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Obama Made America Cool Again

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Obama Made America Cool Again


WASHINGTON — The euphoria explosion at Barack Obama’s inauguration eight years ago flew in with the January wind. Never had the capital felt so arctic cold and yet so warm.

Here was a president to be proud of in public — every day.

Yet he kept us at an elegant distance. The greatest leaders capture the hearts and minds of the people, like Winston Churchill. Obama fell short of being a man of the people. Even Democratic allies in Congress felt distanced by the solo artist sitting in the Oval Office, a beautiful stranger.

So that thrilling togetherness vanished suddenly from the scene. Republican leaders were partly to blame, spitefully refusing to cooperate with Obama.

But remember, at first, Obama made America cool again, like Jack Kennedy, black and white blended. He made hope and history rhyme. We dared ask, were our hearts and minds destined to be his forever

Here’s the writing on the wall I’ve stared at since 2009: Obama’s soaring rhetoric was much stronger than his ground game in office. And he sure is cool — more dispassionate than we knew.

When Obama goes on long vacations, he finds bliss and solace in islands: Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii. Far from the madding crowd of citizens. In temperament, our man is an island.

Obama’s legacy makes pure intellectual sense, but do you feel it? The economic recovery seems soft, cool to the touch — nothing like the peace and prosperity of the ’90s.

When it comes to his signature Obamacare, some flaws were harbingers of what was to come. It took too long to pass; Obama waited months on moderate Republicans who were never going to join him; he fired the best expert helping hand in town, his friend and former senator Tom Daschle, over a trifle; and he abandoned the public option, the linchpin in the legislation’s affordability.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally put the crying baby to bed — the flawed law — for the rookie president with growing pains.

Don’t get me wrong. If I met Obama, his brilliant smile would work its magic. I respect his reason, memoir, vision, lyrical words. But I never came to love him — as I did that beguiling Bill Clinton, a grown-up Tom Sawyer, or as the English loved Elizabeth I, the Renaissance monarch who spoke often of her love for her “good people.”

The President Roosevelts — Teddy and Franklin — had the rare political talent, to reach hearts and minds. Ronald Reagan won hearts even when their minds disagreed, and for that Obama admired the master’s art.

In waging wars in the Middle East, Obama had the burden of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He never fully owned it or acted upon it, even after all his criticism of the Iraq War — which became a breeding ground for ISIS on his watch. Afghanistan is a shipwreck with an American military presence.

While Obama made good on a pledge to kill Osama bin Laden, he opened up a whole new kind of warfare, drones, to hit terrorist targets in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. These secret CIA strikes were precisely trained on human targets he signed off on.

“It turns out … that I’m really good at killing people,” Obama told aides.

About 2015, a more seasoned Obama got a good deal done, worthy works that may soon be undone. In a way, that’s his fault. Few presidents leave their legacy undefended on an open field — to a hostile House, Senate, Supreme Court and White House.

The president’s imprimatur on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal are as vitally important as they are vulnerable.

The 2016 election was not only a loss for Hillary Clinton — who also appeals to minds, not hearts. Obama came up short on voter enthusiasm. It’s a hard failure to face. Building party political infrastructure was never his strong suit.

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s emotive, familiar and crude style of speaking to people at rallies (and tweets) sharply contrasted to Obama’s ethereal way with words. Crude is here to stay a while.

With a few exceptional scenes, as when he sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of nine murdered churchgoers, Obama’s persuasion aims to connect with minds — sweet reason — more than hearts.

And will we ever miss him when he’s gone.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.

IMAGE: U.S. President Barack Obama walks down the colonnade from the Oval Office at The White House in Washington, January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert



  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 6, 2017

    With FDR there was a sense of coolness because he gave the impression of someone who cared; with Kennedy there was a sense of cool and he had the ability to inspire the scientific and lay community to want to reach out to the moon, and he also provided a look at a side of humanity that longed to break the shackles of Jim Crow Society; with Clinton we had the first sitting President to make a journey to Africa which was hugely symbolic in gesture—a gesture which was never extended except diplomatically and in a perfunctory and stiff manner through channels previously; with Obama we had another return to a warm open person—-another example of being “cool”. But in between those benchmark eras there was aloofness, a coldness, and antipathy fueled mainly by Right Wing influences, masquerading as Christian, but deep down were and are the antithesis of being Christian.

    Now, we have the recrudescence of “uncool” and being hostile and inimical in the figure of an arch-angel of “UNCOOL”—namely Donald J. Trump. Such an unheard of and noxious combination of stiffness, being a boor, lewdness, and crudity in one person has never been all-encompassing in one person since the rise of humans on the planet. At least not according to recorded history.

    The US is in a phase shift from going towards a “Cool” aspect to devolving to the uncool of nativism, racism, and the abnormality of everyday bigotry—the new “Cool” for the “Trump Clan” across the country is very uncool.. Just a bunch of robots who are cold, stiff, and have one thing in mind—The Economy. This is their state Religion and one which has supplanted Christianity in the hearts of Trumpists.

