Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hopey, Changey

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post expressing disillusionment at the actions taken by the Obama Administration -- and, more specifically, not taken -- that seem to indicate that we may have been fooled again. That "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" gut-feeling, for which I have been criticized in the past, has been gnawing at the edges of my rational mind ever since our guy took the election and started to make personnel selections that were praised by self-interested Villagers as grown-up and statesmen-like, but which seemed to this bitter partisan to be more of the same, maybe not Chimpy McMean-Drunk level of sameness, but at least Clinton-esque, Third Way-ish, accomodationist same.

In the comments for my Disillusionment post, Matt asks me to give Obama more of a chance before condemning him as another LBJ. Um, sure. OK, I am going to give him a chance -- unless I act to overthrow his administration, what choice do I have? -- but just because I voted for him, I'm not going to be automatically pleased with every step he takes. Frankly, he has done very little to justify my previous faith in him and a great deal to make worry, from the Rick Warren slap-in-the-face to the bailout mess to state secrets.

So, really, what we're talking about here is misgivings. I have them. A lot of them.

Chris Bowers at OpenLeft outlines many of the same reasons and I find it heartening that someone who isn't a reflexive Reich-wing tea-bagger also feels the same way, though recent political history frames his reasons, which seem otherwise principally focused on the economic crisis and how it relates to assorted political dispositions. My fear for this administration and the man who leads it is that the economic crisis is but one facet of myriad other issues relating to empire, wealth, power, hegemony and class struggle.

Yet, because Chris Bowers is so much smarter than me, he is also able to articulate the reasons for those misgivings far better than this author. His take on the situation also gives more specific historical context with regards to Mr. Obama himself, his actions and the choices he's made that make a pretty solid case for progressive mistrust of the president.

His list breaks down into six keys reasons for his Case for Distrust (mostly with regards to the banking crisis):
  1. Because it isn't just the Obama administration we are dealing with
  2. Because there are too many dirty hands
  3. Because they keep telling us to tone down the pressure on CEO's and Blue Dogs
  4. Because I don't trust anti-partisan and anti-ideological rhetoric
  5. Because I don't trust the Obama administration more than I trust other Democrats
  6. Because President Obama flip-flopped on FISA
Of course, under each heading he presents a detailed account, though they should all be pretty clear just from their titles. However, I do have some choice quotes. The best one (and I had forgotten about this until reading Chris' post) was Obama's FISA vote. I was very upset and angry with him at the time. Here's Chris take on it -- quoted in full:
I don't trust President Obama himself because he flip-flopped on FISA due to right-wing pressure in the campaign. During the primaries, he vowed to fight telecom immunity tooth and nail, but once the primaries were over, he just flat-out flipped his position. This was a straightforward case where President Obama changed a position as a result of shifting political pressure. The conclusion I drew from that event is that it is possible to change Obama's public positions if there was enough political pressure for him to change, and that such pressure was necessary because he was willing to cave into right-wing demands if they applied enough pressure.

In short, FISA was the "distrust and pressure" object lesson for me. From that point on, there could be no benefit of the doubt. If you wanted Obama to side with you, simply trusting him and supporting him would not suffice. Distrust and pressure became requirements.
But the better section comes when he discusses the post-partisan language the Obama campaign and now administration uses in all its public presentations. Like me, Chris Bowers is wary of anyone from the left end of the spectrum who speaks of all of us just getting along. Like me, he cannot but think of such a person as either a dupe or a con-man. Decades of being repeatedly kicked to the curb whenever no longer needed to advance some upstart's career will do that to we trusting souls here in DFH-land.
When I hear "let's get beyond ideology and partisanship," it doesn't mean "reach out, sit down, and have a good faith discussion." Instead, it means "let's cave to Republicans on economic issues, foreign policy issues, and gay rights." I just don't trust Democrats who use language like that. Twenty times burned, thirty times shy, I suppose.
Again, I will say that apart from reigning in the most violent, high-profile and egregious authoritarian excesses of the Bush years, what has anyone in the Obama Administration done to justify the faith we seem to be putting in them (and please note the plural, that I haven't singled out Mr. Obama this time around, but refer to collectively to the administration that bears his name)? The misgivings, again, derive from the way the Obama Administration is expending energy. It isn't even what they are failing to do, the problems they haven't tackled, but the engagements they are actively seeking that are the cause of my disheartenment.

What engagements are those? Well, this one flew in on Friday afternoon under the radar amid all the "state's secrets" brouhaha this past week (h/t Glenn Greenwald):
The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight. . .

Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing the detainees, condemned the decision in a statement.

“Though he has made many promises regarding the need for our country to rejoin the world community of nations, by filing this appeal, President Obama has taken on the defense of one of the Bush administration’s unlawful policies founded on nothing more than the idea that might makes right,” she said.
Pre-emptive responses: I don't think any defense of this behavior is possible. I don't want to hear about statecraft or Realpolitik or sausage-making or Obama Kung-Fu. Barack Obama became the Democratic candidate by creating an aura that he represented something different, that he was a Constitutional scholar who understood the stakes, that we could hope he would and could change things for the better.

Why in the world would we gullible, lefty moon-bat DFH dreamers have come to think such things about Obama? I dunno, maybe it was this speech on the Senate floor in September of 2006, when he said this (again, h/t Greenwald):
...restricting somebody's right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.


We don't need to imprison innocent people to win this war. For people who are guilty, we have the procedures in place to lock them up. That is who we are as a people. We do things right, and we do things fair.
How are we Dirty Fucking Hippies supposed to reconcile that man, and the administration working in his name?

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