Civil Affairs: Obama


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In early November, after months of ongoing decay, President Obama’s approval rating dipped below 40%. According to some (admittedly unreliable) sources, the number now stands at a mere 37%. At this time, I will note the grievances of that not-so-silent majority of 55-63% of Americans who disapprove of our incumbent Commander-in-Chief.

Those who have known me (and suffered through political conversations with me) before I began Texpatriate (August of 2012) will recall that I supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, as much as a kid in junior high could really support a candidate I suppose. Following then-Senator Obama’s victory, I lent my full support to him and was an ardent supporter for much of his first term. However, following an embarrassingly unsuccessful confrontation with Republicans in August of 2011, I withdrew that support, mainly because I believed the President was not doing enough for liberal/progressive values. Shortly after he announced his change of heart on same-sex marriage (in May 2012), I had a change of heart on his performance and ultimately was an strong supporter of his re-election effort and otherwise a supporter ever since. Today, however, my critiques come much less from the left and more from the point of view of a typical American who has been slighted by the incompetence and ineffectiveness of the current administration.

No doubt, there are still issues that remain where my displeasure of President Obama’s administration is still abundantly evident from either a socially liberal or libertarian point of view. His continued support of the Patriot Act and the use of unconstitutional tactics at Guantanamo Bay are positions anathema to the virtues of this country and traitorous to those of his ideology and political party. His expansion of both a drone program that ignores due process and a clandestine government agency that spies on this nation’s own law-abiding citizens and allies demonstrate a continuation of his predecessor’s (George W. Bush) eerie ways. But at what point do these positions cease being simply left-wing critiques and begin being an embodiment of a greater disconnect and unhappiness from the American populous?

Broad majorities of the American public oppose the spying programs, and some of the loudest opposition has hailed from otherwise Conservative voices –Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, to name a few. Recently, the US House of Representatives nearly voted to defund the National Security Agency, the branch responsible for this spying program, in a vote laced with equal numbers of both Democrats and Republicans.

The continued failure of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, also shows the steep failure of the administration. While many apologists for the regime may claim that a faulty website should not cause one to be ready to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” so to speak, the inverse may sadly be true. As I wrote in another recent opinion piece, without a functioning website, individuals will be unable to sign up for the exchanges, and the entire program will be put in jeopardy.

Indeed, the past two months have seen provision after provision of the law delayed yet again while others are now tied up in Court. As so much uncertainty continues, the law may not be up and functional by the end of President Obama’s term, making it all the more likely to be repealed by a succeeding Republican President.

All of this underscores the most basic reason for my current disappointment in President Obama: he has accomplished nothing in over two years and will continue to accomplish nothing for the remainder of his Presidency. When I previously broke off my support in the late Summer of 2011, I wrote that since Republicans retook the House of Representatives, President Obama had done nothing of value. The only bills passed since that time have been emergency spending measures passed at the last moment.

It would be incredibly naive and remiss of me to place the burden of Washington’s gridlock squarely –or even partially– on Obama’s shoulders, but this does not excuse him from not accomplishing other goals as President. After similarly being faced with an obstructionist and recalcitrant Congress himself after two years, President Clinton turned his focuses abroad, worked with opposition and took his case directly to the American people. President Obama has done none of those things; at least, successfully.

A recent snafu in Syria accomplished nothing but lessened America’s standing and credibility in the world, all the while an evil tyrant continues murdering his own people. A recent so-called “deal” with Iran does nothing but push the showdown over the country’s nuclear aspirations down the road, and was recently compared to the infamous Munich appeasement by Commentary Magazine. And as the Israelis and Palestinians are further than ever from a peace deal, Obama’s foreign policy initiatives look to be an unmitigated disaster.

Granted, working with the opposition has been nearly impossible for President Obama, so I will give him a pass on that, but one should not excuse his embarrassingly poor dealings in taking his case directly to the American people. For a man often called one of the most eloquent speakers and articulate campaigners of our time, President Obama has been brutally awful at conveying a clear, concise and simple message to the American people on his policy goals. This is important now more than ever as his signature legislative achievement, Obamacare, begins its implementation. Even assuming a worst-case scenario second term, one was always able to note that President Obama’s lasting accomplishment, his quintessential legacy, would be the passage and successful implementation of a groundbreaking reform and restructuring of the nation’s healthcare system. Now that is no longer an assumed conclusion. I ask, then, what has President Obama done since the Republicans took over Congress? Please tell me if you figure it out.

And before anyone asks, given the other options, I do not regret voting for or even outwardly supporting President Obama’s re-election campaign last fall. Given that President Obama will never be on another ballot, it is our duty both as Americans and as Democrats to offer constructive criticism of his administration. I want President Obama to succeed, but I believe the aforementioned issues are impeding that success.

Noah M. Horwitz published a weekly column, “Civil Affairs,” in a Boston newspaper from 2012-2014He has since transferred the column’s home to Texpatriate.

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