This diary stems from another diary posted here yesterday by JoanMar called, "I Failed Barack Obama!" I read that diary and almost puked when I read this line from JoanMar: "If we are honest with ourselves - real honest - we would admit that we are the ones failing Obama." Since I had worked to both nominate and elect Obama, since I had pounded pavements to get votes for him, since I had contributed money to his campaign, since I had engaged in plenty of conversations with doubtful Democrats, Independents and even Republicans to convert them to Obama, since I had written lots of letters to editors and diaries since Obama was elected to aid the cause, I am left wondering: how exactly have I failed Obama? I guess my failure is that I really expected Obama to fulfill some of his campaign promises and to provide the kind of leadership that he promised us he had in him.
Let's review some of the key campaign/election promises that President Obama made and see how he has done on meeting them. To those of you out there who are about to say--hey, give the guy a break, he's only been in office a little over 5 months--that has been taken into consideration here. Here you will see mostly things that Obama HAS DONE in those months, so any criticism that he has not had sufficient time has no merit. To make this a bit easier, I've gathered key Obama promises in clusters of key issues:
#1: Obama promised to bring fresh, new faces to Washington since "change cannot occur with the same old faces in Washington,D.C."
I think all will agree that this was a key campaign promise of Candidate Obama's, perhaps even his campaign theme and certainly a critical reason why millions of Americans voted for him rather than that stuffy, old and bitter Republican Senator who has been in Washington since the 1970's.
Note too that Obama has pretty much already selected people to his administration SO HE HAS HAD THE TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS CAMPAIGN PROMISE. The "he's been in office only _ months" doesn't work here. How has Obama done? Well, recall that he did not even change the most important position in his government, that of Defense Secretary, KEEPING ON BUSH's hand-picked man, Robert M. Gates for the job. So no change whatsoever there, it's Bush redeaux. What about the military leadership running the ever increasing wars we have in the Middle East that have cost more than $1 trillion dollars according to Joe Stiglitz? Not much change there either. But Obama HAS selected a new general to head US forces in Afghanistan and he's a real doosey. Obama's pick: none other than General Stanley A. McChrystal. This is the same McChrystal who covered up and distorted Pat Tillman's death, even to the point of falsifying official records. From Wikipedia (relying on multiple sources) here is more on McChrystal and Tillman:
McChrystal was also criticized for his role in the aftermath of the 2004 death by friendly fire of Ranger and former professional football player Pat Tillman. The day after approving a posthumous Silver Star citation for Tillman that included the phrase "in the line of devastating enemy fire," McChrystal sent an urgent memo warning senior government officials not to quote the citation in public speeches because it "might cause public embarrassment" if Tillman had in fact been killed by friendly fire, as McChrystal suspected. McChrystal was one of eight officers recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him.
The Los Angeles Times Julian E. Barnes even wrote an article entitled "General in Tillman case may lose star - The retired officer faces demotion for misleading investigators in the 2004 friendly-fire death of the Army ranger" but far from being demoted, McChrystal was promoted first by George W. Bush and then by his successor, Barack Obama.
In addition to being recommended for discipline by the Pentagon itself, McChrstal was involved as the head of an infamous task force at an human rights hell-hole. McCrystal headed task force 6-26 at Camp Nama--notorious for its human rights violations and prisoner abuse:
McChrystal's ... unit, Task Force 6-26, became notorious for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined; five Army Rangers were ultimately convicted of prisoner abuse at Camp Nama.
SOURCE: Wikpedia article on McChrystal cited above.
A New York Times article indicates that Camp Nama--in direct violation of the Geneva and Torture Conventions--was even "off limits" to the Red Cross. The article by Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall also tells that:
"Since 2003, 34 task force members have been disciplined in some form for mistreating prisoners, and at least 11 members have been removed from the unit, according to new figures the Special Operations Command provided in response to questions from The New York Times. Five Army Rangers in the unit were convicted three months ago for kicking and punching three detainees in September 2005. Some of the serious accusations against Task Force 6-26 have been reported over the past 16 months by news organizations including NBC, The Washington Post and The Times."
