Accountability, transparency and change. Such were the promises of Obama during his campaign and during the first few months of his presidency. Change would be transparent, and those who committed past transgressions would be held accountable. The biggest flaw? He relied too much on the general public, and sincerely believed that as they wanted change (hence them electing him into office) they would also agree with pretty much everything he proposed.
I was thrilled that within a few days of his officially taking up office, he denounced Guantanamo and stated that it must be closed and quickly proposed a brand new stimulus package to jump start the economy. He cautioned that decisions must be made quickly and a stimulus package must not be developed within the “politics as usual” mentality. Shortly thereafter, he proposed an examination of U.S. practices regarding the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as water-boarding, and again asserted that it would now be U.S. policy to follow the Geneva conventions. Such times for Obama were grand and he was riding on enormous public support, unprecedented by a newly arrived President almost reaching the 70% approval mark while coasting nicely above 60% in the Gallup Polls. Then the tide began to turn.
It started with photos that Obama decided to release regarding the victims of water-boarding techniques, and peaked with information regarding large bonuses being paid to banks and large financial institutions that received bailout money. Obama was wise in ceasing the release of additional photos, as it would undermine the U.S. intelligence gathering machine, forcing such individuals to constantly analyze an order based upon whether or not it might become illegal in the future. The bonuses, however, are another story. Indeed, he was quick to use very explicit language regarding the giving of such bonuses, but the damage was done and the government was in a bind based upon the legality of being able to actually stop the bonuses form being paid. However, popular support was still rather high for Obama, holding a higher than 60% approval rating. Regardless, much political capital was already paid out and many proposals, such as the stimulus package, were largely uni-partisanly based and it finally caught up with him. Nevertheless, feeling confident and seeing his approval rating still above 60% through the month of July, the Obama administration believed they had the ability to initiate one of the most ambitious changes in the first few months of Obama’s presidency. Health care reform.
Oh how those three little words have proven to dramatically change Obama’s position in the political spectrum. Though it may take a student of brain surgery to actually understand the bill, grouped together with dramatic accusations of what the bill will do to private insurance companies on both sides of the center, the compromise of getting rid of the public option all together threatens to undermine the Obama presidency less than a year he is in office.
If only he would have thrown a little bit of a bone to the Republicans.
Everything that he set out to do along with the energy in which he did it, has climaxed to this point. Though touting the need for bipartisanship and the need to stay away from “politics as usual”, it sadly has turned out to be quite the opposite. The Democrats for once took advantage of a reeling Republican party who did not know its own identity, as well as having a majority in Congress, to state loudly that the tables have turned and refused to give the Republicans any concessions regarding the stimulus package and crammed in any provisions in bills that the Republicans might have blocked in the years before. Unfortunately they picked the wrong time to do it.
True enough, America’s health care is in a dire state. This has been established. What is lacking is an honest dialogue by both parties, as well as a clear, sophisticated debate on the issue. The general public has reared its ugly head and accused Obama of Nazism, a criticism that is highly unintelligent and unwarranted. Nevertheless, the inability to work with the other party, despite it collapsing internally, has finally came around. The public option, which is a critical component of the bill, is in danger, not because of it necessarily being bad or even “evil” as many of its critics will jump at the bit to explain, but because the Obama administration and the Democrats failed to sell it and woo private insurance companies and the Republicans that it is actually a good thing. Instead, reliance upon a majority in Congress as well as a large public support base gave false hopes to the Obama administration that it could get away with seamlessly passing health care reform based solely upon the Democrat’s vision of what it should look like. To put it simply, they became lazy and the rooster has finally come home to roost.
American government was not built to be fast moving, in order to implement any type of reform or law instantaneously, especially when it is a controversial one. Instead, America’s government institutions were built to move slowly, check what the other is doing, and provide a forum of sophisticated debate on proposed legislature. What has been lacking is the latter, and the American population is in the process of doing a 180º turn and populist movements are jumping on the opportunity.
The greatest mistake was that Obama did not take to heart the Shakespearean concept of what a general public is. They may love you in the present, but it does not take much, nor a lot of time, for their mood to change, and the politicians that represent them to obligingly turn around, and reveal their hidden daggers.