A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who asked me, quite seriously, if I was one of those people who are abandoning the President. She was, I guess, anticipating Robert Gibbs, who recently told the people who worked hardest to get Obama elected what he really thought of them. I told my friend that I will certainly vote for Obama and that I am still likely to work for him in 2012 (although I am more likely to spend my time working for progressive House and Senate candidates).
Am I disappointed with Obama? You betcha. Obama was elected with a mandate for change and with a Congress predisposed to do his bidding (admittedly, poorly led by Nan and Hairy). He has, none the less, failed to anticipate the opposition, unnecessarily surrendered positions of principle and demonstrated an unhappy tendency to compromise before the battle is engaged.
He made a major mistake a few weeks into office when he got between Officer Crowley and Henry Lewis Gates, and he has since caved on every racial challenge. For example, abandoning the highly qualified and talented Van Jones to the vicious attacks of Fox News and the right wing lie machine. Likewise Shirley Sherrod.
Within months of the election, still popular with the voters, The President did not take his substantial clout to the streets to fight the GOOP and get the stimulus package he needed. Instead he accepted a compromise that was known at the time to be too little to do the job and he is now paying for that. I actually don’t think jobs is a “progressive” as opposed to “centrist” issue, but I think the President has dropped the ball on jobs and he has failed focus on infrastructure projects that could help build a stronger future AND provide jobs.
The President surrendered before the fight for single payer health care started, even though he had campaigned on that issue and promised to deliver.
We may always have known that The President never intended to pursue the personal crimes of Busch and Chainy, but we expected at the least some final action against the people who made a mockery of the Constitution in approving torture and used the Justice Department as a political tool. Guantanamo is still functioning and the detainees who should have been tried in civil courts are being tried by military tribunals. This later spectacle is directly attributable to the President’s inability to buck public paranoia stirred up by the GOOP and its media allies.
Likewise, he has turned Don’t Ask Don’t Tell over to the Pentagon bureaucracy, which has shown no signs of actually eliminating the practice. The Fierce Advocate for GLBT Rights has taken a vacation.
Wall Street is still running the Treasury, financial reform failed to encircle many derivities abuses, the reaction to BP’s Oil Spill was slow. It has taken too much time to root out the Busch appointees burrowed into and still running some key agencies.
Would I be happier with Dennis Kucinich? Only if he did a better job than Obama has been doing. The measure is not in the perception, it is in the performance. (BTW I do not want to get rid of the Pentagon. I want to root out the religious fanatics who control too much of it and I want to cut its budget 20 percent.)
Do I think the Obama Administration is a complete bust? No. First and foremost it is not a GOOP administration. The Supreme Court appointments have been disappointing. Too centrist, too corporate, too Ivy League. But they are not facists. We got a health care bill. Even weakened by unnecessary compromises, it is better than nothing. We are once again a respected leader in the international community.
Painful as it is, we are no longer trying to hide the cost of our little wars, and know the total cost of government.
Obama’s EPA has, more than any other agency, unwound Busch era programs designed to cripple it and is now reregulating to beat the band. Stem cell research is safe from religious nut jobs, and science has been restored to an honored place in government. There are only 50,000 troops left in Iraq and Afghanistan is supposed to wind up in a year. It could be worse.