For almost two years - nomination through fourteen months in office - Barack Obama has occupied center stage. Usually that would be time enough for every interested voter to see where he stands and decide what he’s likely to accomplish. This has not happened. Instead his position is hard to figure out which has no doubt caused his approval ratings to plummet.
Obama’s tenure has stretched and diversified the usual opponent/supporter spread: those who voted for McCain hate his guts; Republican Congresspersons and party leaders not only shout “No!” regardless of what Obama proposes but acquiesce to crude virulent outbursts of “birthers” and Tea Party crazies; Latinos cultivate vocal skepticism spiced with hope; Asians generally maintain their customary influential position on the sidelines; Blacks except for a few opportunists remain rock solid but with their fingers crossed. Barack Obama is hard to figure out.
There is no doubt that he is smart, literate, eloquent, confident, diligent and persevering. These laudable qualities don’t seem to matter; everything he stood for before entering the Oval Office has been reversed, diluted, postponed or ignored leaving liberals despondent and progressives in despair. His campaign promise “Change we can believe in” is today almost inaudible.
His manner of governing on any issue is startlingly consistent. He chooses a problem, invites bipartisan comment and cooperation, listens to scholars, specialists and ordinary people, weighs viable solutions, chooses one that is malleable enough to be altered. This style was displayed early on: he pondered the Iraq-Afghanistan quagmire for months and ended up sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. In similar manner, he chose healthcare reform and at first he acknowledged that if he could start from scratch he’d prefer a single payer system. Then after months of bitter partisan warfare Obama signed a Healthcare bill that had no more resemblance to single payer than a giant oak has to an acorn.
The first year of Obama’s presidency resembles nothing so much as “Bush Lite”: Guantanamo is still operating, torture is against policy but still allegedly practiced, drones kill civilians by the dozens, Israel continues to get weapons, including cluster bombs, openly gay soldiers still get discharged, banks get bailed out but homeowners don’t, the same people who brought the economy to its knees are charged with lifting it up. Obama has stirred up but little to clear up the mess he inherited. Why?
In my view there is not very much besides his family that our 44th president cares deeply about. He may care about nuclear armaments that threaten his girls’ future. He cares about the Israel/Palestine conflict but not much and his caring about all the other problems he faces is equally light.
Before taking office Obama decided to look to the future rather than the pass, meaning he would let the confessed misdeed of the Bush/Cheney gang go unpunished thereby refusing to uphold one of the major responsibilities of his office. Recently his vacuous statements on education, for example that teachers must be held accountable for their students’ progress, leave me gasping for air. (Surely, this must strike fear in the hearts of Sasha’s and Malia’s teachers, whoever they are.)
In my view Barack Obama is the most all-round gifted Democrat to occupy of the Oval Office since JFK, though not the most astute astute.
No one knows now how his presidency will be assessed twenty years hence. Everyone knows now that whatever the future has in store not much will be different.