Our Readers and the Obama Promise

Jeffersonville, Pa.

The “Obama at One” issue [Feb. 1] shows exactly why progressives are at a disadvantage. The divergent, even contradictory, positions expressed reflect a movement in disarray. Meanwhile, conservatives remain a unified juggernaut. Congressional Republicans are in near-total opposition at every turn. On the left, by contrast, we see division. Perhaps such diversity of opinion reflects an orientation that fosters intellectual diversity. As good as that is, it suggests that energy is being spent in internecine quarreling.


Scotts Valley, Calif.

Bernie Sanders’s ideas are all good, but they don’t address what got Obama elected: he offered hope for change, and then nothing changed. The crooks and lobbyists still run Washington; Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld’s unconstitutional practices are still in effect; we are still bleeding treasure and lives in the Middle East; the insurance industry still controls healthcare. Real change would consist of a flat-out progressive offensive that reversed every practice visited upon the nation since the Republican revolution; rolled out Medicare for all; reinstated the Wagner Act, Glass-Steagall, usury laws and a full-blown replica of the WPA! That would give the GOP and the Blue Dogs something to scream about and give the people who had hope in ’08 something to work and vote for. And it might save the Obama presidency.


Bangor, Me.

In his assessment of Obama’s first year, Ariel Dorfman cites the “woeful mishandling of the Honduras coup.” The coup was not mishandled. Clearly Obama did not want the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, back in power. Obama’s handling of the coup was not a case of incompetence but one of successful policy implementation.


Bloomington, Ind.

Your issue on Obama’s first year only hinted at its most basic lesson: our anachronistic system is bankrupt. In any other democracy, an executive with Obama’s skills and sizable majorities would already have passed healthcare reform, climate change laws and banking regulation. The source of Obama’s failure is our eighteenth-century government, crafted by men deeply skeptical of democracy. The Senate discriminates against voters in the populous states. The Electoral College is a quaint leftover. The Supreme Court is more powerful than its foreign peers. Our constitutional amendment procedures are the most rigid on the planet. At every juncture, well-organized obstructionists can block legislation. Our system places undue burdens on those who seek reform while privileging defenders of the status quo. Your writers should not blame Obama but an obsolescent system badly in need of an overhaul. We elected a pretty decent new president last year. Now we need a new democracy.


Raleigh, N.C.

I was happy when Obama was elected, but I knew thinly veiled racism would continue to prevail. I was also apprehensive about his ability to translate his rhetoric into reality and am disappointed that he can’t seem to turn the corner. I feel he was elected to be a Democratic president, not a bipartisan one, especially since the Republicans clearly have no intention of being bipartisan. But despite a mixed-results first year, I still think he might become the leader his rhetoric projected!


Arlington, Va.

Not one of the twenty contributors to your forum mentioned the president’s failure to act on his pledge to be a “fierce advocate” for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender rights, though he reiterated it at a Human Rights Campaign gala and at a White House reception for GLBT advocates. He has done nothing to secure the inclusion of GLBT victims of violence in federal hate crimes legislation. On the Obama campaign trail, I worked with GLBT volunteers, many now deeply disillusioned.


Arlington, Va.

I think the late, beloved Howard Zinn and Adolph Reed Jr. had it about right: Obama is nothing but a neoliberal Democrat wedded to war, empire, the corporations, the banks, Wall Street and the rich. I never expected otherwise.


Clinton Township, Mich.

As a former Obama supporter, I must say he continues to amaze me. He says he doesn’t want to punish Wall Street. He doesn’t want to push for a public option. Now he’s talking about building nuclear power plants and offshore drilling. This is change we can believe in? I’ve never seen a president abandon his base so completely. He will rightly be celebrated in history as the first black president. But I suggest he should go down in history as our first Bud Lite president–sounds great, less filling.


Summit, N.J.

Only one of your forum writers–Andrew Bacevich, “a conservative who voted for Obama”–recognizes that Obama’s inability to break with the military-industrial complex is his central failure. So long as the MIC is able to drain trillions from the economy for the open-ended and strategically hopeless war in Afghanistan, there is no way that Obama, for all his rhetoric, can escape inevitable failure. His first step toward success would be to request the resignation of longtime Bush loyalist Defense Secretary Robert Gates.



Here’s what I see: a president who was against the Iraq War and who is ending it; a president who has pulled us away from the brink of economic disaster; a president who treats the rest of the world as his equal, not his servant, and has restored the respect the United States enjoyed until George W. Bush; a president who tries to include the Republicans, even though they have slandered, insulted and disrespected him; a president who respects the Constitution and upholds it; a president who is trying to do the right thing, admits his mistakes and tries to correct them. At one year out he is doing just fine under some of the most difficult conditions this nation has ever been through. Thanks, Mr. President.




We at Molly Ivins’s beloved Texas Observer frequently wonder, as Eric Alterman does, “What Would Molly Say?” [Feb. 1]. The Observer aspires to say the kinds of things she did and would about the things that mattered to her. Oh, what a glorious time she would have had with the events and personalities that have confused, amused and frustrated us in the three years since her death. Thank you for remembering Molly, who was co-editor, for her perceptive and humorous take on the affairs of state and the world. We are, all of us, indeed “the more the lesser for her loss.”

CARLTON CARL, The Texas Observer

Beware the CAT

Crawfordsville, Ind.

In “Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Healthcare” [Feb. 1], item 6 warns, “Beware of the overuse of diagnostic imaging procedures such as MRIs and CAT scans. They add to costs and radiation exposure.” While ionizing radiation (the kind found in X-rays and radioactive materials) from CAT scans is a definite concern, MRIs do not expose patients to such radiation. Indeed, that’s a major advantage of MRIs over CAT scans.



In Miriam Markowitz’s “A Fine Romance” [Feb. 8], it was Newland (not Newbold) Archer who was agonizing over whether to leave New York with Ellen Olenska.

In Lawrence Lessig’s “How to Get Our Democracy Back” [Feb. 22], Blue Dog Mike Ross is from Arkansas, not Alabama.