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APPRAISING THE PRESIDENT June 14, 2010

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, US Politics.
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The US President, given the office, needs to be a gifted individual. At the same time, it seems a person occupying this public office needs experience and personal qualities. We all have blind spots, which we mostly discover when we hit the motor cyclist.

Even though I am distant from the Gulf of Mexico, there seems to me to be a frustration that the Federal Government has not taken the matter in hand leaving all the important decisions to the company that made the rash judgments about the safety of the project. Obama compounded the problem by his prior commitment to off shore drilling – another slap in the face of many of his electoral support base. The problem, as I see it, is not so much gaming the system. but the failure to appreciate that systems must be changed from the outside, and cannot be changed from inside deals.

The New York Times editorial writers do not share my philosophy, but there assessment of the President seems fair enough, but perhaps ignores the important roles that presidential advisers and Congress play and should play in such outcomes. The story should not be wholly directed by the failings of any one person, President or otherwise. Nonetheless, the editorial is worth reflection:

Any assessment of the 44th president has to start with the fact that he took office under an extraordinary burden of problems created by President George W. Bush’s ineptness and blind ideology. He has faced a stone wall of Republican opposition. And Mr. Obama has had real successes. He won a stimulus bill that helped avert a depression; he got a historic health care reform through Congress; the bitter memory of Mr. Bush’s presidency is fading around the world.

But a year and a half into this presidency, the contemplative nature that was so appealing in a candidate can seem indecisive in a president. His promise of bipartisanship seems naïve. His inclination to hold back, then ride to the rescue, has sometimes made problems worse.

It certainly should not have taken days for Mr. Obama to get publicly involved in the oil spill, or even longer for his administration to start putting the heat on BP for its inadequate response and failure to inform the public about the size of the spill. (Each day, it seems, brings new revelations about the scope of the disaster.) It took too long for Mr. Obama to say that the Coast Guard and not BP was in charge of operations in the gulf and it’s still not clear that is true.

He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal investigations of the spill. If BP was withholding information, failing to cooperate or not providing the ships needed to process the oil now flowing to the surface, he should have told the American people and the world.

These are matters of competence and leadership. This is a time for Mr. Obama to decisively show both.

Many of the things that seem to be deviling American democracy, are also at work here, and they seem to be seeming in essence from political tactics that focus on a segmented political electorate who minds are closed to the commitment to the common good. Most politicians, no doubt sensibly in terms of career prospects, acquiesce to the power of the media, especially in the form of the televisual delusion of manufactured community.

ELSEWHERE:

At the Independent, David Randall and David Usborne write:

You would not think it possible for a major environmental disaster to take on the tone of a football match, but such is the case this weekend with the Gulf oil spill. The real issues – of what caused it, the impotence of technology to staunch it, and where the responsibility really lies – are being obscured by the waving of cheap national flags, the chanting of taunts and the ritual pointing of ignorant fingers.

Such is the quality of democratic discourse, framed by media, that it is so narrow. Where is the discussion of the calculations by major players, their disregard for nature, and an analysis of the decision making process, including if needs be by an indoctrinated public?

Maybe, I am being overly pessimistic about Congress. At Counter Punch, Winslow T Wheeler suggests there is a looming “Budget Nightmare for the Pentagon”. It is possible to be an optimistic sceptic?

At AlterNet, Allen McDuffee argues that “NeoCons have a Disturbing Amount of Influence over Obama”. The key seems to be that the NeoCons are insiders in the influence peddling busines, and the Government has become in effect disconnected from its support base.

In another very un-NYT take on the situation, Amy Goodman and Tim Dickinson observe at AlterNet, “The Inside Story of How Obama Let the World’s Most Dangerous Oil Company Spiral out of Control”.

“Is it up the garden path or down the garden path, I never can remember” or something like that from the classic film of “The Thirty-Nine Steps”. David Kaiser, also a cyclist, suggests that Obama is heading for exit along three separate paths. How did this happen? He writes:

I was on my weekly Tuesday night bike ride, which includes a guy who actually maintains oil storage tanks for a living. He and others in the know confirmed that a relief well, which will take months to drill, is the only real safeguard against a blowout and a massive leak like this one. And in Canada, I discovered–get this–oil companies have to drill a relief well right along with the original well.

Now why is this information such a secret?

At Common Dreams, David Michael Green is less that complementary about “the do-nothing 44th President”. The advantage of the Parliamentary System is that no-hoppers can be removed and replaced. Nowadays, elected governments do not govern, so much as engage the long campaign for the next election. The gig is representative politics is to stand for principles and values and to argue the case, not pick up the superannuation and other perks on the way out the door.

On C-Span, Norman Soloman observes that Obama is “a corporate politician”.

In contrast, Joe Conason and Michael Tomasky argue that despite the myopic criticism, Obama is coolly playing the long game in American politics.

Comments»

1. Global Voices in English » Australians Reflect on Obama’s Presidency So Far - June 14, 2010

[…] The post looks at Obama’s role in the oil crisis and the concern that he is not challenging the way Washington works as he promised before his election: Obama compounded the problem by his prior commitment to off shore drilling – another slap in the face of many of his electoral support base. The problem, as I see it, is not so much gaming the system. but the failure to appreciate that systems must be changed from the outside, and cannot be changed from inside deals. APPRAISING THE PRESIDENT […]

2. Australians Reflect on Obama’s Presidency So Far :: Elites TV - June 14, 2010

[…] appreciate that systems must be changed from the outside, and cannot be changed from inside deals. APPRAISING THE PRESIDENT Dennis Altman, Professor of Politics at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, currently visiting […]

3. Global Voices на македонски » Размислувања на Австралијанците за досегашното претседателство на Обама - June 23, 2010

[…] Постот ја испитува улогата на Обама во случајот со нафтената криза како и загриженоста дека Обама не го предизвикува Вашингтон онолку колку што ветуваше пред изборите: Обама го направи проблемот уште послолжен обврзувајќи се за вадење на нафта далеку од брегот – уште една шлаканица од една од многуте единици за подршка при изборите. Проблемот, како што мене ми се чини, не е да го изиграш системот, туку неуспехот да забележиме дека системот мора да се смени од надвор и дека не може да се промени со внатрешни спогодби. Оценување на претседателот […]


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