So How’s Obama Doing?

A couple of stories in the news this week—combined with the passing of Obama’s first 100 days in office earlier this month—have led me to ponder how his administration has been doing since his historic election. The first such story was the upholding of Prop 8 by the Californian high court—it seems we still have a fair way to go before all forms of discrimination have been removed from the legal system. (I’m sorry to say that Australia is no better in this respect—as a Christian, our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is against gay marriage as well, even though he is fairly progressive otherwise, and he did give more legal rights to gay couples.) In fairness, even though Prop 8 was passed during the Presidential election, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Obama’s administration as such. Nevertheless, it did lead me to think about how things have been going since January 20, along with another story in the news which I was very happy about indeed—the fact that Washington is finally telling Israel what they should have done all along: no more settlements, period. It’s ridiculous that even though this is a fundamental requirement of the road map to peace, Israel has been allowed to completely ignore it without the US government saying or doing anything. It finally looks as though we might be seeing the start of a fair and evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I’m wondering what my readers think of how well Obama has been doing (please note that I’m after genuine answers to this question, not unsubstantiated political propaganda). Given the cold, harsh political realities, I personally think he’s been doing about as well as can reasonably be expected, given that he is facing what must surely be the most difficult circumstances any President has had to deal with since World War II—it’s really quite ridiculous how much things deteriorated from the time George W. Bush came into office until he left. He’s left poor Obama one hell of a big mess to fix.

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I recommend the following professional blogs. They are liberals, true American liberals*, who are as critical of Obama as they were of Bush. They also critiqued him during the campaign but withheld judgment until he got in office and started working. The similarities between Bush and Obama are narrowing by the day:

Glenn Greenwald
Digby
Dissenting Justice
Andrew Sullivan

Rachel Maddow isn’t a blogger, but a host on news channel MSNBC. The link opens to the show’s site, so you can watch some clips.

In short, I’m not surprised by his 180 turn on his buzzwords such as “change” (embracing many Bush policies on terrorism and torture), “transparency” (signed four bills this week, going back on a campaign promise to post all bills online before signing), etc. I think his new buzzwords are “preventative detention” and “looking forward, not backward” (why he doesn’t want the DOJ to prosecute Bush & Co. for their crimes). I do believe this is what the kids refer to as being pwnd. As far as Israel, I doubt it. He’s way too chummy with AIPAC, heaven knows his chief of staff is.

He said all the right things for a people truly desperate for change. But I live in a town, his “hometown”, where politicians are just as charming (slick) and do 180s all the time. So I was duly skeptical from the beginning as you well know. I never trust an overabundance of charm.

*As opposed to what is considered among the media establishment and Washington elites, that being someone who isn’t a raging racist, sexist, homophobe, immigrant-hating, sex-negative or fundamentalist Christian. But there are plenty of conservatives who aren’t any of these things either. I know those types. Not being a bigot does not a liberal make. So, for example, Obama was called a liberal because that’s considered a negative, though naive progressives took that to mean he was one of our own though they based that opinion on the same idiotic grounds the bigots did. Makes no sense whatsoever. Sonia Sotomayor is being called a liberal though anyone who has read ANY of her judicial opinions would know that she is strict legally and much closer to being moderate-to-conservative.

  
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So we are going to pick nits after 4 months huh?
Because Gitmo isn’t closed immediately, Bush/Cheney and CO. aren’t in shackles , and his staff didn’t post some executive orders before he signed them it’s time to get all huffy and beligerent. Great jorb there!

I really don’t know how many bureaucrats there are in Washington, but usually 4 months is just about enough time to tell all of them of one Memo change in policy. Instead he’s managed to turn the Pentagon, the CIA and FBI agencies from completely closed societies into ones that are actively talking with the public (Petreus, Gates, etc, are all out there talking to the news outlets), he’s released documents regarding issues of torture, condemned the previous administrations techniques and made the public policy decision to remove those torture techniques from the choice and options available to interrogators.

On the scale of the political system chart Obama is, and ran on the platform as being:

Communist Marxist Socialist** Centrist **L&O Authorit. Fascist
A Centrist Technocrat with desires to see improvements in our social programs while having a high regard for the system of government that has faced challenges in the near past and restore belief in that system and the rules of the international community.
His goals on the campaign were: Healthcare Overhaul, Close camp X-Ray, Remove all troops from Iraq, Add troopsresources to Afghanistan, secure international support for the goals of ending the ability of terrorist organizations around the world from freely acting. Then in October the other shoe dropped with the economy free-falling. Now he has all of those and the economy and then the world goes crazy(ier).

