Many progressive pundits and bloggers, including me (last December and more recently), have been critical of President Obama and his slow pace of implementing change and undoing the horrendous damage that the Bush/Cheney administration created. Yet, if we reflect on the past 17 months, and especially if we postulate what a President McCain would have accomplished, we are indeed fortunate to have Mr. Obama at the helm.
While the president is generally going in the right direction, much of the dissatisfaction is due to the snail's pace at which these changes are being implemented. We look at Guantanamo and DADT as areas where, if the president wanted to, he could eliminate almost instantaneously - yet both are still with us and both are a stain on the moral fiber of our nation.
We are dissatisfied with the corporate wars of choice in the Middle East and with the lame version of Health Insurance Reform that provides billions of dollars to high-overhead for-profit insurance companies. We are happy that the stimulus package passed, and hope it is effective in getting us out of the recession, but fear it may be too little, too late. We look at the response to the BP oil spill and fret at the fact that the criminals are still in charge of the crime scene and lament the lack of urgency in the reform of the overseers.
When the president took the oath of office, he was faced with a plethora of problems which required simultaneous attention and politically difficult solutions. The nation was on the brink of Great Depression II. We were involved in two unnecessary asymmetric wars with no end in sight, and the United States was a pariah on the world stage.
Yet, despite the Republicans’ unprecedented exploitation of the Senate filibuster process, some progress has been made.
Think about where we would be today if John McCain and Sarah Palin had been elected. Congress would not have even tackled Health Insurance Reform in the face of a sure presidential veto. Iran would be a third front in the wars in the Middle East. Taxpayers would be funding the Gulf cleanup and regulatory reform would be lip service only. And without a stimulus package, unemployment would be even worse than it is today, threatening the very existence of a robust middle class.
The accomplishments of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid administration are numerous, but the road ahead will not be easy. We have seen the dangerous resurgence of violent right-wing hate organizations and their legitimization in the Republican political circus. There’s still no exit strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Financial and energy reform are still inadequate. And despite the successes the president has had with making BP pay (at least in part) for its criminal negligence, we have an unprecedented environmental disaster that will leave its ugly mark on one of the country’s most precious resources for decades to come.
Now that the 2010 election season is with us, the president will most likely continue with his quixotic appeasement of the right while continuing to disappoint the left. Yet, this disappointment must be tempered by the reality of the current political landscape. Progressives have yet to find a way to get their message out over the repetitive noise emanating from the so-called mainstream news media and from popular propaganda machines like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
So should we cut the president some slack? Absolutely not. Should we appreciate what he has done for the country so far? Absolutely. While history will be the final judge, today we should be upbeat that we have a president who is intelligent and empathetic, and one who cares for all of America.