Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama's Grasp on Power

Some political observers have been impressed with how much Obama is taking on, and there is a lot on his plate -- health care reform, renewed focus on Afghanistan, fiscal stimulus, carbon cap and trade, new dog, etc. But some of us progressives are looking at the power interests that is unwilling to confront at present:

  • Wall Street
  • Intelligence community

With regard to Wall Street, I have previously posted that I feel Obama is in dangerous territory with regard to his embrace of the status quo as embodied in the policies of Summers and Geithner. Here's further commentary along those lines:

I don't generally overreact to news (from the NYT this morning, on the AIG-Goldman connection that runs through Edward Liddy's stock ownership), but this has gone far enough. Have we completely lost of sense of what is and is not a conflict of interest? ...

If the Obama Administration thinks this is a storm in a tea cup, think again (I'm sure Valerie Jarrett gets this, but someone please check). Straws may or may not break camel's backs, but simple symbolic issues - that millions of people can understand and relate to - can bring major political damage in the midst of a broader, more complex economic fiasco.

With regard to the intelligence community, torture, and possible Bush Administration crimes, Keith Olbermann blasted Obama last night...

In a "Special Comment" regarding the release by the Obama Administration of "the remainder of this nightmare of Bush Administration torture memos," MSNBC's Keith Olbermann offered the current Commander in Chief some praise for going "half-way," then blasted him for issuing a statement which said that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

"This President has gone where few before him, dared," Olbermann said Thursday night. "The dirty laundry — illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destroying — is out for all to see."

Olbermann continued, "Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but half-way. And, in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still... Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not "spent energy" but catharsis. Not 'blame laid,' but responsibility ascribed."

While I tend to agree with Olbermann on Bush era crimes and with those who would have Obama take on the Wall Street titans, I have to wonder whether or not those are battles that Obama can win at this point in his presidency. My observation is that presidents are always embattled, and Democratic presidents especially. Carter was overwhelmed by reactionary forces, and perhaps from the intelligence agencies in particular. Clinton, of course, was impeached following years of being hounded by the political opposition. Perhaps the only reason he ultimately survived was that he was "bi-partisan" and not actually that much of a threat to the powers that be.

So I think we need to cut Obama some slack and give him a chance to consolidate some power before taking on Wall Street and the Cheney faction of the military-industrial complex...


legacyguy said...

Dan, I don't subscribe to your "wait-and-see" approach with regard to Obama's policy shortcomings. Here's a link to an article by one of my favorite writers, Naomi Klein on this very subject:

Detroit Dan said...

Klein's column is somewhat insightful, and I don't disagree with her, or with you for that matter. We can and should advocate for the policies that we believe in, and I have contacted Obama, Levin, Stabenow, and Conyers to complain about the Wall Street bailouts.

On the other hand, we could do worse than Obama, and we have for most of my life. So we have to be careful, in my opinion. We won a battle with the victory of Obama, but the Democrats had to move far to the center to win that victory. Obama campaigned as a centrist -- someone far to the right of you, me, and Naomi Klein. Maybe next time we can elect a real progressive. In the meantime, we have to accept that progressives didn't win the election and are still on the outside looking in.

You and I came of age with the candidacy of George McGovern, and that didn't work out so well. What went wrong?