It is almost unbelievable that each day could bring so many new challenges to a new administration, and it successfully adresses it as much as possible each day, without the country falling deeper and deeper into a negative self-deepening rift.

He’s met with world leaders, made some attempts at smoothing the points of contention with world leaders, got some mixed responses, but opened dialogues with states regarding previously politically suicidal issues (Cuba, Venezuela), dealt with a hostage situation and of course now has to deal with the ludicrously difficult morasses of Iran, Afghanistan/Pakistan/India, North Korea, Israel/Palestine, China, Russia, and other issues that haven’t budged in 40 years.

As for Guantanamo Bay and Camp X-Ray, there probably were/are 2 or 3 dozen people legitimately dangerous enough to be held there as POW’s. There was no legitimacy for their treatment, and surely the other 700+ people that were held there and treated the same way is/was/will permanently be a dark stain on this issue.

As for Bush/Cheney etc’s trial. Well unless there is some statuate of limitations issues on the crimes that they have committed (there aren’t), and if the evidence is able to be investigated and the people who haven’t gone public (as a great deal already have) can still be interviewed, and the case quietly is compiled, then what is the difference, whether or not a trial commences today or 3 years from now? I mean really, look at the current Peterson case – (3 dead wives and a fourth girlfriend missing before the trial takes place?) Fortunately there is no statuate of limitations on any of the Bush/Cheney issues. I fully expect that there will be a trial, except it will be implemented when the case presented will be sufficient to stand up in a court of law, at a time when those involved can least be expected to benefit from such a trial. The previous administration has had its public defense to do what it can to try to prevent such actions from taking place, but it isn’t working.
I can only hope that the delay on this issue is one of due dilligence and the time it takes to craft a proper case that addresses the office of the president/vice president and cabinent in a proper and constitutional way. It is a complex case to present, and is one that if not pursued correctly could essentially remove the executive branch from the constitutional power base that it currently needs to effectively run the country.

To sum up, he’s got many issues to deal with, some from the past, some new, all of them are serious, and he’s still got to fix the things he pledged to fix, but as far as I can tell, there is a sense of urgency, an ability to lead the bureacracy, and a real plan to succeed, that unfortunately won’t be able to be executed/implemented and be judged successful overnight.

It certainly is different than the plan to rob the country as many times, and as quickly as possible that the previous 4 administrations had been setting America up for the past 28 years (yes, even during Clinton, who basically co-opted the Republican (Contract on America) platform in his second term, which is why between Gore and Bush, the public couldn’t tell them apart….)

  
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I read all the liberal and radical blogs, and I am part of a veterans’ movement that hoped we would see a quicker end to the wars that President Obama inherited from the Bush-Cheney cabal. There are positive changes that have taken place, though not at the level that radicals like us would like to have seen. We did not elect Eugene Debs — and I don’t think even Debs would have made many of us happy.
During the campaign Obama constantly told his audiences that we would have to “make him do it” if we wanted real change. That alone is a significant difference from the past eight years, and we need to stay organized and on his heels. That is what a democratic republic is all about. Without us in the streets and on the phones with constant pressure on the president and the congress, there can be no change. Change does not happen by electing one individual. That individual needs to be pushed and supported….and criticized when necessary.

  
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I can’t judge the man on only 4 months work. Even a total dictator could not get anything done in 4 months. All he can do is try to guide Congress into doing the right things. And Congress is only going to do what the high paying Lobbyists tell them to do. We do not have a democracy. We have a LobbyArcy The Pharmacudical, Banking/Credit Card, Medical/Health Insurance, Military/Industrial, and Energy Lobbys pump
so much money into Congressional Campaign Funds that Congressional Career Politicians are never going to kill all these geese with golden eggs.

Somehow, American Citizen Patriots are going to have to break this unending cycle of corruption through massive nonviolent or (Gandi Forbid) violent protest. We must have our our 2nd Major Revolution NOW! If we wait any longer, our entire economy and way of life is going to collapse. There will be no more middle class.

All Congress is going to do is write “Do Nothing” Legislation to give the appearance that they are working on problems, but not put any teeth in the legislation to make sure they still keep getting paid by the Lobbyists.
A perfect example is Credit Card Legislation that does not cap interest rates and penalties at something reasonable.

Imagine trying to get Campain Fund contributions from the Health Care/Health Insurance Industries if as a Congressman you work for a one-pay system which is proven to work in the EU and you work to cut costs by 50 %? Your couffers would be empty. Then how do you get re-elected, when that same industry is spending Millions on media propaganda lies to scare the public into thinking what you’re doing is bad for America.

