Obama and the People of the United States

I don’t normally get involved in politically charged discussions; I’m too dumb (as most of us are on such issues if we are honest).  However, my brother-in-law (Andy) recently made a post concerning President Obama’s statement that he would be willing to be a one-term president if it meant the health care reform bill was passed.  Andy makes an interesting point concerning the principle for which Obama is standing and his desire to follow through on something he truly believes in regardless of his popularity.  To a large degree, President Bush did the same thing with the war in Iraq.  Andy then goes on to question the legitimacy of such a principle when the foundation for all political life is the heart of the people.  So, the core of the question is this:  Is Obama’s contentment to be a one-term president a fundamental misunderstanding of his position?  Or, at the end of the day, do we elect a president to lead and guide our country based on their ideas and policies for which we elected them regardless of the current majority view of Americans on any particular topic (such as health care reform)?  And if there is a middle ground, what is it?

Your thoughts?   

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12 Replies to “Obama and the People of the United States”

  1. I can’t access Andy’s blog at work (because Blogger is blocked) so I’ll go ahead and add my 2 cents a bit blind to what his points might be.

    I haven’t seen Obama’s statement about one-term for healthcare passage, but it seems to me that it’s a very odd self-sacrifice to make. To be a one-term president, you either have to decide not to run again or run again and lose (well, I suppose you could die in office, but I don’t think he’s quite ready to emulate JFK that much). But based on those two options, neither makes much sense as a result of a successful healthcare initiative.

    If he feels that should the healthcare bill pass he would be un-electable – well, shouldn’t that say something about the bill? If you predict a sizable portion of the people that elected you in the first place are going to not vote for a second time (and even unpopular GWB was re-elected after 3-ish years of an unpopular war) then maybe you might think what you’re doing isn’t the way things need to go? If you feel enough of the Americans that stood behind you in 2008 will feel so betrayed they’ll vote for the other guy, doesn’t that give you an idea the healthcare bill you’re pushing isn’t a good thing?

    And I’m not saying it is or it isn’t (there’s way to much conflicting information to form any sort of informed opinion), I’m just trying to figure out what his mindset is.

    I suppose there’s an element of “This is a bad-tasting medicine America but I know you need it and I don’t care what happens to me as long as I get you to take it” at work. As a parent, it’s the worst sound in the world to hear your kid screaming while they get a shot at the doctor, but you know it’s necessary and don’t really care that your kid hates you at that moment. That may be where he’s coming from and I do tend to choose my elected leaders based on their wisdom and idealogy and not just because they’ll vote the way the majority wants them to. I’m just not sure it applies in this case. I don’t know.

    If he truly feels he may have to sacrifice his political future on this one issue, that’s his business. But it had better be good medicine and not just a Tylenol.

    1. Barry,

      You make a very interesting point. Given the great passion Obama clearly has for the need and success of health care reform, doesn’t it necessarily follow that the success of such an agenda (which Obama obviously believes it would have) would, in fact, strengthen his re-election bid instead of causing a potential one-term presidency?

      1. Not necessarily. By that same logic, we would have to conclude that when a pastor/preacher takes a hard ethical position because he/she really does believe it’s right the fact that it’s right will cause the majority of people in the church to agree with him/her or support him/her. It ain’t necessarily so. It didn’t even work that way for Jesus.

        We need more national leaders who are more interested in taking the hard stands and insisting on the necessary sacrifices than in leading according to what the polls say and according to what will get them reelected.

        These are perilous times. To use Barry’s metaphor, maybe we just need to hold our noses and take our medicine sometimes. And to quote the great theologian Ricky Nelson, “You can’t please everyone; so you’ve got to please yourself” (that’s the great song Garden Party, young Rev. Meade, in case you didn’t know).

        1. Mike,

          Those lyrics are not ringing a bell, so I have to plead ignorance on that one!

          Your point is well taken, thanks for that. However, wouldn’t you agree that when dealing with human nature there is a fairly substantial difference when addressing ethical/doctrinal issues as opposed to issues where people can experience what they might consider to be more “tangible” results in their pocketbooks, or in the availability of health coverage? (I fully concur that health care coverage is an ethical issue, nevertheless the people will judge it based on money and availability). Even Jesus had no problem with people lined up for physical healing, which they could sense and enjoy with obvious results. That change your heart and love your neighbor stuff, the lines were considerably smaller.

          1. The most important thing is that you hear “Garden Party,” which you can here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_exY9ptMbA.

            The back story: Ricky Nelson was a kid actor on his parents’–Ozzie and Harriett Nelson–’50s tv show. He became a teen singing idol. At a Madison Square Garden show with some other classic acts, he tried singing some new songs and got a rough reception. That’s what the song’s about. Died later in a plane crash, as so many of them do (I still get teary thinking about Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Jim Croce, and Lynyrd Skynyrd).

