Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Q & A: Obama Nation

Jasmine, who doesn’t seem to fully comprehend what exactly a question is, writes, “Critique Obama's presidency to date.”

Glad you asked, because I am clearly the political pundit the world has been waiting for. I will freely admit, I did kind of catch Obama fever a bit back in 2008, partially because eight years of conservative rule had pretty badly damaged this country, partially because otherwise Sarah Palin would have been one serious medical crisis away from becoming president, partially because I just thought it would be cool to help elect our first black president, and partially because, based on what I knew of his politics up to that point, I was cautiously optimistic that he could put our country back on a proper path.

Now, regarding how he’s been doing in office so far, I will state that it is a tad early to properly critique his presidency, since he’s not even halfway through his first term, but let’s not let something silly like that stop us. However, going by what he’s shown us so far, he’s been a proud example for young black men to look up to, and is showing that a minority can be every bit as average a president as a white man. His biggest achievement so far has been as the first president to pass health care reform, despite pretty much every president from Nixon onwards trying and failing. Unfortunately, he accomplished this by watering it down so much that the reforms were borderline worthless, leaving some successor down the road to accomplish some form of real reform.

So far as the rest of his efforts as president have gone, he promised to get rid of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but seems to have decided instead to carefully leave all gay rights issues to the public and the courts, essentially letting the matter be taken completely out of his hands so he doesn’t have to deal with any backlash one way or the other. He did manage to refocus the overall wars in the Middle East from Iraq to Afghanistan (something that should have been done back in 2003, but that’s hardly his fault), though there is the ongoing problem of Pakistan harboring a sizable amount (some have argued almost all) of the Taliban, and I have serious doubts that he’s going to be able to both deal effectively with that and complete the troop withdraw scheduled for next year. In fairness though, I have serious doubts that there is an effective solution to the problem at this point. If there was going to be a solution to the Taliban, it would have been back in 2001, when Bush horribly screwed up the initial invasion and allowed Bin Laden and a great many of his allies to flee the country we had just invaded. So yay for that, I guess.

There’s the overarching issue of the economy, which is still pretty terrible, but which seems to have at least bottomed out. Again, there is no good solution for this, beyond going back in time and preventing Reagan from ever becoming president, so I can’t really join in with the hatred for Obama (or Bush, for that matter) on this. It’s just a crisis that was coming no matter who became president, and there was no quick fix at all for it.

Once health care reform got passed, the next big item on the Obama agenda was supposed to be immigration reform, something this country desperately needs (for the record, I am fully in favor of making it a great deal easier to become a U.S. citizen, and while I can certainly understand racists not being fans of that, at the very least the process needs to be a great deal more streamlined). However, it seems to have been put on hold until after the mid-term elections, something I feel is a major mistake when there’s a very real chance his party is going to lose its majority in the House and Senate. I suppose he could just circumvent Congress entirely on this, but that kind of plan would probably cause quite a lot of general outrage. Still, barring some massive counter-Tea Party sentiment in November, it’s doubtful that he’ll get any meaningful immigration reform accomplished in his presidency.

And that leads to what is probably his biggest weakness as president. He’s trying so damn hard to reach across the aisle to get bipartisanship that he’s letting the Republican party dictate the terms of his presidency, and so the Democrats are coming across as largely useless, something that’s unfortunately very likely to be the deciding factor in people’s voting decisions in two months. I do overall like him, and think given time he could do a lot of good for this country and the world, but the man seriously needs to grow a set of balls and realize that the Republican party is actively shouting down anything he proposes automatically, and just force everything through with the majority he’s got now, before that majority is taken away from him. The evidence of their utter disdain for him and his efforts is plain as day, and it’s foolish and irresponsible of him not to acknowledge and deal with that. Otherwise, we will very soon be back to policies of cheering on the rich and fucking the poor and middle class, policies of invading foreign countries because our president has a grudge against their ruler, and policies of putting minorities back in their place.

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