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Friday, January 1, 2010

5 Big Things Obama Did Wrong In 2009

One common misconception that conservatives have about liberals/progressives is that we don't hold our leadership accountable, that we follow them blindly like mindless creatures of habit. And while that glaring piece of projection tells us more about Conservatives than they would care to admit, it should be pointed out that during Obama's first year as President, those that voted for and supported him throughout the year have let it be known that we are holding him accountable.

Michelle Malkin took a break from her daily, metaphorical ping-pong-ball show that usually delights her mouth-agape followers to claim that is was in fact the Democrats, not the GOP, that were breaking apart like the chips at the bottom of the bag. All that piece did was reveal that Malkin and her ilk prefer the paranoid, conspiratorial, shouting rather than substantive debate on issue - which was precisely what Democrats were engaging in with one another. However, Malkin seems to think that by saying "no they're not" that that makes it true. Sad to say that some people believe her, but these are the same people that think that Interpol is going to come to their homes with a census worker and take away all the books written by conservative authors and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

But let's get back to the topic at hand - things Obama has done wrong this year. In no particular order, here we go:

1 - He's sending more troops to Afghanistan

This isn't the first troop increase of Obama's presidency. Back in March, he put through orders to increase troop levels that were originally requested back when Buch/Cheney were still in office. That request sat idle for 8 months until Obama implemented it, and then was accused of "dithering" by Dick Cheney and conservatives had a new toy word to play with on television.

The reason that Obama's second troop increase is wrong is because of where we are in that area of the world. We are in a place that has a massively corrupt government and a military force that is far away from being prepared to take on the task of securing their nation on their own. We don't need to get sucked into "nation building" like we did with Iraq. But more so than that, those that we are fighting have moved into other countries, have began to reconstitute in many ways and we are literally inches away from dropping the ball because we are putting too sharp a focus on a place that has a rich history of bringing failure to occupying forces.

There was a time when I thought that putting more effort into Afghanistan was right. Not so much that it would require putting more boots on the ground, but focus more on targeted strikes, and the utilization of Special Ops. But I'm not even sure that that is what is needed anymore.

The one things that makes me think that a complete pullout would do us more good that staying and injecting more troops is that we lose perspective on other areas, like Yemen. Conservative war-hawks think the one and only solution is preemptive strikes and an occupying force that takes over a nation in order to destabilize it so private American interests can come in a wreak economic and socio-political havoc in order to "win the hearts and minds" of that country's people. That tactic has never worked to benefit the US so why do they think it will now?

Focus more on national security and get the hell out to Afghanistan right now. And for those conservatives that may be reading this, take a look at your history and find out what Reagan did after the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut : he got us the fuck out of there.

The only caveat that Obama has offered is what appears to be an exit strategy within the next calendar year, but that may appear to be subject to change.


2 - He didn't repeal DADT

One giant piece of conservative legislation, that was enacted by a Democratic president, is Dont' Ask, Don't Tell. On it's face, it appeared to be a way for gays to serve in the military without the fear that they would be discovered. But the reality was much more sinister - they were denied their own identity and ability to serve their country openly and proudly. And for that reason, DADT should have never been put into place to begin with.

But there is a slippery slope with this sort of legislation. One of the main problems that people have with politicians is that they sometimes make decisions based solely on the how one thing or another will harm or benefit them politically. Many within the conservative Republicans operate on this platform more so than those within the Democratic party. From benefiting special interest groups and ensuring that big business holds power over the American public, Republicans are certainly not the ones to be pointing fingers when it comes to thinking politically instead of thinking of the American public.

Obama's primary weakness is that he is far too eager to try and reach out to people that are against him politically. This has been seen in literally every piece of legislation that he has signed off on. And to that point, it is beyond me why he would not just simply repeal this with only Democratic support. After all, the Republicans have shown time and again that the entire time Obama sits at the desk in the Oval Office that they have absolutely no desire to hear, or even consider, one thing he says. And if Obama isn't doing away with DADT, then it's a political move that is going to gain him no points.

3 - He didn't repeal DOMA

Rather than repeat my statements on DADT, it's far easier to understand that DOMA and DADT have not been removed for the same reasons which they were implemented to begin with.

4 - He seemed to have caved on the Public Option in healthcare reform

Far too many things have been stated about proposed healthcare reform that simply aren't true. From the death-panel meme, to rationing, to doctors across the country suddenly deciding to stop practicing medicine is this passes, conservatives have muddied the waters to such an extent that one can hardly penetrate the surface with any facts. One fact, thought, is indisputable - Barack Obama campaigned on a Public Option in healthcare reform.

It appears that Obama is simply eager to get some semblance of healthcare reform passed as quickly as possible, with the ability for it to be amended later on to include such things as a robust public option, to makes improvements along the way. But this has even been a topic of discussion of late - can it even be amended?

The only thing that gives me pause when considering the fact that Obama has completely scrapped his initial plan is that he can still use the line-item veto if he so chooses. Not only that, but the completely abhorrent Senate version of the bill still has to be put through conference and combined with the Congressional bill that is light-years away better.

Since this was such a key portion of his platform for election to begin with, I find it hard to understand why he seemingly has removed it as an option all together. Again, could this be because he is hoping to gain some Republican support? If so, he's fooling himself into thinking it's going to work.

5 - He called for and hoped for bipartisanship all year

This could arguably be Obama's biggest mistake since gaining the office of the President. In his inaugural speech, he famously said that he would "extend a hand if you would unclench your fist". A great line and a great ideal to hold, but when the opposition has both fists not only clenched but flailing around like a rabid monkey, what good is bipartisanship?

From many people's point of view, simply believing that the members of the Republican party have even the tiniest desire to work with Obama is not only naive, but utterly ignorant. Not only that, but responding to the likes of Fox"News" and even going on their network to do an interview does nothing but validate their reactionary blathering.

Far too many within the conservative movement are banking on the fact that 2010 will be the start of their come-back, that they will regain control of both houses of Congress with landslide victories. Mathematically this is plausible, but is a goal that isn't as easily attainable as they appear to have convinced themselves it is. Rather than extending his hand, Obama should have taken the stance that if Republicans were going to obstruct any and everything for whatever paranoid, delusional, reason they could, that they were of no benefit to the American public and simply gone on without them.

In this country, we still - for the most part - operate on a system of "majority rule". That's how elections are won, and that's how important decisions are made in everyday life. In Congress, it's called "reconciliation". Conservatives call it the "nuclear" option. Within those halls in Washington, it would seem that a majority means nothing - that you must have a "super-majority" to get anything done. Why is this? What good is having more seats than the other party if you can't use them or refuse to use them.

Obama should have, but he needs to, remove any and all preconceived notions that he can have bipartisan support for his plans. The Republican party, in many respects, has won several battles, but the metaphorical war has yet to be completed. And if Obama continues to think that Republicans will work for him then he is fooling himself.

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There are certainly more things to be written about, but these five things have harmed Obama and the Democratic party in more ways than they might first realize. His presidency and the party which supports him are not lost, there is time to rebuild, reorganize, and regain ground that was lost. It's been a tough year and there are surely to be tough days within the next three years, and that's all the incentive that Obama should need to be a more effective leader for his party and this country.

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