It’s halfway through Barack Obama’s first term as President, and I’m filled with a lot of mixed feelings. On one hand, I think his rhetoric far outstrips his ability to govern. In other words, he promised much more than he could deliver. On the other hand, if Bill Clinton was hampered by a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” that was nothing compared with what Obama has been faced with.
What initially struck me about the President-elect back in December 2008 is that he was already acting as though he were already in charge. The bad news about the economy was becoming more fully released, and he appeared fully involved in trying to fix it. My wife noted at the time that he seemed more visible than the 43rd President.
So his inaugural speech was less inspirational than I might have wanted; still we were promised the audacity of hope. Thus, it seems that a lot of people saw Barack Obama the way they WANTED to see him. Surely, he’ll get rid of the onerous secret human right violations that many were distressed about under his predecessor. That did not prove to be the case.
The American participation in the war in Iraq had greatly diminished, as he said would happen, but he was never allowed any credit for that in some circles because he had opposed the war in the first place, and moreover opposed the surge that most analysts suggested allowed for the withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan has expanded, with the end point pushed back later (2011) and later (2014).
In his dealings over health care, it seemed that this man has never played poker. “Oh, here’s what I have in my hand. Let’s go.” So it is not, as some pundits claim, that the Left is upset that the health care bill didn’t provide the universal health care provisions it had hoped, and that then-senator Obama seemed to favor. It was that he folded on it, well before it was necessary. Thus, the bill that was finally passed was ultimately only a Democratic bill, even though it was twisted and altered to get Republican support that largely never came.
It did not help when Obama, and Vice-President Biden, for that matter, lectured the Left on how grateful they should feel and that they were the best hope they could expect. That is in stark contradiction with newly-elected President Obama requesting the Left to keep him honest, make noise.
Yet, it’s difficult for me not to have some sympathy for the President, who had to deal with the birthers, those who have him pegged as a socialist fascist.
Ah, a black President! Our racial problems are over! The President can help us in dialogue. What we end up with is a hastily arranged beer summit, and perhaps a realization that we are not as “post-racial” as previously thought. I don’t blame that on Obama but on our own self-congratulatory rhetoric. And I’ve discovered that there are certain folks who are genuinely offended that he refers to himself as a black man, rather than biracial, because he seems to be denying part of himself; I received a comment saying as much just last week.
The President does have skills. Even FOX News was hard pressed to criticize him for his speech in Tucson last week. Here he showed up as the charismatic leader rather than the policy wonk which seemed to lead people to believe the message that he’s “not one of us,” however one means that, who showed up explaining health care or the BP oil spill, though getting $20 billion from BP I thought was a masterful stroke that didn’t get enough credit. And, as I’ve said before, I brelieve his seeming aloof manner may be a studied attempt not to come across as an “angry black man.”
Frankly, I had him pegged as a one-term President for certain after his first 22 months in office, only to be surprised by his successes with the START treaty with Russia, the elimination of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and a food safety bill.
The narrative is now that he’s moved to the center, and this will save him. His willingness to compromise with Republicans over the tax cuts presumably shows his leadership. I never pegged him as a liberal, but rather a moderate. But the narrative has improved his job approval ratings.
In any case, who knows what the next several months will bring? It’s unlikely that the Democrats will challenge him in the primaries. As for his Republican opponent, who knows? Because the GOP changed its rules, a lot of the early winner-take-all primaries have been changed to a more proportional delegate distribution.
Who will I vote for in 2012? Well, it depends. Might be Barack Obama; depends on what the next two years bring.
0 thoughts on “Half Way In”
I guess most candidates for top office are not fully aware of the political, fiscal, social, diplomatic realities of office until they are sworn in and privy to them. Promises made sincerely then have to be compromised, lending fuel to the naysayers.
It does seem awfully hard that campaigning for presidential office starts so early and continues for such a long time – and swallows up so much cash!
A thoughtful and largely accurate analysis, I think.
A few points to ponder:
The Economy: The effect of the recession upon the Obama Administration is widespread and massive. Obama had to spend a lot of political capital on economic stimulus legislation, bailouts, etc. before ever getting around to his campaign promise issues.
Also, many people who are just generally dissatisfied and concerned swelled the ranks of the birthers, neo-racists and Tea Partists. Without the recession and economic uncertainty, who knows if these backlash groups would have gained the traction necessary to move into the mainstream.
False Expectations: Like you, I determined Obama was a moderate before deciding he merited my vote. However, there’s no doubt a large number of “new” and politically unsophisticated voters put Obama over the top in 2008, and failed to vote in the 2010 mid-terms. I sometimes wonder how much these new voters understand about the limited power of the presidency.
Health Care Reform: I agree Obama seemed make major concession after concession without getting anything in return. However, I don’t know what negotiations were going on behind the scenes and am not so sure he was conceding to Republicans. There are many very conservative Democrats. The last thing he wanted/needed was open warfare among his own party.
The “Charisma Factor”: I’m not a good person to judge this issue because I tend to be something of a wonk and equate charisma with snake oil and lack of substance. Charisma seems to work on a majority of Americans, though — and that is what it takes to win elections. (That and train car loads of money.)
Who’ll Win In 2012: Who knows? It depends upon what happens between now and then. A solidly recovering economy would certainly improve Obama’s chances. It also depends upon who the Republicans nominate. It will be interesting to see if the mainstream Republicans will be able to maintain control of their party or if they’ll be eaten by the monster they’ve helped create.
Thanks, Roger, for saying so many of the things I’ve been unable to articulate. I, too, never pegged him as liberal, but as more of a Blue Dog Democrat, a grouping I’ve not been kind to in my own rhetoric. But I think I’m a bit different from many proud and ardent liberals in that I’m a bit practical: First, he’s what we have, and second, on his worst day he’s better that Bush 2 on his best.
As for 2012, I think I can guarantee I won’t vote for the Republican, whoever she or he is; I’ve never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in my life. So, I’ll almost certainly mark my ballot for President Obama (assuming he’s the Democratic nominee), but at this point I don’t know whether I’ll be voting for him or against the Republican.