Unmask Race and President Obama is the Comeback Kid!

Senator Bernie Sanders watches as President Obama signs the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Senator Bernie Sanders watches as President Obama signs the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

New Orleans     Big, fat surprise in the land of hateration, President Obama’s popularity is shooting up, up, up. He’s now over 50% and rising. Articles in the papers are starting to wonder why he’s not getting more credit for the economic recovery in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Indiana, since nationally unemployment is down to 5% and in some places in the Midwest it’s in the 3s. What’s up?!?

Part of it is clearly the fact that many on the right, middle, and even the left, are looking at the candidates vying to take his place and saying, Holy Jesus, what has God wrought! Hillary Clinton is dying out there with progressives, the young, and many women, feminists included, are putting their hands over their faces to hide big, fat yawns. Bernie “Old as Dirt” Sanders has managed to have less negatives than Clinton, even wearing the red vest of socialism proudly under his suit jacket. In fact his numbers are higher than Hillary’s in one-on-one polls against Donald Trump, if the general election were tomorrow.

And, that brings us to the Republicans, mercy me! It’s not just that they all measure up like Lilliputians next to a giant, but they are scaring the dickens out of huge numbers of the American public. Perhaps most importantly when we look at the drivers behind the contradiction of this puppy love of a large segment of the white working class for a billionaire of all things, it’s not the just the easy answer of being left behind in the modern economy, but the anger is the old anger deeply embedded in race, pure and simple. The more this campaign drags on, the more the suspicion of the African-American electorate that a lot of the venom directed at the President is based on the fact that he’s black more than his policies is verified as hard cold reality.

Thanks to the schoolyard bullying and brawling of the Republican primary, even hardcore ideological opponents among the nation’s punditry are also having to admit that they have to give President his due. There can’t be any argument that he brought dignity to the office. Compared to the hip shooters vying for the job, being Cool Hand Luke now looks good to some of his opponents. They even concede he has good manners, a picture perfect family, and has presided over his two terms with hardly a wisp of scandal and nothing that would point in his direction.

Some of this may be the voters coming to grip with the “devil they know” being better than the devil they don’t know, but reading an unending piece in The Atlantic based on a series of interviews with President Obama about his driving philosophy, actions, and initiatives in foreign policy was a little bit like meeting Marshall Dillon and admiring his balance in working with nothing but trigger happy gunslingers. Obama didn’t call people out, but the reporter and the article made it pretty clear that without Obama’s restraint and courage if it had been left to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Samantha Power, and a litany of other advisers as well as what Obama called the dictates of the “Washington Playbook,” we would be stuck unendingly in the middle of the Syrian conflict with boots on the ground for years and years. Obama may not have deserved the Nobel Prize when he won it when he was still wet behind the ears in his first term, but in Syria, Iran, Cuba, and other areas, he has earned it now.

We all have just cause to complain about the lack of progress on many domestic issues in Obama’s first six years, save the “better than nothing” Affordable Care Act, but I would bet that his footprint on the world stage and White House lawn is going to be a tough act to follow for generations.

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Obama’s Free Shot at the Supreme Court

Supreme_Court_Building_at_DuskLondon    The sudden death of arch conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at 79 after 30 years on the Court is one of those rare events that has the potential to be a game changer and unsettle the already turbulent events of the election season. Taking to heart the Latin proverb “De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” roughly translated “of the dead, nothing unless good” or essentially, speak no evil of the dead, I would note that in his passing in the Big Bend country of Texas along the Rio Grande, we share in common a love for the rough, solitary beauty of that part of the country. And, so enough said on that score.

The frequency of tough 5-4 decisions on the United States Supreme Court found shifting power in the swing votes of first retired Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and now Justice Anthony Kennedy with four somewhat dependable liberal votes and four often rigid conservative votes marshaled by Chief Justice Roberts but prodded and poked by Justice Scalia, means that President Obama has the opportunity to at least improve the odds by diluting the presumptive four conservative votes. As the partisan sides quickly harden around this opportunity with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell already asking the President to leave the appointment until a new President is elected, essentially punting until 2017, and Democrats begging for a chance to create a liberal majority, unquestionably the potential for a battle royal looms large. The Republican majority controlled Senate has to confirm or reject any possible nominee, and President Obama has correctly just as quickly indicated that he will fulfill his constitutional responsibility and nominate someone in due course. One analysis indicated that the average time from nomination to confirmation is over 100 days, so there’s more than enough time, though others indicate that it is often hard for a President to get this done in the last year of office even in the best of times, which is obviously not now.

What do I know, but it seems to me this is almost a free shot for the President if he is willing to be realistic, as Hillary Clinton would say, or modest, as progressives will think. Obama doesn’t have to nominate a liberal jurist for all of us and the country to come out ahead on this matter. Virtually, anyone, even a middle-of-the-roader, if one can be found acceptable to all sides, will give us better odds for a fairer vote on the Court than Justice Scalia.

Obama knows that clearly enough. The notion that California Attorney General Kamila Harris or Senator Cory Booker might be nominees is almost preposterous. Neither could be approved. If I were whispering in Obama’s ear I would say, nominate a moderate jurist who is African-American or perhaps even better Hispanic, that offers political risk to rabid opponents in the coming election, but who might be acceptable to Republicans based on reputation and body of work.

Obama doesn’t need to make a half-court shot here or something beyond the arc to put us ahead of where we are. He’s got a free throw if he can make it right from the line in the middle of the court, and we could still come up winners, as long as we remember where we have been more than where we might like to go.

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