Picture this scene: At a stirring Rose Garden ceremony, President Barack Obama signs health-care reform into law, with members of Congress beaming behind him. They erupt into cheers when he puts down his pen -- hands are shaken vigorously, and even a few hugs are exchanged. Afterward, everyone speaks of how they've honored Ted Kennedy and his lifelong crusade to get every American health coverage. Over the next few days, the news media note many times that Obama accomplished what every Democratic president since Harry Truman tried and failed to do. All agree that this will almost certainly be the defining domestic-policy achievement of his presidency. Republicans grumble but know they've been beaten.
Anti-tax protesters marched in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12, spurred on by Fox News host Glenn Beck. (Flickr / The Rocketeer)
In Great Britain, the opposition party assembles a "shadow cabinet," offering up individuals who are supposed to speak for it on various policy issues. One of the results is that the party is required to at least pretend to care about the substance of government. We have no such tradition here in America, so our opposition, without much to do with its time other than plot strategies to undermine the party in power, is free to be as trivial as it wants.
In the past few days, there has been a lot of discussion about the role race plays in the rising tide of birther/tenther/teabagger opposition to President Obama, mostly because of the column I wrote the other day here at TAP about the topic. (Ha!
Citizens protest against taxation and government spending at a "Tea Party" rally. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Back when Barack Obama began his extraordinary quest for the presidency, lots of conservatives -- particularly those prone to wake screaming in the night from visions of Madam President Hillary Clinton -- just couldn't say enough nice things about him. What attracted them most was not his intellect or political skill: It was the way he handled race. Right-wing stalwart William Bennett may have best summed up the feeling when he gushed that Obama "never brings race into it. He never plays the race card. Talk about the black community -- he has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson; you don't have to act like Al Sharpton."
Barack Obama with Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Not long after the general presidential election began last year, some momentary fluctuation in the polls led to a fevered round of hand-wringing on the left. Our nominee is letting it slip away! people cried. He ought to shift his strategy, change this, alter that! Then a photo of Barack Obama at his convention speech began to circulate through e-mails and blogs, showing the candidate looking strong and resolute. "Everyone chill the f*** out," the caption read in bold letters. "I GOT THIS." And he did.