Democrats Need to Step Up and Offer Support for President Obama


By John A. Ostenburg

Why do Democrats let the Republicans get away with so much?

Nearly every problem that the current administration of President Barack Obama is facing is the result of something that occurred during the time that former President George W. Bush was in office. Yet, the Republicans continually jump on every reform effort that the Obama administration puts forth and in response the Democrats are silent instead of shouting from the rooftops: "But YOU caused it!"

Yes, health care reform is costly. Yes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are losing propositions. Yes, the U.S. economy is in the dumps. Yes, schools need more money. Yes, U.S. prestige around the world isn’t very high at the moment. But are any of these problems the fault of Barack Obama?

It’s true that health care reform has been a need going back to the turn of the century but Republicans have been on the wrong side of the issue for decades. Don’t forget, they did everything possible to prevent such programs as Medicare and Medicaid from becoming reality. After Democratic-controlled legislatures passed these measures under the leadership of a Democratic-controlled White House, the GOP naysayers warned of a drastic socialistic takeover of the nation as a result.

How ironic that it’s the same naysayers who today are claiming to want protection for Medicare against the (once-again!) "socialistic" reforms that Mr. Obama is asking for.

Remember the proposed health care reforms of the Clinton administration? Those efforts were sabotaged by GOP opponents working in concert with the insurance industry. Despite the crocodile-tears shed by the imaginary characters of Harry and Louise in expensive television commercials sponsored by the Health Insurance Association of America, the Clinton reform proposals would have helped avoid much of the crisis the nation currently is facing regarding health care. Instead, insurance costs have escalated since the Clinton administration (which means during the "W" years) and the only beneficiaries have been (1) the insurance companies themselves whose profits have soared, and (2) the anti-reform members of Congress whose rewards have been hugh campaign contributions from those same firms.

Now comes forward Barack Obama with proposals to improve health care for all Americans, to cut costs for health insurance, to assure that all Americans can afford to live a healthy lifestyle, and who’s on the other side once again? The Republicans.

And the Democrats are silent.

And don’t get me started about our nation’s current involvement in international conflicts.

Whose idea was it to invade Iraq under the false claim that Saddam Hussein had hidden weapons of mass destruction? Under whose administration was Osama Bin Laden allowed to escape into the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, pulling behind him the life-support system needed to offset his kidney problems. Universally it’s accepted that these two military endeavors by the U.S. are costly failures. Yet, efforts by the Obama administration to halt the hemorrhaging of U.S. dollars into the sands and rocks of those two countries is met by GOP criticism that he’s soft on terrorists.

If Dick Cheney is so hot on fighting terrorists, maybe President Obama should issue him a uniform, a rifle, and a commission and send him to the front lines. Maybe — just maybe — Mr. Cheney might be able to shoot Mr. Osama in the face. That’s if he can convince the terrorist to be his hunting partner.

How outrageous that Dick Cheney — known for his silent back-room maneuvering during W’s presidency — now takes to weekly television shows to assume self-appointed national leadership status. Could his real motive be to discount any potential future evidence that might come forward about his hand in lots of illegal moves while he served as vice president?

And yet, the Democrats are silent.

The economy? Republicans like to say Mr. Obama is failing in his economic recovery efforts of a mere eight months, with no mention of the reality that it took George W. Bush eight years to get us in the mess we presently face. Has anyone taken a look at the statistics lately? The U.S. surplus for Fiscal Year 2000 — the year Mr. W. was elected as president — was $230 billion. For Mr. Bush’s last year in office, the deficit was $482 billion. That’s a loss of $712 billion in eight years. And why exactly is that the fault of the Obama administration?

And the Democrats are silent.

No Child Left Behind left all the funding behind. Democrats gave their support to Mr. Bush’s educational reform efforts with the hope that this was one area where he might make a difference. The teachers’ unions also supported the initial concepts. But it was a shell game. With no funds to support its requirements on school districts and teachers across the country, NCLB was a colossal failure. But the Obama administration’s efforts to make reforms such as NCLB meaningful are criticized by the GOP as merely "throwing money at a problem."

And the Democrats remain silent.

The image of the U.S. abroad is one of an arrogant giant unmindful and uncaring about the feelings of the rest of the world. To a large extent, foreign hatred of the U.S. is the cause of many terrorist acts against us. President Obama has sought to mend fences. The Republicans criticize him for doing so. Some even go so far as to claim his efforts to establish an improved presence in the eyes of the rest of the world are due to the erroneous claim that he’s not really a U.S. citizen and therefore shouldn’t be president anyway. Despite proof upon proof, the right-wing "birthers" insist that the president wasn’t born in the U.S. and is a usurper.

And the Democrats are silent.

I remember as a kid that I once had to write 1,000 times that "Silence is golden; speech is silver." It was in response to my nun-teacher’s objection to my speaking out in class on something that she thought was best left unsaid. I fear that too many Democrats had that same nun in class at some time in their past and that they took her admonition a little too seriously.

It’s time to get "silver," Democrats!

John A. Ostenburg is mayor of Park Forest, Illinois, and formerly served in the Illinois House of Representatives. He is the chief of staff for the Chicago Teachers Union. E-mail him at [email protected]. This article is from his blog The Outpost Observer, Copyright © 2009 John Ostenburg, used with permission.