Leaving Me Cold
I'm glad Obama is president, but the 'Audacity of Hope' part is over. Right now, I'm hoping for a little more audacity.
--Bill Maher, on his "Real Time" HBO show last Friday
I've been away a while, and I hope all is well with each and every one of you. Although the reasons why I haven't been blogging are numerous and complex, let me simply say that the first six months of the Obama administration have sapped me of any interest in blogging regularly. Part of this is exhaustion from work and the passing of my father late last year. Part of it is the natural evolution from being a member of a party on the outside looking in, and finding things to be angry about with those in power, to being a member of a party now on the inside and responsible for what is happening. But truthfully, my lack of zeal for blogging right now stems from outright disappointment with the Obama administration.
Spare me the retorts that I am simply a sour-grape Hillary supporter. Obama supporters in the blogosphere are all-too-willing to dismiss critics by attacking those who dare to criticize as grumpy losers who focus on differences and not common ground. But I'm not the only person who thinks Obama values bipartisanhip over principles; who thinks that Obama is morphing into a defender of Bush policies right before our eyes; and who thinks that in clinging to the middle Obama will lose any chance at real reform.
Last Friday's pathetic defense by Holder's DOJ of the DOMA was an insult to gays and lesbians everywhere. Of course Obama has never supported gay marriage, but that wasn't the problem with what Holder and the DOJ did last week. They argued that states rights and tight state budgets carried more weight than civil rights, and then tried to staunch the damage today with a toothless memo ordering things that were already in play. Furthermore, Obama hid behind Congress last Friday and again today, saying that it was up to Congress to send him a bill, a convenient dodge of executive responsibility on any issue that Obama doesn't want to waste any capital on.
Then today, Holder told an incredulous Russ Feingold that he couldn't say the Bush-era domestic spying programs were illegal, even though both he and Obama said exactly that last year. This follows on the heels of another Holder statement that telecom immunity is a dead issue and we should all get over it.
This comes from the same guys who haven't shown any degree of spine in dealing with Wall Street or the banks, and will now wonder why the public is unhappy with the amount of taxpayer cash being showered on those who created this mess in the first place. Mr. President, because you let Geithner and Summers coddle the banks and Wall Street, your regulatory proposals are lost in the haze today. All voters see are billions for crooks while jobs vanish. You now own the problem, regardless of when it started because you didn't take prisoners.
Obama is loathe to hold anyone from the Bush administration accountable, because he places a higher value on moving forward than he does in identifying wrong-doing. But if you lack the passion to demonize wrong-doers and hold them accountable, you also lose the ability to clearly distinguish yourself from your predecessor's illegalities and will soon be seen as just another Washington pol. Seeking a hollow bipartisanship above all else with those who were at the creation of the problems we now face undermines any real chance at reform, whether it be the banks, Wall Street, or Beltway Republicans. If you won't call them out and shine a light on what they did because you don't want to lose a future vote, you just tossed away your electoral mandate and guaranteed they will live to fight another day after they blame you for their failures because you didn't have the guts for real reform through real battles. The newest polls out tonight from CBS News/NYT and NBC News/WSJ show that Obama is starting to lose independents over concerns about the bailouts and deficits. Voters were expecting to see a second stimulus targeting them and their needs, perhaps more roads and bridges. Yet all they saw were bailouts for Wall Street and not Main Street.
There have been good books written and too-easily-forgotten about the perils of centrism at the expense of passion and partisan clarity. Obama is a case study in this, and he leaves me cold. Six months in, and I no longer have any idea where the hell he draws a line in the sand. Where and on what issue will he go to war with Wall Street and the GOP? And if you don't believe me, here's your litmus test: will Obama insist on a true public option in his health care package and be willing to go to war over it? Or will he sell it out to get a deal he can claim credit for, while losing sight of the policy outcome to be served by having that public option?
We are witnessing the squandering of a political mandate right before our eyes, all for the sake of a passionless bipartisanship that in the end will not yield any real reform. But Wall Street will still be happy.