There are dozens of similar examples of inexplicable cowardice or excessive moderation on the part of Obama. See the list below and this petition.
While writing this article I watched a video of former President Obama's wonderful speech to students at the University of Illinois. In the speech President Obama eloquently denounces the current occupant of the White House. It brought me to tears to realize that such a brilliant, gifted, sensible, lovable man could be followed in office by such an incompetent, repulsive scoundrel as Donald Trump.
Compare how weakly Obama led to the masterful tactics of Mitch McConnell, who engineered the placement of two Supreme Court justices and then convinced Senate Democrats to allow fifteen more federal judges to be confirmed as a condition for his letting Senators return to their home states to campaign. Why didn't Obama fight like that?
If Obama is a closet conservative, then some of his choices make sense. But from a purely political, strategic point of view, many of his choices were just dumb and naive.
In 2008 America was ready for the change that Obama promised. The economy was in deep recession. Corporate America had come begging to Uncle Sam for bailouts. The war in Iraq launched on false pretenses was going badly. The war in Afghanistan was unresolved. Wall Street was exposed as corrupt and under-regulated. Scandals and criminality in the Bush administration and the GOP (Tom DeLay, etc) made Americans yearn for a strong, ethical, populist Democratic leader.
Obama campaigned as such a leader and had a mandate certainly in terms of the electoral college vote: 365 to 173. The popular vote margin was respectable but not overwhelming: 52.9% to 45.7%.
Signs of trouble appeared early after Obama won election. Before his inauguration in 2009, when President-elect Obama was asked by ABC News' George Stephanopoulo about whether there would be investigations and prosecutions for Bush-era criminality, Obama responded, "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." In 2012 Obama again tweeted: "We don't look backwards, we look forward."
Apparently, Obama didn't look forward far enough. Else he would have foreseen the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Obama was a brilliant and inspiring speaker. But, once elected, he barely used his oratorical skills to sway public opinion. His successful campaign organization, Obama For America, devolved into the ineffective Organizing for America. He often betrayed his base: progressives, environmentalists, women, labor, educators, and pacifists.
Here's a partial list of Obama's betrayals and mistakes:
- Prosecuting whistle blowers
- Protecting war criminals and Wall Street crooks
- Surrounding himself with Wall Street cronies
- Supporting the charter school movement
- Bankrupting and weakening the Democratic National Committee and state parties (see below)
- Continuing the Bush bailouts of Wall Street, not Main Street
- Failing to support the Employee Free Choice Act, despite union support during his election and his promise to "to fight for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act".
- Appointing conservative judges to the federal courts ("According to a February analysis by the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of environmental, consumer, civil rights, and women's groups, 70 percent of Obama's judicial nominees are former corporate attorneys. " Obama's Judicial Nominees: Liberals Are Upset With Them, Too).
- Pushing for strong enforcement of federal marijuana statutes US vows marijuana enforcement regardless of California vote, Medical Marijuana Industry Is Unnerved by U.S. Crackdown
- Stacking the committee responsible for designing the Affordable Care Act with conservative Democrats, resulting in a health care bill similar to what Republicans had proposed: a gift to the private insurance industry
- Supporting conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln against progressive challenger Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate race; see Biden Sends Fundraising E-Mail For Blanche Lincoln.
- Compromising early and often on taxation and other issues, in a vain hope to garner Republican cooperation;
- Compromising with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision included in the tax cut compromise: "We had the president George W. Bush we couldn't get it done then and we're getting it done here."
- Nominating Jason Furman for Chief of the Council of Economic Advisers; the American Enterprise Institute says of Furman: "He has written on the importance of fiscal discipline, the need to undertake entitlement reform sooner rather than later, the role of international trade in improving living standards, and the benefits of Wal-Mart in boosting living standards for low-income Americans." (source: Jason Furman would serve with distinction as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers).
- Promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a neo-liberal "trade deal" that was more about giving power to corporations than about promoting free trade
The above is just a sample of his betrayals. See this petition for a much fuller list.
Under Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee had pursued a successful 50-state strategy. Obama weakened the DNC and state parties, making sure that most money was fed to his re-election effort and to the re-election campaign of Hillary Clinton. As it says in the Rolling Stone article Can Democrats Fix the Party?
The 50-state strategy devolved under Obama into a presidential-battleground strategy, leaving state parties starved for cash and leadership. "Obama didn't put resources into local parties unless it was for his re-election effort," says the former party chair. Making matters worse: Obama tapped ambitious Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz a favorite of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to run the DNC in 2011. "That congresswoman had no idea what she was doing," adds the former chair.
Wasserman Schultz went rogue. In a rift with the White House that spilled into a story on Politico, she was criticized for using the DNC as a vehicle for self-promotion, hoping the office would serve as a springboard into House leadership. The White House made overtures to oust Wasserman Schultz, but she dug in, promising an ugly fight that could tar the president as both anti-woman and anti-Semitic. (Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Russian hack of the DNC, declined to participate in this story.)
Obama dodged that fight, and instead fostered Organizing for Action, the grassroots group born of his campaigns. "They had a mirror organization that did just their politics, and it weakened the DNC," says a source in House leadership. "It directed money elsewhere and was not in the interest of the long-term stability [of the party]. It was a selfish strategy."
In Donna Brazile's account of her the role in the 2016 campaign, Hacks, the Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, she wrote, "Obama left the party $24 million in debt $15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign". "As I saw it, these three titanic egos Barack, Hillary, and Debbie [Wasserman Schultz] had stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes."
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