John Eby: Obama Girl, don’t kick the big nerd to the curb just yet

Published 2:13 pm Thursday, February 4, 2010

ebyThere’s disillusioned Obama Girl trapped in a dark place, that bizarre alternative Fox universe known as Hannity’s America, where footballs fly alongside the flag and polar bears defiantly sip pina coladas while bobbing about on the last Arctic ice floes.

In fact, the viral video vixen of 2008 is figuratively coiled in Sean’s serpentine embrace Jan. 28, the night after the first State of the Union. I didn’t know her name was Amber Lee Ettinger, let alone that she came to politics from a fashion background or that our host has been married for 18 years. Yet Hannity lingered tenderly on this topic for three or four minutes.

Fox didn’t blink and break away from this (“We don’t report, you can’t decide”), but for the moment I was thinking, a fox on Fox. I get it. It was like finding Ann Coulter on The Ed Show confessing her sins.

Sean draws attention to her jewelry designed with her mom, a commercial within a commercial. “I went to school for lingerie, but I changed paths,” she said. “You’ve fallen out of lust?” Hannity hunts hungrily.

“I just don’t have that big crush like I used to,” Ettinger laments, coming off like a fourth Kardashian sister who has just come to light.

No, Obama never called her.

“Michelle might have stopped it,” the host said.

“It’s gone,” Hannity’s happy.

“It was two years ago,” she said. “If I had a crush the same way I did in the beginning, I’d be the fool. It’s like a relationship. When you get in a relationship with somebody they’re all great and perfect, they say all the right things. Then, once you’re in a relationship … they’re not that perfect.”

“His speeches ring a little hollow, you don’t want to stand up and chant, ‘Yes we can!’ ” Hannity leads the witness.

“Everyone last night watching his speech got a good workout,” Ettinger said. “They were up like 86 times to clap for him, but I think it was a lot of recycled talk.”

“When you meet somebody for the first time … I don’t know about relationships. I’ve been married 18 years. I’m out of that business,” Hannity stammers as his guest giggles.

“Were you caught up in what I describe as Obamamania?”

“Infatuation,” Ettinger said.

“It’s not completely gone. I graded him a B- and I don’t think that’s that bad.”

“You’re being a little generous,” Hannity said. “If I give him an F… I thought the country almost got hypnotized … I describe Obamamania as the feeling of omnipotent ecstasy at the sight of Obama. Did the country get caught up in this hypnotic trance?”

“Absolutely, for sure,” Obama Girl said. “But I think it’s dying a little bit now, right?” It will if Fox has anything to say about it.

Hannity suggests “a lot of it is his fault” for “simple things” like promising to not hire lobbyists.

“Broken promises,” she agreed. “Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. In a relationship, once your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t do what they say they’re going to, you kick them to the curb.”

“So, in other words, it’s almost like a boyfriend lied to you,” Hannity said.
“Sort of,” Ettinger agreed.

“And you gave him a B-,” Hannity closes in, still smarting from not being invited to the White House Christmas soiree. “How many lies does it take?” before her crush is crushed.

“I’m going to give him a little bit longer,” Ettinger said. She tries to be a positive girl. Would she vote again for the big nerd?

“Right now I can’t say for sure,” Obama Girl said. “What are my other options?”

Hannity ticks off Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.
“I like Mikea Huckabee.” In fact, she also pops up on his show. Give Amber the last word.

“At least I wasn’t the Edwards Girl.” Maybe Obama saw this exchange because the next day he went to Baltimore and made like Daniel in the Bible walking into the lions’ den for a friendly game of one-on-140.

Not only does this tone-setting tactic reinforce or redefine him as a fighter, but it flushes the obstructionist GOP into the disinfecting light of day.

Harsh foes, who in a weak moment let this be televised, will whine that Daniel in the den of the House Republican caucus policy retreat became the lion with 82 minutes of rhetorical roar to distract from the expiration of his mediocre first year.

MSNBC, sensing the revolution was being televised, mashed Chris Matthews in Washington (“it’s a great statement of his personal intellectual confidence, that he wasn’t going to be hit with something he couldn’t handle, and everybody agrees he could handle everything today. I don’t know anyone else in the country who could have done what the president did today in simple ability terms and temperament for adversarial remarks and snarkiness and to out-think your challengers”) and Rachel Maddow (“he wins when politics is substantive”) and Keith Olbermann (“remarkable political dialogue not before seen in this country in the era of television … arguably what could be the most compelling moment so far of the Obama presidency”) in New York together into a two-hour special, “The President’s Question Time.”

Obama jousted with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the budget committee member he referred to as Jim. Hensarling suggested the budget triples the national debt over 10 years and moves the cost of government to almost 24.5 percent of the economy.

“The whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign,” Obama objected. “The fact of the matter is when we came into office the deficit was $1.3 trillion.

When you say I’ve got a monthly deficit that’s higher than the annual deficit run up by Republicans, that’s factually just not true – and you know it’s not true. What is true is we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I passed any laws. What is true is we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade that had nothing to do with anything we had done. It had to do with the fact that in 2000, when there was a $200 billion budget surplus, a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, we had two tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was the biggest entitlement plan in several decades that was passed without it being paid for, you had two wars that were done through supplementals, then you had $3 trillion projected because of lost revenue of this recession. That’s $8 trillion. We increased it by $1 trillion because of spending we had to make on the stimulus.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the budget would double, not triple, the national debt over the next decade, from $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $14.3 trillion by the end of 2019. David Axelrod, the former Chicago Tribune reporter who advises Obama, told Matthews Obama wanted to “put the Republicans in a situation where they either join him and try and solve our problems or be seen walking away.”

