Thursday, May 21, 2009

There Are Too Many Fires....


It's hard to go a day, or is it an hour, without coming across somebody who is "disappointed" in a decision Obama has made, particularly in relation to Bush Administration policy. When Obama backs away from promises to reverse Bush policy, takes a more nuanced approach, or postpones action, the following four factors are typically absent:
  1. Broad support among the public;

  2. Positive media attention;

  3. Support by Congress; and

  4. A general sense that urgent action is needed.

When you get disappointed by Obama's failure to act to modify or eliminate "don't ask, don't tell," consider the "temperature" under each of those factors. Cool to lukewarm? Then it will wait for another day. What about closing Guantanamo? A public responding to ridiculous fear mongering about terrorists coming to America, with any number of Democratic leaders going along for the ride? Sorry, it's going to wait for another day.

A couple of things to remember: Obama has lots of pots on the boil at the moment, many of which are boiling over (or which have the potential to do so at any time). He's also learned in a big way from Clinton's mistakes (which include getting ahead of public support on key issues and getting into policy wars with his own party) and how they contributed to a loss of a Congressional majority two years into his Presidency. He's also dealing with issues that aren't of his making, but where he would be blamed for any consequence (e.g., "retaliation against the troops" for releasing torture and abuse photos), or where others could act as easily - more easily, in fact - than him (Congress can repeal the statute authorizing military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees at any time - instead they're taking away the funding to close the place).

As long as the Democrats in Congress go weak in the knees when they hear the word "terrorist", and the media treats Dick Cheney as an elder statesman as he trots across the country on his "Torture is K00L" tour, you can expect Obama to invest the bulk of his energies on other issues. Like health care. Difficult, contentious issues, but where he has at least some momentum in the media, with the public, and in Congress. You can call that a personal failing of Obama, if you wish, but it's actually reflective of the nature of our government and his skill as a politician. (If you thought you were electing somebody who wasn't a politician to the Presidency, an who would adhere firmly to his beliefs in the face of all opposition, sorry... but although we can and will disagree on what compromises are necessary or appropriate, at least this way something gets done.)

1 comment:

  1. This is a very sensible commentary on Obama's way of doing things. I trust him to do most of the things he said he would do to get my vote, and even if he does not do them in the order I would like, that doesn't mean they won't get done. I am withholding judgment.

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