There’s a fantastic episode in the first season of The West Wing when all of the staff are disillusioned with the tasks they have been assigned. Josh is exploring the idea of the President nominating two people to the FEC, without taking the names straight from the Congressional leaders. Sam has a meeting with members of the military to ascertain if there can be any progress made in repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that banned openly gay men and women serving their country in uniform. Toby complains to Leo that they have secured only one victory in slightly over a year since the President took office. All of the senior members of the administration, including the President, have become frustrated and the reason is determined to be that they always head for the safe ground – forgetting the grandiose promises of the campaign, favouring instead centrist policies that they believe will increase their chances of getting a second term. The White House Chief of Staff confronts President Bartlet at the end of the episode to tell him that it is time for them to take risks, pursue the things they believe in and, if they lose, at least they put up a fight. The new initiative was summed up by Leo with the mantra of “Let Bartlet be Bartlet”.
I know President Obama is a busy man, so may not have time to watch the whole show, but I wish somebody would at least play him the closing scene – perhaps leave it on loop in the residence – in an attempt to inspire him to focus more on doing what he believes, not solely on retaining office in November. I read “The Audacity of Hope” back in the summer of 2007, when then-Senator Obama was running third in the polls to get the Democratic Presidential Nomination behind John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. For the first time, I believed in a politician and was actually motivated to get behind his candidacy, developing a rooting interest in an election beyond hoping one particular person loses. It was not just me either; all through this campaign, Obama was able to garner grass-roots support because he came across as genuine, passionate about issues and concerned about how to fix problems and would not shy away from a fight.
President Obama’s election gave hope to African-Americans; to young people; to those on the left whose voices had been in the wilderness for the previous eight years; to many who had become disenfranchised with the political system. On his third day in office, the President signed an executive order that guaranteed that the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay would be closed within a year – more than three years later, it remains open. When the health care debate started, the plan was to have a public option that would guarantee health coverage for those who could not afford it, nor had a job that offered insurance as a benefit. However, this was quickly dropped and the bill that was passed – now known as “Obamacare” thanks to the power and influence of Fox News – contained a mandate that everyone was required to buy insurance. That law, which is likely to be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court next month, did nothing to help those who are most in need, instead it served only the insurance companies who were guaranteed more customers. Continue reading