The Political Pagan thanks his readers for their comments on the last post about Obama, and wishes to clarify a few points. First of all, PoPa (as the Political Pagan is sometimes referred to; not to be confused with "Pol Pot," though the pronunciation is indeed similar) is well aware that Obama never promised during his campaign or since to wind down the war in Afghanistan as he did with the American occupation of Iraq. However, PoPa did not think that Obama would follow quite so Bushian (or Cheney-esque) a path, or try so hard to be seen as John McCain's little brown brother, in making war his top priority.
Obama has refused to stand up and fight for important domestic initiatives like a public works-job creation program or a health insurance "public option," instead giving every indication that he is willing to bargain away 50-75% of anything that he believes or once believed in. On the health reform issue, he promised from an early point in the discussions that he would make sure that whatever reform emerged would be "revenue-neutral," a position that ensured we would end up with a watered-down, corporate-friendly piece of shit, which is what we are now left with, after months of fruitless negotiations conspicuously lacking in strong Presidential leadership.
If Obama had been willing to make a strong moral argument for national health care, for example, "As Americans, we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, we have a moral responsibility to take care of each other, and so I am going to insist on a robust national health care policy that takes care of every American, whether powerful interests like the health insurance lobby like it or not," it would have been a much stronger case for serious health care reform. Instead, he let himself and his party get boxed into a fiscal cul-de-sac that cut off any serious hope of reform: "We will achieve health care reform as long as it does not cost anything." Well, you get what you pay for. Ever since that moment, the main point of opposition to any such reform has been that whatever plan is put forward will be "too expensive," will "bust the budget," etc. The same cost-conscious logic was allowed to strip last winter's economic stimulus plan of job-creating schemes, which might have given some real money and real hope to the growing hordes of unemployed, underemployed and foreclosed Americans.
This concern with so-called "fiscal responsibility" would be an easier pill to swallow if it were also applied to another major area of government expenditure, military spending. Here, however, cost is no object, and budget-busting is no crime. While every health care reform plan put forward has been run through the rigorous number-crunching mill of the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) to have its future costs dissected, the costs of Obama's escalation of the war effort in Afghanistan have been strangely exempt from such cost-conscious critiques. The lesson the American public is taught is this: national health care and jobs creation programs cannot be allowed, because they are too expensive, but the war in Afghanistan, including its worrisome expansion into Pakistan via CIA and JSOC drone attacks, is worth every billion.
This is where Obama most infuriates and disappoints PoPa. I see a terrible imbalance in his priorities, giving half-hearted support and weak-kneed leadership for domestic programs, but going to the mat for unlimited war. If the President had been as definite and insistent about health care or job creation programs as he has been about expanding the war in Afghanistan, it might have helped sway the corporate ass-kissing democrats in Congress to support such initiatives rather than look for ways to undermine them while pretending to support them. Imagine if Obama had gone before Congress and said, "I will veto any health care plan that does not include a public option," with the kind of decisiveness he showed in defending his Afghan war policy at West Point and in Oslo.
In short, Obama's greater emphasis on military spending than domestic programs is NOT what he campaigned on. He gave every impression we were going to get something very different from Bush policies, and instead, what we are getting is Bush in blackface. Let's not forget that the corporate and financial bail-outs began under Bush, and have been continued without any great modification under Obama. After a year of horrible unemployment and unending foreclosures, Obama has not produced much in the way of new policies or programs dramatically different from those of his predecessor. As an educator, PoPa has very sadly conclused that their education policies are nearly indistinguishable, looking to increased standardized testing and charter schools as magic bullet solutions, rather than facing the larger issues of chronic underfunding of education across the country.
Both Presidents, as well as Clinton before them, have proven to be all too beholden to corporate interests, whether these be the corporate interests of Wall Street, or those of the military-industrial complex from Blackwater to Halliburton, and all too willing to reply to the problems of economically stressed Americans with flimsy promises and optimistic rhetoric divorced from concrete action. When Obama had his chat with the heads of the leading financial service and banking companies, and urged them to do more to lend to small businesses to create more jobs, I had a sickening sense of deja vu. This is just the kind of thing Bush used to do. It makes for nice public relations, but is there anything else to it?
PoPa also feels that Obama is sadly contradicting himself on his former desire to move American foreign policy into a more diplomatic and multilateral, less militaristic and unilateral direction. His insistence that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran must do what America wants, and never mind their own political, economic and national security concerns and needs, is not exactly a shining example of multilateral diplomacy. Sure, he is doing some of that, but as long as he pursues a war-mongering policy in Afghanistan, his Nobel Peace Prize is going to become an increasingly ironic honor.
Obama and Bush, buddies in war. Eisenhower was right: "Beware the military industrial complex." I don't think we need to have elections anymore. Just have the Supreme Court appoint a President from the military, and a Vice-President from Wall Street, and the result will be much like what we now refer to as "democracy."