Back Off of Obama!

Look, I get it.  People are frustrated that “he hasn’t acted quickly enough” on a lot of issues.  They want action, dammit!  Not words!

OK, fair enough.  But maybe try to take a step back and look at exactly what it is that he’s doing.

For example, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The overwhelming majority of his supporters wanted that archaic and ridiculous rule done away with the moment he took the oath of office.  He wants it gone, and had pledged during his presidential campaign to make it gone.  I want it gone, and it has no effect whatsoever on my life.  I mean, why shouldn’t an able-bodied and willing individual be allowed to serve in one of our country’s most noble professions?  Hell, just about every reasonably intelligent American wants it gone, so the conventional way of thinking questions why it’s taking to long to get rid of it?

But did we ever stop to think that, like most things in modern life, it just isn’t that simple?  There are a lot of different laws and policies that have to be considered, and possibly ultimately removed or changed.  There’s the overall effect on the military that must be considered (even though just about everyone agrees that the effect will likely be very minimal)–better to err on the side of caution and know exactly what you’re doing before you simply dive in.  And why not directly involve military leaders in the decision process, and let them do their due diligence in order to assure that they’re doing it the right way?

It’s going to happen, people.  But it’s a lot more complicated than simply saying “oh, don’t worry about that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell stuff anymore!”  And let’s face it, not everyone in the military is going to accept the changes and move on with their service.  There will have to be new laws and policies that prohibit and punish discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military.  The UCMJ will necessarily have to be changed.

Then there’s BP and the oil leak:  Everyone seems to be complaining that the Obama administration isn’t acting quickly enough.  Well, maybe there are a couple of things that they could’ve done better and quicker.  But for the most part, I think they’ve done everything they can given the circumstances.  Yet the leak hasn’t been stopped, the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf region is being devastated like never before.  And many are blaming the federal government for not having this mess cleaned up yet, criticizing Obama and his cabinet for being too deferential to BP.

What the hell do you want them to do?  Don’t you think that if they had the answers, if they knew how to plug this leak, or had someone who did know, they would’ve done it by now?  If the military had the expertise to stop this mess, does anyone think they would’ve hesitated for one second to send them in?

Well, they don’t have the answers, and neither does the military.  BP and their Big Oil compatriots are the only ones who could possibly have the know how, and they in fact claimed they did.  It’s not this administration’s fault that the MMS under the previous regime refused to question oil execs on their plans in the event of such a mishap; that they simply took them at their word that they knew exactly how to plug a leak of this magnitude.  It’s not the Obama administration’s fault that inspections performed prior to 2009 were at best lax, and at worst completely falsified.  And it’s not supposed to be the government’s responsibility to clean up the mess of a private entity’s malfeasance.

Those expecting an explosion of anger out of our president clearly don’t understand how the man works.  He doesn’t rule from the gut like his predecessor.  He’s not keen on kneejerk reactions and jumping to conclusions like his predecessor.  Rather, he is very thorough and meticulous, and likes to have the unbiased facts in front of him before he comes to any conclusions.  He wanted to wait until the results of the investigation into the causes of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig were available before he could assign blame.  And legally, he has to give BP every opportunity to fix its own mess (with, of course, a forceful nudge from the federal government, and with federal authorities constantly breathing down their neck and looking over their shoulders).  They are the ones, after all, that have the resources and technological know how (allegedly) to deal with it.  They are the ones with the technical expertise on oil wells and rigs.

The truth is that the government doesn’t have the answers, and honestly, it’s rather refreshing to see them admit that.  And quite frankly it irks me that this event is being called “Obama’s Katrina,” as if there is any comparison to Bush’s failure to act in the wake of a NATURAL disaster when clearly there was a LOT that could’ve been done to save lives and spare so many others so much misery.  We know how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.  But this is a man made catastrophe unlike anything anybody has ever seen in human history!  No one knows what to do.  But the feds were out there from the very start, mobilizing fleets with booms, mobilizing clean up crews, mobilizing investigators, gathering some of the world’s smartest people to look for solutions (although no solutions were found).

Unlike with Katrina, the feds leaped immediately into action, limited as they were in what they could actually accomplish, and limited as they were in resources. No one has the answers, unfortunately.  And this will take time to fix.

How Obama deals with Congress:  Many believe that he’s been far too conciliatory toward Congress, and that his administration needs to take a more active role in crafting legislation.  I see things differently, and I think I understand what he’s doing.

In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration began a White House tradition of hands on legislating.  The administration would craft legislation, hand it to Congress, and direct its passage into law.  Since then it’s become a tradition for Congress to wait for the White House to do all the heavy lifting.  Being a constitutional scholar and a former Senator, Obama understands that it’s not supposed to work like that.  He understands the idea behind the co-equal branches of government, and has attempted to restore that responsibility to Congress.

Instead of spoon feeding Congress and fostering the laziness that has plagued the institution for far too long, he is forcing them to do the job they were elected to do in the first place:  Create legislation and send it to the President’s desk for approval.  This way no one can accuse this Congress of being a rubber stamp for Obama.  And, in theory, at least, we will get better laws because of it.

Look, I get it.  We live in the information age where the answers to our questions are literally at our fingertips.  The internet and cable TV has created this 24 hour news cycle and an insatiable thirst for an immediate response.  But the cold, hard truth is that answers–REAL, viable, truthful answers to our problems–are not always immediately available.  Personally, I appreciate the fact that we have a guy in the White House that isn’t afraid to listen to all angles, all opinions.  We have a guy who is patient and isn’t afraid to wait until he has all of the pertinent information before he makes a decision, and ensures that what he comes up with is the best possible scenario out there based on ALL of the available resources.  We have a guy who is not afraid to ask for the opinion of some very smart people, even and ESPECIALLY if they disagree with him.

We have a guy who is smart enough to realize that he himself does not have all of the answers, who knows what he doesn’t know, but knows where to turn for that knowledge.

Former Chargers GM John Butler once told me that it was important to get more than one opinion on a player when considering him for the NFL draft, particularly on one of the more highly rated players.  He said that this was especially true when you had divergent opinions, because we couldn’t all be exactly right every single time.  And when you had differing opinions, the truth was always somewhere in the middle.

This president understands that the truth is somewhere in the middle.


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