Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Obama Right - Or Not

For months now I’ve been troubled by what Obama has done – or not done. I know there are plenty of culprits I can use to get Obama off the hook:


Conservative Zealots


Foreign Governments


The Economy

Wall Street


The Media

Etc., Etc., Etc.

The list is endless.

But it hasn’t worked. I continue to be troubled/annoyed/pissed off/disappointed. I can blame myself for having an expectation that Obama would be the catalyst who would really turn things around. I felt hopeful. Hopeful in the face of my skepticism and cynicism about anyone’s ability to fundamentally change a system that is self-serving and broken.

As a society, the last time common interest trumped self-interest was during World War II. Most of today’s Americans weren’t even born. It is natural to think “What’s in it for me?” That’s not the problem. Our leaders have been selfish. Our elected representatives have been more interested in preserving and perpetuating their positions than in serving the people. Our business leaders, pillars of the capitalism that makes us swell with pride, have behaved the same way. How can anyone be surprised to see that Wall St. cares little about Main St.?

The system is broken because there’s no way we can fix it. Money rules. No one in power has the guts to challenge the status quo. Election districts are gerrymandered to guarantee reelection, so the evil has a life of its own. We are held hostage to special interests. It’s the rule of the minority. You’ve got a cause? Great, run with it. Doesn’t matter what it is. Another endless list: Abortion, taxes, Israel, deficits, regulation, the bogeyman of socialism, religion, unions, etc., etc., etc.

Okay. Back to the point. Even with all the roadblocks and circumstances over which he has no control I’m not willing to let Obama off the hook. He needs to be held to account for the promises he made. Yes, I’m responsible for the expectations I personally created, but he has to walk the talk, his own talk. That’s his job.

I’ve rationalized the incomplete nature of his tenure so far by thinking maybe he knows better. He’s been cool in the past in the face of a clamor that he be different. Maybe he can pull off some wizardry, some Zen-like solution the rest of us didn’t see. I still hope that’s going to happen. But I, like so many others, are no longer willing to accept it on faith. I don’t worry about the 20% or so of Americans who will oppose and dislike Obama no matter what he does. I am concerned about the loss of support from Independents and disillusioned Democrats. The more of us who leave the fold the more difficult it will be for Obama to get anything done.

Recently I’ve become concerned about attitudes outside the U.S. I was under the impression that he was still held in high esteem overseas. The other day I saw that his approval rating among Israelis was 4%. I thought it must be a typo. Maybe they meant 40%. Nope. It was 4%. That’s probably less than the margin of error in the poll. Today I saw that while Obama may still be liked in the Muslim world, America isn’t. Approval ratings are in the toilet. It’s a trend that we’re seeing more and more wherever we look.

Henry Kissinger said that Obama is playing about six chess matches all at the same time, and it would be good if he could finish one of them. Tomorrow he’ll tell us his plans for Afghanistan. I’d like to see him persuade me he’s taking the right course of action, but I think the odds are small. And that’s really the proof of what I’m saying here. A few months ago my expectation would have been that he was going to tell me something I’d favor.

I hope my disappointment is short-lived. I really do.


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