Obama Letdown Watch — Final Post

Obviously, this blog has not been updated in quite a while. Which makes it much like many other, if not most blogs…they start off strong, enthusiasm abounds, but, over time, the spark fades, the updates become less frequent, and the blog becomes another dead end street, a micro-statistic on a Google Analytics dashboard.

But rather than just let it wither, it seemed better to write up one last post, on the eve of the 2012 campaign, with the President’s numbers in recent opinion polls not looking all that great, and explain why we’re no longer keeping the Obama Letdown Watch updated.

What was particularly frustrating about the two and a half years we spent on this blog was documenting the slow and steady march Obama took towards becoming just another politician. This began with the FISA vote — the primary reason we got involved with the Obama campaign and started this blog — and continued in so many areas, from GITMO to climate change to Executive power and more. It became tedious, and depressing, to see this. We found it difficult to find the energy to write what become a never-ending list of areas where he really did exactly the opposite of what he said he was going to do as President.

But even more than specific campaign promises, which we all know aren’t realistically kept, what was most frustrating that, back in 2008, we had the idea, the possibility, that we may have found someone who wasn’t the typical politician. Someone from the outside (or as outside as a somewhat-newly-elected Senator could be…) who might be able to stir things up in Washington enough to change it.

Turns out, one of two things are true: Either Obama wasn’t the guy to do it, or it just can’t be done.

Because what has not changed in the last two and a half years is what’s referenced at the top of every page of this blog: the business as usual of Washington goes on.

So, for those reasons, this blog has simply faded out.

But we’ll end on a brighter note. Obama did a lot of things right. He did make progress. He’s got a laundry list of accomplishments that he’ll be able to bring out for the debates, and television commercials, and the campaign stops along the way.

He’s got our votes still. But it’s disappointing that it won’t be a more enthusiastic one.

– CS and JJB



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Credit where credit is due, the Democrats got this done. Here’s the President’s statement:

Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.


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Paul Krugman tells it like it is.

Oh snap!

Krugman pulls no punches in his last column, Freezing Out Hope. Some choice excerpts:

After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?

On Monday, we got the answer: he announced a pay freeze for federal workers. This was an announcement that had it all. It was transparently cynical; it was trivial in scale, but misguided in direction; and by making the announcement, Mr. Obama effectively conceded the policy argument to the very people who are seeking — successfully, it seems — to destroy him.

So I guess we are, in fact, seeing what Mr. Obama is made of.

…America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers…employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

So freezing federal pay is cynical deficit-reduction theater.

Mr. Obama almost seems as if he’s trying, systematically, to disappoint his once-fervent supporters, to convince the people who put him where he is that they made an embarrassing mistake. Whatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse — a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction

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Obama: a little bit greener than other presidents (other than Jimmy Carter and Teddy Roosevelt)

Obama is pushing forward science-based environment policy that sort of keeps us up to speed with other industrialized nations and that a republican president probably would not have done. Yay. I guess.

Climate regulations coming for trucks, buses

The Obama administration will propose the first-ever greenhouse gas emission limits for heavy trucks and buses next week.

The proposal will call for a 20 percent reduction in heat-trapping emissions from trucks’ tailpipes, according to Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.

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What the f*#k has Obama sone so far?

You have probably all seen this website. If not, go take it for a spin.

Two comments:

  1. It’s overly abstract and vague on all its points. They all sound nice, but are they getting implemented? Did their passing require horrible compromise pork attached to the same bill? Simple example: Gitmo. The site basically claims that he closed it. Well, he didn’t.
  2. It’s a nice reminder that in spite of the administration failing to be the progressive administration we had dreamed of, and often also failing to be even competent at driving a marginally populist agenda, it is still way, way better than what a republican administration would have been.

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An amazing tweet on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

I haven’t been following the DADT issue super closely, but was surprised and pleased by this pointed tweet:

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A couple autumn Obama Letdowns

Read ’em and weep.

1. Government Seeks Back Door Into All Our CommunicationsAdministration Seeks Easy Access To Americans’ Private Online Communications

The Obama administration is seeking to expand the government’s ability to conduct invasive surveillance online, according to a report in The New York Times today. According to the report, the administration is expected to submit legislation to Congress early next year that would mandate that all online communications services use technologies that would make it easier for the government to collect private communications and decode encrypted messages that Americans send over texting platforms, BlackBerries, social networking sites and other “peer to peer” communications software.

2. Robert Gibbs, hypocritical transparency crusader

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Transactional Presidency

Marshall Ganz in the LA Times has maybe the smartest summation I’ve read on the Obama Presidency, in the wake of last night’s election results:

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.

Seeking reform from inside a system structured to resist change, Obama turned aside some of the most well-organized reform coalitions ever assembled — on the environment, workers’ rights, immigration and healthcare. He ignored the leverage that a radical flank robustly pursuing its goals could give a reform president — as organized labor empowered FDR’s New Deal or the civil rights movement empowered LBJ’s Voting Rights Act. His base was told that aggressive action targeting, for example, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — where healthcare reform languished for many months — would reflect poorly on the president and make his job harder. Threatened with losing access, and confusing access with power, the coalitions for the most part went along.

Finally, the president demobilized the widest, deepest and most effective grass-roots organization ever built to support a Democratic president. With the help of new media and a core of some 3,000 well-trained and highly motivated organizers, 13.5 million volunteers set the Obama campaign apart. They were not the “usual suspects” — party loyalists, union staff and paid canvassers — but a broad array of first-time citizen activists. Nor were they merely an e-mail list. At least 1.5 million people, according to the campaign’s calculations, played active roles in local leadership teams across the nation.

But the Obama team put the whole thing to sleep, except for a late-breaking attempt to rally support for healthcare reform. Volunteers were exiled to the confines of the Democratic National Committee. “Fighting for the president’s agenda” meant doing as you were told, sending redundant e-mails to legislators and responding to ubiquitous pleas for money. Even the touted call for citizen “input” into governance consisted mainly of e-mails, mass conference calls and the occasional summoning of “real people” to legitimize White House events.

Disappointing, but we unfortunately saw some of this coming.

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Times Catches Letdown Fever

From this upcoming weekend’s NYT magazine, a look at the, ahem, letdown that’s been the Obama Administration:

But what is striking about Obama’s self-diagnosis is that by his own rendering, the figure of inspiration from 2008 neglected the inspiration after his election. He didn’t stay connected to the people who put him in office in the first place. Instead, he simultaneously disappointed those who considered him the embodiment of a new progressive movement and those who expected him to reach across the aisle to usher in a postpartisan age. On the campaign trail lately, Obama has been confronted by disillusionment — the woman who was “exhausted” defending him, the mother whose son campaigned for him but was now looking for work. Even Shepard Fairey, the artist who made the iconic multihued “Hope” poster, says he’s losing hope.

The article is up, but, just on principle, I’m waiting until Sunday to read it.

Old school.

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Obama argues that his assassination program is a state secret

The tireless Glenn Greenwald:

I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record. In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration last late night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. That’s not surprising: both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality. But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”: in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate its legality.

I genuinely didn’t think it was possible for any President to concoct an assertion of executive power and secrecy that would be excessive and alarming to David Rivkin, but Barack Obama managed to do that, too. Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation. But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified. One other thing, as always: vote Democrat, because the Republicans are scary!

Read the whole post here

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