“I’m not a pundit, I’m just the president, so take it for what it’s worth,” Obama said, “but I don’t believe the American people want us to focus on our job security,” but theirs.
“They didn’t send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of steel cage match to see who comes out alive,” Obama said. “That’s not what they want. They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done and to solve the problems that they’re grappling with every day. The differences between the two major parties on most issues is not as big as it’s represented, but we’ve gotten caught up in the political game that’s just not healthy. It’s dividing our country in ways that are preventing us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century.”

After shedding 650,000 jobs in December 2008 and another 700,000 in January 2009, “the month I was sworn in,” Obama said, “I assume it wasn’t my administration’s policies that accounted for that. We lost another 650,000 jobs the subsequent month before any of my policies had gone into effect … before any stimulus … had it not been for the stimulus package we passed, things would be much worse.”

With 2 million jobs saved to 7 million lost, “We still have 5 million folks that we’ve still got to deal with. That’s a lot of people … The package we put together reflected what I think most of you would say are common-sense things. This notion that this was a radical package is just not true. ‘Boutique’ tax cuts? Ninety-five percent of working Americans got tax cuts. Small businesses got tax cuts. Large businesses got help in terms of their depreciation schedules. A third of it was stabilizing state budgets” and avoiding teacher, firefighter and cop layoffs. “A big chunk of it was unemployment insurance and COBRA. Just making sure people had some floor beneath them. And making sure there was enough money in their pockets that businesses had some customers. And infrastructure. A lot of you have gone to ribbon-cuttings for projects you voted against. I say all this not to relitigate the past, but simply to state that the component parts of the Recovery Act are consistent with what many of you say are important things to do – rebuilding our infrastructure, tax cuts for families and businesses and making sure we provide states and individuals some support when the roof was caving in. The notion that I would somehow resist doing something that costs half as much, but would produce twice as many jobs, why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I am not an ideologue.”

Obama told Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., “We can have a serious conversation” on a line-item veto to reduce waste. “The earmarks problem is not unique to one party.”

“This is what it is like to be in the room with the President of the United States,” Olbermann said. “You pick your topic and are left wondering whether or not you know as much about it as he does.”

“So much for ‘he always needs a Teleprompter,’ ” Maddow agreed.

“This is unscripted, no notes. This is very Clintonian.”

“Impressive” to Matthews was Obama’s skill at being “witty, informed, poetic and smart about the numbers, all at the same time. He just pulled a fast one on Ryan. Ryan was talking about that part of the budget that is controllable, and the president switched over to the part that’s not controllable.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, one of 22 House freshmen “who didn’t create this mess, but we’re here to help clean it up,” chided Obama for adding to the “Deficit of Trust” with hollow promises for a health care debate broadcast on C-Span, barring lobbyists and earmarks and going line by line through the budget.

“It didn’t happen.”

Matthews said Chaffetz “last June pushed through a measure to basically get rid of those full-body image scans at the airports, 310-118. If the president wanted to play hardball, he would have said, ‘Oh, Jason, well before the Christmas bombing attempt, you wanted to rob us of those machines, which were the only thing that can stop this guy. By the way, shouldn’t you pay a political price for that by being defeated in the next election?’ They’re not playing tough with this guy, who came off as wet behind the ears.”

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., put Obama on the spot by saying he doesn’t roll up his sleeves and solve problems like he did when they were state senators in Springfield.

With American history being made, CNN, MSNBC and Fox went live to Baltimore, but Fox cut away early so their talking heads could describe what their viewers no longer saw, like Trace Gallagher characterizing Obama as “combative.”
More bizarre, Fox substituted Republican “reaction” to themselves.

Jan. 30 Fox featured Glenn Beck, No. 2 in popularity only to Oprah, and his chalk board lecturing on “progressives are destroying our Constitution” and are “Mein Kampf lite” and Obama is Woodrow Wilson.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., represented that Republicans have many health care reform ideas to offer while “starting anew.”

Matthews said, “She never mentioned that the Republicans controlled both houses and the presidency for most of the last decade. During none of that time did they ever try to move those bills. This is the great hypocrisy of the Republican Party. They never offer the Republican approach when they have the power.”

Rep. TomĀ  Price, R-Ga., asked, “What should we tell our constituents who know Republicans have offered positive solutions to the challenges Americans face, yet continue to hear out of the administration that we’ve offered nothing?”

“If you say, ‘We can offer coverage for all Americans and it won’t cost a penny,’ that’s great politics, but it’s just not true … suddenly 30 million people have coverage and it cost nothing,” Obama answered. “It can’t just be boilerplate and political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. There’s got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals – mine included … I take a look at this stuff, and the good ideas we take. We have to be mindful that it can’t be all or nothing one way or the other. The Republican caucus isn’t going to get 100 percent of what you want – or 80 percent. It’s going to be hard to get a deal done. That’s not how democracy works. My hope would be that we can look at some of these component parts and maybe we break some of them up and work on them … Just the fact that it’s my administration proposing it shouldn’t prevent you from supporting it.”

On tone, Obama said, “We’ve got to be careful what we say about each other. It boxes us in and makes it difficult for us to work together. Our constituents start believing us. They don’t know this is just politics.”

Maddow thought the president might be “naive” on that point because Republicans, under assault from the extreme far right of the party, “mean it.”

Matthews likened litmus tests to “Cambodian re-education camps.”