Cool it, punditry! Please don’t make my neck snap from the massive double-take of the past week. The post-first-100-days backlash has been stunning, yet, unfortunately, predictable. Shocking newsflash: Miracles haven’t happened! Of course, they were never promised – but that would dim the drama, wouldn't it?
President Obama is actually performing exactly as he said he would. Unfortunately, many people projected onto him every dream they had, even when he told them something quite different from what they may have wanted to hear...
Candidate Obama said that the New Depression would take at least his whole first term to correct, and he maintained a traditional Free-Market approach to fixing the economy. Many of us heard him, took him at his word – and, while skeptical of both that approach and his choice of economic team, saw the alternative was worse. Thus, this is who we’ve got. Critics on both the left (as a matter of economic conviction) and the right (to justify more frothing) would like Obama to be more strictly socialist in his approach; perhaps nationalizing banks, insurance companies and automakers. Unless Geithner and Summers are replaced with Krugman and Reich (which won’t happen), the corporatist methods will remain in place. The theory is to shore up these companies, make them healthy, and then break them up so that we are no longer saddled with too-big-to-fail institutions. That’s what you were promised – why are you shocked that the Depression isn’t over? (Realize, though, that even if the strictest socialization had been immediately implemented, the mess would not be anywhere near over).
Candidate Obama never went within a mile of single-payer healthcare. His campaign promises were less comprehensive than Hillary Clintons, even further from John Edwards’, and not in the same playbook as Dennis Kucinich. This week, pundits have been apoplectic over single-payer being off the table. When, dear reader, was it on?
Candidate Obama was able to pull back on public campaign financing because he did so well with internet fundraising. With that, the matter went on the back burner, and, as Obama’s senatorial partner Dick Durbin clearly defined Washington’s problem, Scarlet: “Banks, frankly, own the place.”
Candidate Obama never said he supported same sex marriage. On the contrary, he constantly brought up religion and endorsed civil unions. Yet many perceived some tacit wink-wink came with his statement. It didn’t: he meant what he said, so expect no more, and work locally within your state for what you want. Even if every state (well, some things may never happen in Alabama) were to make gay marriage legal, those gay spouses won’t be able to file a joint federal tax return until well into President Obama’s second term, and then only if he maintains a Democratic majority in the Senate. So why so stunned that more action hasn’t come from Washington in three months time?
Candidate Obama said he wanted to look forward not backward at the crimes and abuses of power of the Bush/Cheney administration. Now, his supporters seem stunned that he hasn’t arrested Rove, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Bybee, Rice, Cheney, and Bush. What facial tic did you see that told you he would do other than he expressed? If anything happens to the leaders of the Republican crusades, it can only come from the congress or (less likely) the Justice Dept. Yet, this week, canisters of carbon dioxide could have been filled with the used breath of media pundits appalled by President Obama’s decision to withhold publication of five year old torture pictures. My guess is he knows how to get to prosecutions without getting his fingerprints on anything. But it’s not his priority – and he made that abundantly clear during the campaign.
Nobody ever promised miracles. Be happy for what good has happened, and keep demanding better. But recognize that President Obama has been governing as Candidate Obama pledged he would. And that pain in my neck? It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. There are no burning Bushes.