Dr. Eugene T. Paslov: President showing leadership amid mountain of obstacles
It appears President Obama can’t do anything right. The right-wing media machine has a foothold on toxic messages like “health care is not good for the nation,” or “corporate polluters are just innocent businessmen,” or “our nation is so debt-ridden we are heading for bankruptcy.” None of this is true.
These are exactly the critiques conservatives made when President Roosevelt passed Social Security and unemployment insurance in the 1930s. We heard the criticisms again from the same conservative base when President Johnson introduced civil rights and federal aid to education legislation in the ’60s. But in each case, our nation grew in power and wealth.
Once-proud conservative intellectuals have lost their way. They believe the “just say no” world in which they now live will return us to our original 18th century Constitution – wherein blacks were considered three-fifths of a person, women were not allowed to vote, and only literate, wealthy landowners could participate in the then “small” Constitutional government – and all would be right with our country. I don’t think so.
President Obama has been confronted with two wars, the worst economic down-turn since the Great Depression, criminally high unemployment, Wall Street and banking fraud and now the BP oil spill – the worst environmental disaster in our history – almost all perpetrated by irresponsible conservatives and their pro-corporation, anti-government, deregulation mantra. President Obama has approached each of these national/worldwide calamities (and others) calmly, with thoughtful intelligence and the world’s best experts working day and night to get diverse decisionmakers to find solutions. He is one of the finest political leaders in our history, though not according to some.
The president reached out a bipartisan hand from the very beginning, usually slapped away; but he has driven his policies to successful implementation. We have the beginnings of health care for all; the economy is starting to recover; bankers are being compelled to be responsible; national debt is being repaid and we are beginning to experience hope for our future. It is slow – too slow for most of us – but nonetheless we are moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile our toxic political atmosphere is filled with hate and fear. We see it in the tea party signs that depict the president with demeaning symbols. The “birthers” continue to spew ugly lies. Twenty-four hour radio fills the air with hateful messages. Candidates like Sharron Angle talk about “taking out” elected leaders with “Second Amendment remedies.” One assumes she meant it innocently, but it is the language of violence. We should worry.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.