Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obama: The Good, The Bad, The Grotesque

Barack Obama has now been in office 100 days, plus about a month. Everyone was impressed with all that he accomplished in those first few months. I've noticed that the Obama administration is facing a flurry of legislative battles, Republican challenges and news cycles that spin quickly until the next day dawns and they all go at it again.

In the past month, Obama has maintained his 65% approval rating, despite being faced with challenges from both his opponents and his friends, sometimes inadvertently and sometimes direct and in your face.

I will outline those issues Obama has faced that have had everything from a positive impact on his legacy to those that could drag it down.

The Good:
  • Auto mpg: Seeds planted and pressure applied earlier have given Obama the wherewithal to push for the auto industry to produce cars that get 39 miles per gallon by 2016. This was a helluva coup for the president.
  • Healthcare Reform: The medical industry got behind the need for change last week. After past efforts, they decided they'd prefer to be in the room while decisions are made.
  • Credit card legislation: Although this legislation tacked on an addendum that allows gun possession in a national parks, millions of Americans will be protected while they hold their credit cards due to this bill, which Obama should sign before the weekend.
  • Timing: Not only did our president display incredible timing during his comedy routine at the annual reporters dinner, he is losing no time moving through the many changes he promised during his campaign.
The Bad:
  • Mexico border: Remember when this hit the news and some Republicans were pushing for a military presence along the border? Obama handled it coolly, and somehow it's lost its impact since the flu broke out.
  • Swine flu: This is serious and was raised to a high level of importance. Things have calmed down, but could peak again next fall. Nonetheless, the Obama government, again, demonstrated the scientific approach lacking in the past.
  • Israel/Palestine: Obama and Benyamin Netanyahu met this week. I would be amazed if Barack and Hillary can work out something lasting, especially considering Netanyahu's right wing coalition. Unfortunately, this means a lot more ugliness on both sides of the wall. Now, if for some ungodly reason, Iran were to send a rocket into Israel, all bets are off. This becomes an area of grave, grave concern, since the next large conflagration could then occur throughout the Middle East.
The Ugly:
  • Iraq: Violence is up. There is the agreed upon date for us to get completely out, but we'll be leaving Iraqis to fend for themselves. My projection is that the democracy we imposed upon them will disintegrate and civil war will be a possibility. The end result will be a federation or a religious state, like Iran.
  • Iran: Iran just sent up a long-range missile, which has raised lots of eye-brows, as well as hairs on many people's arms. I pray the talks Obama has begun will grow into open negotiations that will bear fruit. Such a process will be easier if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loses, and a new leader is elected into power in the middle of June.
The Really Ugly:
  • Guantanamo: Is Obama going to close it? Probably, but it won't be done this year. Personally, I believe there was a sort of collusion between Rahm Emmanuel and the Democratic Caucus, which tacitly allowed the legislators to say "Not in my backyard" and deny Obama the $80 million to close it down. First, it's true a plan has not been developed to shut it down. Second, more time is needed than the year initially anticipated. It sucks, but the Obama timing factor was off on this one. Gitmo will close, though. I'm sure of it.
  • Military tribunals: Will there be any transparency here? How will it play out? I'm not a lawyer and don't get all the legal intricacies, but these military trials must be fair, or else there could be more negative impact in the Muslim world.
  • Torture Photos: Obama was right on this one, but the courts may overturn his decision not to release more disgusting photos to the public.
  • Torture: It's like a cancer spreading. First, the question: Did they torture? Well, as long as the MSM use enhanced interrogation techniques, it'll never end up what it truly was: t-o-r-t-u-r-e. Then, who did it? CIA employees were exonerated. The lawyers who deemed the torture not torture were exonerated. Dick Cheney finally admitted that it was "waterboarding" that was used, and that Bush was aware of it. Then, the Republicans try to spin torture away from "Who did it?" to "Who knew?" Nancy Pelosi has handed them a gift on a platter with her hemming and hawing. Somehow, this issue must be dealt with by an independent group, who should publish a report like the 9/11 Commission. Trying the creators, approvers, and instigators is no longer an option, but this is just dragging on, with only the perpetrators winning out.
All of these negatives remain, festering from the Bush administration, and Dick Cheney's doing all he can to keep the putrid mess he left behind slopping up on Obama. Unfortunately, some it's beginning to stick.

The Outright Grotesque:
  • Economy: Are we seeing just a blip of improvement that heads south again? When will unemployment turn around? This is, again, a problem Obama inherited from Bush. But, after the first 100 days, it's now Obama's problem. If he can't turn it around, he's toast.
  • Af-Pak: No end game in sight. This is a quagmire and Bob Gates' change of the military leadership last week was an indication of just that. What is the mission? I'm not certain they're certain.
President Barack Obama's first 100 days may have seemed like a whirlwind of activity. From here on out, it's all going to get faster and more chaotic. I know that he can take on any challenge. I'll do my best to keep up.