Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let's See Some ID

President Barack Obama discusses his plan for ...Image via WikipediaI wrote a piece back during the first month of President Obama's term that laid out the four things that I wanted him to accomplish. I was under no allusion that the administration was paying attention to my blog, but I figured it was worth the effort at the time. Of the four issues I mentioned, only one (health care) has been addressed in any significant way. Just as a refresher to all those who weren't followers of this blog at the time, the other three issues were Afghanistan, education and restoration of the Constitutional rights that were taken away under the previous administration.

I understand that logistics have gotten in the way of any significant change in Afghanistan, so I'm willing to give the President a pass on that one. I still don't believe that we have a real exit strategy or that our troops are doing any good, but I understand the difficulty in removing an army that is propping up a puppet regime.  However, the fact that education hasn't even gotten so much as a passing mention does not make me particularly happy. And the rolling back of rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution, well let's just say that this administration has apparently decided that it likes being able to eavesdrop on our conversations, detain us without due process and ship us off to other countries for "questioning" if it feels it's necessary. This is from the same President who said during his inauguration speech that the choice between safety and our ideals is a false one. Apparently he changed his mind. 

All that being said, I am totally on board with the President's mission of changing the tone of Washington. He has tried time and time again to reach out to the opposition. He has made so many concessions that some of his supporters have doubted his conviction to progressive ideals. I never have (okay, I may have wavered a bit during the health care debate). Despite all of the in fighting and political horse trading that has gone on during this administration, I always felt that the President was at least speaking truthfully or as truthfully as he could, to the American people. This week, however, I believe that he has crossed the line. In speaking about the continued NATO action in Libya, he said that US would always intervene when it saw the leader of a country harming it's own citizens (I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the general sentiment). I know, he knows and the American people know that is a crock of shit. There are multiple regimes that we support (particularly those with oil), who do great harm to their own citizens and we don't so much as bat an eye in protest. In fact we support those countries with our dollars and our weapons. We did the same for Qaddafi only a few short months ago, until he apparently turned into the worst person in the world. 

This is by no means a renunciation of my support for this President or his administration. I am very satisfied with the many things that he has been able to accomplish in the face of historic opposition. He has survived unsubstantiated attacks against his family, his citizenship, his academic record, his patriotism, his religious beliefs, etc. to forge a very impressive record of accomplishments. I stand by him and stand ready to support him in the next election. What I am saying is that I'm disappointed. Not by the lack of action on my pet issues, but that this President who I hold in such high regard, would speak to us, would speak to me as if I were a child with no understanding of the world. 

I always thought that President Obama did us the courtesy of speaking to us as if we were adults. I appreciated that after having to listen to the jingoistic patriotism that was spewed out at us by the previous administration. It didn't always come across as exciting or sound bite worthy, but it was the truth (or as much truth as could be shared). We all know that we are not the world's morality police. We can't afford to be and frankly we are no position to foist our views of morality on anyone. But when we decide to target a particular leader for removal based on strategic considerations, I would appreciate it if the President would show us the courtesy of being upfront about it. We have no moral basis for intervening in Libya. There was no genocide going on. What we did was get in the middle of civil war because it served the strategic goals of us and our allies. I know politicians think that we are pretty stupid (and given our willingness to be convinced of almost anything I can understand why). However, part of the change message that I bought into was that we were now going to be treated like adults. Stupid adults maybe, but adults nonetheless. Up until now I thought the President was doing a pretty good job of that. I can only hope that this is just a misstep and not a sign of things to come.
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SJ said...

The President signed the damn Patriot Act extensions from France. France, the birth place of the Left and Right paradigms in politics... Just fucking great.

We are a Republic in name only.

I'm actually too angry to comment suucinctly or rationally right now.

SJ said...


Jack Jodell said...

I share a lot of what you have expressed, here Mycue23. But like SJ, I am also VERY disappointed with his signing of the extension of the Patriot Act.

Leslie Parsley said...

I think a lot of us are. But there's something that plays in the back of my feeble brain sometimes and David Brooks referred to it last night. A lot of politicians are against it when they campaign "once they get in office and they understand what it's doing behind the scenes, they tend to think it's probably a good idea."

"And this is what's happened to President Obama. It's what's happened to most people who are privy to how it actually works."

Mark Shields remarked: "I think the indispensable part that intelligence played in the capture and -- of Osama bin Laden probably strengthened the case for the Patriot Act's -- Patriot Act's reinstatement. And I would say intelligence remains the cornerstone of the exit strategy from Afghanistan and to Iraq to a considerable degree. And I think that neutralized some of the opposition."

You can view the video here and read the transcript:

I don't like the Patriot Act but I'm not sitting in on those high level meetings, so I don't really know what evidence is being presented to justify its extension. And no doubt a most of it is top secret as it should be. I just have a hard time believing that Obama would approve something like this without good reason.

SJ said...