This diary is not a rehash of the infamous Camp Nama. What is important here is that Barack Obama, full well knowing Gen. McCrystal's involvement as the head of Camp Nama and full well knowing the fact that McCrystal was at the heart of the Tillman controversy promoted and selected McCrystal to be his head general in Afghanistan.
Returning to the issue of the faces in the Obama Administration, it is clear that most of them are old Washington hands, 5 or 6 are Republicans, the rest are retreads. Remember too that President Obama had picked Tom Daschle to a high cabinet post and wanted him to spearhead "health care reform" before Daschle went down in flames for not paying something like $200,000 in taxes and for having a chauffeur driven limousine that Daschle "forgot" to declare as income. Recall too that Obama had the time to pick Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary; Gregg has one of the most conservative and horrid records in the entire Senate and even voted against Obama's stimulus package.
On the other hand, the number of "new" and liberal faces in the Obama administration are few. Hilda Solis and Dr. Steven Chu are about the only ones. Note too that there were NO POSITIONS for a true progressive like Howard Dean in the Obama administration (Obama wanted t.v. doctor Sandjay Gupta instead for Surgeon General). Note too that 4 star general and former Commander of all NATO forces, Gen. Wesley Clark, who had graduated at the top of his class at West Point, received nothing from Obama despite a number of high military-national security positions open, many of which went to Republicans instead.
So, it is clear in the area of bringing new, fresh faces to Washington, Obama failed the nation, we did not fail Obama.
#2: Obama promised a transparent, open government.
I think we all recall that promise, again a key one that led lots of people to vote for the junior Senator from Illinois who only had 4 years of total experience on the national level (and 2 of those were spent running for the presidency). How has the transparency promise worked out?
Remember in the past few weeks that the Obama administration, allied with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Republican all but in name Senator Joe Lieberman on a bill that would have kept torture pics out of the public AND would have trashed the key sunshine legislation, the Freedom of Information Act, that has been in place for over 40 years. So again Obama had time to do something; he just did the wrong thing. Recall too that in the past few days that Obama has denied access of his White House visitor logs to the press even though he had criticized Bush and Cheney for doing the same thing.
This whole issue has been treated at length by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez over at DemocracyNow and by their recent guest on the show, Glenn Greenwald:
JUAN GONZALEZ: As a candidate, Barack Obama had promised to run a more open and transparent government than his predecessor. And since becoming president, he has repeated those promises in executive orders and declarations, saying the secrecy of the Bush administration is over. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the President’s rhetoric is not being matched by policy.
In his first several months in office, Obama has embraced Bush administration justifications to keep secret key government information. Most recently, the Secret Service rejected requests from two organizations for public access to White House visitors logs. The logs document the West Wing meetings that have helped shape Obama’s policies on banking regulation, environmental policy, economic recovery and foreign affairs.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit yesterday against the administration, seeking the release of the visits by coal company executives to the White House. And MSNBC reported that their broader request for White House visitor logs since Obama took office has also been denied.
AMY GOODMAN: The move is part of a pattern of secrecy by the Obama administration over the past several months. President Obama initially decided to release photos of prisoner abuse but later reversed course.
Today, the Washington Post is reporting the CIA is now pushing for the Obama administration to maintain the secrecy of significant portions of an internal account of the agency’s interrogation program that describe in graphic detail how the CIA handled its prisoners.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is debating whether to ignore an earlier promise to make public an investigation into a US air strike last month in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians.
For more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald...legal blogger for Salon.com.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Glenn. Talk about President Obama and secrecy. Go through these issues one by one.
GLENN GREENWALD: I think the first thing to note is that the pledge to end the Bush-era secrecy fetish and to bring transparency was not an ancillary promise of the Obama campaign; it was really central to everything that he said he was going to do, because secrecy was really the linchpin of all of the abuses of the Bush administration.
