Like the proverbial straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, I guess the time has come to end my admiration for President Barack Obama. I guess the end came with his recent broken promise — he has now retreated and agreed to keep Guantanamo open, and commence with the military trials. But, the disillusionment had been building for at least a year.
I quickly add: Sure, I will vote for him in 2012. What other choices do we have? It is absolutely pathetic that we vote for someone because the other candidates are worse. But my support, adoration, and involvement will be far more tepid than the enthusiasm he generated for me — and millions others — in his exciting win in 2008.
And though the Guantanamo decision was the end of the road for my belief — and hope — that “change” actually was going to come to America, it was not a single position or action that caused me to end my support. Rather it was a long series of bad and disappointing decisions that finally created a mosaic of him being “just another president willing to accept the decline of our country as we slide down a slippery slope to an America badly in need of help.”
Moreover, there is also the element of duplicity in his actions versus the promises made in 2008. That would not be unusual for politicians; it is done all the time. But this time the fall for me was further, because I actually thought we had something “different” this time. We didn’t. Same old same old, I guess.
First sign: the health-care bill
It really started with the health-care bill. In many respects the conservatives are right; it is not a particularly good bill, and it was cobbled together in an atmosphere of compromise. What was really needed was at least the public option — and even better, a single-payer plan. And to even get close to those two elements, we relied on Obama to lead. He sat on the sidelines, coached and commented — but his actions to excite the public (and support for his hard-fighting legislators) were nonexistent.
I had hopes he would get us out of Afghanistan quickly. This war is a travesty. It is depleting us of blood and treasure. It is a mockery of homeland security. It has doubtful international benefits to us. It has virtually no redeeming national value, and now even the majority of Americans want us out. That appears to matter not to Obama, who is just another president under the influence of his generals. We did not need that; McCain would have filled that role even better. We needed someone with guts and independence. No luck there.
He promised “he would walk the picket line” to support unions. This is his time. This is his moment. There is a lot at stake in the Wisconsin union revolt; it goes to the very heart of helping the “have nots” against the powerful “haves.” OK, so he is occupied with other issues and is unable to come to Madison. But he is not even there in spirit. He would have a huge inspirational effect on the brave and hardy protesters protecting a valued American liberty: the right for all workers to bargain for better wages and working conditions. No one home there either.
Obama’s tax-cut compromise
But perhaps his very worst decision, and one with immense implications, was caving on extending the Bush tax cuts. Getting wealthy Americans to pay their fair share was absolutely essential to the future of America. This was not really a “tax” issue at all. It was one of the terribly skewed distribution of wealth in our country. It could have mitigated the huge advantages the rich enjoy in our economic system.
But it was even more than that. It was getting the resources to improve our crumbling infrastructure that is turning us into a Third World country in terms of roads, bridges, dams, water systems and 21st century transportation. And yes, even education. We are falling behind in all these areas. Cutting them further on the altar of deficit reduction is not going to make for a better country. The revenue side of the equation has to be addressed. Obama opted out.
Internationally, we remain on the wrong side of history. Our support of the Egyptian revolution was weak. We are convoluted by the events in Libya as Gaddafi pounds a ragtag group of rebels from the air. Our policies and relationship with dictators is not much changed from those of previous presidents. Seemingly, it is one of trading the liberty (of others) for the temporary illusion of security, recalling the well known Benjamin Franklin quote: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” No doubt Obama knows this quote; he just forgot about it.
Some progressive strides
Certainly, the president has made some strides in redressing issues that liberals have an interest in: Wall Street and credit card reform; getting some health-care reform, inadequate as it is; and he is apparently making progress on repairing the economy damaged by eight years of the GOP and Bush.
But that is not what liberals really bought into in 2008. We thought we were getting change we could believe in. We believed we had a president with a progressive agenda. We believed he was going to do what he said … and promised. He did not deliver that to us, and we are disappointed.
What we have here folks, is just another politician rushing to the center, compromising his platform and preparing for his next election rather than taking the country in a significant new direction that it demands and deserves.
As in all classic love affairs, breaking up is hard to do (as the song goes). But sorry, Mr. President, it is over. I wish you well. Maybe you will surprise us and even change (they say some men do). Yes, there will be tears, not for me, but for my country. It is time to say “goodbye.”
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.