About a year into the Obama presidency a conservative friend of mine (yes, I have conservative friends, I just don’t let them forward email to me) was teasing me about whether I was disappointed in Obama yet. I said no, and the truth was that I wasn’t disappointed. A little frustrated? Yes. Occasionally perplexed? Sure. Increasingly impatient? Absolutely. But not disappointed, because I thought, it’s coming. O is running a classic rope a dope on the oppo, waiting for them to exhaust themselves with their overheated rhetoric, their unhinged hyperbole; he’s playing some heavy multidimensional chess that would blow your mind if you glimpsed even one tenth of the big picture, and one of these days (maybe not until the second term) he’s going to bring the hammer down. And when he does, it will be epic.
I know, I’m an idiot. But I could forgive the passing of an overcomplicated, corporate-friendly health care bill and I could even forgive (just barely) the passage of a toothless financial reform bill that not only condoned but actively rewarded the felonious, globe-wrecking debauchery of a bunch of white collar sociopaths — if nothing else, these were the proverbial steps in the right direction. But there was always one area where incremental, Third Way bullshit was not going to work, and that was torture.
We can’t torture people. It’s that simple. It’s counter-productive, barbaric, illegal, and deeply, profoundly immoral. I thought this was all resolved a long time ago, but apparently it needs repeating: we can’t torture people.
Which brings us to today’s disconcerting news:
P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.
Sources close to the matter said the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website WikiLeaks.
Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
This is all starting to feel awfully familiar. Does anyone remember Larry Lindsey? Speak the truth: get fired. It’s déjà bush all over again.
Or as Glenn Greenwald put it:
So, in Barack Obama’s administration, it’s perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing “suicide watch” restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense. Good to know.
So, am I disappointed now? Well, let’s just say I’ve stopped holding my breath for Obama to bring down the hammer, except perhaps on his own base. Funny thing about disappointment. Before Obama, I never had many expectations for presidents, even those I’d voted for. Oh sure, since I started voting in 1984, I have had the same sad MDCCGKO (Mondale/Dukakis/Clinton/Clinton/Gore/Kerry) voting record as every other battered liberal out there (full disclosure: I can’t remember voting for Clinton the second time but, even though this was during my short-lived conservative phase, I know I didn’t vote for Dole — I may have voted for Perot just as an FU to Clinton), but it wasn’t until Obama that I pulled the lever enthusiastically. It wasn’t until Obama that I listened to a candidate’s words and actually believed them, felt uplifted by them.
In that context then, yes, I am disappointed. I don’t regret my vote by any stretch (and I certainly never yearned for a Clinton interregnum), but if I’m honest I’ve got to say, yeah, I am baffled by this administration, especially the first two years when the Democrats so thoroughly squandered their 3Ms (momentum, mandate, majority). If the Republicans had been handed the White House and both houses of Congress, by the end of two years crude oil would be served as a vegetable in the school lunch program and the Endangered Species list would include only liberals and immigrants.
In the end, I think what is most frustrating to me is not that Obama has been relentlessly maligned as “the most radical president in American history“; I expect nothing less from the Right Wing Wurlitzer. It’s that he’s been so maligned when in fact his actual governance has been so consistently middle of the road it could share the bill on the Eagles reunion tour.
What I wish most in this world is that Obama would actually start behaving like the guy they hate.