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Friday, March 20, 2009

Dashed Hopes On President Barack Obama's Two Month Anniversary

White House photo by Eric Draper

A month ago, on Barack Obama's one month anniversary as president, I published an article entitled "10 Ways Barack Obama Is Just Like George W. Bush." It wasn't flattering.

Two months ago, on the day of Obama's inauguration as President of the United States, instead of doing "my patriotic duty" to my country and joining in the festivity with a bland, obligatory ode to the greatness of our country and "the setting aside of childish things" (like political dissent) in the name of unity and compromise, I wrote a short piece criticizing the new president for his election campaign of cynicism and despair.

What was especially remarkable, and utterly Orwellian, was that he marketed this cynical, fear-mongering campaign as a campaign of hope. What was especially disturbing was that Americans bought it and still buy it today. I imagine that if I made the case to most Americans that his campaign and administration have been antithetical to hope, they would be uncomprehending.

Yet in an attempt to look at the bright side of thing, two days after writing my critical editorial I did offer a piece entitled "My Hopes For The Obama Administration." Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Obama is going to deliver.

Here is the list revisited with reasons why Obama is letting me down:

1. An end to the politics of race and the accompanying entitlement mentality.

Sorry folks. Perhaps in the long term, this is a historical inevitability that Obama's presidency will have some part in making a reality, but in the short and middle term, it looks like the politics of race are alive and well, even within the Obama administration itself:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that despite advances, the United States remains “a nation of cowards” on issues involving race.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards.”

2. Repeal of the Patriot Act and other policies that threaten to turn America into a police state.

At the time I wrote this two months ago, I was actually not aware that as a senator, Obama voted to extend the Patriot Act. A little bit of research fixed that, and now I seriously doubt that as president, Obama will work to repeal an act he voted to extend. As for other policies that lead down the slippery slope to a totalitarian police state, I was disconcerted to hear Attorney General Eric Holder announce that the Obama Administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

3. Shut down of Guantanamo Bay and the trial or release of its inmates.

While Obama did issue an executive order to make this happen, I'm not at all hopeful that this indicates anything about the direction of American military policy with respect to the treatment of prisoners. The reason? Obama's continued use of the CIA practice of "renditions:"

Under executive orders issued by Obama last week, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the U.S.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

4. Withdrawal from Iraq.

Sigh. I really thought this one was going to happen too. Too bad it's not:

After Speaker Nancy Pelosi complained that the level of troops — 50,000 — who would remain in Iraq is too high, other senior Democrats voiced similar concerns on Thursday...

“I’m happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that’s a little higher number than I had anticipated,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said...

It’s not just a “little higher number” than most Americans want. It is a lot higher. President Barack Obama should bring home all of America’s troops from Iraq. If he doesn’t, Democratic officials and peace activists need to make their views known to him just as vigorously as they did to President George W. Bush when he was launching and escalating the war.

Oh yeah, and in Troop Surge 2.0, we are deploying 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan at the order of President Barack Obama.

5. Reform of drug laws and policies.

The jury's still out on this one and I'm still hoping, but I am prepared to be disappointed.

6. Backlash against government interventionist policies.

When I made this list I wrote that: "it is my sincere hope that Obama will implement his interventionist policies, and the American people will be able to connect the dots when they fail to revive the American economy, and possibly make matters worse. Jimmy Carter swept to victory on a campaign of economic reform, but by the end of his first term, when the American economy was suffering worse than it had been four years earlier, Carter was replaced by the venerable Ronald Reagan. I hope that Obama will do us a great service in this capacity, and that he will end up by being a one term president. I don't know that we'll get a result like Reagan, looking at the state of the GOP today, but I can always hope. "

In this one instance, I am starting to get what I hoped for!

Otherwise, I've learned a valuable lesson these past couple months: Dare to hope, prepare to be disappointed.

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