Obama infancy not spent in manger nor adrift on the Nile in a basket of pitch coated bulrushes

Obama told America that “contrary to the rumors you’ve heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton, sent here by my father Jor-El, to save the planet …” The later was, of course, a reference which was totally lost to people not familiar with The Man of Steel. Joke or not, President-elect Obama knows now better than he did before the election when he read those scripted lines that he is bound to disappoint or anger many reformers and progressives expecting him to be Jesus, Moses and Superman all rolled into one.

Nobody writes a book like his second one, and titles it “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” unless he has his eyes on the ultimate political prize. (N.Y. Times review from Oct. 2006.)

Obama is a man with a plan, and part of the plan is assuring that not only is he a two term president, but that in 2010 he has a solid Democratic majority in the House and Senate.

Each and every one of his high level appointments to date has been politically calculated to play well with the electorate of 2010 and 2012, and my sense of the way he plans for the future, for 2014 as well.

For those skeptical about his seriousness about assembling the team of rivals, consider whether he even bothered to consider whether Defense Secretary Gates or General Jones was pro-life or pro-choice.

We have had eight years where such a litmus test was applied to virtually every executive branch appointment.

I believe Obama is a true reformer who wants to earn his place on the historians list of the ten best presidents in the year 3000.

He knows full well that to achieve his goal he has to deliver. He has not only the audacity of hope, but the audacity to believe he will put the tired phrase “transformational president” where he really wants it to be: in the history books when he’ll be studied by every student when there have been so many presidents only the top ten and five worst are studied in grade school.

Ironically, he wants to be studied at the top along with George W. Bush at the bottom.

To the extent that nobody gets to where Obama has without incredible self-assurance, ambition and what is erroneously called ego (everybody has an ego). Unfortuntately, you don’t get elected without a little pandering to the electorate too.

We have our cynics who won’t believe anything until they see it. As a psychotherapist I see cynicism as a high level defense mechanism, i.e., a common and healthy one because it is useful and doesn’t really have much of a down side except it tends to make people a little dyspeptic. If you don’t get your hopes too high, there’s less disappointment when someone lets you down.

It is more of a psychological risk to, as is often said since the Jim Jones mass suicide, “drink the Kool Aid” hoping it isn’t laced with cyanide by an inspiring leader.

My preference is to hope for the best and realistically prepare to understand and deal with everything short of that, including the worst.

So Barack isn’t Jesus or Moses, but ask yourself whether what we write here would stand a snowflake’s chance in hell of making a difference under any other president. We’ve already seen Obama change his mind about his choice of CIA director, George O. Brennan, who “withdrew his name” because of criticism form the liberal, reformist and progressive blogsphere or netroots.

Folks, that’s you and me. From what I can tell, Obama actually listens to us.

The truth, for cynics and believers, for pessimists and optimists, and everyone in between, won’t be known for some time.

Meanwhile I’ll keep an antidote to the Kool-Aide handy and do my level best to evaluate Obama’s decisions objectively. I am well aware that cliches often are based on human behavior, thus hope sometimes does spring eternal, and there’s such a thing as wishful thinking, and that idealization is as much of a psychological defense as cynicism.

We’re lucky that with Obama in these pages even in our little corner of the political webworld, what we write here will be taken far more seriously in aggregate, if not specifically, than the venom published on the right wing’s more noxious websites.

Hal Brown’s previous columns.

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  1. Hal Brown

    I can’t help thinking like a shrink and this leads me to conclude that with many people an inclination to be pessimistic goes together with a tendency to be clinically depressed.

    I know I sometimes come across like the Capitol Hill Blue unofficial, and some would suggest insufferable, therapist.

    Of course I don’t think any of us want to be the cheerful Pompeiian fool enjoying the fireworks show while Mount Vesuvius is erupting.

    The Rx is to know whether we’re glass half empty or glass half full personalities, to understand why, see the ramifications of this in our daily lives, and endeavor to change if this hurts ourselves or loved ones.

    I believe it is healthy to unflinchingly look inward. I was listening to a pundit yesterday noting how the entire Bush family frowned on introspection, that George W. personally thought it wasn’t manly. The commentator contrasted him with Obama who he viewed as having a great deal of self-awareness.

  2. pollchecker

    “I’d rather be an optimist and be thought a fool, than be a pessimist and be right.”

    And I like being right!

  3. Carl Nemo

    Nicely stated views Hal Brown on the complexities which our newly elected president must face.

    I’m rooting for the guy and will support him without equivocation, unless I discover in short order he’s reluctant to fire either incompetent or recalcitrant appointees; ie., concerning his directives and policies.

    Our times are far too dangerous for a continuation of Bushista era cronyism concerning failed appointees.

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. pollchecker

    be the cheerful Pompeiian fool enjoying the fireworks show while Mount Vesuvius is erupting.

    Hasn’t that what the vast majority of the country has been for at least the past 10 years?

    Why else would they elect GWB? Twice!
    Why else would they allow Congress to allow GWB and his administration to continue a war based on false premises?
    Why else would they allow America to become a country run by corporate fascists?
    Why else would they stand by like VICTIMS while our constituional rights are being eroded right before our eyes?

    I have never maintained that Obama was the answer to our woes. Only that he was a much better choice than John McCain.

    Now that things have gotten bad all of a sudden everyone’s upset. But all the while they have been eating and drinking and going on like there was no tomorrow.

    But the Pendulum always swings back the other direction in the long run. As I said on an earlier blog, just be thankful that it isn’t ALOT WORSE! After all, Sarah Palin could be the VP-Elect.

  5. Charlie Couser

    Mr. Obama is clearly the man with the plan. His presidential campaign was initially shorted; but, look what he accomplished. Now, he is being criticized for his cabinet picks (and everything else he says or does.) However, if the way he managed his campaign is any indication of his leadership capabilities, I don’t think I’d be too quick to bet against him…

    Nashers and nay-sayers back off — give the man a chance!

    Charlie Couser

  6. John1172002

    It has been many a long year since I voted for someone, rather than against someone. For far too long we have had to choose the lesser of two evils. For those too young or too jaded to remember the following, it is excerpted from JFK’s Inaugural Address:

    “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

    “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

    “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

    I, for one, still have hope that those ringing words and pledges can someday soon be fulfilled.


    Some Texas village is missing its’ idiot. However, they just called and offered us money to keep him.

  7. barak

    We should keep Bush & Cheney. We should keep them in the prison in Guantenamo, or the one in Iraq, or at the bottom of a dry well so they don’t pollute the water supply.