Lenny Kates in Pittsfield’s Park Square 5/25/10. Photo by Ben Garver.
6/3/10 Written by Jason Zasky http://bit.ly/8szAWz
“The amount of disrespect being shown to Barack Obama is beyond belief,” offers Lenny Kates, a retired social worker from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who is countering the negativity with a message of his own. Once a week, Kates spends his day in the middle of a busy traffic circle in the center of his hometown, holding a sign that reads: “Be Grateful for President Obama.” It’s a simple, poignant message, one designed to make people think twice about reflexively blaming the president for the myriad problems the country is facing.
According to the 69-year-old Kates, he conceived the message nine weeks ago after learning that a group of Tea Partiers were planning to hold a rally in Pittsfield on Tax Day. “I was thinking that the Tea Partiers were going to be out there not constructively criticizing but negatively criticizing and bullying Obama,” he says, beginning to explain his rationale. “I had been increasingly upset with people attacking him, and found myself thinking that Americans aren’t grateful for the effort he’s been putting forth. The word ‘grateful’ made sense to me. It’s an empathic, non-toxic word, but at the same time it reflects my worries about the country and my concern about the stress and strain the president may be under.”
True to his intentions, Kates unveiled his message on April 15, spending three hours standing adjacent to a small gathering of Tea Partiers. He recalls being anxious as to how he’d be received by the assembled protestors, one of whom displayed an ‘Obama as Hitler’ sign. “I got hardly any direct response,” begins Kates. “People [from the Tea Party] looked at me and rolled their eyes. And two individuals came over and asked if I was being ironic,” he says matter-of-factly.
In contrast, the motorists and pedestrians who passed often evinced favorable reactions, responding with a wave, thumbs up, or honk of their horn. “There were a few individuals who cursed at me or yelled ‘Obama sucks,’” he reports, the plus-minus ratio no doubt influenced by the fact that Pittsfield is located in one of the bluest counties in Massachusetts (and the country) based on voting records this past decade.
While the Tea Partiers haven’t been back, Kates has continued his one-man vigil, recently redoubling his efforts by standing outside Town Hall in nearby Great Barrington, Massachusetts. And despite the fact that a Tea Party served as his inspiration, Kates’ message is primarily aimed at liberals and centrists, who, he says, ought to be realistic about how much change Obama can deliver is just a year or two.
“Obama walked into a situation where our economy was close to totally failing,” begins Kates. “It’s tough for him to do much more than work to save the economy, and also to restore democratic ways of thinking. Don’t get caught up in talking about what you wish Obama would do,” he continues, the latter part of his statement aimed at lefties who wish Obama was considerably more liberal. “Talk about what he is doing and point out why, in the present political climate, it’s hard for him to be doing what one would wish he’d do.”
As for centrists who are considering voting for conservatives in the 2010 midterm elections, Kates says, “Don’t forget that the problems we’re facing—what happened to our economy and our standing in the world—were caused by Republicans, the people who were in charge for the prior eight years. It doesn’t make sense to blame the president and everybody in Washington, because the problems were caused beforehand. We can’t go back to the former ways of handling the economy,” he emphasizes.
Still, it’s the way the far-right treats Obama that most motivates Kates to work to raise consciousness. “It’s classic bullying behavior,” he begins, noting that the right-wing media and its devotees carry on as if Obama is hostile or belligerent. “But he’s not hostile. Quite the contrary. He’s shifted from the authoritarian leanings of the Bush Administration to a more expansive, empathic approach, yet some people behave as if they are frightened of him,” concludes Kates. He believes it’s the name-calling and bullying of Obama that makes the president’s supporters hesitant to publicly endorse him, for fear they’ll be bullied too.
For the entire article: http://bit.ly/aYh3fs
Krugman: Obama among the most ‘successful presidents in American history’
10/13/14 11:44AM By Steve Benen maddowblog
Paul Krugman would never be mistaken for an Obama cheerleader. When President Obama was riding high, enjoying broad support and high poll numbers, it was Krugman who was discouraged, offering substantive criticism and words of caution. In late 2007, the then-senator’s campaign team was so irritated with Krugman that Obama’s aides dropped an oppo document on him.
Six years later, it’s interesting to see how much the roles have reversed. The president’s support has clearly faltered. Much of the country either blames him for tumultuous events, refuses to credit him for national progress, or both. But it’s Krugman who’s come around — much of the American mainstream has turned on Obama, for reasons that may not be entirely rational, but it’s the Nobel laureate offering a spirited defense of the president in a Rolling Stone cover story.
… Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. […]
This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.
Krugman’s piece goes into considerable detail — on the economy, on health care, on Wall Street reform, on climate — but the broader takeaway is that the New York Times columnist is saying what much of the country is not: that Obama’s presidency has been a great success. The praise is qualified at times, but it’s nevertheless enthusiastic.