And yet, beginning in, and almost immediately,... in early February, when the Obama administration went into a federal court in a case brought by five victims of the torture and rendition program against a subsidiary of Boeing, which shipped them around the world, the Obama administration went into court and said, in response to questions from the judge, that it was going to adopt exactly the same Bush administration position on the state secrets privilege, which was really the primary tool the Bush administration used to shield its activities from any kind of disclosure or even judicial review for illegality. It shocked the judges on the appeals panel they didn’t even try to hide it, and civil libertarians, as well.
Beginning with that point, it became clear that with regard to virtually every single secrecy power that the Bush administration, to such great controversy, used, the Obama administration was going to replicate. It then asserted the same secrecy theories in cases challenging the legality of warrantless eavesdropping, of cases brought against Bush officials for illegal spying.
As you indicated, in the case of the torture photos, which two separate federal courts had said that FOIA, the forty-year-old transparency law, Freedom of Information Act, requires be disclosed, Obama first said that he would try to repeal that to the Supreme Court on the grounds that anything that looks—makes the United States look bad jeopardizes our national security. And then, once he realized he would probably lose in court, he actually got behind an amendment by Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to exempt the President and the Pentagon from the requirements of FOIA when it comes to all photographs dealing with detainee abuse.
And as you indicated...even domestically, they’re now starting to assert these broad secrecy theories, as well, with regard to things like—there are numerous coal plants that are leaking hazardous waste, and the Obama administration refused to say where they’re located.
And they now even refuse to give access to visitor logs, when, of course, one of the main controversies of the Bush-Cheney administration early on, pre-9/11, was Dick Cheney’s refusal to disclose with whom he was meeting while formulating energy policy. And Obama, the candidate, vehemently criticized that secrecy policy, and yet now is replicating it, as well. So it’s really transformed from isolated disturbing incidents into a clear pattern of obsessive secrecy.
JUAN GONZALEZ: ...in 2006 Obama, while on the campaign trail, criticized Dick Cheney’s secret energy meetings, and he said, quote, "When big oil companies are invited into the White House for secret energy meetings, it’s no wonder they end up with billions in tax breaks." But on his first full day in office, the President issued these orders to agencies of the government that there had to be more transparency when it came to the Freedom of Information Act. And he said that all agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in the Freedom of Information Act. So, is this turnabout, especially with White House visitors now, astonishing to you?
GLENN GREENWALD: I think the reason why it’s sort of surprising is because, as I said, it was really—everybody remembers the controversy over what Dick Cheney did, in terms of asserting that...it was nobody’s business with whom he met in the White House. ...
there’s clear tension between what Obama said he was going to do as a candidate and what he ultimately is ending up doing as president, but in the case of the visitor logs, you can go back and look at statements—and you just identified one of them; there are several—where he very directly criticized the Bush administration position that these visitor logs are presidential records and therefore not subject to disclosure and transparency laws. Two courts have already rejected that theory. And so, he’s not only in tension with the principles that he enunciated as a candidate, he’s betraying a very specific position that he took while as a candidate, and I think that’s the reason why it’s so surprising.
SOURCE: (edited down; it's a long interview and I encourage everyone to see/hear/read it all at Democracynow.org Also, Glenn Greenwald discusses this, the transparency issue and other issues related to this diary at length in his blog over at salon.com).
#3: Obama and the Wall St. Bailouts.
