Thursday, July 7, 2011

Obama *always* looks bad when he's working

Like everyone else, I've been disappointed in Obama's public wishy-washy-ness, his pathological desire for compromise and consensus with a lunatic opposition. Time and again it looks like he backs off and backs down and the Republicans run roughshod all over him, when he could make a different choice to stand up stronger, speak up earlier, or use the language of a more forceful conviction.

I don't want to deny his moral failures: on any number of anti-terrorism practices (government surveillance, Guantanamo Bay, the PATRIOT Act, ad infinitum), or the financial meltdown. On the other hand, despite superficial appearances, he has clearly been working against DADT (the Pentagon's "no gays" policy) and DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex relationships): these are clearly going down. Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government's feeble defense of DADT and lifted its stay, meaning the military had to stop enforcing it immediately, rather than "as soon as we're certain it won't impact operations." The administration's "defense" of those laws has been hard to judge: one Justice Department brief on DADT, in particular, was viciously homophobic. In retrospect, it looks more like the administration has been giving everyone cover and saying "okay, well, we tried to defend it, we failed," while the courts rightfully eviscerate them. It's been a long and complicated game.

So it's depressing to watch what looks like him getting batted around on the debt ceiling issue by the GOP, like a budding sociopathic child pulling the wings off a fly. But it wasn't all that long ago that we were saying the same things about him during the health care reform process, which most of us were surprised to find ending in the passage of an imperfect bill that nonetheless puts us well on the road to truly universal health care.

Several times now, Obama has played Rope-a-Dope, allowing himself to suffer bad political optics while playing more subtle games to successfully accomplish his goals. To be honest, I think he's earned a little benefit of the doubt. Let's sit back and let the man work.

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