The Nations februarnummer har viet stor spalteplass til synspunkter på Obamas første år ved makten. Her ved to av dem:
The highest points have been his incarnation of the fight against racism, still alive after the long battle for civil rights and his plan for healthcare reform.
The sharpest disappoints:
§ Guantánamo, a universal disgrace § Afghanistan, a poisoned chalice, accepted and celebrated § His raising of the war budget, still called, who knows
why, the defense budget
§ His nonanswer to the climate and yes-man answer to
Wall Street, a contradiction captured perfectly on a poster outside the Copenhagen conference: “If the climate were a bank, it would be saved”
§ His green light to the authors of the military coup in Honduras, betraying Latin hopes for change after a century and a half of US-fabricated coups against
democracy in the name of democracy
§ His recent speeches praising war, hymns to the ongoing butcheries for oil or the sacred cause of racketeer govern- ments, so utterly divorced from the lively words that put him where he now sits
I don’t know. Perhaps Barack Obama is a prisoner. The most powerful prisoner in the world. And perhaps he cannot notice it. So many people are in jail.
I’ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.
As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a tradi- tional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican—as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there’s no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordi- nary people—and that’s been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama’s no excep- tion. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.
I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That’s the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presum- ably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes presi- dent, and he’s not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as “suspected terrorists.” They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he’s not advancing the cause of consti- tutional rights very far. And then he’s gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he’s continued the policy of send- ing suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.
I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president—which means, in our time, a dangerous president—unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.