  
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@Aspasia – It’s good to see you here again!

I have to ask though: what did you expect Obama to do? He can’t just snap his fingers and make all the conflicting political interests that are a reality in America (and everywhere else for that matter) just go away. He is closing down Guantanamo Bay. He has outlawed torture. He is pulling America’s troops out of Iraq. And as Akacra says, they may still be building a legal case against Bush & Co., and he has a lot of other very pressing matters to attend to right now. These things can’t be done overnight – they are extremely difficult tasks that require a lot of time, planning and co-operation.

You can read how I feel about this issue in my old Liberal Americans: Make Your Vote Count! post. There is an old expression I strongly believe in: bad people can only do what good people let them do. By being so cynical and unrealistically idealistic, liberals are basically giving the conservatives free reign to do what they want, as no politician in the real world is good enough for them to vote for. We need to keep the pressure on Obama to do what’s right (unlike Bush, he at least appears to be responsive to it!), but just dismissing all politicians as being the same is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am not trying to say Obama is doing a flawless job, but given the long-standing political realities and the extraordinarily difficult circumstances he is faced with, I think he’s doing pretty well so far.

@zhuxiu – It’s good to see you here again too, and I couldn’t agree with you more!

@Akacra – I very much agree with what you write as well.

@Robert – Sadly, there’s a lot of truth in what you say too.

  
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I appreciate greatly Aspasia’s opening entry following the main presentation. I have googled such phrases as “dictator Obama”, “Obama and Soros”, and “Obama liar” and have come up with a wide variety of web pages (from greatly differing idological persuasions) that support Aspasia’s commentary. However much people support Obama’s tenure as a ceremonial head of state, there is no question that public approval for the policies he apparently embraces (especially since he embraced the Queen) has been taking a downward path. I guess we will have to wait and see if George Soros (Obama’s godfather) will ultimately prove to be truly conscientious about his promotions of “harm reduction” to assess the possibilities for survival of the majority of individuals (no species restriction) currently living on Earth.

  
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re. President Obama’s Cairo speech.

I found it very ‘interesting’ that he, being a lawyer, said regarding democracy (quote) government of the people, government by the people (unquote) but did not complete the phrase, ie. he left out the all-important “government for the people”.

  
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@jr – That is a misquotation, and a misquotation taken out of context.

Here is the full “4th” section of his speech (transcipted).
The last paragraph of this quoted part of his speech is the full quote, in context.

“The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/6782513/Obama-Cairo-Speech-Transcript
pg 7 of 11

I think Obama’s goal was to specifically spend extra verbage/time elaborating on what “for the people” actually means, instead of simply repeating an overused phrase, that might have no real meaning/understanding/frame of reference to oppressive dictatorships.

  
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thank you for providing the transcript Akacra.

you are right, the quote, provided from memory (and a single viewing of his speech live on the BBC), was not accurate.

I do disagree with your final paragraph though; I’m no lawyer and English is not my native tongue but I think that reading government *for* the people into the words following “..sets a single standard for all who hold power:..” is the positive, charitable way of interpreting them. in fact “..place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above..” tells me something entirely different!

regards

  
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Obama is attempting to address leaders who are committed to holding power at all costs, i.e. leaders who use oppression, coercion, brutality, fear, secret police, politically motivated incarceration, assassaination etc. to reconsider their position.

Obama addresses their state of mind. Their concern is holding onto power.
Instead of continuous oppression, and facing censure from the rest of the world, Obama proposes that power may be maintained more efficiently by the use of respect, civility, establishing universal rules of law and order and allowing the government to serve the needs and wants of the people.
Thus the end result is that the government is “of the people, and by the people” that ends up providing “for the people”, instead of simply the current dictatorship or the oligarchs currently in the position of power.

An example of the differences between comparable countries are the island states of Brunei and Singapore. These are both single party states, essentially run by authoritarians.

Singapore appears to be a democracy, but hidden behind the scenes, it turns out to be a single party (PAP) (98% of elected officials are PAP representatives, and an extensive and well established system of population district jerrymandering helps keep this ultramajority of PAP memebers in power) state run, hereditary autocracy (Lee Kwan Yu’s son now is President of Singapore (elected by the PAP parliament) with LKY still actively participating in an “advisory role”, after LKY’s son previously held the position of Brigadier General of the Armed forces). However the bureaucracy is highly meritorious in nature, looks after the populace and keeps them happy, has efficient health care, education, high internal investment and is a hub of international commerce. Singapore’s university system has climbed to hold a top 20 world University standing, has built a large biotech center, has a distinct and lucrative technology district, 4 distinct and acknowldedged cultural communities with full cultural integration including language, holidays, histories and integrated educational systems, marriage and legal status based upon cultural norms. It has extremely tough laws, but also extremely low crime, low internal violence, good roads, good business partners, is considered a good military partner with 48 nations etc. Thus a “democratic” authoritarian government “for the people”.

