Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shine Wearing Thin?

Obama’s impact remains difficult to quantify and depends largely on the method of evaluation: Do you take into account the scale and multiplicity of the tasks? or Do you just tally failures and successes? What is certain is that his speeches, which rouse such deep emotions, lose more credibility with each failure, since failures include both failed accomplishments and the failure to adhere to ideals outlined in his speeches. Obama has gained some ground in his reform of health-care, although the bill may not be recognizable when (if) it exits the Senate. The impact of the bill, however, may best be measured by the response it has generated. Although the attacks on countries with universal health-care are quite humorous (see Rachlis’s response in the LA Times), more sinister responses are strapping on 9mm pistols and portraying Obama as Hitler (I personally think Bush better suited this guise.)

Obama’s decision to set targets for and attend the Copenhagen Climate Summit (sadly, something no Canadian will be able to assert) was a sharp departure from Bush’s archaic stance and an admirable accomplishment. Nevertheless, it seems that no matter what Obama accomplishes it won’t count for much without some progress in the Middle East, e.g., Scheer notes, “On the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s worthwhile to remember that ending a stupid, harmful war is the most admirable thing a great leader can do.” With each passing day Obama seems to depart further from such a result: his (and most of congress’s) failure to endorse the Goldstone report implies that Israel is above the law.

Guantanamo, the flagship of panic-induced decisions by a religious tract administration, has blipped on and off the radar: it will be shut down, it’s closure won’t be funded, and it will be made more humane. Obama has taken flack for such uncertainty, and justifiably so: You can’t change a beast made specifically to bypass international law, conventions and human rights legislation.

Now Obama detractors are growing by the dozen. Early detractors gathered at Hopium: Confronting Fascism in the Obama era and some have taken drastic measures, such as challenging Obama’s U.S. citizenship. Nevertheless, before you condemn him too harshly forget that he doesn’t use twitter and recall that

Under Bush, the attempt to turn the office of the president into a branch of corporate America — complete with boardroom incompetence, a culture of collective fear and the sludge of muddy thinking — dictated that company etiquette should prevail. Dan Glaister, The Guardian. February 6, 2009.

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