Somewhere in Cyberspace
I am transformed from defeat to victory by the insightful articles in your forum "Debating Obama" [Aug. 30/Sept. 6]. Thank you for defending the idealism of President Obama in a shark-infested Congress.
Somewhere in Colorado
I’m furious about "Debating Obama." The picture of Obama on your cover creates an impression of sadness and failure. The forum begins by saying how disappointed people are in his presidency. Then you tell the real story: how the Bush legacy, the structure of the Senate, the power of money, the culture of finance, entrenched ideology, the aggressive dishonesty and partisanship in the conservative media, and the weaknesses of the MSM are the reasons Obama has had to compromise on his pledges. Why not make that the lead instead of making the reader feel bad at the outset? Give Obama some help instead of putting him down!
GAIL MOORE SUGGS
Count me among the disappointed progressives. All the forum responses were brilliant. As a black man I was impressed by Salim Muwakkil’s comments on Eric Alterman’s reluctance to include an analysis of how race has affected Obama’s presidency. Many white Americans continue to deny that the Tea Party is driven by mostly elderly white people’s refusal to accept a black man as president.
Michael Kazin’s statement that "no presidential campaign…can substitute for a social movement" is true. But forgive this political idiot for believing we had such a movement when I watched the cross section of society at the victory rally in Chicago. I agree completely, however, that "the American right cannot pose a single serious answer to any problem plaguing the United States or the world." In this lies my hope that we will not be annihilated in November.
The "Debating Obama" forum spotlighted some big obstacles to progressive change, but the discourse was notably hazy about presidential accountability for calamitous policies. It was a bad sign that the word "Afghanistan" did not appear anywhere in the forum’s seven pages. (What would we say about a "Debating Johnson" forum in August 1966 that didn’t mention Vietnam?) Whatever the limits to the president’s options, he wields gargantuan power—and makes fateful choices.
While the political terrain is cemented with structural factors, no systemic analysis should absolve government leaders of moral responsibility or basic accountability. "The system" may be to blame, but since when does that let the president—or anyone else—off the hook?
After eighteen months, we should be discussing how progressives might try to bell this cat—a president who has clearly embraced what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism," in tandem with an array of other grim policies, including promulgation of extensive corporate agendas in the guise of "reform" and continuing encroachment on precious civil liberties like habeas corpus. The discussion is spreading inside the Democratic Party.