Saturday, September 15, 2012


About two days after the Democratic Convention I was feeling pretty good about the upcoming presidential election. Americans, I realized, had many good reasons for putting their support behind Barack Obama.

After all, when you came to think about Obama’s accomplishments, in light of the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives for the second half of his term, they were pretty impressive.

Health Care Reform, to repeat Joe Biden’s trenchant description, was a “Big f**king deal!” More so when you realized that presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt had attempted to provide health care protection for Americans without any success, every one of them finding the impediments too large, the battle too politically exhausting. Every one until Obama!

Sure, it was an imperfect bill that became a goody bag for far too many vested interests, but at the end of the day, or more accurately by the end of its implementation delay, 30 million Americans—many of them minorities, most of them poor—would be guaranteed decent affordable health care for the first time in American history.

It was a big f**king deal!

Name one comparable accomplishment by the last Republican Administration, my inner voice challenged potential naysayers. What would you list? “No Child Left Behind,” an education initiative proven woefully ineffective? “The War In Iraq,” which drained America’s wealth and dangerously distracted us from properly pursuing the War in Afghanistan? “The Bush Tax Cuts,” which in light of two ongoing wars, helped break the bank and left us in deepest doo-doo, not to mention deeply in debt to China?

But Health Care Reform was only the first of many accomplishments, some of them of massive import by themselves. And then, like an army platoon hurrying into formation, Obama’s achievements started to assemble in my mind.

Front and center was Obama’s heroic prevention of America’s Second Great Depression. Make no mistake, we were headed for the cliff when Obama pushed past John McCain and Sarah Palin to grab hold of the wheel and bring our economic freefall to a stop.  

Next in formation, the rescue of the American automobile industry. Something like a million jobs and America’s self-esteem had been at stake when Obama stepped in and propped up General Motors and Chrysler. On top of that, even though many ridiculed “Cash for Clunkers” as an unnecessary giveaway, the program had the desired effect of clearing out Detroit’s unmovable inventory and kickstarting its recovery.

Romney, of course, had something to say about the auto industry crisis, as was headlined in the NY Daily News: “Mitt To Detroit: Drop Dead!”

Then there was Obama’s tenacious pursuit of the War on Terror, the means of which honorable people can argue about, but which chased down and destroyed much of Al Quaeda’s leadership, including Osama Bin Laden.

The rest of Obama’s major accomplishments rattled themselves off in my mind like recruits answering their drill sergeant, “Student Loan Reform—put in place, sir!”, “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act—signed and ready for action, sir!”, “Consumer Protection Bureau—in place and ready to protect consumers, sir!”, “Wall Street Reform—enacted, sir!” “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—put in place, sir!” “Pell Grants—expanded for more students, sir!” “Deferred Action—already protecting immigrant students, sir!” “NATO action against Libya—regime change effected, sir!”

Suddenly there was a mob scene in my head, with a crowded chorus declaring all the executive actions and presidential decisions Obama made to help protect our planet, tighten oversight of banks, ensure quality care for wounded vets, reduce middle class taxes, offer relief for those struggling with unaffordable mortgages, and many many more.

Yes, I thought, compared to any American president, but especially to his Republican predecessor whose illegal and unconstitutional use of torture Obama ended on his first day in office, Barack Obama has a record that should easily catapult him into a second term as President of the United States.

After considering all that, I felt confident that Mitt Romney had a hard row to hoe if he hoped to effectively belittle Obama’s record. But still something nagged at me, something I had misplaced, or forgot, or had meant to include in the list above.

And then it hit me, the Gulf Oil Spill! Holy Hannah, I had forgotten the oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting unstoppable plumes of oil spewing out for three and a half months. All those millions of gallons of crude BP oil gushing out into the Gulf waters and wetlands while Barack Obama, America’s new president barely in his second year on the job, stood his watch, putting his science-wonk Energy Secretary in charge of the crisis team, squeezing $20 billion out of BP to ensure the availability of crisis funds for those who lived and worked in the Gulf, repeatedly visiting the region and monitoring the crisis up until the containment cap was set and black crude no longer leaked voluminously into the gulf waters.

Thinking back to the DNC convention it seemed remarkable that the Gulf Oil Spill hadn’t been mentioned by anyone that I could recall. If ever there was a proven example of Obama’s executive leadership, there it was!

For some reason, perhaps a right-wing conspiracy of unimaginable sophistication and effectiveness, America had totally forgotten The Gulf Oil Spill.

I could picture Joe Biden at the podium of the Charlotte convention center proclaiming, “Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!” as testament to all that the Obama administration had achieved in their four years at the helm. And I wanted to shout to him across the chasm of passing time, above the din of the Republican mud-slinging apparatus, out to all those Americans who, like me, had forgotten one of our nation’s gravest threats of the last few years, almost Katrina-like in its potential for devastation…and cry out, “Remember The Gulf Oil Spill!”

It made me wonder what else we’ve forgotten.


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