Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Hourglass Presidency

You know how movies and TV shows like to use an hourglass to illustrate how quickly the sands of time run out?

As a matter of fact, I was just thinking the other day that the first time I can remember seeing that particular visual aid used in a movie or TV show was when I was a child and I saw "The Wizard of Oz" on TV for the first time. I must have been about 5 or 6, and the winged monkeys scared the crap out of me. Yes, I was young and gullible, but I got the concept of the hourglass.

It seems to me the analogy applies to presidencies, this presidency in particular.

Last year, it was a big deal for Democrats to get their 60th seat in the Senate because that meant that the Democrats could prevent a Republican filibuster. Procedurally, it meant the Democrats could call the tune and the Republicans would have no choice in the matter.

Having that 60th vote was so important that Ted Kennedy, in his final days, arranged for the law to be changed so the Democratic governor could appoint the senator who would take his place until a special election could be held. Kennedy wanted to make sure, it was said, that there would be no obstacles to health care reform because that was the cause of his life. And, as the Democrats took Kennedy to his grave last August, one after another pledged they would pass health care reform in his memory.

Well, the voters in Kennedy's home state chose a Republican to replace him. That means that the Republicans can filibuster if they want to, and the Democrats won't be able to stop them.

And, currently, political observers like Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball and The Rothenberg Political Report are suggesting that enough Senate seats that are currently held by Democrats are potential takeover targets to make the Democrats nervous about the midterm elections.

Everyone has an opinion on the matter.

Some would encourage Barack Obama to continue a bipartisan approach. The Christian Science Monitor calls this Obama's "Bill Clinton moment," referring to the welfare reform plan he oversaw after the 1994 midterms put both the House and Senate in Republican control.

Ruben Navarette writes, for CNN, that Democrats should not attempt to push anything through without the support of some Republicans.

But I'm inclined to agree with Harold Pollack of The New Republic, who says the time to act is now.

I agree that health care reform is important, but, as I have been saying for many months now, I think jobs are more important. There was a time there, for maybe a week, right after Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts when Obama and the Democrats did a fine job of giving lip service to job creation.

But they're back to promoting health care reform.

So if nothing else is going to get done until we've seen health care reform as far as we can, let's finish it off and then turn our attention to promoting job creation.

Because that is what public opinion polls indicate that the voters are most concerned about.

I know, polls are only snapshots of opinion at a particular moment. But the polls have been remarkably consistent.

Any politician who ignores what they're saying does so at his own risk. And, at the moment, those polls are screaming J–O–B–S!

The Democrats had better come up with a strategy soon. The grains of sand are running through the hourglass.

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