"100 Days, 100 Nights," Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
NPR.org, October 24, 2007 - The horns slide down a chromatic run, all sad and blue. It sounds as if "100 Days, 100 Nights" will be a downer — like the band is going to launch into "The Volga Boat Song" or something. Then in jumps Sharon Jones, queen of retro funk, who was once told that she was too short and too dark-skinned to be a star, but kept on singing anyway. The tempo quickens, and the gut-wrenching force of her voice wipes away the sorrowful intro.
Every time I heard someone talk about President Barack Obama's First 100 Days and how he was either going too fast or too slow, doing too little or not doing enough, being over-exposed to not transparent, being too specific to too obtuse, being ambitious to being pedestrian I thought of the title to an adolescent novel I read in high school, "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden."
Some would argue that Obama did promise a rose garden of changes on the campaign trail in the soaring rhetoric of his speeches that left so many slack jawed in awe, but every promise and vow was contingent on a system designed for debate and dissent. You can be "the one you are waiting for" but if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't quite take the same "lobbyist = bad" and fewer earmarks pledge you're going to run up against some ambition opposition.
Dogs bark. Trees grow. Democrats fight. They've always fought. That's why despite the common conservative criticism of the Democrats not living up to their "Democratic" title, they're actually quite Democratic in you can be completely dismissive of the president even if he's from your own party and go down fighting and obfuscating the whole way. While Obama promised to bring change to Washington, I don't recall the Congressional Democrats running on any agenda other than their theme "Stop hurting America! Elect more Democrats!" But while this may surprise some, but I actually PREFER this.
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While I want to see Obama's ambitious agenda largely pass, I want there to be actual debate and real examination of the issues at hand. The most horrifying thing about the years 2000 through 2006 weren't the Bushes or the wars or 9-11, but the fact that we had a president who signed almost everything Congress sent up without question and a Congress that signed on for whatever the president wanted without question. How much did the war actually cost? Who knew? It wasn't in the budget. Why did the prescription drug bill have to be passed in the middle of the night? Doesn't matter because no one saw the ugliest vote in the history of voting on C-SPAN in the twilight. The hardliners had instituted a top-down structure that included regular woodshed beatings and head knockings by Tom Delay for wayward moderates and conservatives who didn't tow the line.
Can't say that did a thing for the Republican Party, all that forced solidarity and fidelity, considering it got them out of office and now they're leader-less, but I welcome a return to James Carville's "I don't belong to an organized political party. I belong to the Democratic Party," that "Hey, everybody! Let's fight for the hell of it because D.C.'s gone BLUE and the Republicans can just say no to everything! Wheeee!" attitude.
I know, it looks frustrating, but this is what government is actually supposed to look like.
Like a hot mess.
Obama's had an interesting 100 days and 100 nights of wins and losses, of favorable press and of negative mini-controversies, of appointees who couldn't do their taxes, of fluff, of seriousness, of international celebration and curiosity, of foreign intrigue, of budgets and bills, of Easter Egg Rolls and of Nancy Pelosi's pursed lips of disapproval then the grin of "I'm not really disapproving!" But I prefer the Pelosi-Obama political dance of a 1,000 "Excuse me, sirs and ma'ams" to the old ways.
While Sharon Jones sings the most apropos song I could find, replace "man done me wrong" vibe with the blues of getting both your dream job and the hardest job in the world and you can think of how this had to be one hard 100 days and nights. It's not like the country was even in remotely good shape. And then there was the stuff we actually knew about. Goodness only knows of the secret fires that had to be extinguished silently and kept from newspaper headlines. But Obama, per usual, has handled it all with such panache you wouldn't even know he was undergoing any sort of internal struggles.
But it's there. And it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
How do you think he did?