The Great Capitulation–Part I

The Great Capitulation: Obama’s Cowardice to Corrupt GOP
Part 1
By Nicholas T. Dahlheim
December 12, 2010

The American public—at least the portion of it which isn’t totally blinded by Fox News and right-wing mendacity or overly attached to ugly racial prejudice—has finally seen the true nature of the soul of the 44th President. As for myself, I was always a bit skeptical of the Obama phenomenon from the start. You see, I am originally from Chicago, IL and I have had the advantage of witnessing the trajectory of the man’s meteoric rise to stardom on the American political stage. This essay will NOT delve into all of the details surrounding Barack Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency, for those details have already received extensive coverage. To be sure, Barack Obama’s personal autobiography represents as compelling an American story as a person can find. Contrary to the flagrantly racist and hateful rhetoric of many Tea Partiers and the Birther movement, Obama’s struggle to construct an identity from his ambiguous, racially mixed origins and from his decidedly then apparently unique family situation resonates deeply with postmodern 21st century America. And much, much more remains to be spoken of Obama’s relation with the postmodern cultural milieu we collectively inhabit.

I have had great difficulty arriving at a firm explication regarding my deeper feelings about the man, but the closer the view I obtain of President Obama the man the less I see him as a courageous and independent individual. I’m afraid the verdict I will render will not be a particularly positive one to say the least….

The man who made crowds in 2007 and 2008 swoon and who embodied a weary America’s hopes and the furtive desires of the country’s youth for a different future has been nowhere to be found since he has occupied the Oval Office. His cerebral aura and his sober demeanor had appeared as measures of strength, especially in the critical first few months of 2009 after the historic Inauguration. Barack Obama made brilliant use of the media and the town hall forum to sell his economic stimulus and health care reform proposals during the first 6-8 months of his Presidency. As the pressure of governing mounted and the shrill pitch of right-wing racist propaganda intensified, Obama began to abandon the public stage and retreated to the cocoon of the Oval Office to be serenaded by the Siren songs of his inner circle of advisors–Emanuel, Biden, Axelrod, Summers, Geithner, Clinton et al. The image of the strong and youthful President who could capture the national vision and heal the wounds that thirty years of neoliberal Reaganomics and corporate globalization had wreaked upon the nation had begun to tarnish and fade. The visionary orator had become the consummate Washington backroom dealmaker. The 2008 Obama who had given voice to the great hopes of a nation battered by failing Middle Eastern wars and a deepening economic depression had vanished. The candidate who had promised to end the tired partisan bickering in Washington had transformed himself into the quintessential backroom dealer more at ease with a small circle of advisors and influential corporate lobbyists than with seizing the bully pulpit and using it to offer a stirring rhetorical defense of the needs and aspirations of the majority of Americans who had supported him at the polls. And during these torturous two years where the consequences of war and economic depression continue to pull the nation on a downward spiral, the realities of governing have prevailed over Obama’s skill as a candidate. He has proven that throughout the health care debate, the BP oil spill response, the financial reform debate, the 2010 midterm election, and now the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress that he is fundamentally a weak leader. Moreover, Obama has shown NO willingness to rise up and fight for ANY single big-ticket item valued by progressives that would benefit the well-being of the nation as a whole.

I have many friends who still defend President Obama, and I at the very least sympathize with their desire to see Barack Obama succeed as a leader. God knows that after thirty years of neoliberal economics and eight years of odious Bush misrule the country needs a strong and competent progressive President. And to be fair, Obama and the Democratic Congress has not failed completely in their endeavors to pass legislation that assists ordinary working and middle class Americans. Obama has, at the least, overseen the passage of legislation with some progressive provisions that assist ordinary working class and middle class people badly needing relief in this awful economy. The website http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/ lists the accomplishments of the Obama Administration’s first two years governing with huge Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. Fairness compels me to merit them some attention:

