Recently, a gentleman whose name I could not find recorded a clip on a blog called the Black Liberal Boomer. In a calm, pleasant, and rational manner the speaker tells us why he is not disappointed in the presidency of Barack Obama. Following is a synopsis of the speaker's reasons for his lack of disappointment.
- He signed the most important piece of social legislation in 45 years, providing healthcare coverage for 45 million Americans in need of it.
There is now a piece of legislation that will extend healthcare to more Americans. It does address some important issues, such as the industry's current policies regarding what it calls preexisting conditions. That is well. But let us not overlook its glaring shortfall. Not only is there no public option, but as far as I could see Mr. Obama never made the faintest effort to procure one. And now, for the first time ever unless it's declared unlawful, people will be compelled to purchase a corporate product or be fined.
- He eliminated a terrorist who tormented the American psyche for 10 years.
True, but Osama bin Laden could have been captured and tried. Whatever happened to trials of so-called war criminals? In preferring to "look forward", Mr. Obama implicitly pardoned, and then proceeded to extend, such illegal and immoral policies of the previous administration as indefinite detention and trial-free execution. This new executive power is not limited to foreigners. Through his actions Mr. Obama has appointed himself sole arbiter of whether any American citizen anywhere can be summarily assassinated without habeas corpus or due process of law. Any one at any time.
- While disrupting Al Qaeda, he has transformed US relations with the Muslim and Arab worlds. This is evident because in all the images from the Arab uprisings he has yet to see an American flag burning--unimaginable before 2009.
The absence of American flag burning is proof of Arab allegiance to this country that is occupying and despoiling them? That is precious. I wonder how the Pakistanis and Afghans feel about the drone attacks that routinely kill not only adult, beard-wearing men who may, rightly or wrongly, be implicated as insurgents (insurgents being people who object to the occupation of their countries), but also to innocent women, children, and men. How about all the posturing and chest-beating in the direction of Iran--and by the way is anyone reminded of the approach to the invasion of Iraq? Are the Iranians enthralled with America? How much do Israel's wishes happen to mesh with US policy toward Iran? In his first year in office, President Obama presided over more drone attacks in Pakistan than had occurred in Bush's eight years in office. Is this winning hearts and minds?
- He has named two women, including a wise Latina, to the US Supreme Court and did away with the twisted DADT policy in the military.
Okay, here I have no complaints.
- He has tried to maintain civility with a hostile political opposition, maintained the dignity of the office, and sought constructive compromise.
It is true that Republicans have been intransigent, hostile, and even irrational. But Mr. Obama, supposedly a consummate politician, routinely gave things up--sunsetting the Bush tax cuts, strings on taxpayer money showered on institutions "too big to fail", maintaining Social Security payroll taxes thus ensuring its eventual demise, cuts to Medicare, the public option, the list goes on--without even rudimentary attempts to bargain. He gives his treasure away before even getting to the table. That is not what I would call a canny politician--unless his politics are not what they purport to be.
- He is a shrewd, pragmatic man of reason who views politics as the art of the possible. He is a politician, not an idealist. Democrats always accepted that about both Bill and Hilary Clinton, but Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric and incandescent charisma put him in league with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. However, those men did not become politicians. (Once you're a politician, all rhetoric becomes just that, hot air?) With admiration, the gentleman who recorded this clip considers Mr. Obama to be a realist. If the election of 2008 was about hope and change, that of 2012 will be about cold, hard realities. This man of reason, Barack Obama, is confronted by Republicans who are in his words "so deranged by his very presence in the White House" (and this could be) that they have pushed their agenda into the far reaches of right-wing irrationality. Mr. Obama says he has gone out of his way in every instance to attempt to work with Republicans; each time what we've seen is games playing; a preference to score political points rather than to get something done, and this has been true over the life of his presidency. Today the right-wing ideologues have pushed their agenda so far that the result has been a shift in the political center to the left, shown by polls showing support for the president's jobs act and wanting higher taxes on the rich. (I would not call the latter a shift to the left, but rather a rational stance that was once mainstream, accepted, and emplaced.) Young people worried about their futures are joining forces with union members to protest the economic inequality that has become more and more grotesque since 1981. This isn't class warfare, the president said; it is math. Right now, the speaker says, Mr. Obama is being criticized on the left by those who dreamed an impossible dream of a progressive presidency while being hammered by a right wing that wants to make the art of the possible impossible. The reality, says the speaker, is this: Who to the left of Barack Obama could be electable--Ralph Nader? Remember the election of 2000--he does not think we want to go there again. And, he says, if you don't feel enthused enough to vote for Mr. Obama again, consider the Republican alternatives--Rick Perry (GW Bush without the brains), or Herman Cain ("If you don't have a job or are not rich, it is your own fault"), or Mitt Romney ("Corporations are people").
Yes, Barack Obama has mouthed his share of choice words. But what has he done to enact, in full, even a few? So little has changed while so much begs to be accomplished. As Jeffrey Sachs said, " To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all." And before you say that Mr. Obama has ended the war in Iraq, please consider the fifty-five hundred people that will remain there, in the largest embassy in the world, among other places, in whatever capacity of adviser or contractor that may be applied. The war may be over but the occupation continues unabated.
As for the so-called war on terror, that endless exercise in ever-increasing police militancy and citizenry under suspicion, not only has Mr. Obama failed to close Guantanamo, he has officially sanctioned those legally risible military tribunals. On top of that he has posited the right to detain detainees indefinitely, even should they be deemed innocent by those Stalinesque farces.
- Finally, says the speaker, Barack Obama has tried to deal with a legacy of two wars and an economic collapse. The country is fortunate to have a president with such a great mind and such a good heart. (It truly is immensely refreshing to have a president with an agile brain and sparkling literacy.) For people on the left who have been disappointed the question is, can Mr. Obama be more like the president you dreamed of if elected to a second term? The speaker in this clip gives him the benefit of the doubt.
The speaker in this reasonably stated exercise seems to be saying, among other things, that the rhetoric spouted during campaigns is that only and need have no connection to the cold facts of reality. Does he so completely let politicians off their own verbal hooks? Does what the campaigner say really mean nothing, and is that all right? If so, we waste our time to listen.
Granted, once elected, a president's power is far from Zeus-like. Even with the current overaccrual of power in the presidency, constraints exist and can be amplified. And it must not be forgotten that in our world there always exists the implicit threat of harm to self or family, particularly for a man who breaks the mold. It is a sobering reality.
Nevertheless he made his choice and occupies a place where actions or their lack speak loudly. The Barack Obama I perceive occupies a moderate Republican position. He is compliant and complicit in prior state-sponsored financial abuses; an inept or uncaring guardian of public services, environment, and the rule of law; and an obedient servant to the dictates of Israel, Wall Street, and the military-industrial-corporate complex. And you think that in the next four years this will change?
I won't vote Republican and I won't vote Democratic. I will probably vote Green. Maybe if enough people sacrifice their votes, their voices will eventually be heard. Meanwhile and tragically, the choices we have are untenable.