Politics in the Time of Obama

Eleanor Clift
Eleanor Clift
American political reporter Eleanor Clift delivered a lecture titled “Politics in the Age of Obama” on Nov. 3 in the Science Center’s Kennedy Auditorium. A longtime reporter and editor of Newsweek magazine, her column “Capitol Letter” can be found in both Newsweek and on the MSNBC Web site. Clift also appears as a regular panelist on the nationally syndicated television show The McLaughlin Group, which she has compared to “a televised food-fight.” Clift admitted that the first time she appeared on the show, she felt as if she had been “dropped into a parallel universe.” She has also made appearances in various other popular television shows and movies, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, and Independence Day.

Clift began her talk on Obama’s presidency, thus far, with his inauguration. An astounding 1.8 million people attended the ceremony, flooding the city’s public transit system and overwhelming security at the site. Even more amazing than the sheer numbers of those in attendance was the absence of even a single arrest at the ceremony, said Clift. “It was a wonderfully respectful change of power.” Heeding his campaign mantra of “change,” the American populace welcomed Obama with open arms. Cheers echoed across the Mall as former President Bush flew over the ceremony in his helicopter, with a small chorus of “boos” vaguely audible as well.

Referring to his presidency thus far, Clift stated that the “steps Obama has taken have been pretty bold.” Pouring money into America’s financial system, tackling healthcare, and sending more troops overseas have been among his more focal actions. 

A recent poll cited “socialist” as the third most popular term to define President Obama, said Clift. Countering this claim, Clift maintained that a true socialist would have nationalized the banks and major insurance companies, and would have withdrawn troops from overseas. She cites the term as a “fear-mongering tool” used by conservatives in an attempt to seize an opportunity to criticize the President. The American populace possesses a natural fear of big government, and the massive debt it has accumulated in recent years, said Clift. “The amazing thing about politics” she stated, “is how two people can look at the same set of facts and spin them completely differently.” 

As president, Obama receives both the credit and blame for our nation’s actions, asserted Clift, “he [Obama] has the skill and will to deliver on his instincts.” His campaign succeeded with an audacity for winning, and he undoubtedly has the potential to deliver his promises to the American people. A man with a first rate intellect and a first rate temperament, Obama has repeatedly extended his hand across the aisle only to met by criticism, said Clift. With political turmoil ahead, the important question on the horizon is “what changes can (Obama) provide for the people right way?” Clift admittedly worries that his reforms may become easy targets if nothing can be accomplished in the short run. 

Citing the ideals of our founding fathers, Clift stated that ideally “government should reflect the will of the people; it should be subject to the mob pressure of the masses.” Throughout his campaign, Obama crafted a unique relationship with the electorate. His electrifying rhetoric swept the nation off its feet. A true man of the people, Obama has become a compromiser, Clift said. She believes that he needs to reconnect with the leader he presented during his campaign if he wishes to win the hearts of the American public once again. With his approval ratings falling, it is clear that some course of action needs to be taken. Referring to the Nobel Peace Prize Obama recently won, Clift stated “he deserves it, but has yet to earn it. She believes that this sentiment applies to his entire presidency. “He is still somewhat of a mystery,” she observed. 

In a time when fewer people identify themselves with a political party, Obama certainly has not left the rockiest portion of the road behind him, Clift predicted. The bold steps he has taken dwarf in comparison to what lies ahead. 

Clift’s lecture was sponsored by the Hamilton Democrats.
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