There are different kinds of leaders. Some return the stolen possessions of victims-- things stolen by their predecessors. And some continue to enjoy the stolen goods, whether they be artistic masterpieces, tribal lands... or democratic and constitutional rights.
Some leaders right the wrongs done to those who have been treated unjustly. And some ignore them.
Some reverse and cancel misguided or downright contemptible edicts and policies and some allow them to stand, so they can continue to take advantage of them.
It looks like Obama is joining the ranks of those leaders who fail to do the right thing.
He's broken his promises, or at least drastically distorted them, when it comes to separation of church and state-- when it comes to his policies on funding religious organizations that hire based on religious beliefs. And now, his White House counsel says he won't challenge Karl Rove's claims of presidential privilege.
That's right. CBS reports
"White House Counsel Gregory Craig says Pres. Obama is "very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened."-
But at the same time, Craig makes it clear that Mr. Obama is not disputing the claim of privilege.
"He is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency,"- Craig says in the statement.
Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University and the author of the book: Fooled Again, How the Right Stole the 2004 Elections, observes, "So the need to see Rove answer questions under oath is a matter not of justice, but of curiosity,
on the part of "those who want to find out what happened."
Apparently the President is not one of "those" himself, since his primary concern is to maintain the majesty of his own office, whose powers today are now imperial, thanks to Dick Cheney and his men (and the electoral black magic of Karl Rove).
This is, to say the least, a disappointment--and it's confusing, too, since Rove's own lawyer now says that his client is not covered by 'executive privilege'"
When it comes to doing the right thing with separation of church and state, it looks like Obama will let Bush policy allowing faith-based hiring discrimination stand. The New York Times writes, in an editorial:
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama made clear that he would extend the faith-based initiative started by former President George Bush to help social service programs run by religious and other charitable groups obtain federal grants and contracts. But he also pledged that unlike Mr. Bush, he would provide meaningful safeguards to avoid the blurring of church-state boundaries, including a firm rule barring discrimination on the basis of religion. The rule is notably missing from his new decree.
Speaking last July in Ohio, Mr. Obama set forth his "basic principles"- for assuring constitutional balance. "First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use the grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them "" or against the people you hire "" on the basis of religion,"- he said. "Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs."-
He said taxpayer dollars should not be used to advance partisan interests, and there was reassuring language about maintaining the separation of church and state in Mr. Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast preceding the issuance of his order, and in the order itself.
Obama should have revoked the order Bush signed permitting faith-based organization to hire and fire based on religious considerations.
Obama should reject many of the presidential powers the Bush-Cheney White House grabbed-- powers that are bad for Democracy, bad for the balance of powers. He should have a team of ethics advisers working at identifying the plethora of vile policies and rules Bush and Cheney put into place. They should generate a public report and then he should implement their recommendations without cherry-picking.
His failure to do so may not make him a thief. But there are levels of integrity. Any competent politician is master at playing the integrity game. But there's the truth. And the truth is that Obama is taking and accepting counsel that fails to really do the right thing.
It's easy for a leader to get his legal counsels to tell him things like, "you don't really have to give this up," or "if you let this stand, you're just following precedent set by your predecessor," or, "in my opinion, you're okay if you let this stand." Look at the counsel John Yoo gave George Bush, that, basically, it was okay to waterboard and worse. Bush shrugged off the criticism, saying, basically, that his legal counsel had given him a pass.
But Barrack Obama is an attorney. He knows the difference between counsel and what's right and wrong. He ran a campaign that led his supporters to believe he'd know the difference and make the right decisions.
I haven't given up on President Obama, but he surely needs to hear from those of us who expect more from him than what his legal and political advisers speculate he can get away with.