Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It Depends . . .

. . . on your perspective in judging how Barack Obama has done as president. This is the first anniversary of that glorious night when Barack Obama won the presidency and spoke to an ecstatic crowd in Grant Park, Chicago. I remember watching on television and thinking that this tremendous victory would mean the undoing of all the hateful polices of George W. Bush, a 8-year disaster who had gotten the country involved in two wars, brought the economy to the brink of collapse, and alienated world opinion about the U.S. I remember thinking that at last the country could be begin addressing a host of serious issues that Bush had ignored or screwed up: health care, environment, global warming, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and of course the wars.

So how has Obama done? Not well, in my opinion. Let's face it, the Obama rhetoric is grand, but the delivery of the goods is slow, slow. If you want to be a bean counter, Politifact will tell you that Obama is actually working on keeping a number of promises he made during the campaign. And he's only broken about 7 or 8. But many, many more are just sitting unaddressed at the moment. True, the man inherited a steaming pile of doo doo from Bush, which he had to address immediately. The jury is not yet returned on the efficacy of the stimulus package. But in other matters connected with the economy, Obama disappoints: Goldman Sacs insiders in top administration financial positions, no moves to roll back the tax cuts for the filthy rich, and, most notably, no move to punish either the financial pirates that brought down the country or the torturers who besmirched American ideals beyond recognition.

But the biggest problem I have with Obama is his leadership. He has proven to be an uncommonly placid person. What I wanted and what the times demand is a kick-ass idealist--somebody who lived up to the promise of change that elected him--and what I got was a measured, overly careful "realist" who to this very day still believes that compromise with Republicans who oppose his every move is the right way to go. This piece by Drew Westen pretty much says it all for people like me:
. . . the essence of the President's approach to leadership -- Obamaprise -- [is] the art of compromising when you don't have to. The goal is not to get the best possible bill, to fulfill his campaign pledges to the people who elected him, or to fulfill values to which he is deeply committed, whatever they seem to be when the dust settles on his latest moving speech. The goal is to find someone with whom to compromise, whether it's the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, or Senate Republicans on health care; the energy industry and the "clean coal" lobby on climate change; or the banks lavishing their latest set of outrageous bonuses on their executives for another Heckuva-Job-Bernanke year.
 It's not too late for the President to stiffen his spine and start really shaking things up. But time is fast running out, from my perspective.

Note to readers: I'm going to be out of town again for a few days. I'll be back Sunday, and then I'll be back to regular postings here.
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