During the 2008 presidential primaries I voted for Hillary.
Obama�s refrain of tax cuts for America�s majority had an all-too familiar ring
to the themes of Kerry�s (2004) and Gore�s (2000) campaigns and frankly I had
Specifically I was irritated at the lack of any discussion over
the possibility that the 43rd President of the United States might be guilty of
criminal charges. I was particularly annoyed that Obama, as a front-runner,
never took the lead on this matter or was even willing to commit to the idea
that George W. Bush and Company could one day be under investigation. Instead,
he hedged and sidetracked on the issue and shied away from any suggestion that
he, a constitutional lawyer and presidential contender, would, if elected,
initiate criminal proceedings against his predecessor.
For almost two years during the campaign, Mr. Obama talked
about change. The majority of voters took Mr. Obama at his word and entrusted
him to deliver on that word. They stood united in their support that he would
take on the power players of Washington, and with a strong upper hand, move the
country in a bright direction. Unfortunately, after the campaign those promises
began to erode rather quickly, causing confusion and bewilderment among a
soon-to-be withering base.
On Bush criminal charges though, Mr. Obama did not waiver or
offer any false hope since it was obvious from the beginning he had no
intention of investigating possible Bush-related crimes during the campaign.
There was always the inference he might; yet the inference was so negligible
that it was no surprise when he chose to bar any criminal investigations and
instead to put this matter under quiet wraps.
Yet, herein lies my criticism (and I assume the deep torment
for most progressives) since progressive change should be also about adhering
to the law and holding offenders responsible for crimes against man, a nation
and even a world. It is irresponsible to think that change would incorporate
the notion that past executive offenses should be considered off-limits and
forgotten. This is a bit too much history for any conscientious individual to
sweep under the rug.
It is also a bit much to think Obama might have been an
original when it came to change. There was little he said and less that he
legislatively did in Congress to convince me this was a man about to set
America on a historic new course. There is no disputing his language was
convincing; but language does not necessarily translate into action and too
often Mr. Obama fell short of the mark, especially when he spoke about �looking
forward� and not backward.
To be forthright, I was looking for a candidate with a true
progressive agenda. My concern with Mr. Obama was whether he intended to build
on a past record or work from fresh beginnings and a new start. Judging from
his prior performances I did not see how he could move forward aggressively
when his own record reflected much the reverse.
For starters, as a senator from Illinois during the Bush
years, Mr. Obama shied away from showing any opposition to the executive and
his vice president as they defiantly and without opposition proceeded to
violate and ignore this country�s laws. He did not criticize Bush �signing
statements� which were used to circumvent the Constitution or take a firm
position on other questionable matters such as Cheney�s private Energy
meetings, Cheney�s ordering of the CIA to deceive Congress, Pentagon money
contracts, Halliburton�s no-bid Iraq contracts and illegal NSA spying on
innocent citizens. These are all suspicious legal matters that Mr. Obama should
have publicly addressed.
During Obama�s senatorial term there is such an excess of
immoral activities including Bush�s firing of Attorney Generals, the illegal
editing of scientific papers, the sale of public lands to private industry and
the interpretation of Bush martial law that it is perplexing how any senator
could remain silent for such an extended time. It is even more astonishing how
the scandal at the Interior (sex and drugs in exchange for government
contracts) did not receive more attention for its grotesque (and ignored by the
press) acts of outrage. This was a scandal of such appalling proportions, like
Tea Pot Dome, that Mr. Obama should have insisted justice be applied to all
As a U.S. senator from 2005 to 2008, Mr. Obama did not ask
for censure or demand accountability for Mr. Bush�s questionable actions. Aside
from the fact that America�s most popular non-scientific, non-evolutionary
Christian President was undermining law and violating individual liberties, he
was similarly unleashing havoc on the environment. During this unparalleled
period, Mr. Obama had innumerable opportunities to lessen the Bush implosion on
planet Earth, but here again said nothing.
