SOME KIND WORDS FOR THE PRESIDENT
Many African-Americans are understandably proud of the accomplishments of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America and the first person of African descent to hold that high office. Likewise, many liberals and longtime adherents to the principle of racial equality feel proud and vindicated by the successes of Mr. Obama and the adroit manner in which he has performed his presidential duties.
And why not?
When it comes to ability, the first African-American Chief Executive has already proved himself to be one of the most capable, hardworking, and generally competent presidents in our history. In terms of the President’s character and style, he is affable and good natured, dignified and suave, civil, sharp, and always focused. Unquestionably, Barack Obama has demonstrated superb temperament and demeanor befitting a political leader and statesman (unlike his oafish predecessor, Bush, who gave spontaneous and unwelcome shoulder rubs to world leaders, blurted profanities into open microphones, and generally made a buffoonish, frightening spectacle of himself and the United States).
In dealing with his political detractors — save for those on the left — President Obama has been a class act and model of poise. Imagine how George W. Bush might have responded to “You lie!” in the middle of a speech to Congress — would “Dubya” have subsequently held a televised Q&A with leading Democratic critics of his signature policy, the Iraq War, before it came to a vote, as Obama did with leading GOP critics of the Affordable Care Act? It’s hard to imagine on both counts: a) a Democrat actually standing up to Bush; and b) George W. Bush responding in so measured and confident a manner to this hypothetical Democrat.
[This might be a good time to point out the blatant dishonesty of the Republican talking point that so-called “Obamacare” (the ACA) was “rammed down the throats” of the country without any bipartisan discussion or process. On the contrary, the march toward passage of this far-right, industry-friendly (Heritage Foundation-authored, GOP-tested, backroom-deal approved) law was long and sloggy, filled with disrupted/ambushed town hall meetings and a good deal of dramatic debate in D.C., including much repetition of Politi-Fact’s 2009 “Lie of the Year”: “DEATH PANELS!” Contrast that long public battle over the ACA with the way both parties have stealthily and aggressively advanced the cause of privatization over the last few years -- undermining schools, libraries, hospitals, the Post Office, etc. -- with little/no public comment or deliberation.]
Regular readers of this blog may be surprised at the kind words for President Obama appearing in this space, but I want, for clarity’s sake, to distinguish myself from those Obama detractors who are utterly hostile to the man and have been from the start.
For the record, I have never felt particularly hostile toward Barack Obama — quite the contrary. An admirer of Obama’s since his excellent DNC speech in 2004, I donated a fair amount of time, effort, and money to his campaigns in 2008 (primary through general election) convinced that his candidacy represented the likeliest hope for undoing at least some of the terrifying damage the Bush years had wrought.
To this day, although I feel that Obama’s presidency has been a huge and shocking disappointment, I don’t think my decision to support him in 2008 was naive. I definitely don’t think that I “projected my ideals onto Obama” in 2008 (as the tired line goes), seeing a progressive hero through star-struck, liberal eyes. Far from it. I was scrutinizing the hell out of candidate Obama.
All I did when I chose to support Obama in 2008 was take him at his word (no rose-tinted glasses required). As a major theme of his campaign, Senator Obama explicitly promised to restore the rule of law and scale back the kind of Executive Branch abuses that had become routine under Bush/Cheney. Candidate Obama vowed to eschew torture and the over-broad powers exerted by a U.S. president (Bush) who had reflexively — and secretly — asserted extraordinary (hitherto illegal) powers while demanding independence from not just judicial or congressional review, but from the law itself.
Barack Obama claimed he would defend the law and champion (rather than persecute) journalists and whistleblowers. He promised a new era of transparency and Constitutional governance.
ABOVE ALL ELSE, OBAMA PROMISED THESE THINGS.
Yes, I had seen the good senator throw his reverend of twenty years under the bus — a good man who’d been cruelly caricatured and taken out of context by the media and slandered on a relentless loop. And I was deeply disappointed when Senator Obama pulled his flip-flop on “retroactive immunity” for the giant telecoms. The privacy-flouting corporations knew they were committing the same felony millions of times when they began warrantless wiretapping, primarily of America’s domestic phone calls, on behalf of the most radically un-American administration since Nixon’s, beginning seven months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001; it would’ve been fitting that they pay some sort of penalty, if only to deter such conduct in the future.
Nonetheless, I voted for Obama in 2008 without giving it a second thought. The only other candidate calling for restoration of civil liberties and the rule of law was Ron Paul, and he’d been defeated in the Republican Primary by Senator McCain (albeit, a John McCain reinvented in the image of John Birch, with a rabid Alaskan mink draped around his ticket to excite the boys… I mean the base (okay, I mean the base boys who comprise the Republican base — quick, somebody feed Rush Limbaugh some porn; he’s getting surly and aggressive again!).
NEXT: Part 3 — Obama’s Putrid Predecessor!