POLITICAL observations & opinions

* don’t jump ship … be prepared to get excited again about Obama

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 21, 2011


it's time to lead!



It has been suggested that President Obama has proven he is not up to the job, and that he should decline to run for re-election. I wholeheartedly disagree. I think President Obama is very much up to the job, and that he has done on balance quite a good job given the conditions he has had to deal with.

He came into the presidency with Bush’s two wars of choice and a disintegrating economy/deficit caused by the purposeful dismantling of financial regulation under both Clinton and Bush, Bush’s unfunded prescription drug plan for seniors, and the huge Bush tax cut for the wealthy. None of which he caused. He started with a Republican party committed to saying “no” to every initiative, even those which had been Republican initiatives in the past. Then came the Tea party – elected by the voters.

The fault that many Democrats find with Obama has less to do with what he has done to accomplish the agenda he promised when running for office and everything to do with his inability (so far) to reverse all of the damage done by the Bush group and upheld ever since by an intransigent Republican party.

Even here, there has been significant progress. Obama has reversed the commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where the president’s authority as Commander-in-Chief is less beholden to Congressional obstruction. He has not reversed the Bush tax cuts. But he did initiate and push through a reluctant Congress a stimulus package, financial regulation, healthcare insurance reform, DADT, … not a bad series of accomplishments in an extremely hostile environment.

And most important, he has chosen to compromise rather than allow America to default on its obligations, something many Democrats do not agree with. Other compromises allowed the “imperfect” stimulus and healthcare packages to become law rather than fail to pass at all. To take on fights you cannot win, when you have the enormous responsibility of the country in your hands, is to me far worse than achieving through compromise the best result which is actually possible. To insist on things that cannot be done is, to me, irresponsible.

Having said all that, I think we will soon see a different Obama. He has put aside the debt ceiling issue for the rest of this term. There is nothing more he needs from the intransigent Republican opposition. I think he is poised to take significant initiatives for the balance of the first term, which he can now afford to promote without facing unacceptable consequences if he loses. I think he will propose bold steps to create jobs, which will be opposed by the Republicans, setting the stark contrast before the American people in a way that offers the best chance for Democratic victories in 2012 and major Democratic legislative progress after that.

Don’t jump ship. Be prepared to get excited again about Obama.


4 Responses to “* don’t jump ship … be prepared to get excited again about Obama”

  1. Lew, I hope you are right. I don’t mean to quibble before I get to my main point, but on the debt ceiling, we don’t actually know what was actually possible. If Obama had insisted on a clean bill and repeated again and again that he was asking for a clean bill just as all his predecessors had gotten, he could have painted his opposition as the extremists about to take America down the toilet. The tide might have turned against them. He had the 14th Amdt argument as a last resort if they persisted. (So what if he didn’t agree with his lawyers on it – he didn’t agree with his lawyers on Libya, either, and he still went ahead with his war or whatever it is he calls it).

    *The lesson we should learn from Obama so far is NOT to get excited about him, NOT to project onto him our desires and our views of the possibilities he might bring into being.* In fact, to do so is foolish. (I disagree regarding his accomplishments above: yes, they might be the kind of accomplishment we can applaud, but they do not go far enough in DEGREE. Health program: lame. Ending wars: not soon enough. Stimulus: insufficient. And so on. I won’t even go into the things he has failed to do in kind, but consider his failure to go after torturers, not to mention criminals who invaded Iraq; his crackdown on whistleblowers; his spying on antiwar groups; his failure to stop electronic spying program; his murderous use of drones, etc.)

    I will get excited about President Obama if and only if he actually does something that gets me excited. It is impossible for me to get excited about him at this point. Waiting for him to do something and refusing to jump ship seems, to me, to give him zero incentive to do anything that we’d like him to do. The right wing sure seems to succeed when they pressure him, right? We need to pressure him, too – by threatening to jump ship. I think that’s all the president understands.

    And I remain unconvinced that he is up for the job. His trying to compromise – for more than two years! – with people who have pledged, since before he was elected, to destroy him is a fool’s errand, a naive mistake at worst.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      I wonder … if President Obama had invoked the 14th amendment provision to increase the debt ceiling unilaterally … would the House have brought impeachment proceedings? … and if so, would we have been embroiled in that nonsense to the exclusion of every other issue for the next year … just a thought.

      • Who knows? But again, the problem with Obama is that he never even tried.
        Might the House bring impeachment proceedings over Libya? Obama went against his own legal advisers there.
        I wonder if Bush wondered if he’d be impeached over torture, spying, aggressive war, Valerie Plame?
        Here again we see that the problem is that Obama is not a leader but lives in fear of the right wing. As a result, the right wing runs this country and sets the agenda. Too bad he won’t at least put up a fight, because the right wing is not helping this country. (And getting impeached for saving the country from default and not giving into legislative terrorism by demanding a clean bill as all his predecessors had received – he could have worn that like a badge of honor.)

  2. Nijole L. said

    I agreed with your last post. I think it’s time for Obama to point out that he has given a chance for the congress and senate to sort themselves out and they haven’t been able to. Their bickering and stubborness rivals that of a two year old! Time for him to step up and be more than the patient adult- now it’s time to take their hands and walk them where we need to go!

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