    The movie “Westside Story” depicting the scene in the garage with gang members singing and dancing to the selection “Cool” is a fantastic artistic expression, with a lyrical theme that doesn’t apply to Trump and his merry myrmidons. The lyrics stress being cool, but the yahoos that follow Trump are anything but cool—a cursory review of the Trumpists in this forum loudly attest to that.

  2. mike January 6, 2017

    What an absolute and ridiculous criteria to judge a president on. He isn’t cool to the Iranian students when they asked for his support. He isn’t cool to the hundreds of thousands murdered by ISIS. He isn’t cool to the Syrians killed after he ignored his own “red line.” He isn’t cool to the Ukrainians who asked for help and got REM’s. He isn’t cool to the Americans feeling left behind by his economic policies. He isn’t cool to those who watched their religious freedoms reduced. He really isn’t cool but what he is is an arrogant narcissistic lying egomaniac hyper-partisan, failed president.

    1. Thoughtopsy January 6, 2017

      Now, Students… Please read and re-read “mike”‘s post above for a perfect example of Displacement. This is when someone who is incapable of self-reflection takes all the traits they hate about themselves, or their own favored politician, and explains how the “other” or the opposing politician… who they are allowed to hate… actually embodies these exact same traits.

      This has the effect of transferring the hatred of those traits from someone who it is psychologically and socially dangerous for “mike” to hate, to someone who is a safe target, both personally and socially, for that same hate.

      Of course none of the facts add up, but these facts will be ignored or rationalized away, and minor indicidents/news stories, grossly exaggerated/misinterpreted in order to ensure full displacement is completed, The fact that the individual himself and his own political leader embody the traits he himself hates can then be safely channeled into the acceptable hate for the “other”.

      Your psychological weakness is showing…. “mike”.

      1. mike January 6, 2017

        Stay under that rock.
        Don’t surprisd you think he’s cool since much like Obama you too are clueless.

        1. Thoughtopsy January 7, 2017

          Classy comeback.
          Loved all those cogent points you made in your lengthy rebuttal…
          (Oh, “Rebuttal” means a response to an argument…)

          And since you evidently deserve more ridicule for the typical pointless ad hominem rather than any real response…
          To the content of your original drivel:

          Only a clueless person defines not being able to force your religious views on someone else in secular society and business as someone “watching their religious freedoms reduced.”

          Here’s a little explainer for you, since you appear to have no f**king clue, and are apparently too lazy to think critically for yourself:

          1. mike January 7, 2017

            You just don’t get!
            Your superiority complex is getting in your way again.
            Your attitude is a perfect example of why the left has been losing. Lost the House, lost the Senate, 12 Governorships lost and 1000 state legislative seats lost in just 6 short years with the culmination of a gigantic loss of the WH. Here are the Consequence of this earthshaking loss. No nominees for SCOTUS. No control of the agenda. All those EO’s, AO’s gone. Many of the anti-business regs gone. The social-warriors are no more.????
            We now see the weakest Democratic Party going back to the late twenties. Quite a legacy Obama has left you. And you thought things were so good it would go on for years. That my friend is what we call Clueless to the real world.
            You lost! Live with it.

          2. Thoughtopsy January 8, 2017

            Allow me to quote you:
            “You just don’t get!”
            I don’t know what that means, but I think it supports my points more than yours… LOL

            So what does your reply say… this time…?

            – Ad hominem.
            – Then Diversion into your long favorite list of things “you”, tiny “mike”, “won” through this election.
            You do realise that your response isn’t an actual rebuttal to any of my points, right tiny “mike”?

            In fact when your chosen response to anything complicated or hard to answer is just: “Well nyah nyah nyah WE WON” it begins to look a lot like you have nothing going on upstairs, and limited ability to respond with anything substantive.

            Let me explain your “win” to you.
            – Your Pres-Elect Loser made the weakest showing of any winning President by vote count, EVER. And by Percentage of the Popular vote since 1874.
            – His winning margin was 70K voters across the three key states… Voter ID laws are estimated to have suppressed more than that from turning up at the polls… so you could say that he won through Republicans debasing democracy.
            – His campaign was heavily supported by Russia. You can argue as to how much difference that would have made… but given the razor thin margin of victory, I guarantee you that it made enough of a difference to matter. Then again, so did everything else… it was a culmination of a lot of factors all working together.
            – Your campaign was based on division, frustration, bigotry, religion and racism. This is inherently disgusting.
            – The Republicans did indeed win many things, on top of the manufactured advantages (approx 35 house seats) that Gerrymandering already gave them.

            So we have a razor thin victory, backed by a combination of a fairly unique set of factors.
            Research shows that around half of Trump supporters are racists. They hate being called that… but they have strong racial biases. These that the people who yell about how cool it is that “they don’t have to be politically correct anymore” and want to put their confederate flags back up.

            The other half are roughly made up, half and half, of Republicans who really disliked Donald Trump, but felt they had to vote for their “team”, and moderate Republicans and Democrats (typically white, typically in the Rust Belt) who are hurting and really hate Trump but think maybe he’ll be able to improve their lives and expect him to follow through on his promises.

            So to recap:
            50% – Willfully ignorant, racist knuckle-draggers.
            25% – Holding their noses Republicans
            25% – Other Moderate mostly Whites expecting results.

