“Power is not a toy we give to good children. It is a weapon. And the strong man takes it and uses it. And the man who doesn’t use it has no business in the big league. Because if you don’t fight, the Presidency is not for you. And it never will be.” Tough words that arguably apply to President Barack Obama in light of his apparent “knee buckling” on public option health care and trying to “nice” the Republicans into being cooperative and bipartisan.
The tough words are from Franklin Schaffner‘s film version of Gore Vidal‘s The Best Man. The speaker is President Art Hockstater (Lee Tracy), who’s trying to wake up the brilliant and charming but just-not-scrappy-enough presidential contender William Russell (Henry Fonda). If you haven’t seen this 1964 film (which isn’t on DVD), do so. The parallels between Obama and Russell are immediately apparent.
The more I think about public option going down the drain, the angrier I get at the wildebeest card-holders in the U.S. Senate who are standing foursquare against it, but I’m also feeling angrier and angrier at Obama for…I don’t know, radiating that irritating Zen placidity thing he does and, to go by impressions I’ve been getting, not playing this as toughly and shrewdly as he could. Don’t ask me for particulars because I can’t name them, but my Paul Krugman-fed impression — hell, everyone’s impression — is that Obama isn’t being sufficiently tooth-and-nail on this thing. Sometimes you have to be hard. There comes a time when you have to use muscle and twist the screws.
What did Arianna Huffington say about Obama on Charlie Rose two days ago (i.e., Thursday night)? That he’s too much into compromising and “a little delusional” and lacking a willingness to fight? Another thing Huffington said gave me the willies because it confirms what I’ve been fearing all along: “Temperamentally [Obama] doesn’t like confrontation.” Oh, to have a little Lyndon Johnson-style arm-twisting, horse-trading, brow-beating and old-fashioned threatening going on right now!
As Counterpunch‘s Michael Green has written (and I’m quoting him without endorsing his view that Obama is a “terrible president”), “Does this guy who seems to want, more than anything, for everyone just to be happy and sing along in the same key, still really believe in bipartisanship, at the very moment when the very people with whom he is negotiating are reinforcing the most absurd and inflammatory lies asserting the elder-cide intentions of his health-care bill?”