Watching President Obama on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show last night reminded me of why I think so highly of him. In no particular order, my incomplete list of reasons includes the following:
- He takes the long view, in both directions. Challenged about the health care bill that passed, he can tell us about the first iterations of Social Security and Medicare. Looking toward the future, he knows that the current health care legislation will evolve, too.
- The time he went on Fox and was rudely and repeatedly interrupted. He remained thoughtful and calm. You just can’t turn him into the angry Black man.
- The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
- Sonia Sotomayor
- Elena Kagan
- The White House science fair
- Late night votes on health care legislation. They were televised, and not just on C-Span. They were historic and they were exciting.
- The extra money in my checks. I remember the tax cut every time. Always have.
- The dinner Obama hosted honoring John McCain right after the election.
- Cash for clunkers.
- The Nobel Prize.
- The way he says Pakistan.
- Inviting Republicans as well as Democrats to the White House, for serious discussions as well as social events.
- He admits mistakes. He apologizes.
- All the intelligent, knowledgeable, thoughtful, and patient people around him. Consider the Morning Joe ritual. With a three-hour platform, it can seem interminable. Joe Scarborough can go off on a half-cocked misinformed rant that monopolizes the show and cows everyone else around the table. Then Valerie Jarrett will show up and demonstrate what it means to be smart, gracious, reasonable, and informed.
- During the campaign kerfuffle over Sarah Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter, Obama said that family was off-limits. He meant it.
- The bikini graph. Job losses got worse and worse under Bush; under Obama, jobs are headed back up in the right direction. The graph is not about rhetoric or ideology; it is about results.
- The President’s solemn middle-of-the-night visit to Dover Air Force Base.
- Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, even after she scolded Obama during the campaign, saying, “Shame on you, Barack Obama.”
- Joe Biden as Vice-President, even after he had described Obama as articulate and clean.
- The televised meeting with Congressional leaders about the health care legislation. Obama the serious one. Puerile McCain cry-babying about the election. Grown-up Obama telling him the election was over and it was time to govern.
- The President’s unpolished sense of humor and delivery. The way he laughs a little just after he says something funny.
- Character. It matters. Many who mock Obama are characters. Barack Obama has character.
- Infrastructure spending.
- I like what’s not there: personal dirt. He’s the one who restored honor and dignity to the White House – both personally and politically.
- The professional left that has thrived in this time of Obama. Especially Rachel Maddow. Smart, smart, smart. Honorable. No stunts. Not a sycophant. Not a lefty caricature. And funny.
- His sense of self. Some want more of the feel-your-pain of a Bill Clinton or the ruthlessness of a Rove, but Barack Obama has seen a lot of the world and had done a lot even before he became president. He’s looked inside and out. He knows who he is. He’s the real thing.
Yes, Barack Obama has said or done a few things that have made me wince. In the big picture, though, the slips won’t stick. “Heck of a job” is a heck of a headline the day after Obama’s Daily Show appearance, but that’s not who he is.
As other candidates and elected officials run away from the press (literally) and stumble over the first amendment, and as they and their right-wing commentators stoke fear, ramp up xenophobia, and sound the dog whistles for violence, Obama stands tall. “You lie,” they holler. “Shove it,” they shout. The birthers and the deathers parade with their signs of Obama as the Nazi or Obama with a bone through his nose. But they just can’t drag him down to that level.
After all the demonizing and the 24/7 Foxifizing, when you see the real person, the crazy does not compute. Whether he is on Fox or the Daily Show or anywhere else, Barack Obama is not extreme, he’s not petty, he’s not scary, and he’s not angry. He’s the brilliant, reflective, inclusive person we elected. You can disagree with his policies (I disagree with some of his policies) but can you really doubt that he wants the best for our country?
In the end – the end of this election season, next election season, and the end of this century, Barack Obama’s dignity will endure. I’m proud that he’s our President.