President Obama — August 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

What the hell is up with Obama, anyway?


It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’ve been called an Obama apologist, an Obamabot, a lemming and a number of other assorted things on this site but the reality is that I actually don’t support some of what he has done or how has done some of what he has done.

In the final analysis, I still think he has done the vast majority of things the best way he can but I have been asking myself why on earth he’s doing (or not doing) some of the things I have issue with.

Today, I think I landed on something that helps me to understand him a bit better. I’d be interested in your comments. Feel free to be polite and not totally rude and nasty ;^)

Here’s a list of the top five things that really gripe my cookies about the Obama administration:

  1. Capitulation on telecom wire tapping and a failure to pursue it.
  2. Failure to close Guantanamo Bay.
  3. Failure to use an Executive Order to end DADT separations until Congress can get its shit together enough to do it properly, once and for all.
  4. Failure to hold Bush administration officials responsible for war crimes, perjury, and a number of other crimes against our country that, to my mind, verge on treason.
  5. An absurd and repeated effort to start negotiations with Republicans at the half-way mark rather than from a more progressive position resulting in countless examples of (a) getting crappy bills because we don’t negotiate from a more liberal position and (b) getting the football jerked away right before we kick it every goddam time by Republicans that demand concessions then vote against the legislation anyway.

I’ll start with the last of these five first. I honestly believe, in my heart of hearts, that Barack Obama, in his heart of hearts believed his own rhetoric about being able to bring disparate sides together. He’s been somewhat successful at it in the past, something he talks about in great length in The Audacity of Hope and I think he really thought that he’d be able to bring those skills to the White House and actually get Republicans to move in his direction.

I think what he didn’t count on, and this is pretty naive in retrospect, was the incredible polarization that this country has gone through. It started with the Reagan administration that demonized liberals and made the “liberal” label something to sneer at and ended with the Bush administration that took that sneer to new levels (like right on Dick Cheney’s face.) In between, the rise of the conservative radio and cable network drove the steel wedge right down the middle of the country, splitting us in two.

I have always defended his efforts to bring the sides together. I admired it, even. Perhaps the best example of it was the health insurance reform round table he held.

But it’s not working. And it’s not going to work. Not in the foreseeable future. Especially not until Americans on the right turn their backs on vitriol and hyperbole and caricaturization of those they disagree with. When Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and their brethren are finally out of a job because nobody listens to them anymore and when the teabaggers have finally been sent packing back to the early 1900s where they belowng, then will have a prayer of finding common ground with conservative legislators (and conservatives in general) in this country.

I think the sooner he realizes this and changes his game plan, the better. What I think HE might be able to do that others may not is to figure out a way that gets the progressive agenda moved down the road without making the division worse.

The first four things on my list all boil down to a recognition on the president’s part that if he pushes his agenda on Congress more vociferously than he already is, it will not only face more rabid resistance but it will pour gasoline on a fire that’s already raging in the hearts and minds of conservatives right now. Listen to their rhetoric:

“He’s shoving his liberal socialist agenda down our throats!”

“Obama is ramming his commie agenda through Congress using every political trick in the book!”

That One is taking our country down the path to a Nazi dictatorship using Chicago-style politics.”

When Bill Clinton attempted to pass significant health care reform during his time in office, he used fairly strong tactics to pressure Congress. He and Hillary played a significant role in writing the bill and President Clinton owned it every step of the way. He had so much political capital wrapped up in it that, when it failed, it hampered his ability to other things afterward and it effectively took Hillary out of any future role where she could have made a much bigger difference while Bill was in office.

I believe the President Obama deliberately has chosen to let Congress take the heat, saving his political capital for future battles on immigration reform and clean energy policy and climate change legislation and education reform and the myriad other fights he has in store for him.

If he had decided to pursue putting Bush administration officials on trial for war crimes, it would have consumed the nation, sucking the oxygen out of the country at a time when he had to deal with a collapsed economy and two wars (among all the other things he’s had to contend with). He knew that a distraction like that would keep him from accomplishing so much of what he needed Congress to focus on.

Closing Guantanamo requires Congress to allocate the funds which they have not done. He has chosen not to strong arm them on that, as well.

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell requires a sea change, particularly among the age cohort that inhabits Congress. He KNOWS this will be difficult but that, in order for it to be permanent, it is Congress that must act.

But I’m still pissed about these five things. I want him to expend his capital on them. When he does, it will come back to him, I believe.

Start with an Executive Order on DADT. Do it. Do it tomorrow. It’s time. The country is already there and Congress will catch up. Listen to Rachel Maddow!

Move immediately to close Gitmo. Do whatever it takes. Go on television every goddam night talking about the shame that America has on it because of the very existence of that facility. Get your Dems in line and close that damn hell hole of torture and God-only knows what.

And STOP beginning negotiations from a position of capitulation. Start from a strongly progressive stance, even if it seems out of the mainstream. Negotiate to the middle rather than starting there. Give liberals something to cheer about and they will come to your aid gladly and strongly.

I love that the president has begun calling Republicans on their bullshit. More of that, please! And not just during Election Silly Season. Do it every single time they act like the idiotic, backwards cartoon characters that they’ve become.

Every. Single. Time.

I have faith in you, President Obama. I believe that you can be a strong, solid progressive and I believe you can pull it off without being viewed as “the angry black man”. I believe that you can do it in a way that moves America forward and doesn’t further the division that already exists. (Honestly, how much wider can it really get?) That’s your strongest suit. Play it!

Do these things and you will be able to accomplish even more of the change we are all hoping against hope for. You’ll take an already amazing and transformative presidency to an new and higher level.

And you won’t have to worry about the “professional left” ever again.

I’m just sayin’…