What can one say? Obama is a disappointment in so many ways. For sure, he has been thwarted and blocked at every turn by cynical, grotesquely partisan Republicans who care not at all about the national interest. Republicans in Congress are among the most vile people on Earth. (How's THAT for moderate commentary?!)
But it's also true that Obama has failed to show the sort of leadership that so many of us expected of him. Here is an interesting column in today's New York Times by Tom Friedman that makes a good argument to this effect. (Please note that my typical reaction to Friedman is that he is a totally arrogant, Gingrichian -- i.e., faux intellectual -- asshole who thinks he is god's gift to mankind, and I usually dismiss his putrid spooge.) But he makes sense here.
Also, see this rant by Chris Matthews (the MSNBC asshole whose arrogance is at least as bad as Gingrich's and Friedman's). He actually makes sense here, too.
The other evening, Rachel Maddow delivered a fake Oval Office address, giving the kind of speech she wishes Obama had given about the oil spill, instead of the weak, cowardly, mealy-mouthed address he gave.
It's great. This (Maddow) is the kind of president I hoped Obama would be. What a disappointment he is!
President Obama has ordered a surge of 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. This is such a crushing disappointment to those of us who voted for him in part because we thought he would stop this sort of madness. Yes, he always said the real war was in Afghanistan, not Iraq. And he was correct about that. But this "war" in Afghanistan is not winnable, and it is folly to go down this path.
In his column in this morning's New York Times, Bob Herbert makes an argument that I strongly endorse. He says that with this troop surge, Obama has taken the easy way out.
It would have been much more difficult for Mr. Obama to look this troubled nation in the eye and explain why it is in our best interest to begin winding down the permanent state of warfare left to us by the Bush and Cheney regime. It would have taken real courage for the commander in chief to stop feeding our young troops into the relentless meat grinder of Afghanistan, to face up to the terrible toll the war is taking — on the troops themselves and in very insidious ways on the nation as a whole.
Herbert is correct. This is lunacy. Obama is following the path of cowardice that has seduced so many of our presidents before him. Herbert quotes Dwight Eisenhower:
I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. . . . Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.
That was a Republican president talking!
What is Obama doing?! What a shame. What a loss. What a disappointment. Read Herbert's column.
And it seems like a good time to listen to Phil Ochs: "I Ain't Marching Any More"
President Obama is going to send another 35,000 troops to Afghanistan. Why, oh why, is he cozying up to the Right? The Republicans will never support him on this. They'll never support him on anything. They want him to fail. But it won't be their opposition to this that causes him to fail. He will fail in this because it is a losing proposition. This is a bad idea.
Here is an interesting excerpt from a post today by Andrew Sullivan on this subject. Read the whole thing here.
As Obama appears to be intensifying the lost war in Afghanistan, with the same benchmark rubric that meant next-to-nothing in the end in Iraq, he does not seem to understand that he will either have to withdraw US troops from Iraq as it slides into new chaos, or he will have to keep the troops there for ever, as the neocons always intended. Or he will have to finance and run two hot wars simultaneously. If he ramps up Afghanistan and delays Iraq withdrawal, he will lose his base. If he does the full metal neocon as he is being urged to, he should not be deluded in believing the GOP will in any way support him. They will oppose him every step of every initiative. They will call him incompetent if Afghanistan deteriorates, they will call him a terrorist-lover if he withdraws, they will call him a traitor if he does not do everything they want, and they will eventually turn on him and demand withdrawal, just as they did in the Balkans with Clinton. Obama's middle way, I fear, is deeper and deeper into a trap, and the abandonment of a historic opportunity to get out.
I pray I'm wrong. Maybe Iraq will teeter away from a second implosion. Maybe the Af-Pak strategy is credible in a way Iraq's surge never was. We have yet to hear the president's explanation and we would do well to ponder his proposal as thoroughly as he has.
But I fear Bush's wars will destroy Obama as they destroyed Bush. Because they are unwinnable; and because the US is bankrupt; and because neither Iraq nor Afghanistan will ever be normal functioning societies in our lifetimes.
You want empire? Then say so and get on with it - with far more forces, and massive cuts in domestic spending to rebuild thankless Muslim population centers thousands of miles from home for decades into the future.
You do not want empire? Then leave.
Those are the presidential level choices.
And neither Bush nor, it seems, Obama has the strength to make them.
Not that this is news to anyone, but today's New York Times provides a couple of glimpses into the intelligence and pragmatism of Barack Obama. See Jodi Kantor's article about Obama's view of the Supreme Court and the role of judges. Also, in the Times Magazine, see David Leonhardt's interview with Obama about the economy and economic policy. The guy is amazing.