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Barack Obama faces the defining moments of his presidency

By       Message michael payne     Permalink
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Millions of Americans who supported and voted for President Barack Obama find it difficult to believe what has come over him since he took office. They fully expected him to come into office, take charge of his stated agenda, choose visionaries for his cabinet and put a stop to the lobbyists' strangle hold on Congress. But, instead, they are witnessing a very cautious, low key and wavering approach to the critical issues that he must address.

He appears to be a shadow of the man that stood before America and inspired the people of this nation with a visionary message. On too many occasions he has vacillated in making decisions, he has caved in and changed his position, and he has allowed the Republican minority to control the debate and the agenda with their message of total negativity.

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His baptism of fire is rapidly approaching as he faces the defining moments of his presidency. There are no more than three issues that, depending on how he deals with them, will make it clear to the people of America if he actually is the visionary leader they thought he was or if he simply is not up to the job of leading our nation.

This entire issue of bringing health care reform to America can be likened to a three-ring circus with a bunch of clowns in charge. Between our ethically-challenged Congress, the corporate-controlled national media and the bewildering Obama administration, if any effective reform becomes a reality, it will be a near miracle. This entire exercise has been like a roller coaster with enough ups and downs to drive Americans crazy.

Many millions of Americans, 65% or more, favor the much debated and much aligned public option. We watch as senators such as Max Baucus, Charles Grassley, Olympia Snowe and others, both Republicans and Democrats, refuse to follow the wishes of the majority of Americans and, instead, bow down to the health care corporations and their lobbyists. We continue to wait for President Obama to finally step up and take charge of the situation. So far, he has given speech after speech but not only has he refused to make the public option an absolute must but he has not even once been able to explain to Americans exactly what a public option is.

If he continues on his present course, refuses to draw a line in the sand with regard to a public option, will not do some strong arm-twisting of rogue democrats -- and if he ends up signing a health care reform bill that does not include a strong public option -- then he will totally lose his base.

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If he has the audacity to go against the wishes of the majority of Americans, the rest of his presidency will be of no great significance for he will be labeled as one of the biggest presidential failures in history. He will have blown the greatest opportunity in decades to bring health care to all Americans. He can sit in the Oval Office and act presidential for the next several years but he need not even begin to think about a second term.

The situation in the financial sector continues to be very tenuous as this nation tries to find some way to end the continuing economic crisis. Hundreds of billions of dollars of bailout funds have been distributed to the very financial entities that got us into this horrendous mess in the first place. Is anything really changing in this entire scenario? Wall St. and the banking industry are back to doing business as usual and the American people and small businesses are not benefiting in any way.

We, the victims of these financial bandits, took the hit as a result of their greedy, reckless actions and then we the taxpayers have been called upon by our government to provide the bailout funds. What a travesty. After this terrible experience it should be clear to our president and this Congress that swift and effective legislation must be enacted to put in curbs and controls to assure that we never again experience such financial manipulation and abuses. There is supposedly some work being started in the House to begin this process but there seems to be no real sense of urgency on the part of Congress or President Obama and that is extremely troubling.

Should he not take a strong leadership role and demand that Congress develop and pass effective legislative reforms in the financial sector, his presidency will be severely damaged. But will it destroy his presidency? While that is hard to say, it probably will not because, as mad as the public is about the greed and manipulation of Wall St.and the banking industry, we Americans seem to be resigned to the fact that we can never prevail over those power brokers who now control and own Congress. We have heard that the banking industry "owns" Congress but it looks more and more that they also control our elected "agent of change".

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Afghanistan, widely known as the "graveyard of empires", has now become Obama's war. But from all indications, this war that he referred to as necessary during his presidential campaign is becoming a millstone around his neck. General McChrystal, with his newly published (leaked) recommendations on our future moves in Afghanistan, has thrown the ball into Mr. Obama's court with his request for 45,000 more troops. He has brazenly thrown down the gauntlet and is daring Mr. Obama to challenge him.

Talk about a defining moment! With his comments about this war being one of necessity, Obama appears to have painted himself into a corner and the military commanders know it. General McChrystal, Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates and others are closing in. The military has become such a powerful presence in America and the world that it does not take kindly to a rejection of its recommendations. Obama prides himself for having an ability to listen to any and all ideas and then make a decision. In this case, he better listen closely to the wishes of the American people who are totally sick of these disastrous wars.

If the president, after conducting in-depth discussions, caves in to the military, as many former presidents have, then America will enter into an Afghan quagmire that will go on for many years costing thousands of unnecessary deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars -- which we do not have. We will soon see what Mr. Obama will do, whether he will meekly accede to the Pentagon or if he will have the courage to do the right thing for America and the world, namely, to refuse to authorize additional troops.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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