Last month, at a CNBC-sponsored town hall meeting in Washington, President Barack Obama was forcefully questioned by Velma Hart, one of his supporters from the 2008 campaign. An African-American and the chief financial officer of AMVETS, a veterans’ group, she made clear her disappointment with his performance as president.
"I’m a wife, I’m an American veteran, and I’m one of your middle-class Americans. And, quite frankly, I’m exhausted," she exclaimed. "I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now."
Exhausted and disappointed.
Many Americans feel this way right now. I know I do.
But we have been here before as a nation, and our leaders have turned to God for solace and guidance, and have reminded Americans to have faith and be faithful.
President Clinton, known for feeling voters’ pain, immediately and publicly suggested to Obama after Hart’s remarks that he listen to the voters.
Instead of going out and listening, Obama has shrunk farther back in his shell. Instead of listening to exhausted and disappointed voters, he has chosen to surround himself with sycophants who echo and support rather than question and challenge.
Instead of participating in backyard barbecues that might lead to fiery questions that smolder long after they are not really answered, Organizing for America, a Democratic National Committee organization, is producing infomercials.
Tuesday night’s "town hall-style meeting at George Washington University," as Organizing for America billed it, included "folks who cast ballots for the very first time in 2008."
It included new voters, but showcased a performer, not a president.
The 51-minute, 41-second stream, now available online, was staged and polished. It revealed a president who could answer the easy questions and stay on his talking points.
Sarah from Milwaukee, who cast her first ballot in what she called the "magical 2008 campaign," introduced Obama.
Hanging on to the hope that his "Hope" slogan will once again resonate, Obama’s noted in his opening: "The only way this works is if hope defeats fear. ... We just finished the first quarter ... the future is going to be in your hands."
While opening up to questions may sound like a serious and thoughtful move, what followed were the kinds of softball questions that might have been lobbed by CNN’s departing talk show host, Larry King.
"How best can citizens work to mitigate the effect of corporate money on elections?" James from California asked in an online submission.
Paula from Chicago followed via Skype, "In this last push to get out the vote, is there an overarching message or approach that volunteers could best take to persuade voters to get back to the polls on Nov. 2?"
Daniel from Massachusetts, "What are some of the surprises that you have encountered in Washington, and what lessons have you learned in your 21 months here?"
Francesca from Dallas continued in the same vein: "Mr. President, you have pointed out that U.S. students have fallen from the top 20 nations in math and science in test scores, and jobs and contracts are going overseas. Do you think it’s time to label educational funding a national security priority?"
Matt from Maryland asked the final question, setting up Obama for the close: "When I talk to my friends, they’re very anxious about the future. ... What can you tell them to reassure them to make sure they’re not overcome by fear, and can remain hopeful in the future?"
Obama responded: "One of the great strength of America is our adaptability. ... This country is founded on defying the odds."
I kept waiting for him to state the obvious, that we are a nation founded through a belief in God. That with divine intervention, what appeared to be impossible became possible. That our Founding Fathers were faithful, grateful and gave thanks to divine providence for guiding them to shore, helping them through the Revolutionary War and saving the union.
Instead, Obama noted that it "defies imagination that we were able to pull this (founding of our country) off."
Whatever happened to God, providence and faith?
This super-produced, specially crafted, artificial town hall-styled performance defies imagination.
Wrapping up, Obama spoke about what gives him confidence: "What makes me confident is all of you. You guys give me confidence, you guys give me hope."
What he doesn’t realize is that we don’t have hope to give; that’s why our eyes are turned toward heaven.
He’s looking for hope in all the wrong places.
God gives hope.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, see www.creators.com.
Bob Furnad is a Covington resident and former president of CNN Headline News.