Wednesday, July 22, 2009

(update: never mind -- now I know)

(Scroll down to the asterisks for thoughts about Gates.)

I watched the press conference and stupidly didn't watch any pundits afterward, which means the c.w. is, presumably, already set in stone and I don't know what it is. I see from Pajamas Media's drunkblogger that "Juan Williams calls it 'a lost opportunity,'" but he would, wouldn't he? Larry Sabato tweets,

Least impressive of Obama's four prime-time pressers. Little passion until the last question about Prof. Gates. This didn't help O's plan.

I don't get that, or at least the first part of it. I thought the opening statement was strong and forceful, and made a good case for action that a lot of Americans haven't heard or absorbed yet. The president probably should have stopped there. In the Q&A his answers were long -- longer than they needed to be -- but at least for the first half he seemed to be doing fairly well. He does have a habit, regardless of the question, of backing up seven or eight steps and talking his way through the entire subject he's been asked about, then offering a response to the actual question as almost a coda. It's not the best approach for dealing with American attention spans. It was as if he wanted to go back and extend his speech. Well, maybe he should have done just that, and ditched the Q&A.

I think Obama biggest problem is whatI talked about a month ago -- that Americans tell pollsters they want health-care reform, but they're far less enthusiastic when it's actually presented to them -- and the last two presidents who tried to sell it, Clinton and Obama, did so with the gloom of recession hanging over Americans, and just after we'd learned that the government had failed to protect us from horribly expensive financial chicanery (the S&L crisis in the '90s, the financial meltdown now). Not the best time to sell an expanded government role in health care -- I'd say it couldn't be a worse time.

And there's this from Bob Somerby, who suspends his relentless bashing of Rachel Maddow long enough to make some sense:

Real progressives would work for years -- for decades -- to develop public understanding and anger about such complex affairs. It takes a long, aggressive struggle to develop progressive political frameworks. As Krugman explained, the other side has pimped its poll-tested narratives down through all those years. But our own denatured "liberal leaders" are too fat and happy to fight against that. When have you ever seen them fight to develop a winning politics about anything known to this earth?

Indeed -- the right has had a decades-long head start at framing this issue. Have we caught up? Not at all. Not even close.


Oddly, I came away from the press conference thinking the right-wing noise machine was instantly going to jump on this:

President Obama said that police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "acted stupidly" in arresting a prominent black Harvard professor last week after a confrontation at the man's home.

"I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played," Obama said Wednesday night while taking questions after a White House news conference....

"But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 ... that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

Hell, I could write the script for a right-wing hissyfit about this. Bloggers and radio/Fox blowhards declare that Obama has "rushed to judgment" and slandered a decent, hard-working cop who loves his kids and his Mom; some local right-wing radio/right-wing tabloid Obama-hater gets an interview with the cop, who's hurt and offended. Obama is accused of "reverse racism" -- and this gets tied back to Sonia Sotomayor and the Ricci case.

It seems as if it would be too easy -- but maybe the wingers just want to concentrate on health care. Still, I'll be surprised if they'll let this go completely to waste. They never pass up an opportunity to get us fighting among ourselves, do they?


UPDATE: Never mind, it's percolating -- via Donald Douglas, I see Fox News has "Officer Who Arrested Harvard Scholar Not Sorry." The non-Murdoch but Murdoch-esque Boston Herald reports that the cop once tried to save a local sports hero:

The Cambridge cop prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. claims is a racist gave a dying Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to save the Celtics superstar's life 16 years ago Monday.

"I wasn't working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn't working on a black man. I was working on another human being," Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward's fatal heart attack July 27, 1993, at age 27 during an off-season practice at Brandeis University, where Crowley was a campus police officer....

Oh, that's it -- Sean Hannity isn't going to need to worry about programming for a week. This is going to get ugly.

And as for the rest of the press conference, clearly this, from Politico's Ben Smith, is the etched-in-stone conventional wisdom, and we can all just stop talking about it:

The president's remarks on his chosen subject, health care, were cautious and choreographed, hemmed in on one side by the calculations of his professional wordsmiths, on the other by the delicacy of negotiations with two houses of Congress.

He never detailed his own plan, or named a single victim of America’s broken system, and he spoke largely in the abstractions of blue pills, red pills, and legislative processes. It's not easy to turn delivery system reform into a rallying cry for change, but at times, it was as if Obama wasn't even trying.

We're back where we've been my entire adult life, and I'm 50 years old -- with the GOP setting the terms of every debate and the most powerful Democrats incapable of getting traction. The New Democratic Era, which some thought would last 40 years, didn't even last 40 weeks.


UPDATE: Bingo -- the Reggie Lewis story hits the top of the blog charts. Sigh. This was a big, big gaffe.

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