Friday, November 21, 2008

What it means: Part 8

I think all Americans are relieved to see an incoming President hit the ground running. It’s been a long time since we saw a statesman take to working for this country as if it were something vitally important and urgent. Eight years too long.

Our outgoing President and his administration have left the country in shambles. George W. Bush walks a little slower these days, shrugging as he walks to the helicopter appearing to wonder why all the people who voted for him are so damn mad.

Take fewer vacations next time Mr. Bush. I wouldn’t hire you to walk a dog.

There is much activity and reorganization already happening in Washington as posts are announced and in turn Senators and others are replaced as they move into the new Obama administration to come. The return of someone like John Podesta is a certainly a welcome sign of the value that Barack Obama and his aides will place on experience and proven qualifications… but what do the return of so many other Clinton era figures, and the Clintons themselves mean?

What are Progressives and Liberals to make of the new administration?

One figure, who has stood at the side lines since the start of the primaries, looms large over the next four years, threatening to complicate Hillary Clinton's possible contributions and legacy. While Bill Clinton represents a Liberal boogieman to Republicans, it’s important to put his lesser known decisions and policies that were neither Progressive nor Liberal, into perspective. It’s surprising to me, when I look at it all directly years later:

Under President Bill Clinton, the nation’s richest received an 8 cent tax break on every dollar, (Whereas George W. Bush only gave them 6 cents off every dollar by the way). There seems to me, an apparent correlation between the gutting of Welfare and aid programs for the poor and the Reaganesque tax break the wealthy received under President Clinton. You may want to blame the Republican Senate and House of the time, but remember, Clinton ultimately signed these into law, forgoing his vetoes.
Then there is NAFTA, which destroyed many small businesses and depressed many local economies in states like Ohio and Indiana. NAFTA ripped out much of the independent manufacturing industry of the coastal regions of the United States and in Middle America, leaving only the very biggest corporations to operate, or ironically, to also move their operations and their associated jobs overseas.
Ultimately, Clinton’s most unforgivable capitulation to the reckless free market culture of the 1990s was the relaxation of Media Ownership Regulations. This has greatly destroyed the industry of local news television and newspapers. It has impaired journalism altogether. As someone who relies and depends, as we all must, on the integrity of journalism and the role of the Fourth Estate in our civic life, this is the absolute worst thing he signed off on. It has effectively allowed Rupert Murdoch to expand a partisan news empire that runs as close along the line to lying as possible, and crossing it when they think they can get away with it. It has allowed corporations to essentially buy the reporting of reality, -sometimes in an entire region. Today if your water’s being poisoned, you won’t know until after you’re sick because the corporation doing it owns the radio, TV and newspapers in your town. None of these are the things the Republican Party would ever complain about, but they are part of the Clinton Presidency they claim to abhor. …and now he’s back.
I voted for, and deeply respect Bill Clinton, but I disagree profoundly with some of his decisions in office.

I know.

I should just be grateful Barack Obama won and remember that even a complete repeat of the Clinton years would be a staggeringly vast improvement over the last eight years in every way. But then I remember the missile strikes on Iraq just days after the Monica Lewinsky scandal heated up... and I think to myself:
things are not so bad that they can’t get worse, should we stupidly take our eyes off of our government again.

Barack Obama, our President Elect, is one of the most intelligent and capable statesmen of this, or any other time. Now he has to govern the country with all the power and responsibility that a “mandate” from the people affords. The weight of history is threatening to crush his ideals and plans for the country’s well being and future, and this man has some big plans. But our job as a citizenry is also just beginning. We have to hold all of our representatives accountable to the ideals, philosophies and ethics they claim to represent. Obama voted along with the FISA bill earlier this year. It's the last time he'll get a "pass" from this voter.

Barack Obama earned our votes. Now he has to deliver us back to the forward-looking nation that we suspect we can be. As my collaborator on this blog pointed out many months ago, “change” is only a word

…but so is "progress".
How tragic it would be, if they remain only words for the next four years.


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