            And that STILL didn’t equal the opposing side by 3 million votes.

            So what happens next?
            – The Republicans are in power. So they have to deliver. And they’ve shown zero ability to deliver anything so far over Obama’s terms as they have been the party of stupid and the party of complete obstructionism.
            – Trump has lied his way to the Presidency and made promises that are literally impossible. Most of his promises are going to be broken. Most especially the ones relating to bringing jobs back to the Rust Belt, the Mines and the Oil companies. “Build the Wall and make Mexico Pay for It” will become “Build the Fence and make American Taxpayers pay for it”. “Drain the Swamp” is already a complete joke. “Lock her Up” isn’t happening.
            – Together they are going to kill Obamacare which most of their racist knuckle-draggers, and white working class moderates either literally don’t believe they will actually do… or haven’t bothered to try to understand is actually the medical insurance they rely on to stay healthy and alive. They will do that… and the fallout is going to be horrific.

            How long do you think Trump’s minority “Coalition” along with Russia’s support is going to hold together?

            You see that’s the beauty of having a narcissistic lazily-ignorant lying bigoted misogynist with the temperament of a 5 year old in the White House, coupled with a Republican party in control of the House and Senate at the same time….
            There’s no one else to blame.

            Obama has left them with the lowest unemployment, highest DOW index, and fastest economic, pay, and job growth in a couple of decades… or Ever, in some cases.

            They get handed America on a positive path… and now they have to actually produce.
            The Democrats can’t stop them doing what they want (Other than blocking an extreme Right Wing Supreme court Justice. After McConnell’s complete abrogation of his duty, you can expect any crazy Trump nominee to be blocked indefinitely. What did McConnell think was going to happen when he did that? Idiot.)

            Plus they’ve been telling everyone for 8 years how amazing they will be at governing…. and how useless Obama was.

            So now we get to see exactly how good they are. Against a backdrop of
            – Failed Trump election Promises
            – Eventual loss of millions of Americans (mostly in the Red states) Obamacare Health Insurance and/or replacement with something cheaper… and worse.
            – Probable trade war with China.
            – Likely trade war with Mexico
            – Tax cuts for the rich, higher rates for the poor… which has repeatedly been shown to crash or reduce the economy.
            – Trump cabinet members busily destorying the departments they are supposedly in charge of.
            – Trump appointed alligators cruising the new Swamp Trump has created and feeding all the valuable parts of America to the 1% and corporations.
            – Coal and Oil jobs not coming back…. ever.
            – Manufacturing jobs not coming back…. unless it’s automated robots.

            How long until the first corruption scandal?
            How long before Trump nukes someone at 3am in the middle of a Twitter rant?
            How long will the moderates in his corner wait, watching him personally enrich himself before never voting for him again?
            How long before the Intelligence agencies and personnel he is disparaging decided to dig up his taxes and leave them somewhere convenient?

            “We WON” is actually the ONLY thing you have going for you.
            The next 12 months are going to show exactly how tragic it is for the GOP to have been given control, and how stupid it was to vote in a Maniac Clown for President.

            If the Republicans win any seats in 2018, I’ll be astonished.

          3. mike January 8, 2017

            My gosh your post was one long runny diarrhea of the brain. What gives me a chuckle that you think your post means anything relevant in the real world.
            You just don’t get!
            Your superiority complex is getting in your way again.
            Your attitude is a perfect example of why the left has been losing. Lost the House, lost the Senate, 12 Governorships lost and 1000 state legislative seats lost in just 6 short years with the culmination of a gigantic loss of the WH. Here are the Consequence of this earthshaking loss. No nominees for SCOTUS. No control of the agenda. All those EO’s, AO’s gone. Many of the anti-business regs gone. The social-warriors are no more.????
            We now see the weakest Democratic Party going back to the late twenties. Quite a legacy Obama has left you. And you thought things were so good it would go on for years. That my friend is what we call Clueless to the real world.
            You lost! Live with it.
            Like I said, “you just don’t get it” why you lost in just a historic fashion.

          4. Thoughtopsy January 9, 2017

            And like a dog returning to its own vomit, what do we have as a reply from tiny “mike” yet again?
            Oh yeah.
            – Ad hominem
            – Diversion into tiny “mike”s favorite description of how much “he” won. Mostly cut and paste by the look of it… (Hmmm… smells like a paid astroturfer.)

            No points. No evidence. No links. No argument.
            Just the written equivalent of “Nyah nayh nayh nayh WE WON”.

            That’s so super clever… “mike”…

            Please “mike”… elaborate… tell us more about how much you won…. *v*

          5. mike January 9, 2017

            It’s about what you lost not what I won.
            You lost the House, the Senate, WH. Obama who neglected the democratic party at all levels watched the loss of 1000 democratic state legislative seats and 12 Governorships.
            You lost the Supreme Court majority for generations. You lost the 100 new federal judges trump will appoint. You lost control of the agenda. You lost all the EO’s, AO’s signed by obama.
            Under obama the Democratic Party lost its power and its identity.
            2016 election was a HUGE loss for the Democratic Party.


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