by Joyce Marcel
August 12, 2010
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- The Obama Administration is a welcome change from the Bush-Cheney years. Against severe Republican opposition, President Obama has kept campaign promises to reform health care, curb Wall Street excesses, create a federally-funded stimulus program to help bring the nation out of the recession, and to remove American troops from the needless Iraq war, which has already cost Americans more than $740 billion and 4,400 lives. He has also pledged to eliminate the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the rich, while not raising taxes on the middle- and lower-classes.
However, much of what the President is doing appears to be little more than an extension of Bush-Cheney values. And that is not what the Americans voted for when they elected him to office.
Candidate Obama ran and won office as an anti-war politician. President Obama has increased American presence in Afghanistan. In July, 66 American soldiers were killed, the highest number for any month during the war.
Candidate Obama pledged to end the PATRIOT Act, which does little to protect American safety and much to destroy America's Constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, due process and protection against unreasonable governmental invasion of privacy. However, President Obama signed legislation to extend the Act for yet another year.
During the 2008 campaign, both candidates Barack Obama and John McCain promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. However, President Obama, apparently scared by the right-wing paranoids, hasn't transferred any prisoners to maximum federal security prisons in the U.S., any one of which should have little difficulty dealing with suspected enemy combatants among the general population of killers and rapists.
Although President Obama has closed secret CIA prisons and ended all forms of torture, he approved the continuation of rendition, sending prisoners to allied countries which still do torture.
President Obama renamed but failed to clean up the corrupt Minerals Management Service of the Department of Interior, which under the Bush-Cheney Administration had become little more than spineless advocates for Big Oil. About a year into the Obama Administration, the MMS exempted BP from filing a full environmental impact statement.
Against the advice of environmentalists, and his own statements while a candidate, President Obama allowed continued deepwater drilling in the Gulf, claiming that safety concerns were met. About a month later, the BP oil rig ruptured, killing 11 workers and leading to the worst oil spill in U.S. history. `It took five weeks before President Obama finally placed a six-month moratorium on deep offshore drilling, only to have that moratorium overturned by a Louisiana judge with financial ties to the oil industry. The Obama Administration appealed that order and issued a broader moratorium. By then, more about 200 million gallons of oil had spilled into the gulf, killing wildlife, the fishing industries and tourism.
Although Candidate Obama promised more transparency in government - and to a certain extent has succeeded - as President he allowed BP and his own government to place severe restrictions upon media that were trying to give full coverage to the spill.
The transparency credibility issue surfaced again this month when the Defense Department rejected the application for Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings to accompany troops in Afghanistan. Hastings had accurately reported the political statements by Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led the President to fire him for the nature of his comments that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of the democratic system."
Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama had said he believed in gay marriages. However, President Obama, although extending the rights of gay couples, has yielded to the fears of irrational conservatives and says he opposes same-sex marriages but believes in civil unions. Unlike President Obama, supporters of same-sex marriage include Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, and Cindy McCain.
The Republican leadership tried to block extending unemployment benefits during the Great Recession; it was weeks until President Obama spoke forcefully against the Republicans, which has earned its label as the "Party of 'No.'" Hopefully, President Obama will be quicker to denounce the prattle of Republican leaders who are mounting a campaign to reduce Social Security benefits.
Solely for political reasons, the Bush-Cheney Administration took gray wolves off the endangered species list one week before Barack Obama became president. Slightly more than a year after taking office, President Obama officially continued the Bush-Cheney policy. The action by both Administrations allowed the killing large numbers of the 1,600 wolves in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana, often by state officials from helicopters and often into the dens that housed pups.
While wolves kill for food or to protect their pack, human hunters may claim they hunt for food, but go to extraordinary lengths and expense to stuff and display their "trophy kills," and often will kill animals, such as bears, prairie dogs, and coyotes that have no food value. Unlike their human competitors, wolves don't use guns with telescopic sights, whistles and electronic calls that mimic the cries of other animals, elevated shooting stands, decoys, or elaborate steel-jaw traps. A federal court this week ruled that gray wolves in the Rockies were not only an endangered species, but stopped state-supported wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.
Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, against severe opposition, pushed through some of the most critical social legislation in the nation's history. Harry Truman stood up for his principles and for the benefit of the people when he lashed out at a "do-nothing Congress." Candidate Obama was elected on a forceful campaign mantra of "Change you can believe in," and not "A slight variation of present policies that you can maybe live with."
President Obama is known as "No Drama Obama" because of his quiet intellect. He needs to be more forceful, both in fully supporting social legislation he and his base believe in, as well as attacking the vicious smears, lies, and distortions from the extreme right wing.
If President Obama continues to pander to the conservatives, and continues a slide into compromise that dilutes necessary social justice legislation instead of trusting the millions who voted for that change he promised, especially when he has both the power of the presidency and the votes in Congress, he will be a one-term president, hated by both the right and the left.
Assisting on this column was Rosemary Brasch. Walter Brasch's latest books are the witty and probing Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at American culture and the mass media; and 'Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, which discusses governmental neglect that magnified both the damage from the hurricane and the BP oil spill. Both books are available at amazon.com and other online sites. You may contact Dr. Brasch at firstname.lastname@example.org.