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Swimming to here

BY BEAU ELLIOT | FEBRUARY 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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So, let’s see. A little more than a week ago, say 10 days (give or take a day, and this being winter, you could certainly take a day and we wouldn’t miss it much), President Obama was politically dead in the proverbial water.

I mean, it must have been so, because all the pundits said so.

(I don’t know if proverbial water is anything like real water, but even I, who kind of likes Obama, had to admit that he didn’t seem to be doing anything resembling swimming.)

Then he delivers the State of the Union address, and all of the sudden, he’s Barack Obama again. The Barack Obama we all saw in 2008. What gives with that?

Well, that’s what happens when perception becomes the new reality.

Which is fine, because reality is probably overrated.

And I admit, Obama delivered a truly fine speech last week. Maybe even a great speech.

Which is what he needed to do, given the Swift Boating he had taken over the previous eight months or so. I mean, “death panels”? If for no other reason than last summer he bought in to the “death-panel” idea (and I admit, I’m using the term “idea” quite loosely), Iowans should vote against Sen. Charles Grassley.

Of course, his behavior was not exactly atypical in the Congress. What you saw in the last year in Congress, especially in the Senate, was the herding-cats mentality of the Democrats and the herding-moo-cows mentality of the Republicans.

The Democrats said yes, maybe not, I don’t know, not on my watch, yes on my watch, who knows?, I have to consult my Mama. Which is what Democrats do, whether they’re in the majority or the minority. To say that they are gutless is to presume that they ever had guts in the first place.

As the great Will Rogers used to say, I am not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.

The Republicans just said Nein. Very helpful.

Nein Nein Nein. Which more or less gave them the aura of a whiny German mother-in-law. (I know of where I speak on this one. I had a German mother-in-law once.)

Not to bash Republicans. Or Democrats. At least, not more than they deserve. But if you look at Congress, you’d think that the members — and Obama — didn’t get much done in the last year.

But as Rinaldo Brutoco of the World Business Academy, a nonprofit think tank, points out, Obama actually got quite a bit done, mostly on the regulatory side of things. He revitalized the federal agencies, Brutoco says, in the areas of trying to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, clean water, mountain-top mining, and clear-cutting old-growth forests. Obama also reinvigorated the Securities and Exchange Commission, which seemed, during the George W. Bush administration, to spend most of its days sleeping.

And, as Brutoco points out, the Sierra Club said the Obama “administration has done more on clean energy and climate change than any other in history.”

So the last year has not been a complete wash.

And yes, I know, the motto this year is “It’s the jobs, stupid.”

So, I have a modest little proposal. You ever try to actually read a piece of legislation? (Don’t try this at home.) I — foolishly, I admit — tried to read the Senate health bill. And pretty much immediately drowned in the verbiage. Talk about not doing anything resembling swimming.

So I thought, why don’t we hire real writers to write the bills — after, of course, once the senators and representatives get done with all the sausage-making.

I say this because there are a whole lot of M.F.A.s from writing programs out there who need jobs (and god knows, we don’t want them to otherwise inundate us with their memoirs, now that they’ve hit 25, which is apparently the new 40), and because there are a whole lot of us who try to read Congressional bills and discover we’re trying to read Sanskrit.

Not to insult Sanskrit. It’s just that most of us have a bit of difficulty navigating it.

If nothing else, we’d know for sure that there’s no such animal as “death panels.”


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