Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where is the President we elected?

A year in, if there is one thing President Obama can say he has categorically accomplished, is escalating the war in Afghanistan and increasing the controversial drone attacks in Pakistan ten fold. The drones seem to terrorize and kill more innocent people than the alleged terrorists they are supposedly meant to. Now with the "surge" and push into Taliban controlled territory underway the White House waits to declare the operation a success. On the domestic front lofty goals of passing a revolutionary Health Care reform bill, dealing with a record deficit, putting a stop to Wall Street's debauchery, closing down the abhorrent Guantanamo Bay prison camp, holding the past regime accountable for war crimes and criminal violation of the constitution all seem to have fallen by the wayside. Partly because of a corrupt, inefficient, impotent, partisan congress that puts politics before the good of its people, and also due to a lack luster performance by a leader who treads too softly in a jungle of wolves.

Historically the congress has always behaved the way it does today. There is nothing revealing about it. There have also been moments in the past when the country has been as polarized as it is today. The Civil Rights act of 1964 was filibustered a record 54 days before it was passed thanks to President Lyndon Johnson's legendary craft at maneuvering the congress. The only thing that is unprecedented today is that we have a black president in power. That definitely is an underlying factor for the stalemate we see in certain quarters of the congress. But what seems to be missing in President Obama, is his ability to navigate and manipulate the congress to get the people's work done. He seems to rely too heavily on his earnest, honest image to bring about a bipartisan solution to everything, which as we know has failed time after time. Or maybe he just does not have the metal that we so fervently were lead to believe that he did. The message that is being sent through all the noise and the anger being absorbed and propelled by Fox News and the Tea Party cult, is that the President is incapable, inept and bad for the country. The democratic party and the White House are not helping either. They are not able to capitalize on the gains the President has made on "keeping America safe". Under his presidency more terrorist threats have been foiled than in all the eight years under President Bush. 95% of Americans are enjoying tax cuts even in a time of financial crisis. These achievements are not cutting through due to the mismanagement of the message by the White House and the party. A historical symptomatic problem of the party and its inability to unify.

What is also appalling is that on matters of war and invading other nations the congress historically has always come together promptly without much debate or deliberation to give the President a go ahead . On the contrary on matters of real progress and change for its people on a fundamental level, the congress has always stalled and delayed. For example there is a dire immediacy to pass Health Care reform, as people are truly suffering as the economy continues to sour. If and when the Health Care bill passes it is only expected to take effect in 2014, while the decision to invade Iraq was arrived at in record time.

What essentially comes through as a result of the dastardly failings of the congress in a time of monumental crisis, is that this so called democracy is essentially being run by a single party and not two parties as we are lead to believe. The party in question is the "ruling-class" which predominantly rules from the center. Ralph Nader said "America is run by a single party with two wings" and that assessment seems to ring true today. We elect politicians hoping they would put our immediate needs at the top of their agenda, but their behavior time after time shows that they put the needs of the corporations first. Lobbyists from the big financial firms are storming Washington preventing congress from passing the tough legislation that is needed to curtail Wall Street and its risky behavior. And once again they have been stunningly successful. Goldman Sachs posted record profits even in this climate by engaging in the same risky behavior that brought the whole economy to its knees. Only this time from a position of competitive advantage. Things on Wall Street are business as usual. One year later, this is by far this administration's biggest failure. Obama's campaign pledge of keeping special interest groups out of reach seems to have failed miserably. And now he runs the risk of those same corporations not doling out the money needed for his party and its campaigns.

On the international front, in his first year President Obama spanned the globe dropping bouquets of peace and extending overtures of friendship to Iran, North Korea and the Islamic world, for which he was awarded a Nobel peace prize. He made impressive speeches asking nations to follow the ideals of democracy and respect human rights and the rule of law for everyone. He championed nuclear non-proliferation and has made it his priority to reduce and rid the planet of nuclear weapons. But in action he passed a record defense budget, escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, refused to address issues of political freedom, human rights and democracy on his visit to China and snubbed his fellow Nobel colleague the Dalai Lama not once but twice. The first time he refused to meet him and the second time he did it in the most muted fashion possible, all to appease the Chinese who have the United States in a strangle hold, controlling 800 billion dollars of its debt. Even if it was a token gesture and did not mean much, in contrast President Bush awarded the Dalai Lama with a Congressional Gold Medal. Even in this equation it is obvious that China needs America as much as America needs China, so it is a mystery why America cannot substantially confront China on matters of human rights, aggression and political freedom. The sad truth is that in this new year of the Tiger, it is China's roar that is heard loudest around the globe, and it is to it's dominance that America
clearly bows today.

Maybe it is premature to ask where is the president we elected? After all it took sixteen years to bring America to this state and so it might take as many to rise back up, or maybe there is no rising back up. What is expected though expeditiously, is a promise of strong steps taken in the right direction in a time of crisis. If the current trend persists a president that still enjoys popularity runs the risk of rapidly loosing all his capital. If we do not see a radical shift in the mood of this nation, if there is no glimmer of "hope" that was promised, then what little was gained is lost. One does wonder if the optimism candidate Obama embodied was just a projection of the hopes and fears of a disenfranchised and dejected populace or was it truly "change" that is yet to come. While President Obama has restored dignity, flare and poise to the office that has made him a poster boy for the planet, if he cannot deliver the radical change his supporters so desperately need and look to him for deliverance, November will stunt his presidency forever. It is what it is.