Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reviewing My Presidential Wish List

(Five Paths, sculpture by Richard Long 2002 at New Art Centre, Roche Court, England)

Reviewing My Presidential Wish List

Let me be up front: Lesbian/gay marriage is not one of my top 10 issues. Nor even in my top 20. I support it, as I support all human rights causes, but I don't believe marriage represents the ultimate expression of love and commitment, and I'd rather the state get out of the marriage business altogether except for a few basic rights accorded in civil unions for EVERYBODY.

The problem with the recent DOMA brief is three-fold for me, none of which really are about supporting lesbian/gay marriage. First, written into this brief is hate: Hateful lies and arguments which will be used by the Right for possibly decades to come. Second, either Obama is not in charge of policy decisions on a hot-button issue or he's lied in a major way about his intentions. Third, the alleged "Constitutional expert" is flat-out wrong on this issue, where law has been perverted to support politics in order to keep one segment of the population separated from Constitutional rights everyone else enjoys.

Believe me, if this kind of language and stance had been taken with regard to any other population in our country, I'd be just as outraged. More to the point, so would be a lot of people who are currently trying to explain it away as either an accident or some kind of "President's sekwet pwan to whip inflation".

In the bigger picture, for all of you screaming about how it's only been four months, this is one of a series of failures in this new Presidency that are far, far more serious, failures which could easily have gone the other way while he had political capital and intense support to make the Change he ran on. Back when I decided what the key issues were for me in choosing a Presidential candidate, here's what I came up with, in order of importance:

Restore habeas corpus. (This includes closing GITMO.)
Stop and reverse unitary executive expansion. (This includes halting the use of signing statements except occasionally for Constitutional issues and releasing access to documents such as who visits the White House.)
Stop torture. Period.
Enact public health care for all (you bet socialized medicine -- insurance not tied to employment or private companies.)
Halt all illegal domestic spying and reveal what has been done in this area over the past eight years.
Rely on foreign policy that uses military force (or the threat of it) only as a very last resort, and which removes the use of nuclear weapons from the table altogether.
Support unions and working people instead of the economic elite. (This means throwing strong support behind EFCA, ending corporate welfare, and penalizing companies who send American jobs overseas.)
Get us out of Iraq fast.
Appoint Supreme Court justices who are not reactionary.
Prosecute the crimes of the former administration. (This would include releasing torture photos and tapes.)
Immigration reform that involves paths to citizenship, increased work visas, and no more imprisonment of families with children.

(Oops. I guess I forgot I was supposed to be "driven by identity politics" or a PUMA when I was writing this list.)

Now let's rate this Presidency according to actual performance, not Obama's speechwriting ability. The red items are where he has ALREADY failed. The green items are where he has lived up to either progressive hopes and/or his own campaign promises. And the blue items are where he could still take positive remedial action.

From 11 main items I looked for in a Democratic Presidency, Obama has already gone the opposite direction entirely on five main items, mostly or partially failed on two more, delivered on only one main item, and left three with room still for Hope and Change.

What upsets me most is that I felt we had one slim chance to stop the power grab Cheney set into place, a power grab begun under Reagan (may he rot in hell), but Obama has gladly clapped onto his head the laurels of Imperial Presidency. Which means it will be that much harder for any future ethical Democrat to roll it back, if we ever get one elected, but the more likely scenario is future Republican Presidents will find it a short hop to dictatorship and theocracy.

All this refusing to assign responsibility or correct insanity eddying around us has not won Obama a single ally or vote from the opposition. It will not grant him kind words in future biographies. I think a more accurate description comes from Jill at Brilliant Hussein At Breakfast, who in her post You Don't Have To Be Gay For This To Piss You Off says "There's Barack and Rahm, still trying to win over the very same Christofascist Zombie Brigade that's been calling Obama a Muslim and a terrorist and appearing all over Fox Noise to whip gun guys into a frenzy." You don't deal with domestic terrorists by going appeasatory on them, and I say that as a Quaker. You also don't reason with authoritarian-based hydrophobia. You do the principled thing and keep going.

Jill, by the way, identifies a large part of the problem as Emanuel Rahm. I can't pass up this quote from her: "Note to the President: Jettison Rahm...the sooner the better. Because he is an albatross around your neck.. He thinks his political instincts are great, but he's just another cheap, glad-handing sack of shit who schmoozes and strongarms and thinks that's what's important. Perhaps you are too. But if you don't want to be thought of this way, get rid of this guy. Because he is going to steer you wrong every damn time."

Whatever the source of the infection, we have to diagnose its effect on our system and cry for a halt. We'll have to seek remedy in Congress short-term, and be honest with one another in public as often as we can. Because we believe in the rule of law, not personality.

(Hat-tip to Distributor Cap for inspiration for this post.)