More of same

You know, I certainly supported the President in his campaign, and I readily admit, I was taking a flyer: Barack Obama was an enigma, and I, just as was the case with almost all of his other college classmates in Columbia’s class of ’83, didn’t know him in college, and quite frankly have learned little if anything of the man since (other than what he wrote in his own memoirs, which, btw, are in an interestingly detached tone).
That said, it would really be out-of-bounds for me to say that I’m terribly disappointed by today’s “in your face” to me, and those miillions of others that supported him somehow expecting some improvement in our polity, to wit, the President’s reversal or a prior commitment to release detainee abuse photographs in response to an ACLU lawsuit seeking their disclosure. The ACLU’s response is that this makes them very angry… very angry, indeed. And I think Andrew Sullivan kind of nails it with his suggestion that, given policies vis a vis Afghanistan and toward stonewalling ultimate accountability for the prior crimes of the prior Administration, President Barack Obama appears to have been co-opted by Dick Cheney, and by in effect serving as an accessory after the fact for war crimes, effectively commits his own. Sully also notes that newly appointed commander-of-theater in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, who may have had a role vis a vis torture in Iraq. Worse yet, the stated rationale of today’s stonewalling is that it will somehow “harm our troops” if we behave the least bit transparently, and show abuse that the world is damned sure existed anyway (though the American people may be forced out of some level of complacency in their faith in “a few bad apples.”) Well, well. So much for “hope” and “change”. Certainly, we were entitled to “hope;” it seems that the “change” was more than what we were entitled to hope for.
In short, those of us who supported the President and hoped for better, but aren’t seeing it, have the absolute right to be disappointed, but absolutely no right to be surprised. Indeed, we really didn’t have a right to expect anything at all, including that the President would keep, or even try to keep, some of his core promises. And indeed, he hasn’t quite broken all of them yet… he still has nearly eight months not to close Guantanamo, for example. [On that, for example, I remain cautiously optimistic that “the executive review” will start concluding that most of the men held there should be released; OTOH, I’m not holding my breath, and I understand that most habeas corpus counsel are pressing on with their court cases rather than surrendering their clients’ fates to executive whim and caprice.]
And so, what we have seen thus far… continues. The rhetoric about transparency and accountability is wonderful, and we’re delighted to hear it. In the meantime, I still see virtually unchanged policy on state secrets, applicability of habeas to Bagram and other lawless gulags (besides GTMO), only one GTMO prisoner released despite now dozens “cleared” by courts, and in general, policies much closer to the Bush Administration’s than anyone would care to admit. Sure, we have a massive infusion of deficit spending, including some social spending that may or may not pay off in terms of “stimulus”, not to mention humongous transfers of taxpayer money to compensate financial institutions for their own mismanagement. And maybe we have some populist reining in of credit card issuers, who only brought it on themselves with their outrageous behavior since the credit crisis (wantonly raising rates, slashing limits, closing accounts, etc., even when the subject banks were well-capitalized). And perhaps, someday, we’ll see… progressive taxation again? Just saying…
But by and large… other than rhetorically and in terms of personnel (which is not nothing, to be sure, though it is not much), I’m at somewhat of a loss to see how things would have been terribly different in a McCain-Palin Administration, or for that matter, a third Bush Administration; Justice Souter, for example, might not have announced his retirement, I suppose… but he’s hardly an old man, and he could have waited a bit; Justices Ginsberg and Stevens, will probably announce their retirements later in Obama’s first term… and I agree, at least that would be “a change”. Of course, we wait to see who the President will name. The irony, of course, is that Obama’s greatest accomplishment may be to appoint the very judges who are forced to rein in his own plans for executive excess (or at least to continue the excess of his predecessor).
Oh well. We’ll just have to wait for the detainee abuse photos. This has been “More of Same.”