I respectfully disagree.
Gathering intelligence is one thing, but keeping things completely secret, -potentially in perpetuaity is another.
The Patriot Act and all the other loop-holing by the last administartion is still in play, -at this current President's indulgence.
And as I've said before, Democrats have demonstrated over and over again that they are no less likely to go to war than their Republican counterparts, whatever the justification.
American citizens will never be absolutely safe, and we never were, if we care to consider the Oklahoma City bombing soberly. We're not completely safe now and
all the secret keeping in Washington DC isn't going to make us so. But making The Patriot Act's provisions accepted legal practice, makes us less safe.
I'm not saying that we don't have to compromise some freedoms for effective immediate security; I'm saying the Patriot Act (Just the fucking name alone still pisses me off) goes too far. It's an instrument that voids much of what is in the Constitution and makes me wonder what point is there to the rule of law, when it can be side stepped from above by fellow citizens in elected office, and others (appointed secretly) whose names and roles we will never know.
As for believing the President had a good reason for the extensions?
-none of us know that.
-Not all of us have to know, but at least the Congress, who largely abdicated its powers of oversight in the days after 9/11, should insist on knowing on our behalf. It's their job. The Congress is our representative body and they exist chiefly to check and balance the other two branches of government.
We the people should insist on being told in the future, and not in some undetermined-decades-hence place in time as will happen with the Bush 43 White House's communications and Dick Cheney's files.
Every day the Patriot Act stays on the books, it comes closer to being treated as de facto law by the Supreme Court.
It won't just go away.

Manifesto Joe said...

I'm unhappy with much about Obama, but was far more unhappy with his predecessor, and with the general trend of Washington governance that we've seen over the past 30 years.

I'm sad that he's acquiesced to so much of what the foreign policy establishment wants. But the U.S. is at such a horrible crossroads now that I see him as the only existing sanity standing between us and a political party that has, as Bill Maher has said, "has moved into a mental hospital."

Reluctantly, he has my support.

Mycue23 said...

I don't reluctantly support the President. He has my full support. The problem with the supporters of the President was that some looked at him the way some might view someone they had a grade school crush on. They didn't care about the substance, all they cared about was what they could see on the surface.When he didn't meet that ideal that they had created in their heads, they abandoned him in search of their next crush.

I believed him to be the best person for the job and I still believe that, my disappointments notwithstanding. He was never Superman to me. Politics is not the place to look for Supermen. Politicians are people with massive egos who work within an incredibly corrupt and morally bankrupt system. I don't look to the President to solve all my problems. The reason that I believed him to be the best person for the job (and still believe that) is because of who he is and where he came from. He certainly makes decisions that I don't agree with, but I believe that he is the politician in the best position to understand what those decisions mean to working class people in this country. That doesn't mean that he will always make the decision in our favor, but at least he understands the consequences.

I am under no illusions that there is a great moral politician who will lead us out of the dark ages. Politics is a shitty game and it attracts mostly shitty people to play it. The President certainly plays the game, but I believe that he plays it with the understanding that each decision he makes affects real people. Politics, at the highest levels, is a dirty game. At least we have someone who cares about which way the shit flows regardless of his ability to stem the tide.

Leslie Parsley said...

SJ: On the other hand, keeping things completely secret is vital to the success of intelligence gathering. We saw a good example of that just recently when bin Laden was killed. We saw it a couple of years ago when a patriot group in MI (or WI??) was raided and its members arrested.

Like you I hate the very name "Patriot" and I share your concerns about how, especially in the wrong hands, this act can infringe on our constitutional rights. And you're right that we can never be absolutely safe, but we'd be very naive to think that the world is the same. The world watched horrified as Japanese kamakazee (sp) pilots sacrificed their lives for their emperor in WWII; if they hadn't, they would have met death anyway at the hands of their own government. Six decades later we watched equally horrified as fanatics flew their planes into the WTC and tried for the Pentagon. The only major difference in the two events is that these pilots were more than willing to sacrifice their lives. Such people are obviously fanatics but they also possess a cunning and technological sophistication that is far more advanced than anything we've ever seen in the history of the world.

No, we don't really know if the president had a good reason to extend the act, but neither do we know if he didn't. As far as for the rest of what you say, I have the same concerns. I guess, when push comes to shove, I don't know what the answer is. It's a very delicate and difficult balancing act.

While I don't support all of Obama's decisions, there's never been a president I have agreed with all the time. I deplored LBJ's lies about Vietnam which he used as an excuse to always go on the offensive, thus I wasn't unhappy when he announced he wouldn't run again. But there's no doubt that his domestic achievements were significant; no doubt he was far more advanced and successful than JFK would have been had he lived. Looking back, I see a man heavily burdened by a war we should never have been involved in - so much so that it would destroy his health.

I too will enthusiastically support Obama because the alternative is an invitation to a fascist-type government which will do far more to destroy our constitutional rights than the Patriot Act, which may or may not protect our country.

SJ said...

I hear you and I agree. I don't expect any representative at any level to do exactly as I would. I've never expected to be happy with every single move they make, and the current President has come closer than most to me in terms of practicality and philosophy.
As I wrote recently, the Democrats are the best game in town, but the loonier or more corrupt the Right and the GOP get, the lazier, more corrupt and less focused the Democrats get in turn: buoyed by the fact that they are the only reasonable alternative for the majority of working people in the country.
I'm still voting blue. I am still voting for the Obama/Biden ticket in 2012.
But that's almost incidental, because of what's in motion with the siging of the extensions. I can't let go of this issue on the Patriot Act, primarily because it has always seemed to me like a magic lamp that allows someone -not just 3 wishes, -but to wish for more wishes as well...
The Patriot Act extension isn't just about what it does and enables today, it's about what it enables tomorrow. I'm picturing its powers in the hands of a real reactionary, -a true believer in the doctrine of American Exceptionalism, and if our government's history is any indication, we're in real trouble in the decades ahead.
The secret powers of a government don't regulate or check themselves, if anything they fester and grow and insulate themselves from change or correction. We've had too much secrecy already, we didn't need to legislate secrecy and waiving of civil liberties into perpetual legitimacy.
I lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of our Representatives and our Senate.
I wish the President hadn't signed the extensions.