From bad to Obamabad

History will remember President Obama as the most liberal president with the most un-liberal act

Tomas Mega, U.S. correspondent, Nevada 


It began right here in Las Vegas.  In October 2010, roughly 300 western region employees of the Federal Government’s General Services Administration (GSA) had a regional conference at the M Resort, one of dozens of lavish hotel casinos that grace Las Vegas.  The four day conference cost taxpayers around $835,000.  That’s $208,750 per day. 

For a government agency whose annual operating budget is around $26.3 billion, that doesn’t seem like much.  But when news of the conference expenditures broke in April of 2012, it became an immediate scandal.There was a long list of damning expenses, including $5,600 for ‘in-room’ parties (hey, it’s Las Vegas!), $7,000 for sushi and nearly $3,000 for water bottles.  Well, it does get hot here.

Conservatives howled. Obama wasn’t minding the store.  Senior GSA officials lost their jobs, and Martha Johnson, GSA Chief, was forced out.  Las Vegas took yet another knock regarding its cherished “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” motto. Most of us here thought the bad press was over after Prince Harry put the crown jewels on display.

For the Obama Administration, the GSA scandal was bad.  Since then, we’ve had the Benghazi tragedy, a Justice Department memo saying it’s OK to kill American citizens with drones without due process of law, Justice Department seizure of journalist phone records in an effort to stop leaks, senior Democratic Senators describing Obamacare as a ‘train wreck,’ the Internal Revenue Service scandal over the Tea Party, and the revelation that our government, specifically the Executive Branch,  is harvesting data on ordinary citizens phone calls, emails, Skype calls and text messages.

If you were around in the 1970’s (I was), these recent disclosures all sound peculiarly Nixonian.  A conservative paranoid President, suspicious of the media and apprehensive of his foes, gives rise to burglaries of the oppositions’ Washington office, wiretaps of suspected enemies,  a litany of political ‘dirty tricks,’ and Watergate was born.   Conservatives were trampling on our civil liberties, the right to dissent and criticize, and journalistic freedom was under attack.  Democrats were summoned to preserve our civil liberties and curb the growing power of government and the Executive Branch.

Those were hardcore obsessed Republicans in office in the 1970’s.  You expected that from them.  Today, we have what some describe as the most liberal President in American history stomping on our civil liberties and Constitutional rights, pursuing journalists, and possibly dispatching the hyper-feared Internal Revenue Service after political opponents.

A mere six months into its second term, the Obama administration is besieged by scandal.  Few administrations escape some element of disgrace.  What makes this so unpleasant for Liberals is not only the scale and depth of it, but what defines it. Any examination of then Senator/Candidate Obama’s statements on civil liberties, government spying, whistle-blowing, breaches of freedom and privacy would conclude that Senator/Candidate Obama would passionately disagree with the actions of President Obama.  These are the excesses expected of a George W. Bush administration, and condemned by Liberals.  President Obama has not only embraced Bush-era programs, he’s expanded them.

So what’s happened? Possibly nothing more than the reality of the Presidency in a post September 11 world.  Obama says it’s really no big deal, and that he welcomes the debate.  Sure, there have been some excesses, but you cannot have “100% security and 100% privacy.”  Many Republicans and Democrats agree.  Many don’t.  And, as often happens in politics, divisive issues can make for very strange unions in the political bedroom.  The left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union as well as right-leaning Conservative Libertarians are unanimous in expressing their revulsion at these disclosures.

The predicament of balancing America’s security needs with its fiercely independent civil liberties began after the 2001 terrorist attacks.  Another attack, like the recent one in Boston, and the debate may be over.  Polls indicate that many Americans are ready to sacrifice their cherished liberties as the price to be paid for the war on terror, a war that is likely to never end.

But it’s Liberals who must bear the weight of the Administration’s heavy-handedness.  They desperately want Obama to succeed.  So far, the existing realities of the nation and the world keep getting in the way of their President and their ideology.  Even Obamacare, the hallmark achievement of the President, is in big trouble only a few months from its implementation.  As loopholes and inconsistencies in the cumbersome law become more understood, reliable supporters like labour unions are voicing disapproval at the very real possibility that their health care costs will rise.  If Obamacare goes bad, that could spell real trouble for Democrats.

Then there is Obama’s personal legacy as President.  All second term Presidents give focus to their legacy.  How will history view a Liberal President whose time in office will be remembered for some of the most un-Liberal activities undertaken by a Democrat?  Jonathan Freedland, the British columnist for The Guardian, summed it up when he wrote,“a lasting stain on his record.  In this, he is George W. Obama.”

That’s not just bad.  That’s Obamabad.

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