||Dear President Obama
The Spring of hope.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
Dickens and Shakespeare capture the moments.
I have never written a letter, open or otherwise, to a President—an honor I’m pretty sure you can live without.
How has it gone and where are we headed?
Some good things—the Supreme Court appointments of Sotomayor and Kagan; the stimulus package; extension of benefits and payroll tax cuts.
A lot has gone south.
Your admirable efforts to cast Henry Louis Gates’ atrocious treatment by the police as a beery Kumbaya was a fiasco. This is the only area in which I rank as an expert—Gates should have sued the police. Instead you apotheosized the cop into a hero for racists in the ranks, who have given him standing ovations.
You abandoned Elizabeth Warren—champion of the American Consumer.
You reappointed FBI Director Robert Muller.
You appointed Larry Summers as an economic advisor. Unwise. You became President to preside over stuff like that?
Bush’s tax cuts (on dividends, capital gains, middle incomes and high incomes) expired on 12/31/10 and you extended them. Tragic folly.
Suppose you hadn’t caved—you’d have been left with two choices—burgeoning tax receipts that would admittedly have endangered the recovery, except that the Republicans would likely have begged you to at least reinstate some dividend, capital gains and middle class tax relief. Aren’t tax cuts what they’re about? And you’d be left with what you’ve always wanted—a richly deserved tax on the overclass. You caved, buddy.
And then the disaster of the debt limit—an artificially created issue where you were, again, rolled.
And what might you have done?
You faced two big crises.
A housing mess.
A jobless issue.
You could’ve fought for the proposal that bankruptcy judges resolve default questions in housing and insisted on a tax plan (gasoline tax being the likeliest) that would employ many to repair roads, water systems, bridges and other infrastructure. The bankers who created the problem beat you.
We are not disappointed; we are frightened.
The window closes, but a bit of daylight remains.
You said you’d rather be right than President. I confess, with some pain, that I don’t believe you.
The good of the people is the chief law. Cicero.
What must you do to be saved?
Please announce you’re going to let the Bush tax cuts expire on 12/31/12, and, if the Republicans want to talk tax reform before then, fine.
Ours is a two class society—overclass (you and me) and underclass (the many and growing millions below the poverty level). We sent you there not to widen the chasm but to narrow it.
I spent a long time in public life before I learned the only thing that mattered is to do the right thing. So I understand. You’re young. But we ain’t got the time.
Are you conflict adverse? Are we looking at Jimmy Carter redux?
Politics is a contact sport.
When you emerged our cup runneth over—a black man, cultured, educated, articulate, writerly and embodying the best of our hopes and dreams.
A curious, ironic twist of fate.
You, of all folks, stand in the way of the Birth of a Nation. I am a Zionist, but Palestine must live. Can this be questioned?
History is a tough task master, but she demands courage.
The Jews were on the battlements of all major reforms in the America of the 1900s: education, jobs, housing, civil and human rights (it was Schwerner and Goodman with Chaney) and every other tough struggle for human dignity. Remind them of it. We need them at the barricades again, not in police blotters for white collar crimes.
I know LBJ lost the South over the 1965 Civil Rights Act. More importantly, so did he—and he signed it anyway. The Right Thing. Giving a speech on Palestine nationhood will validate your Nobel Peace Prize.
Harry Truman ran, in 1948, against racist Dixiecrats, a do-nothing Congress and, perhaps incidentally, against Thomas E. Dewey. He was right—and President.
What would this man say?
Give ‘em hell, Barry!