That’s fair for Obama’s annual review. Average.
We don’t agree with Clive Cook’s panglossian look back. It’s trussed up typical Neocon tripe in part passed as international savoir faire – i.e., Obama did the right thing in Afghanistan but dawdled, wants to talk to people, and might force repeal of the Warlord’s fiscally irresponsible tax cuts. Cook gives Obama a “B” but infers Obama is the sort of bloke who might have been rude to an Astor and even let the second class and steerage passengers have a chance to jump ship on the Titantic. We do agree that Obama is a walking vacuum of leadership.
We are less generous. We think Obama is the empty suit, rhetoric without spine, balls or convictions. We understand the progressives’ disappointment with Obama. We lost some readers during 2008 with our emphasis on the Boy King and his likely equivocation and craving for status quo acceptance. Can’t make all readers happy. But we did warn. It’s a cold comfort. We secretly nursed hopes that Obama would be more than a transitional figure, that he had a core besides rhetorical intoxication. Not to be so far. To add insult to injury, Obama is not a very competent status quo politician; he shows no understanding of power or how to use it. His wasted Asia trip merely Exhibit ‘A’. Lunching with the plagarist Doris Kearns Goodwin on the glories of LBJ holding conversations in the Oval Office while taking a dump won’t help, either.
On the issue we care about most, restoration of liberal democracy, Obama has done almost nothing. He arrested the acceleration into lawless bureaucratic tyranny but did not reverse it. His DoJ filed arguments on State Secrets that would have made Fredo Gonzales and his lawyers accredited from schools run by TV studios proud. The unnecessary and totally voluntary brief filed on behalf of John Yoo is Addington-esque. How repulsive to see German war criminal arguments regurgitated by an Obama DoJ. Obama is seeking preservation and even enhancement of the PATRIOT Act. Closing Gitmo in rhetoric is fine. To transfer detainees to Illinois is political window dressing. On torture, we hear not a pin drop. Perhaps Holder really is investigating and building a factual record for the future. But his lips move so we’re pretty sure he’s lying. But we leave that open for future review.
The Bureau’s staggeringly wanton abuse of national security letters? Other other alleged ‘powers’. Nada. No accounting for how DoD elements operated domestically outside congressional oversight. No accounting for the even more pervasive than realized NSA turn inwards against Americans. No one is accountable. ‘Mistakes were made’. Nothing to see, old news. Contacting reform? It’s to laugh.
We don’t give Obama’s F-22 cancellation a whole lot of credit (someone tell Rachel Maddow that politicized subcontracting for defense contracts is decades old. Or just yank her teeny bopper naive butt off the air, please). Sure there were program failures, but that’s common. Cost overruns, too. The F-22 was the first major victim of the inter service knife fight as we enter the procurement scissors crisis. We’ve talked about that looming problem at length here since 2005 or so. It’ll get worse. It’s tectonic military industrial politics.
Readers here know we called Goldilocks on Afghanistan months before he slopped from the middle bowl in public. Character is destiny they say. He couldn’t even get his withdrawal deadline to stick for more than three days before CENTCOM and Gates puked all over it. The recent bomb plot from Yemen proves that Al Qaeda has indeed metastasized making nation building in Afghanistan all the more insane. The flexible counter terrorism approach was and remains the realistic and sane option. Obama has no excuse – he’s rational, had time and chose to push the chips all in. And we believe he is not in full command of his military. That’s a scary notion.
Most of the Wall Street bailout happened under the Warlord. For good or for ill. Banks stabilized largely before Obama took office. The Obama stimulus package, however, was his. We agree with Krugman it was too small by all rational accounts. He gave Republicans massive and ineffective tax cuts there in return for . . . zero. In fact, Obama gives up alot to almost everyone in return for zero. He’s The Zero Kid. Kick him in the groin? No sweat, come on down and shoot hoops. (Obama’s not bad about kicking his supporters in the crotch, though. Just ask the gay and lesbian activists what his word is worth).
Financial reform? Too big to fail? Please. Liz Warren’s call for a something more substantial for consumer rights? Sure it inevitably will get captured by industry anyway as with regulatory agencies across the spectrum but it will do more good than nothing. Blah, blah, rhetoric and zero substance. It’s noteworthy how Wall Street CEOs view Obama now. Madoff reforms? Dead. When Obama intended to stamp his feet and gnash his teeth at Wall Street’s shocking bonus bonanza, CEOs begged off meeting him. Traffic. Manicurist appointment. Playing with their Blackberries. They took Obama’s measure. He puts the fear in no one.
His economic team is an appalling assemblage of those responsible for the greatest collapse since the Great Depression. Someone wrote recently how wrong Summers was in 1999 bragging about GAAP and transparency in American markets with oversight. Get with the program. Summers was proclaiming Japan invented a new form of capitalism in 1990-91. A full two years after its economy completely tanked and entered the Lost Decade. The crowd has a multi-decade record of being wrong. Besides the self-dealing and conflicts of interest. Obama gets a D.
Climate change? He couldn’t control the House. Didn’t try. Thus he’s stuck with a bogeyman of a bill that antagonizes almost everyone yet will die in the Senate. He’s arranged for the perfect lose lose. Genius. We all can hear the champagne corks zinging at Big Pharma et al. celebrating ‘health care reform’. More wealth transfer.
And Obama did the unimaginable. He resurrected the completely smashed Movement in 9 months. It’s inevitable given the demographic and socio-economic fissures in our dying democracy. We just didn’t think it would happen this fast. Obama actively didn’t help matters. One day it war against Limbaugh. Then not. War against Fox News then not. Some right wing obscure figure criticizes someone in his administration? They’re fired. The Movement thrives on sensing weakness and flinching.
It probably could have been worse. He’s not the Peanut Farmer. He may be Clinton 1993. But he also may prove to be less a transitional figure and more a solidifier of the Warlord’s America as bi-partisan ‘normal’. And that is unforgivable. Freshman slump? If he would just take a personal, backboned hands on stand for one thing and do it well. If only.