TEN best

by Keith Barber



President Obama hit the nail on the head in his State of the Union address. “Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game,” Obama said. “But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people.” According to a Feb. 11 New York Times/CBS poll, public distrust of Congress is at an historic high. Despite holding majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats realize they can’t succeed without the support of the American people. Therefore, they must find common ground with the Republicans. However, Obama’s overtures to extend the olive branch to the GOP only seem to make matters worse..


“What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day,” Obama said during his State of the Union address. Two days later, Republicans affirmed Obama’s assertion by frontloading their questions with talking points. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) won the prize for longest preamble to a question. Obama listened patiently for two and a half minutes before the Congresswoman finally spit out her question about the healthcare bill. When Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) used this technique, Obama had finally had enough.

“The whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign,” Obama told Hensarling.


Being one vote shy of the magical No. 60, the Democrats have witnessed a power shift to the other side of the aisle. The Republicans were incensed that they were excluded from helping to craft healthcare reform legislation, probably a legitimate gripe. Now they appear out for revenge. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently pared down a Republican “bipartisan” bill, the Republicans withdrew their support. Reid left several items in the bill that Republicans publicly supported. But when the GOP didn’t get everything they wanted, they backed off the jobs bill, leaving it to languish in committee.


Normally, public figures wait until they’re out of power to fully speak their mind. Obama breaks the mold in this regard. During the Jan. 29 Q&A session, Obama didn’t hesitate to correct Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) when the Congressman claimed the president said Republicans had no ideas on health care reform in his State of the Union speech. Obama is right. Read the transcript of his speech. Then Obama flat-out stated that the Republican health care bill makes a lot of interesting claims, but it simply doesn’t work.


Obama made a great point during his Jan. 29 meeting with the members on the opposite side of the aisle.

Republicans have taken such a radical approach to Obama’s healthcare reform plan that they’ve painted themselves into a corner. Republicans need to decide if their base represents a majority of voters in their home states. If not, they better seriously consider moving to the center. That New York Times/ CBS poll also revealed that only 18 percent of Americans support the Tea Party movement, while 62 percent of Americans believe the Republicans are to blame for gridlock in Washington.


Republicans and Democrats alike face tough races this fall for re-election. Based on our current system, politicians have to constantly be in campaign mode. That translates to making sure they get their 15-second sound bite on healthcare reform or finance reform on the evening news. This system does not lend itself to bipartisanship.


Obama made a promise to voters to deliver true reform in the first year of his presidency. Even though Obama didn’t fulfill his promise, the president has remained true to his conviction that bringing down healthcare costs while reigning in the power and influence of healthcare companies will impact every American in a positive way, and might just save our economy to boot.


On the day that Obama met with Republicans at the White House to try to find common ground, two Democrats — Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Blanch Lincoln of Arkansas — voted with Republicans to reject the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker was Obama’s pick for the post. On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have openly disagreed on ending the exclusion of employer-sponsored health care plans from taxable income.


A good number of Republicans appear to be returning to the playbook of Karl Rove and George W. Bush. Just look at the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas bombing suspect, as a perfect example. Sen.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, recently told Politico that the issue of how to handle Abdulmutallab’s case comes down to whether or not Attorney General Eric Holder should be in charge of the War on Terror. What they fail to say is that the Bush administration prosecuted 300 people on terrorism charges through the US federal court system. Abdulmutallab will be treated just like terrorists under the Bush administration.


According to the New York Times/ CBS poll, there’s not a lot of good news for Obama or the Republicans. Right now, the president’s approval rating is sitting at 46 percent, the lowest it’s been since he took office. But Congress is faring much worse in the court of public opinion. Seventy-five percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, while 80 percent believe Congress is more interested in serving special interests than serving the people. Only one in 10 Americans believes their elected officials deserve to be re-elected.