How about the economic fiasco? Remember Obama belittling Sen. McCain and W. for being out of touch on the economy? EVEN BEFORE OBAMA was in office, his hand picked man (and yes, Obama had time to pick his economic team well before taking office) Obama's man, Tim Geithner, worked with Bush's man, Paulson, to fashion TARP. So there was not an iota of difference between W's bailout proposals and Obama's. Then, the Obama administration funneled billions to Wall St. Obama has long been owned by Goldman Sachs (don't believe me? Type "Hamilton Project" in Google and read the speech given by Sen. Obama addressing his friend "Bob" Ruben, CEO of Goldman, at the Firedoglake website) and of course they had their investment repaid in spades. What has Obama done for average Americans and the working class other than deliver sweet talks? Nothing. The official unemployment rate is 9.4% and the underemployment rate (a more accurate record) is at 15%. Michigan's unemployment rate is 14.1%, California's 11.5%, Rhode Island, 12.1%, Oregon's 12.4%, Nevada's 11.3%, Florida's 10.2%. Obama has done next to nothing to create new jobs. Note too that Obama's help to the states was quite minor, as I recall, less than $150 billion (a huge amount but much less than that given to Wall St.) and that help is short and running out soon. As this is being written, states from Virginia to Wisconsin to California are instituting cutbacks, job cuts and cuts to social programs. All of this will make the unemployment situation much worse in a short time. Economist Roubini is forecasting unemployment to reach 12% next year with underemployment at almost 20%. Again, Obama had time to do something: he passed an economic stimulus bill BUT IT WAS NOT ENOUGH. It was insufficient in conception. Obama was warned about this at the time of the stimulus package creation by Joe Stiglitz, by Paul Krugman, by Samuelson, and by Roubini--but he continued with his band aid effort in the face of this expert analysis. The reaction here at Dailykos? Apologists attacked the messengers. In truth, what we saw was a failure of leadership on Obama's part. As in many other areas, Obama failed to show bold, decisive leadership, acting instead as if he had lost the election rather than having won it, and acting as if his party held a minority in Congress rather than the 60 seats it holds in the Senate and an overwhelming majority in the House.
Before leaving the disastrous economic terrain of the Obama administration, let's look at NAFTA. Recall that Candidate Obama especially during the primaries in union vote rich Pennsylvania, promised to reform the North American Free Trade Act. He wanted to make it fairer, he said. At the same time Obama was sweet talking voters, one of his key economic advisors was talking to the Canadian government. Word leaked that the advisor assured the Canadians that Obama was just talking politics to get votes: he really didn't mean what he said. Obama slapped the economic advisor's wrist. But in hindsight, it is clear that Obama outright lied to the people in the primaries and the election campaign to pander for votes. Obama has always been a complete free trader (again type in "Hamilton Project" and read the transcript at Firedoglake) and had no intention of changing NAFTA. He distorted his record and made promises he had no intention of keeping: something Obama routinely does.
So Obama has failed average Americans, average working class Americans have not failed Obama. Only Bob Reuben and Goldman Sachs are pleased with Obama on the economic front.
#4: Obama as a "fierce defender" of gay rights.
Yes, those are Obama's own words but they belie his dismal record with regard to gay rights. Recall that Obama campaigned and promised that he would repeal DOMA and do away with Don't Ask Don't Tell. Instead, he's done jackshit for gay people. Note too that even some tentative steps forward (a frontpage diary at Daily Kos reports that the DOJ will meet with some gay leaders; and by executive order, Obama has ordered some same sex benefits to federal workers) have occurred only after gays have threatened to withhold money and votes from the Democratic Party.
In a long interview with Cleve Jones, once an aide to Harvey Milk, Amy Goodman explores this issue in depth:
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s promise to work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, Wednesday came one week after his administration filed a controversial legal brief supporting DOMA, an action which greatly disappointed activists fighting for marriage equality.
In a strongly worded letter to President Obama on Monday, Joe Solmonese, the president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, said, quote, "I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones."
The President also has been criticized for not pushing more strongly for an end to the military’s discriminatory "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Taken together, the administration’s actions have angered a number of gay rights activists. Some prominent voices in the community have decided not to attend a gala LGBT fundraiser for the Democratic Party next week, which Vice President Biden is expected to attend.
Cleve Jones, Welcome to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: There has been a lot of action in the Obama administration in the last few days. Is it really because there’s this big fundraiser planned and some of the leading gay rights activists and donors are pulling out?
