Analysis: Obama and Romney are back, and show how American politics have changed for the worse

Obama made his first post-presidential trip to the White House on Tuesday and showed he hadn’t missed a political step, telling demoralized Democrats worried about a potential midterm election to take heart and remember what political power is for.

But as much as anyone wants to believe it, with Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and former President Donald Trump’s totally committed to democracy Republican Party threatening authoritarianism, the good old days are far from back, and they weren’t that good. anyway, as anyone who remembers the fierce disputes over the passage of Obamacare and the government shutdowns of that era will recall.

Still, if things were bad then, they are indisputably worse now.

Disinformation, conspiracy theories, lies, culture wars, and thinly veiled racism now dominate Washington, and judging by recent events, an increasing number of lawmakers see them as a ladder to power. Obama is set to address disinformation in a speech in Chicago on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Trump acolyte Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida rebuked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, warning that the chaos of the Afghan withdrawal and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was due to the U.S. military he studied “awakening” rather than strategy.

Gaetz’s histrionics was a classic example of a new generation of lawmakers using their platform to create viral media moments designed to encourage unhinged conservative news theories, rather than build a legislative career.

Her outburst came within a week of Republican senators smearing Jackson again, painting her as an enabler of sex offenders, despite a sentencing record as a judge that is well within the mainstream. While she will almost certainly be confirmed, Jackson’s treatment highlighted how the process of installing a new associate justice on the Supreme Court has turned into a vicious political gambit for rank-and-file voters.

Proving that the bar can always be lowered in Washington, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, one of several senators who used Jackson’s hearings to highlight their potential presidential ambitions, suggested that the first black woman nominated to serve on the top bench of the nation would have been lenient with the Nazis. In a Senate speech, Cotton made reference to former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who was the lead prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials of Adolf Hitler’s subordinates after World War II.

“You know, the last Justice Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and try the case against the Nazis. This Justice Jackson could have gone there to defend them,” Cotton said.

Meanwhile, Washington is still resonating with a bizarre episode triggered by North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claim that he was invited to an orgy and saw the nation’s drug war leaders snorting cocaine. The House GOP refused to censure members for attending white supremacist rallies or covering up Trump’s attempted coup from history. But he drew the line at Cawthorn. The congressman earned a reprimand because he embarrassed his colleagues in front of his constituents.

In yet another sign of its warped sense of right and wrong, the House GOP is already threatening to use its potential new majority next year to kill the Select Committee investigating a much larger transgression, Trump’s incitement to insurrection. of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Obama wasn’t the only White House powerhouse to return to center stage in Washington on Tuesday. Ivanka Trump was testifying before the House committee as members try to establish how much she knows about her father’s frustration with America’s tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

That the appearance of a former first daughter before such a body is now considered perfectly routine is a sign of how mind-bogglingly twisted Washington has become.

obama is back

Obama received a hero’s welcome at the White House.

More than five years had passed since he had walked out the front door under the North Porch. There was never a chance that Trump would have it again for the traditional presentation of a portrait of a former president. And given Trump’s racist birth campaign against his predecessor, there’s even less chance that Obama showed up for such an event.

Obama, instantly at ease behind the presidential seal on Biden’s podium, politely mocked his former vice president for his aviator sunglasses and love of ice cream. He began his speech by addressing his host as “Vice President Biden” before quickly correcting himself and saying, “That was a joke!” But two people close to Obama later told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that it was a slip of the tongue, and not how Obama intended to begin his remarks by touting the legacy of the Affordable Care Act. .

He recalled the struggles the couple had fought to finally pass the Affordable Care Act, which secured health insurance for millions of Americans for the first time after it was signed into law in 2010.

Obama used that experience as a parable to urge Democrats not to give up on reform, even if it falls short of initial aspirations.

“I’m out of the arena and I know how bummed people can be with Washington — Democrats, Republicans, independents,” Obama said. “Progress feels too slow at times. Victories are often incomplete. And in a country as large and as diverse as ours, consensus never comes easily.”

The former president appeared to be speaking directly to his party, which has been torn by divisions between progressives and moderates that have stalled Biden’s ambitious social spending and climate change plan. As was often the case while he was president, Obama eloquently framed his party’s options in simple but compelling language as he laid out a mission statement for the midterm elections.

“But what the Affordable Care Act shows is that it is driven by the core idea that, together, we can improve the lives of this generation and the next,” Obama said.

He added, “If you are persistent, if you stand firm and are willing to rise above obstacles and criticism and continually improve where you fall short, you can make America better. You can impact millions of lives.” .”

Obama’s faith in the American system seemed a bit archaic at a time when that democracy is under mortal threat from Trump’s lies about voter fraud and the former president’s apparent new campaign for a second term that is sure to be even more authoritarian and unhinged than his first.

Yet Obama also had the luxury Tuesday to walk out of the White House and take off the tie he said he now rarely wears. The presidential burden of responding to Vladimir Putin’s atrocities, the raging tempest of rising inflation and a likely Republican-bashed midterm election now falls on Biden.

Romney once led his party. Now it is an outlier.

When Romney ran to deprive Obama of a second term in the White House in 2012, Democrats criticized the Republican candidate and former venture capitalist as a soulless and ruthless corporate raider.

Now, he could be your best Republican friend in Washington, and the fact that in the span of 10 years he can go from leading his party to being a maverick from Trump-era extremism shows how much the GOP has changed.

In his own way, Romney also defends a functional type of politics.

His support for Jackson recalled a time, not long ago, when presidents could expect broad support for their Supreme Court nominees.

But the process has become so politicized that this is no longer the case. Democrats and Republicans argue over who put ideology at the center of the process. But now he has become the main driver of confirmation hearings.

Romney, who no one would mistake for a liberal, explained that after spending time with Jackson, he changed his mind about her ahead of his expected confirmation vote in the Senate this week.

“I became convinced that she is in the mainstream. She is also a highly qualified, intelligent and capable person,” Romney told reporters. She said that while she doesn’t expect to agree with Jackson on everything, she will join Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Liza Murkowski of Alaska in supporting her nomination.

Romney also delivered another gift to the White House this week. He is leading a pledge campaign to secure $10 billion in funding for a new Covid-19 relief plan that the White House believes is necessary to head off any future waves of the virus. The plan cuts funding for global vaccination campaigns that could wipe out future variants. But Romney is the administration’s best hope for the Republican support that would be needed to force any eventual deal through the Senate.

Like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the former GOP candidate is also one of the few in his party to speak out against Trump’s extremism, knowing he is excluding himself from his own party.

Romney has also received praise lately for warning in 2012 that Russia was the number one “geopolitical enemy” of the United States.

Obama’s jab at his rival in a presidential debate that “the 1980s are now calling for their foreign policy back” was full of sarcasm. But subsequent events, especially the invasion of Ukraine, have shown that Moscow remains one of America’s main adversaries.

Romney’s corporate conservatism and rich man spirit were easy prey for the Obama campaign amid turbulent politics a decade ago.

But the moral courage that Romney is displaying at the end of his career is proving that the Democrats’ caricature of a man without a soul was profoundly unfair.

Leave a Comment