Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Obama walked into the conference room to face 140 people who oppose him and hope he

fails. He stood in front of them for 85 minutes and fielded questions hostile in nature and

delivered with tinges of sarcasm. He had no notes and had to come across thoughtful and

reasonable while his opponents performed for their tea parties and constituents. He asked

for the session to be televised and for some inextricable reason, they agreed. When it was

over, President Obama upstaged, out-performed, and thoroughly embarrassed the entire

Republican House membership; and all were left with what was the realization that more

than the State of the Union address, this moment may have significantly rehabilitated his

image and harmed theirs.

President Obama went to Baltimore to face House Republicans at their annual retreat.

It as an attempt to reinforce his determination to seek bi-partisan support or at least to

demonstrate a willingness to listen. They could ask anything. He responded calmly and

even with some humor at times. The White House insisted the event be televised. That

request alone should have set off alarms for Republicans; but if it did they ignored them

at their own peril.

It resembled question time in the British Parliament when the Prime Minister stands

and fields questions requiring an alacrity and command of the issues rare in most American

politicians. It was different in that British question time allows questions from the Prime

Minister's supporters as well as his opponents. Obama faced hostile questions from beginning

to end. I ask you to imagine George W. Bush standing for 85 minutes taking questions from

House Democrats. There would be no television cameras.

Republicans were boxed in. While the President looked diplomatic and approachable,

Republicans could not afford to look accommodating or soft. While just by being there, the

President burnished his image as someone ready to reach across the aisle; Republicans came

across shrill and humorless. While Obama spoke of working together, finding common ground,

and solving problems; Republicans attacked and attacked out of fear of being accused of playing

too nice with the enemy.

The hypocrisy on the Republican side was breathtaking. Member after member accused

the President of not listening to them. He didn't take them seriously. He ignored their ideas.

They claimed to have solutions to the nation's ills; but were never given the chance to

implement them because the White House and Democratic leaders consigned their ideas to

the Congressional dustbin. If only Obama would look at their proposed legislation, the

country would be well on its way to reforming healthcare, changing energy policy, putting

people back to work, and restoring the nation's confidence. At some point, I hoped Obama

would remind his audience they ran Congress and the White House for six years. At no time

during that period did they introduce legislation to reform or expand healthcare. Their

energy policy was to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge; and as for the economy, they passed

a $1.3 trillion tax cut for the rich, a $700 billion Medicare prescription drug bill, and started

two wars at a cost of well over $1 trillion. I wanted the President to ask them why none of

their ideas were ever passed and implemented. When they were in power, how is it these

issues were not resolved and solutions implemented? All of a sudden, with Democrats in

power, Republicans were now filled with ideas and solutions which Obama should listen to

and adopt. I don't know how they could ask some of the questions with straight faces.

One Republican asked the President why their budget proposal had been ignored and

rejected. He claimed their budget would lower the deficit, reduce the national debt, rein in

entitlement costs; and all of this without raising taxes. What he didn't say was their budget

was 48 pages long and did not contain a single number. It was as realistic as an Aesop fable

full of talking animals. Another Republican asked the President why he didn't consider any

of their ideas on healthcare reform. They had a plan to extend coverage, increase competition,

do away with restrictions on pre-existing conditions, and all of this again without the need

to raise taxes to pay for it. The President looked squarely at her and told her the proposal

actually had to work with real numbers scored by independent analysts and with the input

of doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals. The President reminded her he

could promise to fix everything too; but the American people actually expected him to be

dealing in fact not fantasy. It is one thing to claim you can do something, but quite another

to prove it. Republicans have never submitted a healthcare reform proposal to be scored or

examined while accusing the President of ignoring them. The President went on to tell

Republicans that what they propose actually has to be true. Maybe you haven't been taken

seriously because you have never made a serious proposal. You have been more interested

in scoring political points. The truly defining moment came when a Republican member

asked the President why he was spending so much money and why his monthly deficit totals

were more than their annual deficit totals. The President called him out. Without a single

note, the President reminded the gathering that before he ever took office, he found an

$8 trillion national debt as a direct result of their actions. They passed two tax cuts for the

rich, started two wars, and passed the biggest Medicare benefit in decades, and didn't pay for

any of them. He observed that before he had been President for even one day, he faced an

economic meltdown of unprecedented proportions brought on while they were in power.

It was a spectacular rejoinder and left the audience speechless.

The President told the Republicans he wanted to work with them, but they were not free

to work with him. He reminded them about all the attacks they have made on him. He

reiterated their attacks ranging from accusing him of being some kind of Bolshevik socialist

who wants to destroy the nation's healthcare system and economy and also has weakened

the nation and isn't interested in fighting terrorism or protecting national security. He smiled

when he told the crowd, "...the American people don't know this is all politics. They actually

believe you." His point, and perhaps the most important observation he made, was that their

strategy to demonize him and his ideas has worked so well that their own constituents won't

let them work with the President even on areas where they might agree. After accusing

Obama of trying to destroy the country, how do they then explain not supporting him even

on ideas in which they have common ground? Their own comments have made it virtually

impossible for any bi-partisanship.

The President's performance presented a dramatic contrast between him and House

Republicans. He came across calm and reasoned with a command of the issues which was

impressive. They came across angry and snarky and more interested in winning political

points rather than engaging in an exchange of ideas. He looked like the President, while

they looked like petulant children. If the vote in Massachusetts was a rejection of gridlock,

the President projected an image of openness and flexibility; while Republicans continued

to look like the party of "no" with nothing of substance to offer.

I can make a very safe prediction. Never, ever, again will Republicans ever allow cameras

to record exchanges between them and the President. I kept imagining George W. Bush or

Ronald Reagan trying to pull off what President Obama did, but not even I have that vivid

a capability. Obama showed a truly Presidential command of issues and details. He shed

light on why there is gridlock. Republicans aren't interested in solving problems. They are

only interested in defeating him. Far more than the State of the Union, Obama helped to

rehabilitate his image while Republicans hurt theirs. It was an impressive performance on

his part and a monumental goof on theirs. What do you think? I welcome your comments

and rebuttals. Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com


  1. President Obama needs to FIRE that useless CoS, Rahm Emanuel. Imagine Karl Rove calling Republican voters names, Rove would never do it like Rahm did to the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Rahm is one of the STUPIDEST politicans I've seen. BTW, Tim Kaine needs to go too! He's also useless and Democrats lose elections under Kaine's horrible tenure as DNC chairman. I say bring back Howard Dean as DNC chairman.

  2. AWESOME Bernie.
    wonderful job at writing the truth about that day.
    i wish i woudl of seen it.
    the hatred of Obama makes me sick.
    i remember you saying many many times on the air that the republicans love the party more then their country.
    what a perfect example you write about.
    too bad so many people hate him so much as to think like this.
    miss you Bernie.
    take care of yourself and hope to hear you on the radio again.
    we all miss you here.
    god bless my friend
    your friend from Gilroy Mike