On December 1, 1955,
Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bu
s on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.
She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat.
Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. “When I made that decision,” she said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”
President Obama loves to insert himself in other people’s biographies. He also loves to honor people, most recently Neil Armstrong and Vice President Biden, with pictures of himself. All. About. Him. His laser-like focus never wavers from his own image.
And the narcissism continues: To honor the 57th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, President Obama paid homage with a picture of himself.
I have mixed feelings.
Yes like most conservatives, I perceive President Obama as someone with a certain streak of narcissism, caught up in his own hype as the 2nd coming of MLK/JFK.
Strip his politics aside, however, and his presidency does represent a historic glass-ceiling shatter and a culmination of the Civil Rights struggle in this country. I can see how people, regardless of which side of the political fence they sit on, might be moved by what the photo represents in terms of progress in racial equality.
It would be more symbolic had President Obama seated himself at the front of the bus.
And even more symbolic would have been for him to sit in the driver’s seat since he’s about to steer this nation straight over the metaphorical cliff (both fiscal and social).
But then…that would mean taking responsibility for his failure in leadership. In his inability to work across the aisle and be a president for the American people and not just a president for Democrats.
President Obama has told Republicans to sit at the back of the bus (I think he’d rather throw them under it). And when he drives us into the figurative ditch and off the metaphorical cliff, he will lay blame at these backseat drivers for not going with his definition of compromise and bipartisanship: I won, you lost. Do it my way and we’ll have bipartisan agreement.
All of the Beltway’s great “Who will get blamed for the fiasco” debate has the feel of a movie scene wherein two characters are talking about a third who then objects “I’m right here. I can hear you.”
All of the country can hear the president, Congressional leaders and the pundit class jawing over who will get blamed for the coming meltdown that will result because –wait for it– taxes are going to rise too much and spending isn’t going to get cut. No wonder the just re-elected president has an approval rating just above 50%. This absurd brinksmanship has the feel of Richard Nixon’s demand for at least a pro forma resignation of every Cabinet member just after his genuinely big win in 1972: An unnecessary, but costly display of authority.
It is increasingly clear that the president has no interest in a deal, but seems to be intent on punishing the GOP leadership and especially the Speaker and Senate GOP Leader who forced him into a compromise after the 2010 elections. The president thinks he can discredit his political opponents by going “over the cliff,” and he will probably conclude it will be to the GOP’s disadvantage if there is another debt limit crisis and perhaps even government shutdowns in the months ahead. His cheering section in the Manhattan-Beltway media elite will be urging him on and trapping him in an echo chamber, but a lot of the GOP will be hearing the same, very narrow band of elite opinion makers’ collective fretting and finger-pointing and the president is hoping the Speaker will panic and fold.
At which point the Tea Party 2.0 will be back because the country that pays attention more than one day every four years can indeed hear the political class talking about it like some mass of morons, and doesn’t like what it hears already, and will like it even less after many months or even two years of condescending blather.
The GOP leadership should take seriously Guy Benson’s suggestion that they cleave to Simpson Bowles and leave it at that. “That’s our compromise and we are stickin’ to it. By the way, it was your compromise Mr. President.” The chattering class loved Simpson Bowles, and every departure from its specifics the president wants can be negotiated for more protection for the military.
Short. Simple. A defensible line. And a stratgey for responding to a president who has no intention of really negotiating or of getting to a deal that does anything except punish his opponents. Welcome to the next four years. Get used to the political equivalent of trench warfare. The president has used the two weeks since his re-election to tell us his second term will be the same as the first. He still doesn’t get the idea that the Constitution has divided power among co-equal branches, and that the Congress is not his agency and the Speaker is not his messenger to an unruly group of malcontents.