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Ear to the Ground

Obama’s Presidential Epitaph Has Been Written: ‘What Was the Point?’

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Posted on Mar 4, 2014

White House/Pete Souza

Somehow I missed Gary Younge’s provocative, fair and devastating review of the Obama presidency in The Guardian. Others didn’t, and it’s making quite a stir.

Here’s just a tantalizing taste:

Barack Obama has now been in power for longer than [Lyndon] Johnson was, and the question remains: “What the hell’s his presidency for?” His second term has been characterised by a profound sense of drift in principle and policy. While posing as the ally of the immigrant he is deporting people at a faster clip than any of his predecessors; while claiming to be a supporter of labour he’s championing trade deals that will undercut American jobs and wages. In December, even as he pursued one whistleblower, Edward Snowden and kept another, Chelsea Manning, incarcerated, he told the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”

If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.

But you really need to read the full commentary here to get a sense of the poetry, the comparison with Johnson, and more.

Truthdig contributor Scott Tucker sent that to me, along with some other reading material worth commenting on.

Recently I found myself at a bachelor party in New Orleans and somewhere in there between Mardi Gras parades and drinking too much, the never-ending Obama argument happened. “Are we really going to do this here?” I demanded of the group of young and younger men, all of whom suddenly looked old and older and all of whom voted for Barack Obama. Some view him a disappointment—to say the least. Others see him not getting the credit he deserves. Some were just too drunk and ignorant to comment. Really, we all were. The point is, this argument stalks me wherever there are Democrats or lapsed Democrats or independents who changed their minds. We’re two elections in and I’ve had enough squabbling about Barack Obama’s legacy potential.

It’s time to sober up, read Gary Younge’s original, essential commentary, and have an adult conversation about it. Now take it to the comments, if you please. This area is reserved for beer pong.


—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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