Why I Criticize Obama

ObamaTo read some folks on Twitter and elsewhere, I’m simply an Obama-hater, someone who thinks because Obama hasn’t delivered a winged unicorn that poops rainbows I’m just stamping my feet in frustration. Why? Because I criticize actions by the Obama administration. I refer to actions as “weak” or call them a “cave-in.”

Balderdash.

I criticize President Obama because I think he and his team can do better. I critique them because we are in a world filled with gigantic problems and only a Democratic president is going to seriously address them. In addition to years of praise of Obama, I also verbally rap them on the knuckles when they screw up. And they have.

The stimulus should have been larger, and even within its limited size it should have been less about tax cuts and more about directly stimulative spending that had more of an effect on the employment figures.

On health care reform, Obama and the Democrats should have fought harder for a public option. I understand the votes weren’t there, but there is value both movement-wide and electorally in making the Republican party the one who killed the option, rather than have the Democrats take it off the table pre-emptively. As I’ve written before, there is value in inching the ball ahead for an initiative that you are destined to lose in the short run.

The inability to articulate a simple message around health care reform, and allowing congress to take the lead role on it past the point of absurdity were key factors in Republicans winning the House in 2010. It energized the conservative vote without a counterpart on the Democratic side. Had the fight for a public option gone on to the point where Republicans were the bulk of the vote sticking a knife in its belly, Obama and the Democrats would have had a stronger rallying cry going into the 2010 election.

On the tax cuts, while I understand the bargain that was struck at the end of last year was for the greater good – even though Obama got more out of it than I thought at the time – I still think it was wrong to extend this indecent give away to the uber-rich that was initially condemned by even John McCain.

In the most recent argument about the debt ceiling, Obama never seriously put raising revenue on the table. That is key to both our credit-worthiness and the fiscal balance of the country. Obama never seriously presented it as a factor in the debt negotiation.

These are all serious, important issues where I feel the administration’s desire to come up with a bipartisan solution defies common sense and reality. While I think it is important for a President to extend a hand out to the political opposition, the current GOP is not even as interested in working together on solutions as the hyper-partisan crazy Clinton-era entity. They’ve pushed back on Obama overtures since before he was even inaugurated, and they got worse after the Tea Party types won in 2010. So while I still want and expect for Obama to ask the GOP for help in running the country, he’s got to quit mortgaging everything on bipartisan support that isn’t coming. If even Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe aren’t going to be onboard, nobody is and the White House needs to act as if they’re in an ideological fight of some sort.

That said, I still support Obama and the broad outlines of his agenda. I think that Democratic leadership is far better for America than the Republican alternative. I think even the Democrats that are to the right of me are a better alternative than the Republican that could inhabit their seat.

But, I don’t do my sort of punditry in order to elect Democrats or to protect the Democratic party. While I was once satisfied to just have a (D) in a seat , that is no longer the case. When a problem comes up, I think we need to take the progressive solution and have the progressive politician with a forward-looking take on the issues on hand to solve it. I think America at its best has been progressive (worker’s rights, civil rights, scientific advancement, defending freedom).

If a Democrat is promoting a regressive, counterproductive solution, he or she ought to be called on it. Even if it’s a local representative all the way up to a President.

As I have for almost 10 years now, I will write online what I believe. I’m not angling for anything but an America that is more prosperous, forward-looking, and free.