Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama, talk, and action

I really like Obama. I really do, and so far I think he's done a fairly decent job. If somebody is forced to put out a fire he didn't start, it's not fair to blame him for getting everything else wet. He's handled the Afghan situation decently well, finding a way for the American military to basically ignore the Afghan-Pakistani border without the people in the two countries get upset as they'd have a right to. That takes finesse

However, I'm having trouble taking the State of the Union seriously, because a lot of it is talk we've heard before, without seeing much done to make it happen in the intervening period. There are a number of tools to deal with the Senate filibuster that have gone unused. If Obama pushed the public option, I missed it. Great Democrats such as Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano were sucked into the Cabinet and have pretty much disappeared from view. We're seeing a bad case of good intentions in bad times.

Ghosts of Jimmy Carter are in my peripheral vision when Obama's on-screen.

So, if I'm going to take the 2011 State of the Union seriously, 3 of these 5 things must be true:

-Guantanamo no longer holds foreign captives;
-Openly gay and lesbian Americans serve in the military;
-There is an exit date for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan;
-There has been a test vote on a public option in health care;
-Tim Geithner is long gone.

I don't care if this is done as a result of political considerations facing the midterms, or just because it's the right thing to do. But considering that numbers 2 and 5 can be done by Obama's office regardless of anyone else's disposition, this is an achievable list.

I'm not trying to put out a litmus test. If Obama wants to ignore a fair economic policy in favor of smart projection of American power, he can. If our president wants to ignore full rights for LGBT Americans, perhaps we can start respecting international conventions. But if Obama can't be bothered to do any of this...well, why should we vote for him?

PS: What real leadership sounds like:

You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.

-- Nancy Pelosi, aka the only federal Democratic leader with my full admiration.

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