Maureen Dowd: The buck stops with us

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How did the one formerly known as The One go for two? In his renomination acceptance speech here on Thursday night, he told us that America’s problems were tougher to solve than he had originally thought.

And that’s why he has kindly agreed to give us more time.

Because, after all, it’s our fault.

“So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me,” President Barack Obama explained. “It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change.”

We were the change!

We were the change? Us?

How on earth could we have let so much of what we fought for slip away? How did we allow Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove, the super PACs, the tea party, the lobbyists and the special interests take away our voice?

“Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen,” the president chastised us. “Only you have the power to move us forward.”

We’re so lame. We were naive, brimming with confidence that we could slow the rise of the oceans, heal the planet, fix the cracks in the Capitol dome.

We never should have let the congressional Democrats run wild with their stimulus spending on pork that didn’t even create the right kinds of jobs.

It also took us too long to realize what the party of know-nothings and no-everything was up to. We should never have walked into that blind budget alley with John Boehner. We should have realized, after the first of three phone calls went unreturned, that even with a few more merlots under his belt, the speaker wouldn’t have the guts to tell us he couldn’t get a grand bargain through his tea party House.

We should never have delegated health care to Max Baucus and let him waste time trying to cut a deal with Senate Republicans who had no intention of going along even with ideas — like the individual mandate — that they backed first.

We should have listened to Joe Biden instead of getting rolled by the generals on Afghanistan.

We’re older, wiser and grayer now.

It’s depressing to look back and remember what soaring hopes we had for ourselves only four years ago. Did we overdo it with the Greek columns? Sheesh, a million people showed up for our inauguration. Now we brag when we break 10,000.

What a drag to realize that Hillary was right: Big rallies and pretty words don’t always get you where you want to go. Who knew that Eric Cantor wouldn’t instantly swoon at the sound of our voice or the sight of our smile?

Our forbearing leader didn’t pander to us with that standard breakup line: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

He gave it to us straight: It’s not me, it’s you.

If we get a second term, maybe Republicans will stop blocking, and blowing racial dog whistles. Maybe they’ll realize that they should deal with us, especially if they lose enough Latino voters to cost them not just the White House but congressional seats.

As the president told us, “our destinies are bound together.” So we have to stop holding him back when he’s trying to go “Forward.”

We admit we like our solitude — maybe a little too much given our chosen profession. We could have opened up our weekend golf foursomes to a few pols — even women! — rather than just the usual junior aides.

And we could probably stomach giving lifts in the limo to some mayors and members of Congress, and actually pretend that we care about their advice — not to mention their votes.

Maybe we could drop the disdainful body language. For that matter, shouldn’t we put a little more effort into helping elect Democrats to Congress?

Apparently, etiquette matters. We could send out a few thank-you notes to big donors and celebrities who give benefit concerts. Oddly, it turns out folks like to frame notes signed by the president and hang them on the wall.

Maybe we relied too much on Valerie Jarrett, a.k.a. the Night Stalker and Keeper of the Essence. She says people should woo us. But could it be that we need to woo them as well?

How could we have let the storybook president lose his narrative?

It’s ironic that Bill Clinton, who couldn’t pass his own health care bill, does a better job of selling ours. Even Obama said Friday that we should make Bill a Cabinet member — “the secretary of ‘splainin’ stuff.”

We are grateful to the president for deigning to point out our flaws and giving us another chance.

“I’m the president,” he intoned.

But We, the People, must do the work.

The buck stops with us.

MAUREEN DOWD is a columnist for The New York Times.

 


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