There are times when I wonder if President Obama has had just one good night’s sleep during the last seven years. I can’t imagine switching off all of the exigent problems, stacked like dominoes, and drifting off to an undisturbed slumber.
I acknowledge that the following doesn’t display a great deal of generosity, but I have always assumed that G.W. slept soundly, no matter what national or world crises were on his plate. I also believe that he never really internalized where he was — meaning the White House/the office of president — or what the stakes were. Hence Iraq, a decision for which countless men and women paid dearly in blood, and the nation in treasure, while the neocons were ensconced in overstuffed chairs, in comfortable living rooms in Georgetown, sipping Napoleon brandy from crystal snifters while smoking under-the-counter Cuban cigars. Or so I imagine.
Whatever you may think of his presidency, now nearing its conclusion, I am convinced that Obama — the man and the president — understands the full measure of his responsibility.
A piece in the New York Times, by Gardiner Harris, summarized what the month of September will be like for the president. And if context counts, consider that all that occurs in this one month will take place while the full-throated Republican primary campaign continues.
Begin with the mid-September congressional vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which Republicans, to a person, insist is a feckless disaster, marching Israel, in the words of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, to “the door of the oven.” Hyperbolic and irresponsible, his sentiments are echoed by the GOP. If Congress rejects the deal with a large enough majority and is able to override Obama’s veto, weeks will be consumed with the fallout and post-vote analysis.
The Republicans have also threatened to shut down the government in late September/early October over Planned Parenthood, insisting that the organization be stripped of all federal funding. Their stance against the organization is posturing and pandering, wrapped in the righteous banners of pro-life and anti-abortion, though less than three percent of the health care services Planned Parenthood offers involve abortion. The organization extends to millions of women, many of them poor, reproductive care including breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV screening and counseling, as well as information about contraception. It is well known by conservatives that Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using any federal money derived from grants and contracts for abortions. Nevertheless, Republicans have disingenuously portrayed Planned Parenthood as an abortion factory. The defunding will be linked to raising the debt ceiling (déjà vu all over again). The hostage: Planned Parenthood. Before: Obamacare.
In September, the White House is putting on a state dinner and summit meeting for China’s President Xi Jinping. Republicans, piqued, are suggesting the invitation be withdrawn. Clearly, the two nations have serious issues requiring diplomacy and dialogue: global warming, alleged hacking by China of U.S. corporations and government agencies, China’s aggressive tactics in the South China Sea, plus currency manipulation. And there’s the matter of the presence of covert agents in the U.S., sent here to intimidate Chinese expatriates.
Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. on Sept. 22 and will visit the White House. He will also deliver a speech before Congress. It is likely the pope will touch on climate change, though many in Congress are, if not outright deniers, very skeptical about causation.
World leaders will be arriving in New York at the end of September to attend a United Nations General Assembly. Included will be Vladimir Putin of Russia. Will Obama take a meeting?
According to Harris, the White House is also slated to produce a report to Congress on the Guantanamo Bay prison. Closing the prison is still high on the president’s final term agenda.
Of course, the question of whether Joe Biden will enter the Democratic presidential race remains a crossroads decision.
On Sept. 16, the second Republican primary debate will take place at the Reagan Presidential Library. Starring in a leading role, Donald Trump.
And then in early October, as mentioned, the debt ceiling must be raised. Déjà vu all over again.
Meanwhile, Mr. President, try and get some rest.
Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.