Thursday, December 9, 2010

Confronting Confrontation

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, Barack Obama is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Given a mandate by an electorate fed-up with eight years of Republican policies, Obama seemed poised to lead America into a fresh, new era. Factoring in a Democratic-controlled Congress, the promise of January 20, 2009 seemed infinite.

But a funny thing happened. The electorate that thought it was getting a president committed to righting the wrongs of the Bush administration instead got a president routinely unable to corral congressional Democrats and get them on the same page to enact desperately-needed legislation.

A president who, despite being repeatedly subjected to the most-obnoxious elements of the conservative noise machine, attempted only to appease it.

We thought we were voting for the voice of change in November of 2008. It turns out we were voting for at-any-and-all-costs bipartisanship. In doing so, Obama has consistently snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

As a slight, bookish boy not given to athletics, I was overly familiar with bullies.

This came to a head one day as I was returning to school after lunch. I encountered Billy Smith on the sledding hill near my home, and for whatever reason, Billy was in a foul mood. He believed that giving me a beating would right all the wrong in his world.

I attempted to ignore him, gamely continuing on. But Billy would not be denied. And when he landed a punch to my face, I became enraged. I kicked and punched with a fury unknown to me. And as the fight moved to the steep rear slope of the hill, I saw my opportunity and pushed him down it.

It gave me great satisfaction to see him tumbling. To see him get scratched and bruised by the cement-like clumps of earth. And when he reached bottom, I heard a strange and unexpected sound—Billy the Bully was crying. I gathered my books and continued to school.

I felt empowered in a way I never had before.

Billy never touched me again, and even made an awkward attempt at friendship. But the enduring lesson I took from that day was that there is a small group of people who respect and understand just one thing: force.

It is sad. And it is unfortunate. But it is true.

It is also something Barack Obama will never understand.

In his news conference responding to criticism over a deal he cut with Republicans, Obama defended the compromise by saying that he couldn’t have working-class Americans held hostage by Republican threats.

What he doesn’t get is that by repeatedly kowtowing to the bully, he extends and entrenches the bullying. And consequently, the desperate state of the country he is entrusted to lead.

Mr. President, it's time to push Billy Smith down the hill.

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