THE BLOG
09/08/2014 04:10 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

Contrary to "Progressive Belief," Obama Has Not Departed From his Campaign Rhetoric

There is disenchantment on the left with Barack Obama. Many progressives agree with sentiment recently expressed by Professor Cornell West, a professor at the Union Theological Seminary, who recently told Salon Magazine: "He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street Presidency, a drone Presidency."

Despite this claim by Professor West, Obama did not campaign for President in 2008 as a tribune of the left. Instead he campaigned as a candidate of bipartisanship. On some campaign issues Obama was even to the right of President George W. Bush. In fact, Obama was elected in part by winning 60% of moderate voters and 20% of conservative voters.

In political advertisements, Obama did not present himself as an unadulterated progressive. He held himself out as a post partisan figure that would work toward bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems. Obama featured Kirk Dillard, a Republican who worked with Obama when both served in the Illinois State Senate, in a campaign advertisement wherein Dillard explains: "Senator Obama worked on some of the deepest issues we had, and he was successful in a bipartisan way. Republican legislators respected Senator Obama. His negotiation skills and an ability to understand both sides would serve the country very well."

Obama entered the national stage in 2004. After garnering the Democratic nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry tapped him to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. While progressives were mesmerized by the delivery of his speech, it was hardly a clarion call to them. Obama did not call for a major expansion of the Social Safety net, or for a more nimble foreign policy, but delivered a mostly platitudinous speech centered on the commonalities of Americans of all ideological persuasions. His signature line was: "There is no red America or blue America. There is the United States of America."

Liberals saw what they wanted to see in Obama, while turning a blind eye to what the President was actually saying. Now some Progressives are indignant that the President is essentially governing on what he campaigned about.

Obama's main appeal to liberals in the 2008 campaign was that he was the only major Democratic Presidential candidate who opposed the authorization of the use of force in Iraq, which the U.S. Congress approved in 2002. Obama, no pacifist, told a Chicago crowd that year: "I am not opposed to all wars, I'm opposed to dumb wars." Progressives saw only Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq, failing to recognize his support for a more robust, interventionist foreign policy, which included using military force abroad.

Obama was a hawk on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. He was explicit in his view that the U.S. should expand its military involvement there. Obama told a Pennsylvania rally in 2008 that the war in Iraq "distracted us from the task at hand in Afghanistan." Obama made no effort to couch his bellicose policy on Afghanistan, writing in a New York Times op-ed column: "As President I would pursue a new strategy and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan."

In addition, while enmity proliferates on the left for Obama's ambitious use of predator drones, Obama was no critic of the use of predator drones during the campaign. In an address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in 2007, Obama averred that as President he would order attacks inside Pakistan even absent permission of the Pakistani government: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President [Pervez] Musharraf (Pakistani President) won't act, we will."

On both the issue of Afghanistan and the potential use of predator drones in Pakistan, Obama was, in reality, to the right of the Bush administration. This was not a progressive position.

Progressives often excoriate Obama for his failure to condemn the military policies of the Israeli Government, and the fact that he is the only world leader who opposed the Palestinian Authority's bid to achieve statehood through the United Nations. Yet on this issue too, Obama performed as advertised. During the campaign, Obama presented himself as a supporter of the Israeli government. He said that for a peace agreement to be achieved, "The Palestinians would have to reinterpret the notion of 'right of return' in a way that would persevere Israel as a Jewish state." In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, Obama co-sponsored a Senate resolution defending the attack. In fact, he delivered his first foreign policy speech of the campaign before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Furthermore, Obama was an exponent of increasing sanctions on Iran to prevent that country from constructing nuclear weapons, and Obama would not take the military option off the table. In addition, Obama supported adding the former Soviet satellites of Georgia and the Ukraine to NATO, a very bold move sure to antagonize Russia.

On domestic issues, then Senator Obama voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which allocated $700 billion to bailout the banking system. Opposition to the bailout became a battle cry for liberals. In fact, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) publicly exclaimed: "Is this the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?" Goldman Sachs employees were the largest donors to Obama's 2008 campaign, contributing nearly $1,000,000 collectively. The Financial Services industry donated a collective $43 million to the Obama campaign. Somehow, progressives seemed not to have noticed this not so subtle pattern of behavior on the part of Obama.

Moreover, in 2006, then Senator Obama voted for reauthorization of The USA Patriot Act, whose repeal became a cause célèbre with the progressive intelligencia. In 2008, Obama came off the campaign trail to vote for the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expanded the federal government's warrantless wiretapping program. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that President Obama signed a five-year extension of the statute.

Despite what many progressives seem to believe, Obama has not departed from his campaign ideals. The failure to comprehend what Obama actually campaigned on is now leading to righteous anger by Progressives. However, the facts show that Obama's presidency is no great departure from the way in which he presented himself while campaigning for the Presidency. He has been true to his campaign ideals. Progressives simply put their blinders on, heard what they wanted to hear, and did not stop to listen to what Obama was actually saying during the campaign.