In a long article in the September edition of Harper's Magazine Thomas Frank argues that Obama's conciliatory nature has led his first term to look like a Bush third term.
Frank starts out his Harper's article by noting that Obama won the presidency four years back in a wave of what he calls progressive fantasy.
But instead of continuing using progressive terms and adopting progressive policies he has borrowed Republican similes.
Obama likes to compare the national budget to a family budget. Just as when times get tough families have to tighten their belts so does the government. This analogy has long been used by Republicans. Obama is a Democrat and Democrats are supposed to believe in government spending when the economy is declining.
Obama also likes to say that America should look forward not backward. Hence he is not going to look at such past practices as rendition or Bush's torture policies or at who was responsible for the financial disasters of 2008. As Frank puts it:.” It’s a kind of intellectual amnesty program that has absolved in one fell swoop the nation’s failed political leadership and pundit corps."
Rather than closing Guantanamo and trying those held in civilian courts he has revived the military tribunals that were so reviled during the Bush term in office. Many who are there will continue to be held without trial.
In other respects as well the Obama program is warmed over Republican policy. Obamacare is based upon material borrowed from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Romneycare in Massachusetts. Obama's bank bailouts resemble Bush bank bailouts. The chairman of the Fed under Bush is still there under Obama.
Obama did decide to go on a populist mission and apparently go after Wall Street but as Frank says:When he decided to go populist and snarl at the One Percent, he took
care to dispatch an emissary to New York to let the finance industry
know he didn’t mean it. (Just as he didn’t mean it when he badmouthed
NAFTA or promised to revisit the Patriot Act.)
Although Obama has constantly pursued compromise with the Republicans and adopted conservative ideas on health care, deficit spending, and other areas his reward for trying to move to the middle and compromise is to be described as a socialist dictator!And yet, in the great electoral contest that has now commenced in
earnest, it is Barack Obama the would-be socialist dictator who stands
on trial. Back in 2010, a leaked Republican presentation identified
“sav[ing] the country from trending toward Socialism” as the G.O.P.’s
strongest fund-raising appeal.
As Obama reaches for compromise the Republicans can move further to the right. At the same time the political spectrum becomes so warped that the Republicans can offer some of the same policies that created the financial mess as solutions namely more deregulation and more tax cuts. If at first your ideological claptrap fails then try it again and fail again. As for Obama he is regarded seriously as leading the U.S. to European style socialism. While willing to compromise and anxious to reach bipartisan agreement Obama keeps having his agenda set by the right as he moves further and further towards their positions as they move even further to the right.
I am not sure that Frank is completely correct although his analysis is interesting. I have always felt that Obama was basically conservative to begin with. His foreign policy positions illustrate this. If anything Obama is more hawkish than Bush except for his withdrawal from Iraq. Even there he withdrew completely only because the Iraq government would not allow troops to stay without being subject to Iraqi law. There remains a huge presence too in the huge embassy and its associated staff and security personnel.
Obama has had his very own surge in drone attacks and has spread the war on terror to Africa and Yemen and is challenging China in the Pacific.
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