The Wait-and-See President

Link: The Wait-and-See President

Courtesy of Mondoweiss, just a brutal takedown of President Obama:

We now know enough about the president’s behavioral patterns to begin to weave a coherent narrative. The Wall Street fiasco, the BP oil spill, the approach to Palestine/Israel, Jeremiah Wright, Charles Freeman, the Afghanistan escalation, the Pakistan drone war, and a host of other cases demonstrate Obama’s “leadership” style. The three steps we’ve seen repeatedly are: wait and see; spin favorably; and act minimally to avoid doing anything that might stick come elections.

Our new understanding can help us calibrate our strategic focus. Basically, Barack Obama’s only passionate cause is his own reelection, not human rights or the rule of law or the environment. The silver lining in all of this is that by linking our votes to human rights or the rule of law, we can influence the president.

Like I said, brutal. Yet, in some ways, unsurprising. I read Matt Bai’s long think-piece that’s running in the New York Times Magazine this Sunday, and it raised the same question: at the end of the day, besides his re-election, what does Obama really stand for?

Nobody knows. Like the former Soviet Union, he’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. 

What he also is is frustrating. Like many other people, I chose to focus on Obama, the progressive revivalist, and dismissed Obama the cautious, mincing centrist. 18 months after being inaugurated, it’s clear that I was mistaken. While there may be progressive achievements (such as the beginnings of health care reform), it’s clear that they’re not going to be used as building blocks for building a progressive movement.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with the other elements of the linking article (and it’s a profoundly unpersuasive article, at that – full of sound and fury, signifying little but anger). That said, the part excerpted by Mondo was, I think, an elegant formulation.

*Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve yet to figure out what Organizing for America stands for beyond saying that the President is Awesome. Which is fine, but that’s not what a movement is made of. 

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