Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Disappointing Presidency of Barack H. Obama

I looked forward to two extraordinary and great terms with Barack Obama as President. Have I been disappointed? Yes.
by Charlie Leck

For eight years, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has taken a fierce and angry amount of criticism from conservatives in politics. This president, for reasons I am afraid to confront, has been held in loathing by many people on the right edge of American political thinking. And, that’s too bad. It is one thing to disagree with a president, but it is quite another to hold such awful feelings of loathing and disdain.

One thing for which this president must be given credit is the manner in which he rises above this hatefulness that comes from the opposition.

When I think about the weight of the criticism with which this president has had to deal, it causes me to wonder if I should go ahead and add mine to the pile.

In truth, and as a liberal, I have not been pleased with the Obama presidency. Don’t misunderstand! I have liked him personally and I have admired many of the things he has done. I adore the first lady and think she has played her role in White House theatrics perfectly. She is not only beautiful, but she strikes me as kind, caring and generous. However, the President, himself, has not turned out to be the liberal that many of us on the left side of the political spectrum had hoped he would be. Sometimes, as in the case of giving up quickly on a single-server national health care plan that he talked about in his first campaign, these shifts toward the right have been because of political realities. However, there have been other shifts and policy decisions that I just don’t understand. Let me just put them broadly under the category of personal freedom and privacy.

President Obama has been a significant disappointment when it comes to protecting individual rights and one’s individual privacy. Wikileaks has certainly made this clear to everyone in the nation. The President did not interrupt, when he could have, plans to so broadly invade the communications and activities of private citizens in America and abroad. There will be plenty of moderates who will attempt to justify these policies as protective actions on our behalf. The question becomes: just how much protection do we, as citizens, want and how much of our freedom and privacy are we willing to give up in order to have such protection and security? I do not remember that there was ever any debate about such a question.

Now we hear about international leaders, even allies of America, raising the same questions about such invasions of their own privacy. The telephone call from Germany’s head of state, Ms. Merkel, is evidence of the international disapproval of such activities. The President’s reply to Ms. Merkel’s complaint ought to be given some thought and analysis. He told her that the United States “is not” monitoring and “will not” monitor any communications of the German government. Take notice: The President did not say that our government “had not” monitored the communications of the German administration under Ms. Merkel.

It is clear that satellite surveillance and drone surveillance of individuals and governments has increased significantly during President Obama’s terms. This is something a liberal might have expected under the administrations of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. It is not what we expected of President Obama. Were we simply na├»ve? I imagine we were!

Most of us (the liberal side of American politics) are also disappointed with the development of drone warfare. Drone attacks here and there have revealed a military attitude about the cheapness of life. So what if a few innocent individuals lose their lives in such attacks against important enemies of the American way? President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, has been a rather ardent supporter of the drone way of military attacks. At the very least, much more consideration and discussion should have been given over to the humanity of such attacks and the American legal right to conduct such attacks in other nations.

I cried joyously on the night that Barack Obama was first elected to the Presidency. I am not hesitant in admitting that. Nearly seven years later, I am confused about the success of this President and I have been made clearly aware of just how centrist he is. Many times centrism is wishy-washy nothingness; and in many cases during this administration’s governance it has been just that.


Afternoon Update:
This afternoon, having already posted the above blog, I read this paragraph from a letter written by Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet, in 1916. It got me thinking...

"Outside of poetry and art, security is only and every achieved at the cost of the most inescapable limitation. This diminishment consists of choosing to be satisfied and pleasured by a world where everything is known and where preoccupation with self is both possible and useful. But how could we want that? Our security must become a relationship to the whole, omitting nothing."


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