With ruthless executive plunder and lack of congressional oversight,
thousands of miles of rivers are choked by national mismanagement and entire
eco-systems made uninhabitable by industries� captains. Power plants, with no
regulation or enforcement, are permitted to empty deadly emissions (nitrogen
dioxide) into the air. Wildlife is hit with almost unsustainable setbacks over
the gutting of the Endangered Species Act. Kyoto is ignored and global warming
churns up our oceans and melts our glaciers. In Bush�s first four years
industry perpetuates more harm on the environment than mankind did in its
previous hundred years.
Under no previous administration had our environment been so
bitterly abused. Yet, during this irresponsible fiasco, Mr. Obama kept out of
the fray and on the sidelines.
When Obama left the Senate and campaigned with his message
of change, I remained cautious knowing full well whatever glowing promises he
intended to make to the general public (his base), his foremost responsibility
would still be to special interests and corporate partners. There was nothing
in his past voting performance to prove otherwise. I also believed he would
take to the high road and personify himself as a leader with a different
message, one that America could support and rally around.
And rally it did. After eight years of Bush, many felt the
system, with the right commander, could �fix� the wretched blunders created by
Dubya and company. But not to forget, it still was a campaign and campaigns are
not always true to the promises they pledge. Nevertheless, this was a country
hungry for genuine change and Obama was set to lift the American spirit and
establish a fresh tone. With progressive notions like single-payer health
insurance, employment for all and carbon dioxide reductions placed before an
electrified audience, Obama was preparing the stage for a renewed democratic
And yet I was still skeptical. I conceded that what he
pledged to his hopeful base would take time to materialize, if those intentions
were real and thus, I was willing to wait. However, after more than one year I
have not seen any honest change occur and do not believe any far-reaching
progressive programs will dot the American landscape. I have heard soundings
and bytes, and while there has been minor progress, it is the overall picture I
find disturbing. Major issues that call for strong, progressive leadership and
a willingness to take this country in an enlightened direction have not been
put forward. Let me be more specific.
Mr. Obama, for whatever reasons, continues to remain in the
shadow of his predecessor and displays little difference in terms of doing what
is constitutionally correct. Specifically, Cheney and Bush are still not under investigation for possible war
crimes (and other constitutional violations) because Obama (who took measures
to avoid a protracted inquiry), and most members of Congress, do not wish it.
Specifically, while Obama might allow the possible
prosecution of Bush administration officials who devised legal authority for
terror-suspect interrogations, the case against those who provided
justification for those methods remains in the hands of Eric Holder.
Specifically, Obama, like Bush, has Blackwater on the
government payroll and Halliburton (Cheney�s privatization efforts of our
military�s logistical support has never been investigated, even though two
years after approving such a program Cheney became CEO of Halliburton and was
paid $44 million during a five year period before becoming vice president)
continues to reap obscene profits in Iraq.
Specifically, the White House has not veered from the Bush
policy of imprisoning, without trial, enemy combatants captured abroad, while a
Pentagon study commissioned by Obama found that the prison at Guantanamo Bay
met the standards of the Geneva Convention.
Specifically, Obama, like Bush, believes detainees in
Afghanistan have no constitutional rights and has also ordered that his
predecessor�s rendition policies remain basically untouched.
Specifically, Obama has retained Bush�s secretary of defense,
Robert Gates, which has not scored him many points. The same can be said for
his pick of cattle-rancher Ken Salazar to the Interior. These are choices to
which Obama backers would have yelled foul during the primaries.
Healthcare, Afghanistan, financial reform, conservation and
global warming are issues this administration is attempting to tackle, but has
fallen short on all accounts. Sadly, there is so much overlapping of Mr. Bush
that it is difficult not to be disparaged.
With regard to the environment, I never credited Mr. Obama
for being an environmentalist, and to date his record on planet Earth is not
only dismal, it is shameful. Who could think it possible to fall behind Mr.
Bush in environmental stewardship, but it has actually happened, and this
president�s ecological scorecard is almost reckless.
For starters, the Obama administration recently gave the
go-ahead to triple the number of endangered loggerhead and leatherback sea
turtles that can be caught by industrial fishing fleets off Hawaii�s coastline.