• Signed financial reform law prohibiting banks from engaging in proprietary trading (trading the bank’s own money to turn a profit, often in conflict with their customers’ interests)
o http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008835-503544.html
• Signed financial reform law allowing shareholders of publicly traded companies to vote on executive pay
o http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008835-503544.html
• Cut prescription drug cost for medicare recipients by 50%
o http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-4872&tab=summary
• Provided $12.2 Billion in new funding for Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
o http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/factsheet/idea.html
• Extended Benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
o http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-extension-benefits-same-sex-domestic-partners-federal-emplo
• Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history
o http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/26/obama-has-appointed-most-us-gay-officials/
• The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009: a $789 billion economic stimulus plan
o http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ5/pdf/PLAW-111publ5.pdf
• Created more private sector jobs in 2010 than during entire Bush years
o http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/10/08/its-official-more-private-sector-jobs-created-in-2010-than-during-entire-bush-years/
• Voluntary disclosure of White House visitors for the first time in US history
o http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/disclosures/visitor-records
• Appointed first Latina to the US Supreme Court
o http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104648062
• Promoted social responsibility through creation of serve.gov, a national database of volunteer opportunities
o http://www.serve.gov/
• Reversed ‘global gag rule’, allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions
o http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/23/barack-obama-foreign-abortion-aid
• Signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco for the first time
o http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1256enr.txt.pdf
• Signed New START Treaty – nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia
o http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/world/europe/09prexy.html?_r=1
• Increased average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg, starting in 2016
o http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/01/AR2010040101412.html
• Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers
o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act_of_2009
• Provided travel expenses to families of fallen soldiers to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB
o http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/pentagon-will-help-families/
• Reversed the policy of barring media coverage during the return of fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base
o http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7986203.stm
• Launched recovery.gov to track spending from the Recovery Act, providing transparency and allowing the public to report fraud, waste, or abuse
o http://recovery.gov
• Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America’s Veterans
o http://www4.va.gov/budget/products.asp
• Signed the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care to 11 million kids — 4 million of whom were previously uninsured
o http://themiddleclass.org/bill/children039s-health-insurance-program-reauthorization-act-2009
• Issued executive order to repeal Bush era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research
o http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/09/obama-administration-stem-cell-funding
• Signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis
o http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.ddJFKRNoFiG/b.4506337/apps/s/content.asp?ct=6866203
• Developed stimulus package, which includes approx. $18 billion for nondefense scientific research and development
o http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/science/18sfstimulus.html
• Signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop fraud and wasteful spending in the defense procurement and contracting system
o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapon_Systems_Acquisition_Reform_Act_of_2009
• Issued executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay
o http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/22/guantanamo.order/index.html
• Ended Bush administration’s CIA program of ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ by requiring that the Army field manual be used as the guide for terrorism interrogations
o http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/22/guantanamo.order/index.html
• Increased minority access to capital
o http://www.sba.gov/idc/groups/public/documents/sba_homepage/news_release_09-58.pdf
• Established Credit Card Bill of Rights, preventing credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases on customers
o http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/promise/33/establish-a-credit-card-bill-of-rights/
• Health Care Reform Bill, preventing insurance companies from denying insurance because of a pre-existing condition
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Health Care Reform Bill, allowing children to remain covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Tax cuts for up to 3.5 million small businesses to help pay for employee health care coverage
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Tax credits for up to 29 million individuals to help pay for health insurance
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Expansion of Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level
o http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/your-money/health-insurance/22consumer.html?_r=1&ref=policy
• Require health insurance plans to disclose how much of the premium actually goes to patient care
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Added 4.6 billion USD to the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals
o http://www4.va.gov/budget/products.asp
• Significantly increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act
o http://www.justice.gov/jmd/2010summary/html/ovw-bud-summary.htm
• Lifted restrictions granting Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island
o http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103030021
• Eliminated subsidies to private lender middlemen of student loans and protect student borrowers
o http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/college-planning/the-health-care-bill-and-your-student-loans/?print=1
• Increased funding for national parks and forests by 10%
o http://www.npca.org/media_center/press_releases/2009/park_funding_102909.html
• Significantly expanded Pell grants, which help low-income students pay for college
o http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/obama-signs-bill-on-student-loans-health-care/
• Expanded hate crime law in the US to include sexual orientation through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
o http://www.hrc.org/13699.htm
• Provided stimulus funding to boost private sector spaceflight programs
o http://www.commercialspaceflight.org/?p=458
• Appointed nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
o http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp
• Signed financial reform law establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans
o http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008835-503544.html
• Signed financial reform law requiring lenders to verify applicants’ credit history, income, and employment status
o http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008835-503544.html

Yet, as genuinely helpful as many of these above provisions are, many of them will do little to address or alleviate the grave economic and political problems imperiling the very structure of the American system and the health of American society. The financial reform bill’s Consumer Protection Bureau, for instance, has since been rendered practically toothless with the brilliant Harvard Law Professor and tireless consumer advocate ElizabethWarren having been forced to report to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Geithner will surely prevent Warren and the Consumer Protection Bureau from having any real effect in weakening the power of the Wall Street megabanks. Even though there are several important provisions in the legislation Obama and the Democrats have passed here, the Obama Administration did a very poor job of touting its accomplishments in the media.

Instead, Obama seemd to do a better job constantly appearing on sports talk shows to predict football games and NCAA tournament bracket results. We have, in the last 23 months, heard little of substance defending progressive ideas. At every instance, the Obama who infamously wrote in Audacity of Hope that he “was a blank slate upon whom people of all political persuasions could write their political hopes and aspirations”, has shown himself to be the real Obama. Incapable of articulating a thoroughly progressive vision for the country and channeling the rhetoric of FDR and the tough political negotiating skills of LBJ even though he had massive public support and large majorities in both parties, Obama’s inner need to meet with approval by all corners of the DC establishment has cratered the Presidency. Such a tendency only reveals a deeply flawed personality that has made Obama unfit to be the kind of President the country needs to resuscitate the dying country that George W. Bush had so mortally wounded.

Obama’s narcissism and his desperate need for approval and celebrity have rendered him incapable of realizing any potential to become a transformative President. Barack Obama may yet escape the ignominious historical judgment reserved for his hapless and craven predecessor, George W. Bush. But the “hostage” deal he brokered with a repugnant GOP Congressional leadership has condemned his Administration to failure and fatally weakened the faith of the public in the office of the Presidency itself. And sadly, for as much as President Obama has set his Administration upon a course so as to avoid upsetting key corporate special interests; reneging on his campaign pledge to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire takes the cake and represents the final cave to the GOP that will ruin his Presidency.

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