  2. When I was a young and foolish man I thought that I might like to get into politics; I changed my mind and went for something safer and more stable–the Baptist pastorate.

    But I have often said that I would not be a good politician because I think that I would want to try to do what was right. Four years is not long to be President but, on the other hand, neither is eight. Conventional wisdom says that a president has about a year to get anything done. Once that year is past, the members of the House are thinking about getting re-elected and that determines most of what they do and if going along with what the President wants will hurt their re-election chances, they don’t go along.

    And typically, the mid-term elections take away from the President’s support because the opposition party will usually pick up seats in the House and Senate and sometimes even wrest control from the incumbent party if, as is the case now, one party controls all three houses (House, Senate, and White).

    After the mid-term elections, a president has to govern with an eye toward getting re-elected himself (or herself, one of these days) and that inevitably leads to compromising principles.

    So…and I imagine we are about to see this in the health care situation, if a President really wants to get his agenda through, he’d better marshal the forces in his own party, especially when they have total control, and ram through what he wants, the consequences be hanged.

    If I were President (stop laughing), I would hope that I would tell my staff, “Folks, we’re going to do what I think is right. If they want to kick us out after one term, at least we’ll sleep well at night knowing that we were true to our convictions.”

    Now, being a Moderate, I would rather see some give and take on both sides on the way to getting most of what I want. But I’d have a better chance of clicking my heels together and flying to Kansas.

    1. I can think of few things more stable than being a Baptist pastor. Good call.

      What I found most interesting about your well written response is your next to last paragraph. I know you, well, pretty well and it seems to me that this would actually be your statement to your staff: “Folks, we’re going to do what I think is right – and what I think is right for me resist a uncompromising situation and listen to what the people are saying to me. After all, I might be wrong.”

      That, by the way, is supposed to be a compliment. I know you have been uncharacteristically vocal about this political issue and have a great passion about it; do you believe it is worth Obama sacrificing another term as president?

      1. Yes, I do.

        By the way, my vocalness (if that is a word) on the health care debate has been more about the debate than it has about the issue itself. What I have found intolerable is the irrationality of the opponents of health care reform (and I know there is irrationality on both sides but it seems more irrational to me from the opposition side)and their excessive posturing at the town hall meetings. And I say that knowing that some folks are genuinely upset; it’s just that such shenanigans get us nowhere.

        As for the issue, I think something has to change. The health care situation in our nation could be better and so we should work to make it better. I do not know what the best way to do that is but I am fairly well convinced that some other nations do it better than we do; why else would the World Health Organization rankings show that the U.S. is #1 in spending on health care but something like #37 in health care effectiveness?

        You are of course right about me–I would tell my staff that we should listen to other people and I would indeed admit that I may be wrong. But I have changed a bit since you worked with me–I am more willing now to say, “You know, since we can’t arrive at a concensus and since a call has to be made, we will do what I think is right and accept the consequences.”

        We don’t elect a President so that he can be popular. We elect a President to lead. On this issue, he is going to have to step up to the plate and take his best swing. Whether he hits a home run–which I doubt–or strikes out–which I hope not–or gets a single or double–which is probably about right–history will judge.

        By the way, and speaking of baseball, I hope the Rockies collapse. Nothing against them, but the Wild Card is the Braves’ only hope.

        1. I agree with you, and am rather tired of the Town Hall mess. I want people to voice their concerns for sure, that is the greatness of America, but it is shameful and unfortunately feeds the concept of conservatives being idiots.

          Again, your next to last paragraph seems right on to me. I don’t want to be hypocritical; I found Bush’s determination on the war rather admirable based on his convictions. I feel the same way about Obama. Lead us, Mr. President. And if we disagree, we as Americans will let you know. Civilly.

          There’s always next year with the Braves. Besides, you don’t believe in the Wild Card. hehe.

  3. Well I have resisted the call to respond here until now but Not gonna do it anymore.

    I will be honest, I find it refreshing that someone does what they say they will do. Obama said he was going to do this and he is, that gives him some props from me. Bush did the same thing with the war.

    But, that being said what is being proposed is horrid. From a cost perspective it is completely unsustainable. We need reform in healthcare, I do believe this is true, but this is not the answer. And the right answer is not something that will be slammed through, it will take time to do it right. And is it too much to ask that Congressional members, and Obama himself, actually read the thing? I have, but he states he has not and Congressional reps have said they won’t even as they are voting for it.

    The townhalls are interesting. I find it humorous that Pelosi and company tries to denounce the people vocalizing their feelings as being ‘astro-turf’ and plants being bussed in while the AFL-CIO and ACORN are the ones busing people in. I find the protestations and even the anger shown by conservatives at these and the rallies to be refreshing. It takes a while to awaken the giant, but once it is up you need to watch out.

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