He treats her with respect, is honest to a fault, demonstrates good manners, is faithful and hardworking, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t escape being tarred by the behavior of her past boyfriends. Others outside the family can see him for who he is, but he is burdened with the behavior of the one that came before. He is the “Good Guy,” honorable in his intentions but seemingly unable to escape the carnage of past relationships.
In many ways President Obama is the political equivalent of the good guy in a romantic relationship. Through his first term, this President has struggled to convince America that he is not George W. Bush, or for that matter, William Jefferson Clinton. Still, no matter how hard he tries, the failings of his predecessors haunt this President. The public sees him, and generally wants to like him, but are experiencing a hangover from too much 42 and 43. The pain runs so deep that no amount of pharmaceutical aid can provide relief.
Millions of Americans are out of work, struggling to make ends meet, and can’t understand why this President seems unable to “feel their pain.” In their desperation, the judgment of voters is clouded and they have forgotten how the “great empathizer,” number 42, walked jobs across the border in a free trade bonanza that killed middle class jobs in America and decimated labor. While Black Americans struggle under the weight of depression era joblessness, and some like Tavis Smiley and Cornell West cast blame on this President, we seem to have forgotten that poverty is generational for African-Americans, and the inequities and wealth disparities we see today are the product of centuries worth of discriminatory public policy and oppression dating back to the Civil War. The disappointment of the present is understandable, but the short memory of the past is not.
Most Americans want our country to abandon the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unable to understand the dividend from the tremendous loss of military and civilian lives, and the obscene costs of warfare. In our demand for withdrawal and the criticism leveled at this President, we have let number 43 off the hook. This is a war that was waged under false pretenses, with “weapons of mass destruction” a convenient ruse and the emotional scar of 9/11 shamefully used to justify the invasion of a sovereign nation. It is always easier to enter than depart, we should know that from our Vietnam experience, but we got so caught up in flag waving that we let political demagoguery get the best of us. Two wars that were not paid for, two wars that President Obama’s predecessor embraced and claimed “mission accomplished” when most Americans and our troops could not discern the purpose of our involvement and Iraqis and Afghans quickly tired of our occupying presence. Now that private contractors reaped billions, and picked Americans clean, number 43 hides out, barely showing his face while the current President is held responsible for his mess.
America is broke, no doubt about it. Just talk to governors whose states are drowning in red ink and mayors who are holding fire sales to survive. While congressional Republicans beat their chest about the deficit and take an unconscionable stand against raising taxes, they want us to forget about how George W. Bush dug the hole from which we might never escape. He cut taxes for Americans who did not need the break, pushed the burden downward on the backs of middle class Americans, created conditions for the rise in poverty, while also draining the federal coffers to pay for two wars. Yet, the current President, the “good guy,” takes the heat with Republicans hypocritically leading the charge.
Folks are mad, and rightly so, with the excesses of Wall Street and the insatiable greed of corporate America. Even those of us who see the private sector as instrumental in the nation’s economic recovery are taken aback by the arrogance of financial institutions that would raise fees on the very people who bailed them out – the American taxpayer. President Obama has been called “soft” for what some claim to be his tolerance and even complicity with the titans of industry, yet it was President Bush who gave us TARP but it was President Obama who fixed the bailout and made financial institutions repay. It was under the other guy’s watch that we got Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. And it was under the other guy’s father and his boss, President Ronald Reagan, that we witnessed the colossal savings and loan crisis. When Republicans claim this President is waging “class warfare,” they need to talk to the thousands of surviving air traffic controllers Reagan fired and see if they feel the same.
It seems like the good guy can’t catch a break because he is catching hell because of the devious behavior of those we “dated” before him. Rather than an election in 2012, America needs therapy because our sense of self has been destroyed, our faith in good shattered, and our ability to discern between truth and lies impaired.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.