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Flip-Flops and Failures

How long will apologists for President Barack Obama continue to excuse his administration’s flops and failings?

How long, too, must concerned Obama supporters ask, “Whatever happened to the guy who campaigned as a fired-up crusader for truth, light and justice?” For it is painfully obvious that Barack Obama abandoned his campaign-winning persona once he prevailed in the election.

A hand-wringing myth is that the Real Obama would stand up if only he weren’t advised by Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, Arne Duncan; but the dark princes behind his throne were there from the beginning and helped plot the scenario their star  performed in order to be elected. If one is known by the  company he keeps, then why would anyone believe that the Real Obama is waiting in a dressing room offstage, when he chose those top-advisor buddies because of the person Barack Obama really is?

Some rationalize for the president, claiming it is still early in his term, that experience at governing will bring back the stand-out campaigner whose many promises have fallen short or seem to have been abandoned. President Obama, David Axelrod and others point to the significant accomplishments already on the record, such as health care and financial reform. The accomplishments, though, are over-hyped and full of mendacious compromises and loopholes aimed to curry favor with the powerful corporate interests whose cash was in large measure responsible for Obams’s victory in 2008.

There’s no doubt the current administration faces a Republican opposition whose only goal seems to be a return to power a la the golden years of Reagan and Bush. It doesn’t help that some in Obama’s own party are weighed down by their alleged belief that to be right is better than to be left behind. And yet —

Barack Obama was elected by a majority of voters who believed the man they saw out on the stump was the Man of the Hour. It is nonsense, then, for Obama and his Chicago bulls to buy the sour lemonade that only by abandoning a reformist script  of “change” for one of cautious compromise can they stay in power. And staying in power rather than “doing the right thing” to win is evidently their game plan. It is hypocritical cynicism run amok in the Beltway muck. It is, above all, disgraceful in its contempt for those who brung ’em to the ball.

Was it the Real Barack Obama who quickly and efficiently  cut his ties to longtime friends because they were “too controversial” and might cost votes from those who  probably wouldn’t vote for him in the first place? Was it the Real Barack Obama who couldn’t go to bat for Van Jones, Dawn Johnsen and others who were being smeared by anger mongers Beck, Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing spin machine?

Administration hypocrisy was blatantly brought home by the malicious treatment of Shirley Sherrod, whose exemplary lifetime record stands head and shoulders above those who put her and her family through the political wringer. Consider only this: In apologizing for the mistreatment of Sherley Sherrod, President Obama said it is necessary to make sure “that we’re focusing on doing the right thing  instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment.” Let us not, the president intoned, rush to judgment because of expediency or prejudice.

But what of Charlie Rangel? In preparing for his interview with Harry Smith of CBS News, the president obviously expected a question on the allegations of ethical misconduct against the long-time New York congressman. So when the question was asked, Barack Obama did what he believed to be “politically necessary” and not too indirectly urged Rangel to retire and (as Obama did with the Bush administration) put the past behind him.

As much as the other Beltway creatures we send into “pubic service,” Barack Obama is a political critter, one with that commonplace inability to wrench himself by force from the status quo quicksand, pulling the nation with him to safety.

Others have noted the administration’s misguided fear that having a black president associate with his less fortunate black brothers will cost Obama and Democrats dearly at the polls. This absurdity belies the fact that voters were and are proud to have elected Mr. Obama as the nations’ first black president. Since this president can’t escape his genetic heritage, why  preempt critics by pretending not to care about the plight of black Americans? Today politicians fervently proclaim their interest in “the middle class” while excluding the “class” that lies buried beneath the middle to make the “middle” possible.

Focus “on doing the right thing,” he said. Then let us focus on and remember those words when considering the victims of political necessity who languish yet in Guantanamo or in other U.S. “detention centers” around the world. Remember those words when recalling this president’s willingness to trample constitutional rights where the fear-mongering phantom of “terrorism” is concerned. Remember those words when you remember how this president eagerly sought the advice, counsel and acceptance of industry insiders while ignoring experts from the reviled “left” as he jiggled together his vaunted health care and other so-called “reform” packages. Remember those words when the nightmare visions of so many innocent dead and maimed men, women and children haunt whatever is left of an American national conscience, human beings killed or damaged beyond “the right thing” by wars waged for whim rather than for necessity. And remember that the president whose “let us not rush to judgment” call is the same president who has authorized the assassination of alleged enemies of the state, and whose interest in promoting kangaroo courts seems to exceed his interest in abiding by the fundamental fairness that makes our constitution the envy of other nations.

However uncomfortable it may be, remember those words when reminded of the many whose varied circumstances push them down and out of that favored middle class.

Perhaps I am hoping for too much from President Obama, convinced as he is of being reviled by the fire-breathing ranters for appearing to favor “minorities,” as if this president of all the people should govern only for some of the people. Where privileged white boy Bobby Kennedy  might choose to visit impoverished black families, the black Barack Obama  is counselled to not be seen in the company of the most  economically deprived, of the homeless and the down-and-out.

For all the praised President Obama has lavished on the millions of “small” donors who helped finance his ultimate drive up Pennsylvania Avenue, our president knows how all-important were those deep pocket donations from the Big Boys. Odd how reality breeds hypocrisy.

There is something strange, too, about President Obama’s official visits to the Gulf region as BP’s oil spill wracked the watery shores. Instead of making rousing speeches to lift the hopes and spirits of Drill Baby’s victims, our president made a few tepid remarks and chose to be photographed gingerly inspecting a couple of oil blobs on a beach. The message sent from the White House: We are doing all we can. Instead of fiery rhetoric, the world received the pathetic message, “I can’t go out there and plug the leak myself.” It was as if this president were borrowing a page from Tony Hayward’s text, “I want my life back.”

Well, go back. Go back and listen to, watch, that vigorous Barack Obama on the campaign trail. Close your eyes and hear him speak in cadence and tone that recalled the voices of Martin Luther King, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Bobby Kennedy following the murder of Dr. King. Then compare those speeches with the toned-down, muffled and “conservative” Obama who speaks to the world as Nobel Prize Winning President of the United States.

Open your eyes and watch again that darkly brilliant night in Chicago when the new First Family took the stage, having swept the nation in that historic “nothing to lose” climb to victory. See once more the tears streaming down the faces of men, women and children as they gloried in the coming of a new age of honor, honesty and freedom.

How juvenile, how foolish, how spectacularly ridiculous for the Obama team to now believe it must abandon all the hope it once instilled in the nonsensical conviction that political necessity must trump the “god within” enthusiasm generated from coast to coast. The people when called upon, not only elect the young man from Illinois because they believed (or fell for) his promises of change, transparency, constitutional fairness. Had they come all the way for this: an administration beholden to corrupt Beltway tradition and consciously fearful of rocking the boat?

For all the times it came, that clarion call for “change,” it is now beyond doubt that Barack Obama has been unable to overcome his own demons and challenge the “way things are” in Washington. “Change” is a word that’s easy to say, but it’s much harder to accomplish. To cite John Donne, “no man is an island,” and Barack Obama seems to have forgotten how many true believers across this country and across the globe were rooting for his success — would stand with him again, if he had the courage to call them into action. Or, would stand with him again if they had not been burned once by a group whose ambition truly seems to be “the last infirmity of noble minds.”

It is not cynicism to wonder if Barack Obama ever really believed his own most eloquent words.

DOUG GIEBEL welcomes comment at




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