Brunei, on the other hand is an Islamic Theocratic/Autocracy run by one family, and empowered by oil assets. The Sultan of Brunei, does well amongst his people, offering education, health care, housing for almost free, but there are no elections, no dissenting voices, no ethnic minorities, and is very isolated, even as an island nation. His power is absolute, and while the oil economy allows him to act in the role of the Islamic “Shining Prince” model to his people, it is simply for his own position and prominence. If he didn’t have the oil wealth, it is probable that his regime would degrade into that of another Allende, Mugabe or Suhkarno. Thus it a country run for the Sultan and his family.

Basically Obama’s suggestion is one directed to autocracies of the world. The power and control you seek is just as available through democratic methodologies and government institutions, but by allowing your people to choose their leaders (of the people), influence and openly participate in the process (by the people), it will make your country more influential, more prosperous and more integrated into the world today which will lift the standards and benefits of living in your country (for the people). If you do this right, the people will support your efforts to maintain power, rather than you spending all of your own resources to maintain power.

Again Obama is speaking to people who have no frame of reference of a Society of Equals, as is laid out in the US constitution (even if the framers when they signed it only were really speaking to white, land owning men over the age of consent/independence). Even though the framers of the constitution actually did write that into the constitution, they kept a democratic option that looked forward to a time when society might outgrow their intolerances (keeping the title Mr. President, as opposed to something outside the normal address of the people he was leading). Thus, even though it took 227 years since the first President of the United States took office, we are where we are today. However, as most current authoritarians, theocrats, and despotic governments have no real context to work from like the established democracies of the world, again his message is that there is another way to achieve, maintain and even grow power/influence/wealth, both personally and for your country.

If you place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party (or personal power), you truly are establishing a government “for the people”.

Of course Mr. Obama, is much more eloquent than I, and doesn’t want to stoop to the pedantic level I have, but his verbage wasn’t simply to state a powerful but overused trinity of connected wording specifically lifted from the Gettysburg Address, and repeated in the campaign by Roosevelt during the New deal and the WPA campaigns (thus it is an inherently “American” phrase), but instead to offer another perspective on how oppressive regimes could effectively maintain control but unleash the potential of their populations and leverage the country’s assets through Democratic principles.
http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Address
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaposters/wpahome.html

  
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@Sachiko @Robert: Here is what Bush did his first 100 days for those with selective memories:

1) $1.6 Trillion Tax Cut (which I’m SURE had no lasting effect on the economy); 2) Faith Based Initiatives (which, since it was so early in his administration, OBVIOUSLY, couldn’t have had any lasting effect); 3) Environmental regulations in which he rolled back some progress made by Clinton, said “fuck you” to the Kyoto Protocol and approved of Alaskan drilling (but of course, this doesn’t matter as he was ONLY in office for 4 months by this time! Right?); 4) No Child Left Behind. (’nuff said)

All of us liberals and progressives had a FIT when Bush did this. So, sorry, “only four months in office” is NOT an excuse. Obama is in office as a Democrat with his party effectively in control just as Bush was in office as a Republican with HIS party in control. They got a lot done, unfortunately.

No Sachiko, I didn’t expect Obama to change anything because I didn’t buy into his slick rhetoric. So I’m not surprised that he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, especially via his Secretary of State, concerning civil liberties. Yes, discipline and excoriate the Chinese on denying civil liberties on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and not prosecuting the guilty parties in that, but also endorse “preventative detention”, oppose the formation of a Truth Commission and strongly support and endorse a bill that would prevent the publishing of ANY evidence that may depict torture taken post-9/11.

“And as Akacra says, they may still be building a legal case against Bush & Co., and he has a lot of other very pressing matters to attend to right now. These things can’t be done overnight – they are extremely difficult tasks that require a lot of time, planning and co-operation.”

Right. Cooperation and reaching across the aisle…to the same people who rolled over and let Bush become a de facto dictator. It would be extremely difficult and time consuming to build a case if we didn’t have things like: pictures, memos, impending judgments of the actions undertaken due to those memos* and explicit admissions of guilt by the VPotUS that we tortured people (though only three waterboardings! even though one was waterboarded 83 times…).

*Spain has its own current social and economic problems which, I am sure, for its populace is no less important than what Americans are dealing with. AND YET, they can get this trial going. What’s our excuse?

