M.J. Rosenberg writes: Back in 2007-8, I was an outspoken promoter of Barack Obama’s nomination and election. I believed he had both the skills and the progressive views that would make him another FDR. Additionally, as the first black president, his election would be a hugely significant milestone in the history of a country cursed by racism from the very beginning.
I was right only on that last point: race. Obama’s presidency changes America forever. No matter how successful or unsuccessful his presidency is judged to be, or whether he wins a second term, the very idea that the United States elected Barack Hussein Obama shows that a clear majority of the country accepts the revolutionary (for Americans) fact of racial equality. Yes, America is still cursed with racism but Obama’s face among the 44 presidents depicted in every child’s history book or on the post office wall, changes America in a profound way.
Unfortunately, I do not believe he has been a particularly good president. Former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said of FDR that he was a born leader because, although he had a “second class intellect,” he had “a first class temperament. ” In my opinion, Obama is the opposite.
He is a brilliant man but he does not have the temperament for the presidency. He is reclusive, avoiding the glad handing of Congress that is necessary to get individual members of the House and Senate to feel personally close or loyal to him. He is not a fighter, always seeking to conciliate the opposition rather than defeat it. He refuses to use the presidency as a “bully pulpit” (in Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase), reaching over Congress and the media to rally the people behind him.
Worst of all, his critical policy decisions have been informed by timidity.
His two most significant efforts — reviving the economy and health care reform — were both hobbled by a lack of boldness and propensity for preemptive compromising. His stronger actions, as on gay equality and on immigration, were only undertaken after he had lost the strong mandate he was elected with and needed to solidify his base in advance of re-election
Obama’s foreign policy record is even worse. Between intensifying drone attacks, staying the course in Afghanistan, keeping Guantanamo open, and aligning our Middle East policies with Israel, Obama’s foreign policy is pretty much a continuation of George W. Bush’s.
In short, for progressives like me, Obama is a big disappointment. Nonetheless, it is absolutely critical that he be re-elected.
If M.J. wanted win this argument among the rest of us who have been particularly disappointed by Obama’s foreign policy record, he would need to show why with Obama as president there is less chance that the U.S. will go to war with Iran. That’s a difficult argument to make and thus it’s not surprising M.J. makes no mention of Iran.
A lot of the support Obama got in 2008 derived simply from antipathy for everything George Bush represented, but then we discovered that the opponent of torture preferred summary executions and that far from being the opposite of Bush, Obama turned out to be more like Bush 2.0.
Does he now deserve a second term just because he’s not a Republican?
The only thing that seems reasonable to predict about the 2012 election is that there will be a miserably low turnout. And the one person who will bear the primary responsibility for that will be the man who took a cynical ride on the hope of millions of Americans.