Disappointment is inevitable when dealing with people. We’re all only human, and humans sometimes make mistakes, lie and fall short of their goals and ambitions.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that — some 140 days or so after he took office — President Obama has acted in a way on two important issues that shakes the confidence placed in him by many supporters.
As I told some skeptical Democratic friends during the weeks after the election, Obama might have campaigned as a progressive to shore up support, but he’s really more of a centrist ala Bill Clinton. That was evident when he appointed Wall Street establishment types like Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to set economic policy.
Rewarding the people who helped get us into the fiscal mess by giving them more authority is counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, the banking industry wields powerful influence in Washington despite its excesses.
I could overlook that to a degree, as Obama also brought in fresh voices and perspectives to government. An old saying goes “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” meaning that it’s foolish to stubbornly hold out for perfection when artful compromise might lead to some improvements being made.
But the first serious crack in the goodwill toward Obama developed when his Justice Department went to court and began filing legal briefs in support of the expansion of executive authority sought by the Bush Administration. Dubya’s lawyers had essentially argued the president held broad powers and could ignore laws that he or she believed infringed upon them.
This philosophy led to debacles like using torture on detainees and implementing warrantless wiretapping on U.S. citizens.
It was Obama’s criticism of that philosophy last year that, in no small measure, got him elected. His quiet turnabout in court documents is strange and has gone largely unnoticed.
Now Obama is ensnarled in more blatant reversals that should cause him shame and give his supporters pause.
First the U.S. Supreme Court listened to Obama and on June 8 declined to hear an appeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for gay and lesbian military personnel.
Obama has long opposed DADT and said he supports letting gays and lesbians serve openly. He prefers having the Pentagon conduct a review of the 1993 policy and recommend changes to the President, who presumably would bring a bill before Congress.
Sounds nice, but Pentagon leaders have said publicly that no such review is under way. Meanwhile, gays continue to be discharged once their sexual orientation is revealed — even during the Obama presidency — including much-needed Arabic translators.
The “go slow” approach is adversely affecting lives. Attitudes have changed greatly in the 16 years since DADT was adopted. Just as President Truman did when he bucked naysayers and racially integrated the Armed Forces, Obama needs to follow his conscience and abolish this ridiculous and outdated policy.
Equally disturbing is a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman that Obama supports. If passed, it would allow the Secretary of Defense to override the federal Freedom of Information Act as it applies to photographs taken between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 22, 2009 “relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured or detained after Sept. 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”
The bill is being passed to suppress photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, photos that courts already have ruled should be released under the law. The bill has one purpose: to conceal evidence of possible war crimes, thus inhibiting potential prosecutions.
Let’s be clear: It’s still far preferable to have Obama heading the nation than John McCain or, God forbid, another term for George W. Bush.
Whether you agree with his policies, Obama clearly is a thoughtful, intellectually curious man who seems to be able to grasp details while not losing sight of the big picture. Better yet, he has a sense of compassion that provides a balance to his cerebral side.
Spock with a sense of humor.
Put another way, Obama is the straight “A” student while McCain is the “C” student who occasionally gets motivated and achieves “B” level. Dubya? Don’t even go there.
It’s too early to simply write Obama off as “more of the same” when it comes to politicians and their promises. I remain optimistic overall, but voters deserve truth in advertising and not just a smoothtalking bait and switch.
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