What’s going on with Barack Obama?

| June 6, 2010 | 7 Replies

I much preferred Barack Obama to be President over John McCain. Obama now has a track record, and I find it highly disappointing. Frank Rich is also disappointed:

It’s this misplaced trust in elites both outside the White House and within it that seems to prevent Obama from realizing the moment that history has handed to him. Americans are still seething at the bonus-grabbing titans of the bubble and at the public and private institutions that failed to police them. But rather than embrace a unifying vision that could ignite his presidency, Obama shies away from connecting the dots as forcefully and relentlessly as the facts and Americans’ anger demand.

I think Frank Rich is being naive, however.  I think that many of us who put so much effort into seeing Obama elected are naive. It’s not that Obama is still feeling his way. It’s not that he’s trying to figure out what should be done about health care insurers, Wall Street or BP.  When I see Obama these days, I see a President whose failures to speak up and rail at injustice are conspicuous by their absence, over and over.

Truly, how long does it take to get angry about the way our military has treated highly competent gay soldiers? Where is any meaningful cost control component to health care reform (supposedly the main reason for health care reform)? Why isn’t he forcefully arguing against too-big-to-fail banks and promoting the reenactment of Glass-Steagall? Why isn’t he livid when Congress carves payday lenders out of the financial reform bills? When the financial sector floods Congress with 2,000 lobbyists, or when “78 former government employees registered as Comcast lobbyists in the final quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010″ to push through it’s proposed merger with MSNBC, why isn’t President Obama visibly and audibly outraged?

When I watch Barack Obama, I am watching a President who is not willing to stand up for the rights and needs of regular folks when those rights and needs conflict with the greed of huge well-monied corporations.  He has shown us that he’d rather not take the bully pulpit and deliver a sustained message of condemnation, even when the need for such a tirade is palpable.  Obama’s absence of outrage demonstrates either that he has succumbed to the power of money to get himself re-elected (or to get his fellow-democrats re-elected), or he’s being physically threatened.   There’s no other way to explain the sharp conflict between Obama’s pre-election speeches and his post-election malaise.

To the extent that there is yet any “Hope” to turn this Presidency around, Obama needs to make it his mission to tell the American People in every way possible, using every rhetorical skill he has, that our Democracy is utterly corrupted, and there is no use trying to govern this country until we take private money out of politics. Until then, we cannot have any honest debate on any issue and all “fixes” of any problem will be illusory.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Richard Fisher, the President of the Dallas Fed attacks President Obama's soft approach to "financial reform."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simon-johnson/richa

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Sherman, set the wayback machine…..

    As President, Jimmy Carter attempted to make broad and sweeping changes. He failed, mainly because did not try to work within the system.

    Now we have Obama, who seems to understand that decades worth of damaging policies that are destroying our country from within can only be reversed though the cumulative effect of numerous incremental changes.

    But many who elected Obama, must be of the assumption that he has some magical power to suddenly turn all those who hate him, that they can place the needs of the nation above the wants of the few in the situations where public and private interests are in conflict.

    We are truly a fickle and inpatient mob.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Niklaus: Obama is not Congress. He is facing fierce resistance from a thoroughly corrupted Congress. He is facing a Supreme Court with an agenda that runs contrary to much of what Obama promoted in his campaign speeches. He can only do so much, that is true.

      Here's what he can do: take the bully pulpit and make his case, day after day. Take it to the talk shows. Give interviews. Get rid of Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner. Say "NO" to further funding of the Iraq and Afghanistan mis-adventures. When financial sector lobbyists flood the Capitol, publish their names on Whitehouse.org and publish who they are spending their time with.

      Mostly, stop pretending that we can have a meaningful national consensus while massive amounts of money are polluting the political process. America loves "wars." Declare a "War for reclaiming democracy."

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    "Obama is not Congress."

    Very True!. Not only is Obama not congress, it is not within the scope of presidential authority to dictate to congress what to do. It is within his power to coordinate, to try to get the best legislation from both sides of the aisle, a task made near impossible by singular drone-like mindlessness of the conservatives and the progressive mindset that focus too much on the details with little attention as to how all pieces fit together.

    I have long suspected that Congress in not corrupt, just incompetent. Unfortunately, the competency gap has been filled in by expert consultants and lobbyists to the point where our law-makers are insulated from the constituents by a thick surrounding layer of worm-tongued sooth-sayers on the payroll of the corporations.

    Who is really at fault for this?

    The citizenry is to blame! We have become passive, docile to the extreme , dumbed down by a constant barrage of mindless distractions to the point that most don't trust their own opinions and are too quick to adopt simplistic ideas without any critical analysis.

    I realized recently, that to take this country back for all the people, we must change our culture from the bottom up. We need to break our psychological dependence on entertainment and instant gratification. We need to shift our attentions away from reality TV and contrived contests. We need to use part of the time we waste on passive endeavors to take a more active role by writing our legislators. Actual ink on paper postcards, which must be read by someone, not simply scanned for keywords by an auto-responder program that spits out a canned response. We have to shout.

    More importantly, we need to get our neighbors involved, get them off their duffs and working on new ideas for the future.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Niklaus: I agree with you 100%. Democracy is a garden, one that we've utterly neglected. It is overgrown with weeds, and it is being devoured by pests. We've got to turn off the tube and become proficient gardeners, or else we are going to get more of the same.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Many pundits want Obama to display some emotions. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/08/obamas-o

    My spin is different. I want him to motivate the citizens. In the hands of someone eloquent (such as Obama), that can be done through a well-crafted statement of facts. He doesn't need to jump up and down and scream. He need to push his programs, the ones he announced during his campaign. Get rid of corporate corruption, push for clean elections, stop pissing away huge amounts of tax money on wars that aren't accomplishing anything for Americans and are, in fact, horrendously immoral based on the thing that we could be doing with 2 billion dollars every week.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    I voted for Obama. I hate reporting this, but Glenn Greenwald once again has done meticulous research, and this pattern regarding Obama is highly disturbing.

    "Numerous incidents now demonstrate that as high-level Bush lawbreakers are vested with presidential immunity, low-level whistle blowers who exposed serious wrongdoing and allowed citizens some minimal glimpse into what our government does are being persecuted by the Obama administration with a vengeance."

    Here's the latest and most disturbing of the incidents:

    "Yesterday it was revealed by Wired that the Army intelligence officer analyst who reportedly leaked the Apache helicopter attack video to Wikileaks — and thus enabled Americans to see what we are really doing in Iraq and other countries which we occupy and attack — has been arrested."

    President Obama obviously feels that we must maintain the fiction that we are making great progress by spending $2 Billion dollars every week to blow up poor brown-skinned people. We mustn't let the fact interfere with our delusions.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald

    Tom Tomorrow's take on the "radical" Obama.

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