@Alcove6409: “I have googled such phrases as “dictator Obama”, “Obama and Soros”, and “Obama liar” and have come up with a wide variety of web pages (from greatly differing idological persuasions) that support Aspasia’s commentary.”

Or you could have Googled relevant phrases like “preventative detention”, “waterboarding” or “Obama Bush prosecution crimes” and found just as many web pages that both support and denounce. That’s how you do a balanced investigation. Are you trying to say that my commentary is fringe? Really. Funny, because the journalists who still have their integrity agree with me. Unless you consider MSNBC, Salon.com and The Atlantic to be fringe. If this was not your intent, then you definitely need to work on your phrasing.

This is the “evidence suppression” law that Obama is lending overwhelming support to, endorsed by two pro-war senators. Odd for someone who voted against the war.

And now I’m through with this discussion. Want to know how Obama is doing? Google the issues. There will be a variety of credible sources both supporting and denouncing, though, as I thoroughly demonstrated, some of the best, most nuanced and credible denunciations come from the progressive Left who were almost totally in support of Obama and are now picking up their faces and feeling rather…stupid. Want to talk about it more? You know where I park.

Oh, and this is a great article too.

  
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Originally Posted By Aspasia
@Sachiko @Robert: Here is what Bush did his first 100 days for those with selective memories:

1) $1.6 Trillion Tax Cut (which I’m SURE had no lasting effect on the economy); 2) Faith Based Initiatives (which, since it was so early in his administration, OBVIOUSLY, couldn’t have had any lasting effect); 3) Environmental regulations in which he rolled back some progress made by Clinton, said “fuck you” to the Kyoto Protocol and approved of Alaskan drilling (but of course, this doesn’t matter as he was ONLY in office for 4 months by this time! Right?); 4) No Child Left Behind. (’nuff said)

All of us liberals and progressives had a FIT when Bush did this. So, sorry, “only four months in office” is NOT an excuse. Obama is in office as a Democrat with his party effectively in control just as Bush was in office as a Republican with HIS party in control. They got a lot done, unfortunately.

Actually, my memory of Bush’s first days in office is not selective at all – this is exactly why I think Obama is light years better than Bush! Bush could get a lot done because he didn’t care what other people thought – he just pushed through his own ideas of how he felt America and the world should be. That fact that Obama is cautious and concilliatory is actually a good thing, and very much how a progressive left wing leader should be – this is simply necessary to avoid all the conflict that has marred America and the world since Bush came into office. What’s more, Bush didn’t have two wars and the biggest financial crisis since the great depression to deal with when he came into office.

It takes far more time, effort and cooperation to build something well than it does to tear it down.

  
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Sachiko writes “It takes far more time, effort and cooperation to build something well than it does to tear it down.”

agree. but our whole world “development” is built around an economy depending on war and conflict, with the odd bit of human rights appeasement thrown in.

I think that our “time, effort and cooperation” are taken for granted, it is time that changed.

  
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@Aspasia – All the things you mention Bush doing in his first 100 days were basically payback to individual Republican voters and Special Interest Groups for getting him elected and to get him re-elected. He basically bought his way into the White House by paying people money to elect him. It is very easy for a President to do the wrong things with the power of a majority party Congress and the power of being Commander-In-Chief. Just the power of being Commander-In-Chief gives an American President dictatorial power.

If a President wants to do the right things, he cannot dictate them. He has to have the cooperation of Congress to construct viable programs to benefit THE PEOPLE. What career politician, regardless of party affiliation, do you know that is going to do the right thing when they are being paid money not to do it by the major corporations’ lobbyists?

And Sachiko nailed it when she explained that Bush had 100 days of honeymoon paradise to do whatever he pleased. Quite a different story than what Obama inherited! It will take more than 4 years to try and clean up the mess he was left. We may never see justice done as far as Bush and Cheney’s criminal acts while in office, simply because of how widespread the complicity was throughout Congress, the Miltiary-Industrial Complex, and the Intelligence Community. The cost of investigation and trials alone would use up too many resources and possibly hinder National Security. Imagine Congress puting everything else on hold(so they don’t have to work on real solutions to real problems) while they investigate US Presidential War Criminals. Right, like that’s ever going to happen.

I’ll never forget the speaker I went to listen to at an Anti-Vietnam War meeting on campus. She was a Weatherman and so arrogant and impressed with herself. I left the meeting thinking: How are we ever going to end this war with useless egos like hers speaking to students without any realistic proposals for solutions? Maybe she grew up to be a Congresswoman?

  
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referenced-stephenville