The absentee president

In his regular op-ed column in The Times today, Paul Krugman had a harsh assessment of the performance of President Obama. I'm sorry to say that I think the president richly deserves every stinging word.

In 2008, American voters were crying out for new leadership. They wanted a moral leader who would get the country out of the morass it had been in for the previous eight years. They wanted a strong president who would stand up for the right against the forces of evil that have too often had their way with our government in recent years. They wanted a stark change in direction for a country that was headed to hell in a handbasket on the fast track. They thought they were electing an audacious leader who would not hesitate to make moral judgments and would once again put the country back on the right side of history.

Instead, they got a wet noodle of a president who cannot seem to stand firm on anything, not even on the most sacred values of the Democratic Party - values that have been defended over the years with the blood, sweat, and tears of martyrs. Honestly, FDR, Harry Truman, and LBJ must be spinning in their graves! This man will compromise away the bases of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The man who trumpeted the passage of health care reform only last year will wind up with millions fewer covered by health insurance unless somebody stops him.

As Krugman wrote:

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn't seem to stand for anything in particular?

That really says it all in a nutshell. He doesn't STAND for anything. His positions are constantly moving. And they are always moving toward the Republican position. No matter what outrageous demand the Republicans make - even destroying Medicare as we know it and replacing it with a voucher system - President Obama will pretend it is a serious and reasonable proposal, one deserving consideration. I believe he sees himself and wants to be known as the "Great Conciliator," the last reasonable man in Washington who is willing to consider anything.

Sir, some things are so morally out of bounds that they do not deserve consideration. Reducing the deficit and balancing the budget by cutting programs that people depend upon while giving ever bigger tax cuts to the richest of us - individuals and corporations - is one such thing. Keeping Guantanamo open because it would be difficult to close it is another such thing. Failing to fight for an energy policy that will address global warming and its threat to human civilization is yet another. The list is long. The disappointments are many.

In one regard, this president may be the luckiest man ever to hold that office. (There have been no women, of course.) His potential rivals from the Republican Party for the presidential election next year are all so lame and completely incompetent that he will probably win re-election while hardly breaking a sweat. That doesn't mean he will have deserved it.


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