Presidents’ Day means something different to all Americans. For shoppers it is another holiday sale, and school-age children know it as a day off school, and public employees recognize it as a three-day weekend. Presidents’ Day was first proposed in 1951 not to honor any particular President, but to honor the office of the Presidency; it took 20 years until the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. For Americans interested in the meaning of the federal holiday, it is the time they harken back to presidents in the nation’s history that directed the nation through a difficult time successfully and likely remember the contributions of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt who certainly made momentous decisions that eventually lead to a better society and nation. Instead of waxing philosophically on the achievements of past presidents, it is worthwhile to take stock of the current President and recognize the monumental hurdles he cleared while battling Republicans who made destroying his presidency and the nation’s economy their sole reason for serving in Congress.
Barack Obama was never going to be all things to all Americans because he is a left-leaning Centrist that automatically put him at odds with those on the left and the right. The wailing and gnashing of teeth by those on the left exposed their ignorance of presidential powers as well as their misconception of the man’s ability to stay one step ahead of his significant and despicable opposition while serving the interests of the entire nation. The so-called Hamwalds, the far left that railed against this President for not granting their every wish, revealed they were no better, and arguably worse, than conservatives who opposed Mr. Obama on racial, religious, and social policy grounds that has driven their obstruction and deliberate efforts to drive the economy and most Americans into the ground. It is arguable that some liberal pundits and those on the far-left played a significant role in ushering in the teabagger Congress that has attempted to destroy the government and set the economy into freefall. However, for all the damage the far left wrought on the country by sitting out the 2010 midterm elections to protest President Obama’s failure to live up to their blatantly dreamlike expectations of a liberal’s dream, the right has been absolutely un-American in their opposition and outright obstruction.
It is fairly well-known now that while new President Barack Obama was celebrating the Inauguration of the first African American President, Republicans were meeting in secret to plot how best to thwart any of his efforts to save the economic disaster they created during the Bush administration. It was their unrestrained deficit spending, two unfunded and unnecessary wars, unfunded tax cuts for the rich, a botched rollout of an unfunded Medicare prescription plan, and deregulation that gave banks and the financial sector the tools to create the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression that this President waded into with a clear plan to save the economy.
What never ceases to amaze is the great lengths this President has went to include Republicans in decision making that would have given them a share of the credit for saving the economy by enacting policies they at one time supported. For example, Republicans gave George W. Bush economic stimulus and tax cuts when he asked for them, and yet they wailed like wounded Harpies when President Obama proposed economic stimulus that included a very substantial amount of tax cuts for 95% of Americans. In fact, even after the President’s stimulus was in effect, the Koch brothers funded and Republicans embraced teabaggers (their chosen name) who protested they were “taxed enough already” and carried signs decrying the “Muslim socialist” in the White House. Neither Republicans, the Koch brothers, racist and religious teabaggers, nor gun fanatics complained or threatened a revolt when Bush-Republicans did the exact same thing while the economy was still functioning normally.
President Obama also gave Republicans a reason to boast when he proposed their conservative plan for addressing the failed healthcare system that raped Americans who could afford healthcare coverage and kept tens-of-millions of Americans out of reach of even basic healthcare. In fact, the once-respected Heritage Foundation that created the model the Affordable Care Act lurched so far into teabagger territory that they have spent tens-of-millions of dollars assailing the ACA solely because an African American proposed a conservative idea and protected consumers by reining in insurance industry practices that amounted to outright thievery of policy holders’ premiums. Republicans could have taken a major share of the credit for enacting the ACA if they were not so racially motivated to oppose this President.
Barack Obama is not a perfect President regardless which side of the political spectrum one resides, but then again he presides over the entire country and has the unenviable task of finding solutions that benefit America and all its people. Invariably, there will be some group opposed to his policies, or feel put upon because the President made a decision that was contrary to their individual beliefs. This column was apoplectic when he invited Rick Warren to invoke god at his 2009 inauguration, and continued Bush’s absurd and arguably unconstitutional practice known as “faith-based initiatives.” However, as the President said during his victory speech in 2008, he is President for all Americans, and the sad fact is that a majority of Americans embrace the Christian religion, so the President made the right decision for the majority of Americans.
Of all of Barack Obama’s qualities, it is remarkable that despite the vitriol, obstruction, personal attacks, racial animus, and sheer hatred conservatives blatantly express in public in mainstream media, this President maintains dignity and grace a slightly lesser human being would be loath to tolerate. No president has had their loyalty to America called into question, or faced blatant calls for assassination, lynching, or violent rebellion because Republicans promoted the idea this President is “not one of us real (read white) Americans,” “needs to learn to be American,” or “sympathizes and supports” the nation’s enemies.
This country’s most dangerous enemies are Republicans and their dark money supporters, and yet President Obama resists responding to their hateful attacks meant to whip white-trash racists into a killing frenzy. Through it all, President Obama has kept his focus on doing everything within his constitutional limitations to help the nation and all its citizens in the face of Republican opposition and obstruction. Fortunately for this country, the majority of Americans comprehended that this President is indeed working for all Americans or they would not have re-elected him to continue the difficult job of working against recalcitrant Republicans whose sole purpose is sabotaging the economy to portray the President as a failure.
It is highly likely that no President in American history faced opposition to helping the nation climb out of the disaster Republicans left for President Obama. It is true that Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a coup attempt to overthrow the government because his policies did not comport with bankers’ idea that their interests superseded those of the nation and its people, but he also served with a Congress that understood the nation’s survival meant embracing policies and an agenda that today’s Republicans work tirelessly to overturn. President Obama has never had the luxury of working with a Congress that did not want the nation to fail, or oppose policies that worked to benefit all Americans. That may be why history will look kindly on Barack Obama because regardless the attempts to destroy the government, throttle the economy, and send the majority of Americans into poverty, he has been successful in spite of Republican opposition and obstruction.
Barack Obama may not be every American’s idea of a great President, but when all is said and done, he did save the economy, put millions of Americans back to work, repair the nation’s image around the world, and keep the nation out of wars Republicans lusted to initiate. He also has been instrumental in bringing the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights to all Americans in spite of a substantial attempt by social conservatives to transform the nation into a biblical theocracy founded on hatred of gays, women, and non-white Americans. Through it all, this President has never complained, or accused Republicans and their supporters that they hate America or are shredding the Constitution because they truly hate America as much as they hate Barack Obama. For that alone he deserves a measure of respect because it takes a heroic effort to stay focused on helping America and its people succeed while outmaneuvering this nation’s most dangerous enemies; social conservatives, corporate fascists, and the Republican Party.