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article imageOp-Ed: Has President Obama Lost His Mojo?

By Sadiq Green     Sep 1, 2009 in Politics
Among the attributes that first caught America’s attention about Senator Barack Obama were his vision, oratory and his capacity to appeal to an individual’s conscience and perhaps call one to a higher purpose.
Barack Obama successfully portrayed the notion that human beings can be moved, encouraged and inspired to achieve great things when called upon to do so.
After the first four years of the divisive and crude pronouncements of George W. Bush, it was then Senator Obama’s vision and gift of oratory that touched the delegates at the Democratic National Convention, the media and people across the nation in 2004. That speech immediately catapulted him to political rock star status. Vision and oratory is Barack Obama’s mojo, and the question is; has he lost it? It is a question that has become a popular over the Internet.
Hillary Clinton attempted to disparage Mr. Obama’s words and speeches as unimportant during the primary contest against Barack Obama. John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin did the same during the general election campaign. Yet what has proven true throughout the course of human affairs in America, is that words do matter.
Abraham Lincoln conveyed a sense of definitive resolve to preserve the Union in his Gettysburg Address. At the height of the Great Depression, the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his Fireside Chats, inspired poor working-class people, and the nation as a whole to believe a brighter tomorrow was possible. John F. Kennedy knew how to call the nation to a purpose beyond one’s own immediate interests when he stated – “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Lyndon B. Johnson, not a great orator by any stretch, leaned into the camera in a nationally televised address after Bloody Sunday in Selma, and in his own southern, folksy way, said “and, we shall overcome.” Those words as much as any, led to a decisive turning point in the struggle to restore voting rights for Blacks in the south. Dr. Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech is so highly celebrated in America and the world that it stirs a sense within many people – of any race or ethnicity - that people can rise above any held prejudices and shortcomings to climb to higher heights of achievement and fulfillment as a human family.
When Barack Obama spoke on the campaign trail and articulated the hope for “Change,” it was as if a fresh breeze blew across the American political landscape and captured the imagination of millions of people who were sick and tired of politics as usual and desperate for a new sense of national purpose. His agenda was not particularly radical or progressive, yet his modest proposals for creating a green economy, providing a 21st century education for every child in this country, enhancing worker rights and achieving universal health care, were in stark contrast to the reactionary agenda of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and his neocon cabal. It was just sufficient enough to encourage millions to believe that under his leadership, a better life, America and world was possible.
However, something seems to have happened to President Obama since taking up residence in the White House and that bold call for change has been somewhat diminished. Sure, he inherited an utter mess from Bush/Cheney, but rather than be bold President Obama has tended to be calculating and cautious, with a tendency to seek compromise with intransigent Republicans in the name of bi-partisanship. He has yet to take a stand and fight for what he truly believes in on critical issues, utilizing his brilliant oratorical skills to vigorously articulate a vision and program for a new direction to galvanize the people of this nation.
Nowhere is this more evident than during this current struggle for health care reform. President Obama has been all over the map, perhaps sending mixed signals rather than firmly and fervently presenting his vision and plan to ensure that every person in this country has access to quality and affordable health care. His pronouncements as a State Senator in Illinois indicate that in his heart, he believes a single payer system is the best way to guarantee universal coverage and significantly reduce costs. However as President, he has never mounted the podium to clearly and forcefully educate the American public to this reality. To date President Obama has been unwilling to move beyond those pronouncements and lectures to vigorously argue the case that the issue is not how to keep the insurance and pharmaceutical companies profitable, but how to prevent disease, keep people healthy and effectively treat those who get sick.
More importantly, President Obama has failed to utilize his oratorical gifts to make the compelling case that universal health care is a moral issue and a human right, not a privilege. Right wing conservatives are stoking the flames of fear accusing President Obama and the Democrats of planning to ration care so that those who currently have insurance will have fewer benefits, although this is already occurring. President Obama should be challenging the American people to view universal health care as part of their national purpose as a civilized society. American’s need to be inspired and encouraged to move beyond narrow concern for self to a sense of compassion and commitment to the least of these among us.
Unfortunately, this is not what President Obama is doing. The nationally televised remembrances leading up to the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy, who made universal health care the labor of his life, was the perfect platform for President Obama and democrats to call on the nation to fulfill his dream. To the dismay of a number of political commentators, he inexplicably passed on the opportunity. It appears that Obama has lost his voice. He is increasingly beginning to look just like another ordinary politician.
In order to fulfill the promise of his campaign, President Obama needs to find his mojo once again. Otherwise, he is in danger of becoming a one term, pedestrian President.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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