The Sentence

June 26th, 2009

To-Do List: A Sentence, Not 10 Paragraphs, Peggy Noonan’s column today, takes a thought-provoking look at what may be President Obama’s biggest problem right now.  He’s trying to do too much instead of focusing on the things that are most important and that most Americans are concerned about.  She wrote,

Something seems off with our young president. He appears jarred. Difficult history has come over the transom. He seemed defensive and peevish with the press in his Tuesday news conference, and later with Charlie Gibson on health care, when he got nailed by a neurologist who suggested the elites who support a national program seem not to mind rationing for other people but very much mind if for themselves. All this followed the president’s first bad numbers. From Politico, on Tuesday: “Eroding confidence in President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy and ability to control spending have caused his approval ratings to wilt to their lowest level since taking office, according to a spate of recent polls.” Independents and some Republicans who once viewed him sympathetically are “becoming skeptical.”

You can say this is due to a lot of things, and it probably is, most especially the economy, which all the polls mentioned. But I think at bottom his problems come down to this: The Sentence. And the rough sense people have that he’s not seeing to it.

Noonan continued:

The Sentence comes from a story Clare Boothe Luce told about a conversation she had in 1962 in the White House with her old friend John F. Kennedy. She told him, she said, that “a great man is one sentence.” His leadership can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don’t have to hear his name to know who’s being talked about. “He preserved the union and freed the slaves,” or, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped to win a World War.” You didn’t have to be told “Lincoln” or “FDR.” …

Our economy and our security are intertwined. They are at the heart of everything, even to our ultimate continuance as a nation. Mr. Obama cannot replace his sentence with 10 paragraphs, and he can’t escape it, either. Because history dictated it. History wrote it. “He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror.” Sentences don’t really get better than that. He should stop looking for a better one. There isn’t a better one.

That sentence contains everything I’m concerned about right now, in terms of the future of my country.  I suspect I’m not alone.  With the President and Democrats in Congress trying to ram through two huge pieces of incredibly expensive legislation — health care and energy — by some artificial deadline, I wonder if they’ve lost sight of reality.  As our representatives in Congress argue at the margins of bills so thick they’ll never read them before they vote, I wonder if voters are going to hold them to account for having their priorities out-of-whack.

Health care and energy are important, and something should be done in both areas.  But what they’re working on now is too dense, too complicated, too expensive, and too rushed.  The President would be well-advised to back off on these programs and pay more attention to his “sentence.”  Then all these other things, important as they may be, can be addressed.  If landmark health care and energy legislation takes years instead of months to be completed, so what? 

And if President Obama can’t establish priorities for congressional Democrats in order to lead them toward realization of his “sentence,” then he’s like a bus driver without a steering wheel.  Who needs that?


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4 Responses to “The Sentence”



  1. Larry |

    Tom
    Obama and those close to him are trying to push to much to soon. Both health care and energy are huge undertakings but that apparently isn’t enough. Now they’re going to most likely add global warming to the list and the inherent high cost that goes with it.
    What I dislike is the number of unrelated items that get added to these bill’s. Million of dollars go to frivolous items without the taxpayer ever knowing. This problem is the very reason Obama and the Congress ram these item through the process without proper review. The message seems to be that what Joe voter don’t know can’t hurt him or Obama and congress.
    Lord help us !!


  2. Posts about Politico as of June 26, 2009 » The Daily Parr |

    […] the House floor had largely cleared following a series of votes, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) The Sentence – opinion-forum.com 06/26/2009 To-Do List: A Sentence, Not 10 Paragraphs , Peggy Noonan’s column […]


  3. rob |

    Tom, I think Peggy Noonan has written a very balanced piece, filled with common sense, which is perhaps one of the less common approaches in today’s politics and media. And that’s also why I couldn’t agree more with you: ‘The President would be well-advised to back off on these programs and pay more attention to his “sentence,”’ though I dare to say that I have always been skeptical about his chances. But this is just another story..


  4. Harvey |

    Tom,

    I truly believe that, in the end, unless President Obama makes some drastic, monumental changes, Obama’s “sentence” will begin with the words: “Before he was impeached, . . .”

    I know you’re saying to yourself that that is ridiculous but, if he keeps on going like he’s going, I don’t believe that this country CAN LAST four more years.

    Tom, I’m a fair minded person but I can find very little about Obama’s domestic policies to like.


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