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Disappointed in the administration

President Barack Obama gets high approval ratings for his job perforamnce. And many Democrats share that opinion. I count myself among them, usually. But as a progressive, I feel it is only balanced to post a few less than rosy evaluations of how the administration is doing. The stories with quotes are listed in chronological order.

Former Marine General James Jones is President Obama’s national security adviser. I have always liked him, and admired his candor and honesty. But some are saying that he is not like the usual Obama team members in this cut from Politico.com: “Reporters have a Jones for NSC profiles,”” (5/8/09). To quote:

Readers of The New York Times and The Washington Post opened their papers Thursday to find strikingly similar articles about President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, retired four-star Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr. Funny coincidence — coming seemingly at random after 108 days in office. The stories, which featured some of the same anecdotes, weren’t pegged to any particular event or policy but, rather, focused on his management style.

. . . For weeks, Democratic insiders had been buzzing that Jones was strangely absent from key meetings, leaving to deputies the “staffing” of Obama — the delicate task of sitting with the president and shepherding national security meetings, large and small.

. . . Chatter like that could have led to a broader perception on Capitol Hill and with the public at large that Jones is ineffectual or out of the loop. So what looked on the surface like a publicity offensive by Jones on Thursday was likely more of a publicity defensive — an effort to contain a PR brushfire before it becomes a blaze.

One of the marks of the selection process for Obama appointees has been the controversy over their difficulties with the vetting process. One reason is that the standards set were very high, and another was the administration’s willingness to make exceptions for people they really wanted. Get the lates facts from investigative journalism nonprofit, ProPublica: “Dig into more Obama admin. financial disclosures,” (5/6/09). To quote:

What do you learn from reading these disclosures? You get a firsthand look at who is running government agencies and crafting new regulation. Lawrence Summers, director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, made millions speaking to banks that recently got bailed out. Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan Krueger received a book advance of at least $180,000 (plus royalties). Not all White House staffers live cushy lives outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is still paying off a $200,000 debt for his children’s college expenses.

The reality is that President Obama and candidate Obama had to have been thinking about nominees to the Supreme Court almost from the beginning. And there is nothing wrong with that. But now the opportunity has arrived and we see this from CQ Politics:Posturing on Supreme Court pick continues; no selection likely this week,” (5/5/09). To quote:

In timing his first nomination to the nation’s highest court, President Obama is balancing competing political imperatives: He needs to wait long enough that key senators in both parties feel that he seriously entertained their suggestions and weighed their advice. But waiting too long would give his conservative critics the opportunity to mobilize and to attack potential candidates pre-emptively — making it more difficult for the Senate to confirm a new justice prior to the August recess.

President Obama is turning around an ocean liner that has been captained by lobbyists for far too long, as he tries to “change the ways things are done in Washington.” But one does not make such a huge u-turn rapidly as we learn in another story from ProPublica: “In the stimulus bill, one zoo stands above all others,” (5/4/09). To quote,

The economic stimulus law explicitly bans state and local governments from spending stimulus money on zoos. But it makes no mention of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where Luke and Soyono live.

. . . Despite multiple restrictions and cuts to appease budget hawks, federal and local officials have found ways to fund projects that were criticized during the congressional debate.

Creating jobs is at the heart of the first big legislation passed by the 111th Congress. The promises made regarding the Stimulus Package job creation are examined in another piece from ProPublica, “Fact-checking Obama on that job count,” (5/1/09). To quote:

In President Barack Obama’s news conference [1] on Wednesday night, he said the $787 billion economic stimulus bill has already created or saved over 150,000 jobs. We decided to find out how the president arrived at that figure.

The simple answer: guesswork. It turns out the feds don’t have a way to measure exactly how many jobs have been created or saved, so they use projections instead, and it’s all rather academic.

Progressives are perhaps as hard on the President as are Republican right-wingers, though in a very different way. Here is an example from liberal Mother Jones Magazine: “Obama Sides With Banks accused of Racism,” (4/7/09). To quote:

At the end of April, the Obama administration will go before the US Supreme Court to argue that those banks—including bailout recipients Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase—should be allowed to duck a state investigation into their lending practices.

. . . Instead, the banks will be defended by the office of Obama’s new solicitor general, former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan, whom some conservatives have branded a “radical leftist” because of her record opposing military recruitment on college campuses.

President Obama’s positions on accountability for the torture practiced by the previous administration, along with his failure to fix the civil liberties losses in the warrantless wiretapping program, are perhaps most difficult for Progressives and liberals to swallow since he was sworn in. One of our blogger favorites,”emptywheel”‘s post is just one of hundreds of examples of such criticism: “Tell us how the signing statements were used,” (3/9/09). To quote:

Obama says he will use signing statements, “with caution and restraint” (whatever that means).

. . . Which signing statements have executive officials been using? The one overriding the McCain amendment prohibiting torture? The one telling Congress to feck off in its requests for data on the uses and abuses of the PATRIOT Act? Or my personal favorite, the one saying that, even though Congress cut off funding for such things, the Administration could still use funds to data mine American citizens?

Really. I’m glad Obama is promising all this “caution and restraint.” But aren’t we owed some accounting for how these have been used in the last eight years?

Though I am sometimes disappointed in the Obama administration I am generally awed, admiring, amazed and pleased by how well he has done so far. So my little digest of criticism is at and end now, and I will probably not do a similar one again very soon.

[Post date – May 8, 2009]

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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