Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hope over?

Scrict scrutiny of Obama began early. Naomi Klein produced some of the best. She noted that the public has suffered a hopeover, a hangover stemming from an overindulgence of hope. She’s correct; hope has led to expectation which has led to disappointment, but let’s reflect a little. Do you remember when it began? Recall the impeachment talk of the late 90’s and how many wished to hear such talk after Bush’s first 100 days. Bush proved what Clinton-Lewinsky reminiscers had feared true: he was extremely effective in moving the country wherever he wished, regardless of the consequences (global recession anyone?). Thus, on many levels pondering the etymology of hope is a luxury.

Although a global economic crisis provides a good measure of a man, it does not aid in evaluating Obama’s 100 or so days in office: first, the effectiveness of his stimulus package will not be measurable for years at least; and second, (theoretically) he could have accomplished much more if he were not so preoccupied (as could have many journalists). Nevertheless, Obama can be evaluated by four categories where he: a) accomplished positive change; b) marked a clear intention toward positive change; c) accepted a negative situation; d) stepped backward:

a) I think he made progress revising stem cell and endangered species legislation; releasing the torture memos (a Spanish judge is eager to prosecute if the AG won’t); classifying carbon as pollutant; and admitting to having contributed to climate change. b) He has made decisions to close Guantamo, but a recent vote puts this in jeopardy; to ease restrictions on Cuba, but further progress remains difficult; to reduce troops in Iraq, but when?; and to control nuclear weapons. c) He has accepted the status quo in Venezuela; in Israel; with the ICC; the automobile industry; and ANWR drilling. d) He increased the number of troops in Afghanistan (America could actually learn a thing or two from the Taliban).

I realize that progress is subjective, i.e., Swift Vets and Mavericks for Palin would probably reverse my order (progress for regress) and that progress takes time: many items may yet move up a category or two, e.g., Obama has a chance to challenge Netanyahu in a few weeks and Chrysler may pay back the bailout money. Overall, Obama has made very good progress, maybe not enough to avoid a hopeover, but enough. Remember that preventing regress is progress.

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