Not so nice Obama

In a recent blog I wrote critically about the fearful tendencies I experienced growing up in a conservative white community as a biracial child.  I drew the parallel of my own experience to current U.S. president Obama’s seeming need to be “nice” and respectful, to avoid confrontation for fear offending anyone, especially the real and imagined power of the white “master.” The underlying need to be liked, I suggested, had/has a racial component whose content is a constant sense of inferiority which exhibits itself in unconscious ways such as pandering and self-deprecating behavior–i.e., submission as in tail between one’s legs behavior–in order to deflect scrutiny of one’s racialized self.

So, for me, it was nice to hear and see Obama’s assertive management of disrespectful Republicans and cowardly Democrats in the healthcare “summit” yesterday.

I admit I wasn’t interested in watching seven and a half hours of political posturing.  (I don’t really tolerate Obama’s attempts to be bipartisan and thoughtfully considerate very well.)

But from what I’ve read in newspaper reports and excerpts I’ve seen on the twenty-four hour news networks, Obama with all his intellectually stuttering conviction kept the Republicans at bay and provided some leadership and focus for the wimpy Democrats.

I have said long before the summit that he needed to call in congressional leaders, especially Republicans, and perform some serious arm twisting.

This was long overdue.

It was long overdue not only for Obama’s political vision and practice, but for him to assert himself as a more effective leader.  (Frankly, I was wondering when he would use his community organizing skills to positive effect.)

Of course, the detractors to Obama’s efforts with the summit note his “professorial” demeanor and tone as condescending.  His addressing congressman by their first names was viewed as disrespectful to these hard-working men who had “earned” their titles and distinction in contrast to their respectful tone and behavior toward the president addressing him as “Mr. President.”

While there is a seed of legitimacy to the conservative complaint, I think it may also be viewed as an implicit epithet again for this “uppity” Black man who needs to remember his place.  In some sense he hasn’t “earned” the respect of these Republicans, in particular.  He forgets that he is really an outsider for a combination of reasons including his racial identity.  (I’m surprised he wasn’t asked by any of those Republicans to display his birth certificate to prove his citizenship!)

Indeed, from the excerpts I viewed, the disrespect, the interruptions of and lack of patience for Obama’s control over the affair, by the Republicans was apparent.  The only reason they couldn’t disrespect him as they have previously through the indirect lens of the media was because he was sitting next to them, facing them down one by one and as a group.

While I give Obama some credit for showing greater leadership to the Democrats and forcing the Republicans’ hand regarding healthcare reform, I still find his caving in to the insurance industry and fears of conservative resistance even before making a good faith effort to attempt universal health care reform an unfortunate and, ultimately, debilitating ethical loss for him.

He is not a radical reformer, not even a liberal Democrat, unfortunately.  (A “liberal” Democrat would also have a social justice vision and platform.) Whatever vision  or promise he had as the “hope” candidate didn’t take long to vanish once he took the oath of office.

But that’s another story for another post.

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