Obama as Gaius Baltar

I’ve been rewatching Battlestar Galactica lately. As I was going through early season 3 something Gaeta said struck me.

He’s in the mess and the other pilots are railing against him for being Gauis’ aid during the occupation. Gaeta replies that he was serving the duly elected President of the colonies; that they voted for him.

The pilots didn’t hear him through their anger and resentment, but I did. They’re yelling at Gaeta, casting blame for what happened on him. He’s reflecting their own responsibility back to them, “You gave him power. And this is what came of it. You cannot, now, absolve yourselves of that choice.”

Recent news articles suggest Obama may be left with a similar legacy of disappointment and discontent.

The Times quotes Bob Lichter, who has tracked themes in late-night humor for 21 years, as saying “it will be telling to see how the comedians treat” the president’s winning the peace prize: Is there now a caricature taking hold of a man more celebrated than accomplished?

Lichter, of George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, said it was too soon to tell whether the Oct. 3 Saturday Night Live skit suggesting that Obama has accomplished nothing is a “harbinger” or not. “The danger is that Mr. Obama is going to be defined by inaction and not living up to expectations,” he said.

“It comes close to a certain arrogance,” Hughes said, “as if this president has done things that no other president has ever done before — except that they have done them before.”

Obama even treads on unprecedented territory in ways he’s not trying to highlight. At this point in his presidency he’s spent more time on the golf course, for instance, than his immediate predecessor. He’s also attended more fundraisers.

“It’s no coincidence that the more the American people learn about [the health care bill], the more they oppose it,” [John] Boehner said.

Questions will include whether Americans really want more government help in matters such as obtaining health insurance, even though Obama campaigned on that very issue.

It will send his party into a painful re-examination of voters’ anger and desires ahead of the November elections for Congress, governorships and state legislatures.

Democrats widely assumed that a top priority, and a winning political issue, was to make health insurance more accessible and competitive.

But now, just 14 months later, voters are snarling at the Democrats they put in charge, leaving them to wonder how to expand services without invoking public wrath.

“I voted for Obama because I wanted change,” said [John] Triolo, 38, a sales manager from Fitchburg. “I wanted change, I thought he’d bring it to us, but I just don’t like the direction that he’s heading.”

“There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this,” Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who is up for reelection this year, told ABC News, but “if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up.”

“It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message,” he said. “They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That’s something that has to be corrected.”

“Anyone who’s been out on the campaign trail, particularly in this race, has seen the anger of folks who are frustrated, concerned,” she said. “They are angry about health care issues, and they’re angry about our two wars. …”

It seems that, much like Gaius Baltar, though the populace voted for Obama they are not happy with what they’ve gotten. Perhaps because Americans reacted out of emotion, the desire for change as strong as the desire to settle on a new world, without regarding the character of the man or the consequences of that change. The political maneuvering over health care and the economy may not be as dire a repercussion as the occupation on New Caprica. But it is real and therefore elicits a similar anger and frustration.

Obama made promises, he said this is what he was going to do. Now that it’s here and we’re face to face with it the people are crying, “This isn’t what we wanted.” Like the pilots we want to cast blame, on congressmen and the president. But in our dissatisfaction and anger, can we ignore our own responsibility?

Can we find within that accountability the power to change this course?

and this is why I love sci-fi and tv and stories. because they can unexpectedly and poignantly reflect our world back to us.

ETA: The LA Times has a blog post saying much of this same thing after the BP oil spill, without the Battlestar references.

Posted January 20, 2010 : Commentary / , ,