It wasn’t all that long ago when they fawned over him.
But now, three congressional Democrats from Arizona — Harry Mitchell, Gabriella Giffords and Ann Kirkpatrick — are twisting in the wind, as their beloved party leader President Barack Obama continues to punish our cash-strapped state with a costly and unpopular lawsuit to prevent the implementation of Arizona’s new illegal immigration law. It’s Obama vs. we, the people — with congressional Democrats caught in the middle.
But things were different on Feb. 17, 2009.
The delegation standing on the tarmac was electrified with excitement, as Air Force One taxied to a stop at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The man who was the embodiment of all their dreams — who would give everyone a job, apologize to the world for President Bush, punish the “rich people” who “earned too much” over the previous eight years, give everyone in the U.S. “free” health care, make the world love America again, and ensure a Democrat majority in the Congress for years to come. Obama was visiting Arizona, and this was their special moment.
Mitchell, giddy with excitement, stood with a camera strap draped over his neck, snapping photos by the second as the president stepped down from the aircraft. It was cute to see this older gentleman so caught up in the victorious moment of a much younger man, like a dad on the sidelines at his son’s big game.
But Mitchell is an elected member of the United States Congress. He represents hundreds of thousands of people in the House of Representatives, and these people expect more from him than mere cheerleading.
Today, Mitchell appears to be on a path to electoral defeat because of 18 months of cheerleading and adoration of a president with a very self-serving agenda. Things have become so bad that Mitchell has had to publicly chastise Obama and suggest that he might spend taxpayers’ money in some more productive fashion than suing Arizona. Worse still, Mitchell has had to publicly call for securing the U.S./Mexico border, an idea that has been championed by Arizona Republicans for decades, and by Tea Partiers and Minutemen enthusiasts for at least the past six years.
Mitchell has made the terrible mistake — along with the majority of Congress — of finding his hopes and aspirations in the embodiment of one man, one personality, one persona. Mitchell should have known better, being a retired government and civics teacher. As constitutionally and historically illiterate as many members of Congress may be, there are still millions of us who understand that the United States is a nation resting on the foundation of specific principles and ideals, and not on the whims and charm of any individual personality.
Congressional Democrats like Mitchell are now in the painful process of discovering that Obama’s agenda was never about them, never about “the party” and never about the United States. They have been empowering a man who is committed to his own raw pursuit of power, and they are now finding themselves to be victims of his agenda.
Austin Hill (www.AustinHill.net) is author of “The Virtues of Capitalism” and a frequent guest host for Arizona’s Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM)