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    Criticisms, political pressure and Barack Obama

    by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

    Tuesday Jan. 13, 2009 08:47 EST

    Politicians, by definition, respond to political pressure. Those who decide that it's best to keep quiet and simply trust in the goodness and just nature of their leader are certain to have their political goals ignored. It's always better -- far better -- for a politician to know that he's being scrutinized closely and will be praised and supported only when his actions warrant that, and will be criticized and opposed when they don't.

    Right this moment, there are enormous pressures being exerted on Obama not to make significant changes in the areas of civil liberties, intelligence policy and foreign affairs.  That pressure is being exerted by the intelligence community, by the permanent Pentagon structures, by status-quo-loving leaders of both political parties, by authority-worshipping Beltway "journalists" and pundits (such as the ones who wrote the wretched though illustrative "What Would Dick Do?" cover story for this week's Newsweek).

    If those who want fundamental reform in these areas adopt the view that they will not criticize Barack Obama because to do so is to "help Republicans," or because he deserves more time, or because criticisms are unnecessary because we can trust in him to do the right thing, or because criticizing him is to "tear him down" or "create a circular firing squad" or "be a Naderite purist" or any of those other empty platitudes, then they are ceding the field to the very powerful factions who are going to fight vehemently against any changes.  Do you think that those who want the CIA to retain "robust" interrogation powers and who want the federal surveillance state maintained, or want a hard-line towards Iran and a continuation of our Middle East policies, or who want to maintain corporate-lobbyist-domination of Washington, are sitting back saying:  "it's not right to pressure Obama too much right now; give him some time"?

    It's critical that Obama -- and the rest of the political establishment -- hear loud objections, not reverential silence, when he flirts with ideas like the ones he suggested on Sunday.  This dynamic prevails with all political issues.  Where political pressure comes only from one side, that is the side that wins -- period.

    ...

    Obama is about to become one of the world's most powerful political leaders, if not the single most powerful.  He begins with sky-high approval ratings, his political party in control of Congress by a large margin, and enjoys reverence so intense from certain quarters that such a loyal following hasn't been seen since the imperial glow around George Bush circa 2002.  He's not going to crumble or melt away like the Wicked Witch if he's pressured or criticized.  The far more substantial danger is that he won't be pressured or criticized enough by those who are eager to see meaningful changes in Washington, and then -- either by desire or necessity -- those are the voices he will ignore most easily.

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