Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Clemens Heat And Obama's Knuckler

Clemens’s Heat and Obama’s Knuckler

Roger Clemens beat the rap.  He reared back, as he had a hundred thousand times before, glared, and threw the ball right at the head of the hapless folk who dared challenge him.

24 years of major league baseball, over 20,000 batters, and the pleasant demeanor of a rattlesnake.  The government prosecutors showed what low minor league rookies they were; outgunned, out thought, out testified, out-evidenced.  Clemens’s attorney Rusty Hardin made mincemeat of the chief government witness, mocked the paltry and suspect physical evidence, and reminded us once and again that smarts and determination and sheer aggression often carry the day.

In the meantime, crafty lefthander Barack Obama was warming up in the bullpen.  The news hadn’t been really good for the home team recently, and Obama was coming off a couple of poor outings.  His fastball had lost a few miles an hour, and his slider lacked bite.  And he had never been one to brush people off the plate.  

Obama’s greatest strength was never his eloquent tongue.  It’s the fact that people revel in underestimating him. For more than three years we’ve been treated a constant barrage of his inadequacies, schoolyard name calling, questions about his intelligence, etc. etc.  But no one-not the GOP, not Hillary Clinton nor John McCain, nor anyone else, has ever been able to successfully answer the question, “just how does a young, mixed race, one term Senator with the middle name “Hussein” manage to become President of the United States?”

Perhaps it is because he is pretty darn smart and a lot tougher than people thought?  All those folk out there tuning into the echo chamber of outrage and insult that is Fox and Rush and the Tea-RNC often can’t be bothered to actually watch what has been happening on the field.

So, old Barack, a little grey in his hair, his arm a little tired, and surrounded by talk, even among his fans, of maybe just letting his contract run out at the end of the season and not re-signing him, took some of that smarts and toughness and started working on a new pitch.

As to Clemens, I never could understand why people would root for him even when he pitched for my Yankees.  He was a loud, in your face bully, and I don’t like bullies very much.   Even his fans think he probably took steroids.  That potentially makes him a cheater as well as a bully.  And, if he did take steroids and perjured himself during his testimony before Congress, that would make him a liar, a cheater, and a bully.  But that loud, in your face bully just faced down the government, and, in the end, if winning isn’t everything; it’s certainly a lot.  So, the Rocket gets an acquittal and a trip to Cooperstown.

Meanwhile, back in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama sees a rising tide and strides out to lectern.  He sets himself, winds and throws.  It’s a little hard to get it out, because Tucker Carlson has sent his Rottweiler to heckle (nothing like respect for the office.) But Obama doesn’t rattle all that easily, and he floats that pitch up to the plate and the GOP, pretty much en masse, drops their bats.

What the heck was that?  An Amnesty Knuckler?

Mr. Obama granted a two-year stay of deportation for certain immigrants who were brought here illegally as children.  The policy doesn’t give them legal status but creates time for Washington to create a permanent path. “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag,” Obama said during an afternoon Rose Garden appearance. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

After the GOP had gathered itself, it began to sputter.  Steve King, the Iowa Congressman, denounced it as only he can denounce.  But most of the rest of the GOP, including the Romney campaign, was a little more cautious; limiting their denouncing to only to Mr. Obama and the process he took.

What’s got their tongue?  This is, after all, a group that got itself into a froth when Osama Bin Laden was killed because Mr. Obama didn’t show pictures, and a year later, when, in an event of outrageous political propaganda, he marked the anniversary.

That’s a very good question, because conventional wisdom holds that prized independent voters tend to be fairly hard line on immigration matters. But the politics of this is actually trickier than you think. What Mr. Obama is aiming at is a part of what would become the “Dream Act”, currently being filibustered by the GOP in the Senate.  Mr. Romney has opposed the Dream Act and staked out other hardline positions on immigration.  Rising star Marco Rubio, on the other hand, had been working on a variation of the Dream Act that anticipates this very action-and only withdrew it last Friday when it became Mr. Obama’s initiative.  And GOP elders have been walking a tightrope between satisfying the Joe Arpaio wing of the party without permanently alienating the fastest growing bloc of voters in the country.  Good policy and good politics are hard.

It looks like Mr. Obama may have made good policy, and channeled his inner Roger Clemens at the same time. He brushed back (albeit with a soft toss) Mr. Romney and pointed out the core inconsistency in Romney’s and the GOP’s position-millions of children aren’t going to put peanut butter and pop tarts into rucksacks and self-deport.

So far, the voters seem to have acted counter intuitively-they may not much like illegal immigrants, but somehow they feel that deporting innocent children is a step too far.  Polling support is more than 2-1 in favor of Mr. Obama’s Knuckler. 

Not bad for a new pitch.