CLEVE JONES: ...I think the people pulling out of the fundraiser is part of it. I think the momentum building for the march on October 11th is part of it. I think that they understand that the anger and frustration is not diminishing, it’s getting much stronger. We’re really baffled by this. You know, we voted in enormous numbers for Obama. We want very much to believe that he has our best interest, as well as the entire country’s, in his heart. But he seems to be continuing this really hurtful policy of doling out increments of rights, fractions of equality. And I think our movement is really beyond that at this point. We’re tired of this state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city struggle for fractions of equality. And this latest thing, this is really just crumbs. ...
AMY GOODMAN: One of those who was there was Tammy Baldwin, well-known lesbian Congress member. She will not be boycotting the fundraiser. She said she’ll be there, but she’ll bring the concerns of those who are boycotting. And she, too, is deeply concerned.
This memo that he signed, it was late in the day. Not to be confused with an executive order, it means whatever of the limited rights that were granted expire on the day President Obama leaves office. And we’re not talking about healthcare here for federal employees who are gay or lesbian—visiting rights, I guess he said, to the hospital.
CLEVE JONES: Well, it feels like Clinton all over again. ...Bill Clinton gave wonderful speeches and told of his vision of a country, a vision that he claimed included us, and what we got out of that was the Defense of Marriage Act and "don’t ask, don’t tell." So, what we’re getting now from President Obama are flowery proclamations, probably a few key appointments for some of our more powerful community members, and very little for ordinary people.
And on this issue of healthcare, I think it’s ironic that this memorandum does not extend healthcare benefits. But that’s also an example of an area where my community could be very helpful, I think, in helping to build support for the President’s healthcare package. My community cares deeply about access to healthcare. So much of the impetus for marriage rights has really come out of our experience with the epidemic, so we certainly would be a staunch ally in his efforts to provide affordable healthcare to all Americans. So I feel that he’s burning some bridges rather rapidly.
AMY GOODMAN: And now, decades later, you are organizing this march on Washington. You were also the co-founder of the AIDS Quilt. And talk about the significance of that and how it’s led into this mass march.
CLEVE JONES: Yes, I’ve had a lot of experience organizing protests and demonstrations. ...
I think it’s important to go to Washington. And we’re going back on October 11th. We’re not taking a quilt. We’re not having a rock concert. It’s not going to be Lollapalooza. It’s going to be a demonstration, a protest. It is not against President Obama. It is for equality. And it’s for shifting the strategy.
Back when Harvey Milk was alive, we had no choice with the strategy. There were only a few pockets in the entire country where we could gain any rights at all. When I came out of the closet, it was a felony to engage in sexual behavior with another person of the same sex. People went to prison. People committed suicide. People were arrested regularly and prosecuted. For young people, it may be bizarre to hear this, but it was illegal for us to dance. Two people of the same gender were forbidden by law from dancing. You could be arrested for that. So, in the ’70s, we took whatever we could get. In a small college towns like Ann Arbor or Madison, you know, you might be able to get some kind of job protection.
But that was a long time ago, and we’re not putting up with that anymore. We want full equality, which I define as being equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law in all fifty states. It’s the Fourteenth Amendment. It’s the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. That’s what we want.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Cleve Jones, who’s organizing a mass march for gay equality on October 11th in Washington, DC.
Maybe your response to the above is "so what, I'm only interested in the big issues." o.k. What's he done for single payer? Obama has himself taken it off the table. Obama called a White House conference on "health care reform" 2 months ago and failed to invite a single proponent of single payer. Months ago the man he chose to be his point man on health care reform, Tom Daschle, had to pull out because of ethical and legal failures on taxes. And he-- like Max Baucus-- is paid and owned by the insurance companies and big pharmacy. Unfortunately, don't expect much on health care reform from Obama.
I could go on to name other specific issues and Obama's flip-flops on them. Like FISA. Or Obama's promise to take lobbyists out of his administration. Remember that one? Then you'll also remember the "exceptions" he made that allowed him to do just that, effectively breaking his promise. Or I could talk about Obama's promise to follow the law and then look at his administration's failure to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing related to torture. Regarding torture and Gitmo and renditions, all still continue under Obama. It's just that the torture has been farmed out to black sites in other countries. Gitmo being closed? The Iraq war being ended? Nope. Obama has expanded the wars in the Middle East to include Pakistan and even his "timetable" for withdrawal from Iraq talks about residual forces of tens of thousands of troops.
