How sad it was to watch young President Obama retreat -- Bush-style -- to a protected location and military audience to deliver the speech which likely marks the end of any hope for a successful Presidency. Some 30 years ago, Jimmy Carter's Presidency died in the Middle East desert when his hostage recovery mission blew up. But at least Carter's failed effort was a noble one. Obama has likely lost hope of success in pursuit of a war started by his political enemies and that has failed miserably to date.
By escalating the war to support a corrupt government in a land that has expelled every other invading power, he assures not only that its inevitable failure will be all the more spectacular -- but also that it will be wholly his -- as they say, he now "owns it." How can it be? This young, handsome and intelligent president escalating a war that his core supporters hate, independent voters increasingly disapprove of and his hateful right-wing enemies will never give him any credit for fighting in any event.
We on the left need to get grounded about this. All the excitement about the election of this "transformative" Harvard-educated, African-American with a beautiful wife and family made for great press and post-election bliss. But none of these superficialities guarantee success. And, to be objective, Obama had never actually achieved anything other than waltzing into a Senate seat and winning a Presidential election that took place in the middle of the worst financial crisis and stock market crash in decades -- beating an opponent who had picked a wing nut as his running mate. How hard was all that actually?
Surrounding himself with a bunch of pro-Wall Street advisors and bailing out the banks where their friends work was certainly no great achievement. His economic policies have produced little success in cutting unemployment. He has been hapless in trying to prevent the bankers from continuing to line their own pockets with obscene bonuses - now at the expense of the taxpayers as well as their own shareholders. The banks that were rescued with public money - are now thriving by borrowing from the Fed at 0% and investing in Treasury Securities - earning giant risk-free profits at our expense - while paying themselves bonuses as big as ever. Nothing has changed on Wall Street. Obama has done nothing to support, let alone push, financial reform legislation which insiders know is going nowhere.
On health care, he is allowing a group of Senators who are owned by that industry and Wall Street to craft legislation that is going to provide 40 million new customers to the craven health insurance companies, while preserving their anti-trust exemption that allows them to fix prices and not creating a strong public option to compete with them and control premiums.
Despite his promises, Guantanamo remains open.
Progressives need to face an uncomfortable fact. Obama was never really progressive. His pre-Presidential record was quite centrist. He ran to the left only because he and his handlers saw the political daylight there they needed to exploit to edge out Hillary Clinton. His lack of leadership in the healthcare legislative fight, including his quick abandonment of a public option confirm the reality -- Obama is an accommodationist -- relentlessly pursuing the same kind of non-confrontational behavior that enabled him as a black man to appear sufficiently non-threatening to rise to the top.
Progressives should have seen this coming. Candidate Obama said the Afghan War was the "right" war. We figured he was just saying that for political cover since he was using his purported opposition to the Iraq War to his advantage and thus needed to look "strong" on something. But, now we have it. Did I actually hear him cite the success of the war in Iraq as a justification for his escalation in Afghanistan? Yes, I did -- indicating that we can now add hypocrisy to his growing list of questionable traits. We were bamboozled.
Why is it that all presidents become War Presidents -- captives of the military? Somehow constantly being saluted while surrounded by the pomp -- the helicopters -- Air Force One -- the Situation Room -- seems to make them all want to be Caesars. Commander in Chief is not synonymous with Warrior in Chief.
Now we have our own Democratic War in a far-off land on behalf of a corrupt government. Many years ago, another "liberal" Democratic President (who was close to the military) escalated a war in a far-off land to prop up a corrupt government. That ill-advised adventure and economic policies that generated high inflation made him a one-term president. It also destroyed the progressive political movement for a generation. High unemployment, populist outrage at the bankers who plunder while the economy stagnates and body bags from Afghanistan may produce the same result for this President.
Remember: just because Obama was smart, young, handsome and the first Africa-American President does not mean he was guaranteed to succeed. And right now it looks like he is on the road to failure.