Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

This is not my holiday, but it is hard to miss the signs that it is one celebrated by many others in this country, though Bill O'Reilly and his colleagues think otherwise. Oddly, by mystical coincidence, Shabbat and Christmas coincide this year. To many confused people, Chanukah is a supposed equivalent holiday to Christmas, but it's not. Shabbat, on the other hand, means Jews and Christians will be praying at roughly the same time. My faith in faith is not sufficient to think this is going to make much of a difference except maybe more people will be a bit more spiritual today than otherwise. (Wonder if anybody is being bar/bat mitzvah on what some of us call "December 25").

As has become customary, Regina Spektor has posted a view of the Christmas season which is shared by your blogger:

i'm one of the many jews who really love when the christmas spirit gets everyone to light up New York all pretty...

but it is also the sense of generosity of spirit, the idea that we have an obligation to one another and the sense that we have a higher calling than to make as much money as possible. The formal religious rituals which move another wise person worth consulting, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, may not be as meaningful to all of us but, as Rabbi Yoffie says, it is a time when people

despite frenetic preparations and gift buying -- [are] simply friendlier, more relaxed, more outgoing and more inclined to smile at holiday time... [T]here is such a thing as the spirit of Christmas, and the goodwill of the season always manages to extend its reach, in a lighting-fast and almost effortless way, to Americans of all faiths and religious traditions.

Let's not get confused, though. The last weeks of the 111th Congress moved this country forward not because of Christmas spirit, but because Republicans would rather go home than keep fighting, and, the masquerade they have worn for almost two years seemed to be fraying at the egdes. Paul Krugman made a good point this morning about where the Republicans fit in as part of Dickens' Christmas Carol, and, as noted by many, you really cannot miss today's congressional struggles as portrayed in It's A Wonderful Life either.

Last week, those of you gathering as families were implored to start trouble by telling those who cannot see it, what has been going on, and why none of it is in anyone's interest, except that of the very wealthy and, frankly, not them either. (The czars had plenty of money, but things did not work out for them and the New Deal would not have been possible if the wealthy among us did not understand how all of that could apply to them. They hated and still hate FDR, but they know how he saved them, too.)

This week's offering is pointed more at the progressives or liberals at your dinner table: the ones quick to tell you how disappointed they are in the President, the ones who stayed home in November, or are mumbling things such as "Nader," "Kucinich" or, absurdly, "Hillary." And, of course, it is Rachel Maddow who, again, sets the stage:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Getting [the START] treaty ratified is a huge victory for President Obama and something that republicans said they would deny him. It is a political win for the president because it has been on his agenda for a long time.

It is a signature issue for him, a tactical win because Republicans said he wasn't going to get it. It is a save the world win because if you care about, oops, it's the nuclear end of the world you care about treaties like this getting passed.

[Its ratification] caps an astonishing period in American political history.
For the last two years, democrats have held the White House as well as big majorities in the house and senate. The record of achievement in that time, even in the face of unified at times totally random Republican opposition, Republicans had proposed in the first place, unified Republican opposition to their own ideas?

Their track record even in the face of that is historic. Whether you agree or disagree with what democrats have done in the first two years of President Obama's presidency, they have freaking done it.

The Fair Pay Act for Women, expanding children's health insurance, new hate crimes legislation they said could not be done, tobacco regulation, credit card reform, student loan reform, the stimulus -- which in addition to helping pull this country back from the brink of a great depression, was also the largest tax cut ever, the largest investment in clean energy ever, the largest investment in education in our country ever.

There was also a little thing you may have heard of called health reform. Also, Wall Street reform, the improvements to the new G.I. bill, the most expansive food SAFETY BILL SINCE THE 1930s.

And tomorrow, president obama will officially sign a repeal of don't ask, don't tell....President Obama not only made a commitment to get it done and refused to cave on that commitment but he devised the strategy by which it could be done.

From the beginning of the term he worked to create the conditions in Washington, painstakingly to create conditions under which it was more likely that don't ask, don't tell would be repealed than not.

The conditions under which killing that policy was more possible than keeping it.
It took two years of solid work. He did not waver and in the end made it happen.

There are big things this administration said that it wanted to do that it hasn't done yet. Energy reform, immigration reform, the bush tax cuts for the rich were extended, closing Guantanamo.Those are some of them. Today it looked like one of the important judicial nominees will not get a vote to become a judge this year.

There is territory the White House has said it would like to cover that it has not yet covered. By my estimation it is halftime, right, in the first term and with this vote tomorrow they will have gone 85% of the distance they said they wanted to go in the first term of the president.

This is tough sledding, folks. We are a nation of happily ignorant people, with a government that goes where the money is, often in the face of public opinion. We are broke, angry, and watching a country in decline with little faith that we can reverse that slide.

But we have elected a man suited for the presidency as none have been since President Johnson had to leave after the war took over his presidency and as inspirational and well read as President Kennedy who told this blogger, and many others, what are our responsibilities as a citizen in a republic.

This president can be maddening, of course. He looks for the better angels in people trying to destroy him and harm us. His election was made possible by disgust in the fool who preceded him, but that man has been forgotten by a public that otherwise is made uneasy by a president who looks the way this one does and who has a name that sounds so foreign. We are not in a post-racial period, my friends, as much as we wish we were.

On top of all that, he is opposed by a political party which controls a television "news" outlet, which would rather endanger our national security than give the President a victory. There was less substance to the pig headed opposition to a treaty every reasonably serious person knew to be important, than in the absurd opposition to the League of Nations by roughly the same idiots who by keeping the United States out of it all but guaranteed the horrible events which followed.

Our fate, our hope lies in his presidency and in our efforts to support what we all want to happen. This will not be easy, and there will be days when it looks hopeless. As discussed last week, reforming the Senate rules, even if it is possible, will not turn the tide unless people get behind the issues before the Congress.

Nothing said here is meant to suggests one may not criticize the president. That criticism must, though, recognize his importance to this nation and to our cause and the imperative that he be re-elected and able to restore the House to Democratic control. A discontent that suggests we made a mistake in 2008 is both absurd and not in anyone's interest.

So, there are your marching orders. Nobody should be complacent and everyone has an assignment. It's really very important and the best Christmas present you could give to our posterity.

Again, Merry Christmas and, well, Shabbat Shalom.

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