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Obama’s One-Year Report Card

It’s been one full year since Barack Obama has been in the White House, and that’s enough time to at least make an interim assessment of how he’s doing.  There is a big caveat, though — for the Presidency interim grades really don’t matter, it’s only the final grade that counts.  And he still has three more years before that grade gets issued.  Obama is an incredibly smart and knowledgeable individual — certainly far more so than I and 99.9% of the rest of the population are.  So to think he didn’t anticipate much of what has transpired over his first year, and that he doesn’t have some grand, four-year plan that easily adapts to all this — well, that’s probably folly.

Regardless, though, it has been a rough and rocky first year.  Ironically it was George Bush who infamously campaigned on the theme that he was a “uniter not a divider”, but then promptly proceeded to divide this country to an extent it hadn’t seen since the Civil War.  And conversely, it was Barack Obama who campaigned on a theme of “change we can believe in”, but at least so far has pretty much ended up with nothing changed at all due mainly to his efforts to be a “uniter not a divider”.

If you read Obama’s Audacity Of Hope you could have easily seen all this coming.  In fact, this is exactly why I preferred Hillary Clinton in the primaries.  For anyone with an IQ higher than that of a rutabaga, it was clear that the Republican Party had become morally bankrupt and their mission was to re-make the country as some type of authoritarian government run by the wealthy and big corporations.  The only way to fix what transpired during the Bush administration was to come in and kick butt and take no prisoners.  These people were clearly swine that you could not work with.  And Hillary not only seemed to understand that, but also gave the impression that’s exactly what she would do.

But alas, the oft-spineless Democrats went in the other direction with Obama.  When he took office, he had a couple of excellent opportunities to lay down the law pretty quickly.  First there was the Wall Street meltdown, which cried out for the temporary nationalization of the banks — something that many leading economists endorsed.  But instead of taking charge, he ended up simply bailing out the banks and pretty much kowtowing to their every demand.  And so here we are one year later, with the economy still reeling and nothing having been done to fix it.  The other issue where he could have really established himself was what to do about Guantanamo prison and the torturing of prisoners that happened way too often under Bush-Cheney.  Many people were urging him to appoint a special prosecutor to look in to all the criminal acts of the Bush administration.  That would have sent a clear message to Americans and the rest of the world that we are indeed a nation of laws and not men, and when even the President and Vice-President blatantly break the law, they will be held accountable.  But alas, Obama caved in on that issue — Bush, Cheney, et al were allowed to get away scot free, and even Gitmo is still open for business.

So here we are one year later, with Obama under attack from both the left and the right.  Will he continue to try to be the “uniter” and work both sides of the street, or has he learned his lesson that you simply can not work with these monsters on the right?  That’s certainly the big question for the coming year.

Now it does occur to me that ironically he can possibly turn the clock back a year, and maybe use those same two issues on which he caved on a year ago to establish himself as a kick-ass President.  The banking crisis really hasn’t gone away at all — it’s just been festering and growing uglier.  We are no longer on the brink of an economic meltdown, so actually nationalizing the banks probably isn’t feasible.  But pushing through legislation that would strictly regulate the industry, plus do something to bust up the big banks and restore some level of competition to the industry so that no one bank could again become “too big to fail” would go a long ways towards fixing the problem and establishing himself as being an advocate for “we the people” and not being yet another corporate pawn.  And the issue of torture and high crimes has yet again re-surfaced, so here’s a golden opportunity to appoint that special prosecutor and at last start a serious investigation in to all the criminal acts of the previous administration.  By doing so he would restore this country as indeed the law-abiding democracy that it once was, and put the right wing on notice that their attempts to destroy that democracy will not be tolerated.

Will Obama at last get tough?  Not much has been accomplished in his first year, but maybe — just maybe — he’s seen how disgusting and vile the opposition is, and he’ll spend the next three years indeed kicking butt and taking no prisoners.  Let’s hope so.