This same administration has also stripped away protections for the northern
Rockies gray wolves and has invited oil drilling in polar bear habitat.
Regretfully, it has followed Bush on not allowing the polar bear�s Endangered
Species Act status to actually protect it from global warming and endorsed
G.W.�s anti-jaguar policies. To date, the Obama administration has protected
only two new U.S. species while hundreds more desperately need to be added to
the threatened and endangered lists. If we are to have a viable Earth, these
cannot be the positions of an environmental president.
On other matters, Mr. Obama�s appointment of Tim Geithner to
the Treasury and the absence of any correction within the SEC demonstrates more
a lack of separation of old ties than a serious re-ordering of an ailing
system. With healthcare reform, Congress was forced to carry the major weight
on this score while Mr. Obama made his case to physicians, pharmaceutical CEO�s
and directors. How much executive pull he used to persuade others to come on
board is still to be determined. What we do know though is that since his
election, Mr. Obama has downplayed the public option and has conceded more to
the insurance sector than his campaign statements would indicate. (And yes, Mr.
Obama, you did speak forthrightly of single-payer on the campaign trail).
Mr. Obama�s gesture at Copenhagen was just that�a gesture.
If ever there was a time to step forward for the people, and the planet, the
United Nations Climate Change Conference was that moment. However, America
represents capitalism and Mr. Obama is its leader; thus if history is any
indicator, not much change can be expected. Therefore, if we do not reverse our
positions, we will undoubtedly continue to cut down trees and consume 1.4 times
more than the earth can produce. We will stay the course and protect industry
but not the 5.4 more earths that will be required if we do not abandon our
present wasteful path. We will keep endangered and threatened animals and
plants out of the spotlight and forgo any real framework for a greener
universe. Within this scenario, America�s executive will possibly try to
appease the general public and put forward some limp plan (and not even broach
a mandate for reducing C02 emissions), albeit without any specifics for saving
planet Earth and possibly the human race.
Mr. Obama�s performance at Copenhagen was not surprising.
The environment was one of this president�s priorities during the campaign, yet
when he returned from Europe, he came back with yet another non-binding
resolution. He had the perfect opportunity to bring other world leaders on
board and set this planet on track with true environmental direction. That
would have been his moment to prove to the world and disgruntled progressives,
such as myself, that he was sincere about change and not another stamped
signature of corporate cronyism and pacification.
It is safe to suggest that Mr. Obama belongs to the camp
that acknowledges the fact that global warming exists. This is no longer a
topic for debate and he knows that. He should also be aware of the negative
consequences to plant, animal and man if we do not initiate some prudent action
soon. America is still the leader at-large and much of the world respects this
country�s new president. However, his tabling any consequential reforms and
refusal to utter the crucial number 350 (the desired level of parts per million
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) was the closing chapter in 2009 that
significant change may only come in increments, however slow and measured they
Moving into 2010, there has been some change on Wall Street
although the banks still hold the bulk of that wealth. Strong healthcare reform
is not likely, yet in trying to reach this goal, Americans have witnessed how
insurance companies operate as monopolies and how easily senatorial votes are
bought so this monolithic industry can thrive.
State projects to benefit schools, infrastructure, colleges
and small business are mostly invisible and our withering wildlife and
desecrated lands remain under the tutorship of department heads sympathetic to
oil, gas and industry chieftains. To his credit, Mr. Obama never promised to
end the war in Afghanistan, although he did give the impression that was the direction in which he was headed. To his
discredit the Bush administration�s culpability relating to war profiteering,
domestic wiretapping, covert crimes, no-bid contracts and torture will never be
tried in a court of law.
all this is the precursor or groundwork for change, then somewhere along the
way I misread the message. Or maybe this is the best we can expect from a
government where real change is not necessarily change, but a gradual shift or
redirection of priorities. As change, these priorities may materialize, in one
fashion or another, over possibly an extended period of time. That is not the
change most of us voted for in 2008. Yet, that would be closer to the notion of
change we can only expect from Washington.