So, when one looks at facts and issues one can see why lots of people are pissed off at Obama's performance. Note too that his numbers are starting to drop. Just a week or so ago his approval rating at DailyKos was 69%; today it is 64%. His disapproval ratings was 29%; today it is 32%. (NOTE: these numbers today changed with Obama losing 2 more points. They now stand at 63-33). The reason for this is not because people think they have failed Obama, but because they believe Obama has failed them. He is too timid, shows too little fight and acts like he lost the election. Mr. Obama you ARE OUR President, you have 60 Democratic Senators, you have a huge majority in the House. Please start showing "leadership with vigor" in Kennedy's phrase, and not timidity, hesistancy, and inaction.
Michael Moore's website has a good story up about the Obama administration failing to disclose coal dump locations--violating its oath of transparency. Here's part of the article which comes from the Guardian:
Administration turns down senator's request to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain arsenic and metals
By Suzanne Goldenberg / Guardian
A rift has opened between the Obama administration and some of its closest allies - Democratic leaders and environmental organisations - over its refusal to publicly disclose the location of 44 coal ash dumps that have been officially designated as a "high hazard" to local populations.
The administration turned down a request from a powerful Democratic senator to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain a toxic soup of arsenic and heavy metals from coal-fired electricity plants, citing terrorism fears. The refusal has put the Obama administration at odds with some of its strongest supporters over an emerging area of environmental concern in America.
Some 44 of the most dangerous coal ash dumps are known to be located in populated areas in 26 separate locations. The high hazard designation means that a breach, like the one in Tennessee, could cause death and significant property damage if the sludge spills into surrounding neigbourhoods. But that is all the adminstration will disclose.
"Right now we have a blanket gag order," Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Senate environment and public works committee told a press conference last week.
"We are losing what we cherish in America: the citizens' right to know."
"These waste sites may be environmental and health hazards. But they are unlikely terror targets," said the Knox group of newspapers. "As the muckety-mucks in Washington know, the real danger of disclosure is from angry Americans. If citizens realise they are downstream from fragile mountains of gunk, they will demand action and accountability."
Environmental groups see the gag order on the coal ash sites as a betrayal of Obama's promise, during his speech to staff on his first day in the White House in January, of a new era of openness in government.
"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said in the speech. "That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known."
Source: (emphasis added)http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=14085
Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council had a strong letter on GLBT rights in the New York Times. She points out the contradictions between Candidate Obama's promises and President Obama's Justice Department:
Obama and Gays: The Time for Equal Rights Is Now
Published: June 19, 2009
To the Editor:
Re "A Bad Call on Gay Rights" (editorial, June 16), about the Obama administration’s brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act:
The administration’s actions and rhetoric on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues fly against the promises made during Barack Obama’s historic campaign.
The Justice Department’s comparison of same-sex marriages to incestuous relationships is an unnecessary and deliberate sidestep to the fundamental question regarding the Defense of Marriage Act — that it has effectively legalized discrimination since its passage.
The president has talked about the need to lower the temperature on heated rhetoric and for Americans to find common ground on controversial issues. Sadly, his message has not been received by his Justice Department. Instead, it chooses hurtful language and political expediency.
We are a country that believes in the basic fundamentals of freedom, and we need to continue to extend this ideal to all communities. The time for equal rights is now, the time for the president to keep his heartfelt promise to us is today, and the time for legalized discrimination is over.
Glenn Greenwald calls the Obama administration "nothing short of abysmal" on Gay rights, civil liberties, secrecy and on the Obama Justice Department:
"...those who focus on gay issues have been understandably furious with the administration, and in the areas of civil liberties, secrecy, and his Justice Department generally, the administration has been nothing short of abysmal."