Witte: An open letter to President Obama


Photo courtesy of CNN

President Barack Obama speaking to reporters in the briefing room at the White House on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. President Obama announced that he has invited House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House for a meeting Thursday to discuss deficit reduction and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling.

Jacob Witte

Dear President Obama,

It must be pretty great to be you right now. Not just the president of the United States and leader of the free world, but, more specifically, you: Barack Obama. Right now, the election of 2012 looms just more than a year away, and it seems that you are close to being in full campaign mode. Stopping in small towns with the shirt sleeves rolled up, playing once again the “down-to-earth” politician that can connect with the common voter in order to win a vote.

Things are different, though, this time around. You have been president now for nearly three years. Many important pieces of legislation have been signed, and the economy has been through a roller coaster. The debt ceiling debate was a political circus the likes of which have rarely been seen before. America’s debt rating has recently been downgraded for the first time ever. The jobs report for August was flat. Your approval ratings are at the lowest point in your presidency. Things just do not seem to be looking up.

To add insult to injury, many of your 2008 supporters are now leery of whether they can vote for you for another four years. And yet, you know they will, and therein lays the problem: You are banking on your same 2008 supporters because you know there is no way they will be voting for any Republican that wins the nomination.

This, of course, means you can continue to cave to Republicans’ every demand, as you have been doing for the last three years. Now, of course, I am not implying that compromise is wrong; compromise is the spirit of politics. But when the Bush tax cuts were about to end, who extended every single cut, even for the richest 1 percent of the country, for two more years? When the breaching the debt ceiling was just around the corner, who caved in and let the GOP have “98 percent” of everything it wanted (according to Speaker John Boehner)? And, of course, just days ago, you reversed your stance to regulate greenhouse emissions in order to be more “business friendly.” These are just a few recent examples, as I do have a word limit here.

Now I know the blame does not lie completely with you, as there are still Democrats in Congress, and you are not a dictator. But there certainly were more steps you could have taken to be sure these actions did not happen in the way they did. It seems that “compromise” in this sense means that Republicans got what they wanted at the expense of, well, everyone else. John F. Kennedy had a great quote about factions like this, as he once said, “We cannot negotiate with those who say, ‘What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable.'” Kennedy, of course, was referring to the Soviets, but I think it works well here also.

Let us return to the topic of the election. You know that many of your supporters have stuck with you throughout the hardships, and that they will continue to vote for you because of how scary the other side looks. However, that is no excuse to continue to betray those who voted you into office. Your hardline shift to center-right policies has left your voting base disenfranchised by your about-face.

So take a look into the future. Not that far, only January 20, 2013. If you want to be dancing in jubilee at your second inauguration, you would do well to support and fight for the people who elected you. It will be a long and arduous battle between now and next November, but the support is there if you are willing to rise to the challenge.

However, on the flip side, if you continue to sell out American liberalism as you have here and there for the last three years, there is something else waiting for you on horizon of January 20, 2013. You can be handing off the presidency to Rick Perry, the scariest Texas Republican to run for president since, well, the last one. And I am not referring to Ron Paul.