Barack Obama: a failing grade

While African Americans endure poverty rates higher than other groups, not all suffer. Some have, through fortune and hard work, managed to overcome the barriers and to prosper. Among these, some harshly criticize their less successful brothers and sisters for disproportionate imprisonment rates and for failing to emerge from poverty. In so doing, they enable conservatives who have fought the New Deal for as long as there’s been a New Deal.

Barack Obama’s beginnings, we are to understand, were humble (though his background is sufficiently international that wingnuts question his birth certificate and he has lived in enough places that wingnuts accuse him of being Muslim). He has to have worked hard to become a professor of law. And he must have worked hard as a community organizer. He became a politician, and that would have been hard work, too. Last year, he ran for president. He ran on a platform of change and of hope. His victory raised expectations. I still see the bumper sticker, “Yes, we can.”

So for all this hard work, Obama is now president. By all accounts, this is another hard job. Much is made of the grey hair accumulated in eight years each by previous presidents who have served two terms (though a lot of men grey considerably at that age over that period of time).

None of that means that mediocre results are acceptable. I can’t even keep track of all the failings of this president. I think I’ve managed to gather many of them together in three previous posts: one on health care, another on what I see as a need to break up the country, and a third on what Obama apparently expects Palestinians to accept. Since I wrote those posts, we have had yet another display of mediocrity, yesterday in Copenhagen.

I’m still trying to piece together just what exactly happened there. Apparently, Obama reached an agreement with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, which the other countries have taken note of. Apparently, “a Sudanese delegate said the plan in Africa would be like the Holocaust.” None of it is binding. It is to limit warming to two degrees, Celsius, which depending on whom you believe might actually considerably exceed three degrees (a more positive view is here). Yet we are to accept “minimal results” as unprecedented and even as great progress.

Obama “gives himself a ‘good, solid B-plus’ for his first 11 months in the Oval Office” but by any grading standard I know, this would be a solid ‘F’.

In truth, he has succeeded at nothing since being elected. He has not brought peace in Iraq, in Afghanistan, or in Palestine. In Iraq, we simply dismiss ongoing violence and a fact of ethnic cleansing that has driven millions out of the country. In Afghanistan, we are to accept an escalation combined with a promised (but unlikely) pull-out date that makes sense only to neoconservatives who figure the pull-out date is a sham and to some mainstream Democratic Party politicians. In Palestine, he has failed to push Israel to face up to its international obligations.

On the economy and on health care reform, he has only made bankers and health insurance companies very, very happy. There is no sense of justice here when the government rushes to bail out big corporations, but when it comes to people’s mortgages and jobs–well the budget is more important. There is no sense of justice when poor but relatively healthy people will be forced to buy health insurance that even with subsidies they can ill afford, while the uninsurable, who need coverage the most, will be left to die.

On civil liberties and torture, Obama has defended and embraced criminal policies. His solution to Guantanamo and military commissions is simply to move them to Illinois.

On all of these matters, we are to accept public relations gimmickry as progress. And yet, even here, the Obama administration has failed to persuade. The most convincing evidence of Obama’s failure is in his own speaking performances. Even he knows he has failed.

And there can be little doubt of the grade voters will give in 2010 and again in 2012.

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