I've got my quarrels with the president. They are mostly around foreign policy. And, no, not just about Israel.

As for the most important domestic matters—matters that affect our long-time strength in international and military affairs—I believe he has been both brave and wise. And his advisers on these economic issues are not, like George Bush's were, people whose reputations were made making big money. Yes, making money in and from the very ways that brought on the country's financial near-fatal collapse. The people who have suffered the most from this are the poor and the middle classes. Look at every index. Or just look around you at the empty stores and shop windows.

I went to a "prime outlet" mall the other day. The prices were down, roughly 70 percent in every outlet, but there were no customers, in some locales literally no customers. What was full was the food court, full with families of four or five trying to eke out a meal at less than $2 per. Very healthy. This is President Bush's legacy.

I've got my quarrels with the president. They are mostly around foreign policy. And, no, not just about Israel.

As for the most important domestic matters—matters that affect our long-time strength in international and military affairs—I believe he has been both brave and wise. And his advisers on these economic issues are not, like George Bush's were, people whose reputations were made making big money. Yes, making money in and from the very ways that brought on the country's financial near-fatal collapse. The people who have suffered the most from this are the poor and the middle classes. Look at every index. Or just look around you at the empty stores and shop windows.

I went to a "prime outlet" mall the other day. The prices were down, roughly 70 percent in every outlet, but there were no customers, in some locales literally no customers. What was full was the food court, full with families of four or five trying to eke out a meal at less than $2 per. Very healthy. This is President Bush's legacy. 



This morning I picked up my copy of the Financial Times. There on page two were three articles on the economic situation in the U.S. One, "Jobless figures surge to 26-year high." Two, "Families turn to food stamps as wages drop." Three, "Middle classes turn to car park handouts." This means that "people who used to donate are now coming to the food bank—so imagine the shame."

Yes, imagine the shame. But I am sure that George Bush is still smiling.

I do not pretend that any of the health care formulas now being trumpeted around Washington are even near-perfect. But I do know that what we have now is ethically deficient. Any reality that counts the emergency room as routine health care is ethically deficient. And it is time that the nation deal with this. President Obama has tried, and he is being undermined. His White House aide on health matters, Ezekiel (Zeke) Emanuel, Rahm's brother who once interned (brilliantly) at TNR and went on to a career at Harvard Medical School and the National Institutes of Health, wrote an article here and then a book suggesting that medical care be paid for by a national Value Added Tax (V.A.T.) I thought that proposal very smart. Apparently the politicians didn't.

What the president is trying to do is to style a system that is non-exclusionary. There is no plausible moral argument against that. Unless you think that economically marginal folk should be excluded.

These thoughts come to mind about the parental paranoia sweeping (parts of) the country in anticipation of the Obama's Tuesday speech to school kids. This was reported in Friday's New York Times. Here and there it will be televised and shown to pupils in school. So suddenly many moms and dads—can it really be millions?—are going hysterical about having their children listen to him. Unmediated, no less, unmediated by them. It is almost as if Dick and Jane, Sam and Rosie, Juan and Carletta, Rashida and Abdul are being left alone in a room with a sex offender.

So let me remind these mothers and fathers and their clergy that Barack Obama is the duly elected president of the United States. He did not need a helping hand from a one-vote majority of an ideologized Supreme Court. His politics are doubtless different from theirs. But no president since Ronald Reagan has been more conscious of the nation he leads than Barack Obama, sometimes wrong, more often right, but at the head of a nation whose character goes back nearly a quarter of a century and beyond.

The notion that the president is not a patriot is hogwash, vicious hogwash.

He is the quintessential patriot, and it is almost disloyal to refuse any children the right to hear him. Disloyal and nutty.