The natives are getting restless

When former President George W. Bush figures its safe to pile on President Obama, you know the people are restless.

Yes, everywhere you go in the United States today, you run up against worry and angst. Jobs are not coming back. For a while it was chic to spend less; now it’s just boring. The stock market gyrations are dizzying and depressing. They’re rioting in Iran, while Obama ponders what tone to take. On Capitol Hill, they’re sucking their thumbs.

Gays and lesbians are angry with Obama for not giving them more rights; social conservatives are angry with him for saying he understands gay pain. Wall Street is still a mess, and we keep finding out more dirt behind the scenes. The new financial regulations are either too tough or too lenient, depending on whether they affect you or not.

Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, is a cipher people say they don’t know enough about. They like Michelle Obama, but excitement over the new puppy has worn off.

General Motors is still bankrupt, and there is no consensus on health care reform; it may even be in the throes of an early death. The deficit is now measured in trillions, a concept no ordinary mortal can understand.

Obama has been in office for five months now. Why are we still having these problems?

It’s a good thing we Americans don’t live in other countries, where problems fester for decades, if not centuries. No, we want action, and we want it now. We want our old, boom-boom economy back, and we’ve all got a sinking feeling that won’t happen for years, if ever.

Bush, who has been silent on Obama, letting Dick Cheney do the heavy lifting of criticism, finally went to Erie, Pa., to blast his successor. Bush accused Obama of inserting government into business (although his own financial team started the bailouts), of coddling prisoners at Guantanamo before it is closed (they might be surprised to hear that), and pushing nationalization of health care (which the White House denies). So much for being above the fray.

It’s not that people have fallen out of love with Obama or given up hope that he will be a good president (he’s still got a 63 percent job approval rating). It’s more that expectations were too high, media hype too uncontrolled and impatience too unbound.

People are naturally upset because they realize this recession is not going away anytime soon. They got their hopes up and saw them dashed. They’re terrified by the hundreds of billions of dollars being handed out to shore up the economy, which seems to be counterintuitive to many.

Obama makes a highly visible, increasingly inviting target for criticism. Three out of four Republicans think he’s leading the country in the wrong direction. Desperate to try to rebuild their party, Republicans are finding it is easier to swipe at the president without being shouted down.

Democrats, frantic over the size of the deficit and unsure of the future, are again doing what they do best: squabbling among themselves.

Meanwhile, cable TV breathlessly thrives on it all.

Of course, there is a flip side to all this. The economy did not collapse. Financial regulators are being more careful. Foreigners are intrigued by Obama and listening to him. Millions of Iranians want democracy. Savings rates have gone up, and people are being more careful with their money. They are working harder to keep their jobs, realizing how precious they are.

There are serious, important national debates underway on immigration, abortion, affirmative action, civil liberties and torture. Were realizing that if we want health care for everyone, well have to pay for it.

We see, once again, that change is not easy. It’s a lot better to read about history than to live through the making of it.

As Obama comes up in a few weeks on his six-month marker, we have to look around and realize there is still reason for optimism and hope. Hey, let’s give the fellow a chance, at least a few more months.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)


  1. tropicaltaco

    Now that this article is drifting into obscurity and will be replaced tomorrow I will chance a little tale of true for those of you who might enjoy an original American Jackass in Mexico story. But before I do, I would like to thank all here for your great articles and sincere thoughts, they have helped me through the years to make some sense of this mess we’re in and my own thoughts and feelings stirring around in my head. Thanks…
    It is, as always, good to think baseball while on the road in Mexico. (what will I do if the ball comes to me)

    This last trip down I made the usual stop at my favorite street vendors in Ensenada to have some ceviche tostadas and then across the street to the fish taco ladies.
    As I was leaving town on my way to Punta Banda to see a friend who lives in a little gringo village of retirees on the beach, not far from where Tiger Woods is building his dream golf course and exclusive homes. Feeling pretty great I decided to take a quick toke. As I exhaled through a crack in the window, folding the roach back in its tinfoil wrapper and slipping it back in my watch pocket I heard sirens go off in back of me. Six pickup trucks loaded with the DEA guys in front and SWAT boys in the back whizzed past me, about a half mile ahead three of the pickups peeled off to form a roadblock on the other side of the highway while the other three sped ahead. As I got to the traffic light and sweeping right turnoff to Punta Banda I noticed the other three trucks and many more police surrounding a very nice motor home on the other side of the highway. There was a rather huge crowd over on my side of the highway so I pulled off into a large markets parking lot a good distance from the action. I hopped out of my vehicle, snapped a quick photo and maneuvered around to the other side of my car to a lady leaning on her car watching the commotion. While readying my Nikon for another shot, I asked the lady what was up, why all the cops? She said she didn’t know but said they obviously wanted to talk to me. I turned around to see five of them beatin cheeks in my direction, one in a golf shirt and hanging badge and four SWAT boys. I decided to distance myself from the lady and my car and walked toward them, realizing both myself and car must still have the smell of cannabis, not to mention the baggie of twelve J’s in my pants pocket. The one guy confronted me head on while the others took positions on each side of me. He asked if I had taken a picture of them, my mind was going a million miles a secant, I said yes but it was blurry and asked if I could take another. He said no more photos and asked why I had taken the first one. In the best Spanish I could muster I explained that I had a lot of friends who wanted to visit me here in Mex but they hear all those horror stories on the news. I went on to say, “I just wanted to show them you guys are really taken care of business.” He walked off a few paces to talk on his radio then came back, shook my hand and welcomed me to Mexico and added, please no more photos. He kindly explained that if I posted the photo on the net and the wrong person saw it and recognized him it might bring him trouble. I thanked him for the advice and promised him I wouldn’t upload the photo.

    As the others started back across the street he lingered, put his hand on my shoulder, leaned closer and said, “debe ser más cuidadoso con sus toquesitos, mano.” I almost dropped my camera, as he leaned in closer giving my shoulder an extra squeeze and said, “jew esmel jes like the good gringo marijuana”. and walked away laughing, Dios mio, como son los pinche gringos…hahaha…