SUICIDE BY NEGLECT

If you criticize President Obama and his administration for just about anything, one of the responses you’re likely to get from their supporters– and don’t be surprised if it’s a smugly annoyed one, as though you’re an idiot for criticizing– is that the biggest problems Obama is tasked with ameliorating– the two wars; the economic crisis; the gulf oil spill; our collapsing physical and governmental infrastructures; etc.– are mostly products of conservative governance, and all were made especially bad during the time of Dubya and total GOP dominance of the federal government.

To this I answer: the response is factually correct. Most of our problems are products of conservative governance. The Bush/GOP Congress years were especially bad, in that the right wing (especially due to the political capital reaped from the 9/11 debacle) was able to grab so much off its wish list that the country was damaged in so many critical (and probably as yet unknown) ways. This means, though, that the cure must be as drastic and immediate as the affliction. We’ve let ourselves be bitten repeatedly by a venomous snake, and we don’t need a doctor to tell us to put our feet up and rest a while. We need the antidote, and we need it five minutes ago.

I did not vote for Obama in 2008, because I saw that he was stocking his camp with the kinds of people who were either architects of the current crises, or were at least ideological gatekeepers for the philosophies that facilitated those crises. For example, there is no way that corrupt free marketeers like Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner should have been let anywhere near our nation’s financial regulatory machinery, especially when morally and intellectually sound people like Elizabeth Warren and Paul Krugman were available.

Even worse than the dark promise of Obama’s campaign advisers has been the trajectory his administration has taken since coming to office. Some of the worst behavior ever by our highest government officials occurred during the recent GOP reign. Much of it is easy to prove, as it was put in writing, and much of it was so cartoonishly corrupt and illegal as to be begging for prosecution. However, to date the most significant Obama DOJ prosecution of a Bush-era official is of a whistleblower who helped expose Bush administration crimes. It appears that either the Obama administration doesn’t want to set a precedent for prosecuting behaviors that it wants to engage in itself, or perhaps it doesn’t want to upset the apple cart full of bad actors that it finds useful to its own ends. Perhaps both. This moral equivalence was foreshadowed by Obama’s refusal, in the midst of Israel’s assault on Gaza in December 2008, to take a strong stance in the face of the lame duck Bush administration’s virtual applause of the mass murder. Obama uttered a meaningless, pusillanimous statement about not being in charge yet while his lieutenant David Axelrod enthusiastically parroted the Bush administration’s blatant lies about the nature of and motivation for the Israeli action.

As we watch the latest oil spill spread across the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps even share its life-choking presence with the eastern seaboard, we shouldn’t blame Obama for that. We shouldn’t even waste too much time criticizing him for recently offering some support for increased off-shore drilling. However, we should get on his case and be willing to condemn him if there are no criminal charges filed against the corporations responsible for this foreseeable and preventable disaster, and we should unequivocally berate him and the Democrats if no serious and comprehensive regulations are not immediately forthcoming. (We should demand much the same regarding the recent mining disaster.)

In summation, it is not that we should load all the blame for our nation’s woes onto the shoulders of Obama. Neither should we give him and the Democrats a pass for failing to take necessary measures to try and fix those problems. I’m not optimistic for the near future, however. The propensity of Democratic voters to play the role of Charlie Brown to the party’s Lucy was not interrupted in recent Democratic primaries. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see many incumbents sent packing.

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