Sunday, January 22, 2012

Uppity

Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times stir some of the same old same old for the President, but then, most of these people have a remit to ensure that the President be constantly criticized.

You can read what they have to say in its entirety here (Freedland) and here (Dowd).

Freedland, a Brit, buys into all the usual suspects' talking points against anything and everything the President has achieved. The Brits always amaze me, nonetheless, those who write for the ueber-liberal Guardian, especially in their faux efforts to understand how our political process and our government works. I can only assume that Freedland got a lot of his criticism from Firedoglake's special brand of Obama-hatred, or perhaps his fellow Guardian contributor, GiGi, himself, was in touch.

The specific charge sheet against Obama could run for several pages and then several more. On the economy, the president is blamed for a lack of ambition, for passing a stimulus package of $787bn that, say the critics, should have been nearly twice the size. Obama erred, too, by allowing Democrats in Congress to write the stimulus bill, packing it with pet schemes and pork that would do little to get the economy moving. In an attempt to win Republican support – which never came – he also weighed down the bill with too many tax cuts. The result was action that was simply incomplete, leaving unemployment hovering around the 9% mark for most of Obama's presidency.

Former admirers say he was too weak on the banks, failing to declare war on those who had caused the 2008 crash. The clues were there in his senior appointments. While some liberals had fantasised about a dream ticket of Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and former labour secretary Robert Reich, Obama filled his two key economic posts with Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, both schooled by Robert Rubin, former co-chair of Goldman Sachs. Obama did legislate on financial reform, but the bill did not go far enough, with no restoration of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall act, which had previously separated casino and retail banking. Nor was there any action to cap the pay of top executives, even in companies majority-owned by the US government. It's not that Obama fought and lost on these issues. In most cases, he did not even fight.

His signature achievement, the passage of healthcare reform, also dismayed as many liberals as it delighted, chiefly because Obama surrendered on the so-called public option which, while not exactly establishing an American NHS, would have at least offered a government-run insurance programme as an alternative to the private sector. That made Obama's bill no more radical than one proposed decades earlier by Richard Nixon, or the one passed by a certain Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

In his inaugural address Obama spoke often and poetically on climate change. He vowed to "harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories". But there has been no action and not even any serious advocacy. Aware that Republicans do not even believe there is an energy problem, he has shied away from offering a solution.

Those of us watching from afar have felt versions of this disappointment. Plenty of Guardian readers would have cheered when Obama used his first day in office to sign an order for the closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay – and chose to make his first presidential phone call to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. But, thwarted by a Republican refusal to allow any ex-Guantánamo detainees to set foot on US soil, Obama has been unable to make good on that day one order: Camp Delta remains open. As for Israel-Palestine, on which he had promised to work from his first day in office, the US role has been ineffective or even, by some lights, counter-productive.

You know, most of the highlighted criticism above would be valid, if we were talking about a dictator or even a Prime Minister in a parliamentary government. But we're not, and a lot of the reason this President never achieved a Progressive utopia was due, in part, to the fact that the President doesn't legislate. That he needs Congress to legislate and he needs a failsafe majority in order to ensure his policies are passed. On the other hand, most of what many Progressives wanted was unachievable anyway.

The stimulus was too small? The President admitted that it was, but in order to get this past the Senate, the President needed Republican votes. At the beginning of his term, the Senate had yet to attain a 60-vote Democratic majority. When the Stimulus was debated, Ted Kennedy was ill, and Al Franken was involved in a recount. Even with both of them there, at that time, there were only 59 votes. They would have needed one Republican to cross the aisle; as it was, they needed three. The stimulus was made smaller in order to secure the votes of three moderate Republicans, one of whom subsequently became a Democrat. In fact, the Democrats only had the elusive 60-vote majority for about six months, but that majority included Senators like Joe Liebermann and Ben Nelson.

The bank legislation? Once again, the President doesn't legislate. Could it have been stronger? Of course, but the sad fact remains that many powerful Democratic Senators and Congressmen are as much in Wall Street's pockets as their Republican brethren - people like Chuck Schumer and Charlie Rangel.

The same can be said for healthcare legislation, but as inadequate as it might seem to Jonathan Freedland, who seems to be oblivious to the fact that Britain's fabled National Health Service is moving more and more towards rationing healthcare (that's single-payer for you), the healthcare act provides health insurance for 30 million Americans, makes pre-existing conditions a thing of the past, allows children to remain on their parents' policies until they're twenty-six and even provides something that sounds suspiciously like a public option. Freedland may sneer, but perhaps he'd like to read a public apology to the President for doubting his ability from a breast cancer sufferer.

As for Guantanamo Bay's closure, the President can order that, but the Congress has to empower the money necessary to close the place down, as well as finding alternative facilities for people still being held. The Senate nixed that as well - not once, but three different times. The overriding legislation was supported by such notable Progressives as Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and Al Franken.

But it's much, much easier to blame the President. And, of course, the article just wouldn't be valid without the usual whine about the President caving.

People can cut Freedland some slack, especially in his condescending conclusion, grudgingly giving credit to the President for obvious achievements and hoping that he channels Roosevelt (please, enough of the FDR revisionist history) during a second term in order to cement some greatness, because he's a Brit, and they're usually condescending to us in their jealousy; but Dowd, channels Newt in some none-too-subtle race-baiting, especially as her article's entitled "Showtime at the Apollo."

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria for this week’s Time cover story, the president is maddeningly naïve.

Asked about his cool, aloof style and his unproductive relationship with John Boehner, Obama replied: “You know, the truth is, actually, when it comes to Congress, the issue is not personal relationships. My suspicion is that this whole critique has to do with the fact that I don’t go to a lot of Washington parties. And as a consequence, the Washington press corps maybe just doesn’t feel like I’m in the mix enough with them, and they figure, well, if I’m not spending time with them, I must be cold and aloof. The fact is, I’ve got a 13-year-old and 10-year-old daughter.”

Reagan didn’t socialize with the press. He spent his evenings with Nancy, watching TV with dinner trays. But he knew that to transcend, you can’t condescend.

The portrait of the first couple in Jodi Kantor’s new book, “The Obamas,” bristles with aggrievement and the rational president’s disdain for the irrational nature of politics, the press and Republicans. Despite what his rivals say, the president and the first lady do believe in American exceptionalism — their own, and they feel overassaulted and underappreciated.

We disappointed them.

(snip)

The Obamas, especially Michelle, have radiated the sense that Americans do not appreciate what they sacrifice by living in a gilded cage. They’ve forgotten Rule No. 1 of politics: No one sheds tears for anyone lucky enough to live at the White House. And after four or eight years of public service, you are assured membership in the 1 percent club.

The Obamas truly feel like victims.

Freedland's article is awash with Progressive disappointment, which is founded in basic ignorance of how the government is supposed to function, according to the Constitution. I'd expect that, in today's world of lazy journalism, he'd trust his luvvie mates from Jane's World or GiGiLand rather than doing some real research to find out exactly what President Obama has achieved.

Dowd's entire article, however, as evidenced from the above quotes, drips with subtle race-baiting, in that the Obamas, especially Mrs Obama, hold themselves above ordinary people and are aggrieved that the common-and-garden public don't appreciate them. Reagan, the great white god, could stay at home and transcend; but Obama, the "other," needs to step out, step'n fetchit and shine. For the American people and Maureen Dowd. Smells like teen spirit, here we are now, entertain us and all that.

Smells more like Ms Dowd is pushing the meme of the uppity Negroes in the White House.

Let the culture wars begin.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic analysis! Thank you...

    ReplyDelete