoes. He jogged up on my front porch and started pacing as he pulled a little plastic bag from his shorts, drew out a roll-your-own and pack of paper matches, then lit up. If there was a human being more conflicted than I, here he stood.
So what do you make of it? he gasped amid clouds of smoke.
Year One. Obama's been president a solid year and I'm wondering what you think?
"I'm of two minds."
Duh. That's why I'm here. To help you sort it out.
"You read my columns. I'm a guarded supporter. Cautiously optimistic."
Kind of like the orchestra on the Titanic? Serenading us all with that rot about how Obama's doing the best he can. Look at the hand he was dealt. We could all be standing in bread lines by now. How sending 30,000 troops into Afghanistan is his way of getting out dontcha know? How he'll shut down Guantanimo eventually and that any healthcare reform's better than no reform. Just be patient, we've a framework in place for halting global warming one of these days... Yada yada yada.
He emitted smoke rings with his words.
"Are you copping an attitude?"
My, how perceptive we are. Tell me one thing, Oh Scribe. How much longer will your sort of rot wash? We're in Year Two, and if you ask me, Obama's morphing into a Bush-Cheney third term.
"So what would you suggest he do?"
I'd urge him to fight every battle for righteousness' sake.
Hey, I was raised Southern Baptist, believe it or not. I lay things out in black and white when I get excited. Obama shoulda been the righteous one and gave 'em hell.
For starters, he should've leveled with the American public and told us some cold, hard truths.
Number One, that he was turning away from his predecessors in a very clear way, because they were war criminals and science deniers in the service of Big Oil, the arms merchants and the military industrial complex. He should've acknowledged that our invasion, occupation and bombing of Iraq was based on a pack of lies. He should've told the truth about Curveball, Chalabi and al-Libi, just to name three of the criminals our secret forces either bribed or tortured into telling most of the lies Dick Cheney used to make a phony case for war. You know, all that crap about how Saddam was giving nukes to terrorists and training them in anthrax and so on that made it into all those speeches in 2002 and 2003. And he shoulda told us that 9/11 was in part blowback for failed policies in Afghanistan going back a quarter century. Obama should not have swept that stuff under a rug.
"I'm listening," I said as my friend hot-boxed his smoke so that it glowed fiercely. It was clear he was only warming up.
He should've apologized to the world for America's role in the deaths of maybe a million Iraqis, the displacement of 5 million others, the emotional and psychic trauma of 14 million more, and he should've appointed a special prosecutor to hold anyone accountable who knowingly propagated a phony whatsit, you know, casus belli, for starting the war or engaging in torture, and if it led to George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, so be it. He coulda started that ball rolling Week One. Don't you hear what I'm sayin'? Obama shoulda been the one who set things right.
"Get real. We would've had rioting in the streets."
Yeah? Instead we had rioting in town halls.
"OK, keep on."
He should've announced we're not bailing out any more banks or Wall Street firms and car companies, rather that he was earmarking a trillion dollars to subsidize upside-down mortgages that would keep worthy people in their homes and refinance banks honestly, from the bottom up, then build a green-friendly energy grid that would employ a million people and break our addiction to oil. He could've announced that Week Two.
"And Week Three?"
Lay out the truth about the great American healthcare rip-off. Put doctors, pharmaceutical companies and insurance firms on notice that he's appointing a panel of actual scientists and doctors to thoroughly assess the healthcare systems of the planet's 50 leading democracies and we're going to pick the three that work best to model ours on, so your Sister Rebecca and my Uncle Frank get the dignified healthcare they deserve.
"Ok, I get your drift."
No, I'm just getting started. I'd have him use his executive authority or whatever arm-twisting pertained in Congress to halt mountaintop removal, depleted uranium, outrageous usury, shut down any plans to build new nukes, and aggressively prosecute anyone in violation of the Clean Air Act.
"And if the economy tanked and Obama went down?"
At least we'd know he stood up.