Unfortunately for President Obama, he could invoke Washington's "peace and plenty" phrase NOT at one single point in his State of the Union speech last week. He put a good face on it, though; he is nothing if not cool--too much so!. Love cool, but you gotta have a kind of Stonewall-Jackson-like "skeer" to go along with it. Not to be confused with the vague and overused "charisma"--this is the don't-mess-with-me look and bearing that says, "I can be dangerous." And that was George Washington all over, with sword and bulging biceps by his side--matched with a bulging intellect, and a hot temper when necessary. Obama's got all of that, surely, but lacks the sinister flash of fire from around the eye-sockets that tells you so. Well, sort of exactly like this cartoonist's rendition of what-might-have-been that I happened upon in the New Yorker this week.
Congressionally effective past Presidents like Washington had it, and you know what?--the best of them in the modern era always seem to get popularly initialized: TR, FDR, JFK, LBJ. But could these guys make Congress jump through the hoops, no matter its partisan make-up? Or else? You bet your Nellie Duff. Even the popular but non-initialized Ronald Reagan had it, despite his deceptively laid-back persona--he could flash that imperious "I'm-a-bad-ass-movie-star-and-you're-not" look when he had to. Not that I'm plumping for an Imperial President, but, my goodness, there's just no question that Obama coulda/shoulda done one hell of a lot more with last year's Congress than he did. Especially considering the Democrat's super-majority.
But Congress is a co-equal branch of our Constitutional government, and there's only so much a President can do, given the inherent and strict separation of powers. But Congress has proved powerless, and Obama's virtually "live" audience of the American people across the country already knew that before he even gave his speech. Ratings for Congress are about as low as serial rapists. WWGWD? Well, the very last words of Washington's first State of the Union gives the final nod to the PEOPLE, absent though they were from the President's immediate audience:
The WELFARE OF OUR COUNTRY is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a COOPERATION with you in the pleasing but arduous work of insuring TO OUR FELLOW CITIZENS the blessings which they have a RIGHT to expect from a free, EFFICIENT, and equal government.Each and every Congressman of that assembled company would have sighed in relief at those closing phrases, because they knew that if they had NOT been "efficient"--NOT taken "measures of the last session,"cited earlier in the his speech, that "have been satisfactory to [their] constituents"--they might have expected the flat of the General's sabre. The famously non-partisan Washington would have given a good verbal-or-worse thrashing to both sides of the aisle (had they been in existence) if the welfare of the people had not been looked after, efficiently. But he didn't have to. The threat would have been enough. (more)