As a former college newspaper editor, I’m a sucker for a great lead. The Philadelphia Daily News last week had one of the best I’ve ever seen. In a piece about how local pol Dwight Evans was caught in a fib (on tape!), writer Dafney Tales’ led with this: "Someone needs to get state Rep. Dwight Evans a new pair of pants because they’re on fire."
This reminds me of how not long ago a virtually unknown U.S. Senator from Illinois was gearing up to run for president in a Democratic primary against a former First Lady and U.S. Senator with a rather hawkish record and a history of support for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the dark horse candidate Obama should prevail in the gargantuan task of upsetting that former First Lady, he would then have to run against an ardent war hawk named McCain, a patsy for the Bush-Cheney agenda that included more foreign intervention, constitutionally dubious wars, and a bewildering approach to fiscal issues that suggested, in Cheney’s view, that "deficits don’t matter." Pat Buchanan had even suggested on MSNBC that "John McCain will make Cheney look like Ghandi" when it came to issues of military power and foreign interventionism.
Candidate Obama spent the bulk of 2007 and 2008 preaching from the gospel of fiscal responsibility. He said he would correct the mistakes and deficits of the Bush years, reform foreign policy, and show a way forward from the Bush-initiated wars. Obama upset the Clinton political juggernaut, beating Bill and Hill at their own game and capsizing the Democratic machine. He then KO’d McCain, blazing the trail for what he described as "change you could believe in."
On November 11, 2007 candidate Obama declared that "When I am this party’s nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq … And he will not be able to say that I waivered on something as fundamental as whether it is okay for America to torture because it is never okay."
As my old professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School for Public and International Affairs Don Goldstein used to say when lecturing about world history, "that was then and this is now."
Now that we’ve look at then, it’s time to consider now.
• Two years and two months into the Obama administration the economy is still in shambles, regardless of the stimulus passed in early 2009.
• The Patriot Act remains un-amended and continues to threaten the liberty of our countrymen.
• Our government still engages in torture.
• No Child Left Behind continues to hamper our states from serving as the laboratories for innovation and reform necessary to develop the educated populace of the future.
• The one-sided "free trade" deals that are killing American manufacturing remain as they were prior to Obama’s inauguration, despite his pledges in places like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to renegotiate them to get American workers a fair deal.
• Today we are fighting three unauthorized, unconstitutional wars on Muslim soil rather than two, with no end to American involvement in sight.
• Despite the pleas of border states and cities like Hazleton, PA and Manassas, VA grappling with the challenges of illegal immigration, Washington has done nothing to address our half-baked disaster of an immigration policy and has left the states hanging in limbo.
Candidate Obama closed that Nov. 11, 2007 speech in Des Moines by saying that "I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ Because I believe that there’s such a thing as being too late, and that hour is almost upon us."
Today that "fierce urgency of now" has been dashed upon the rocky shores of reality. Obama’s agenda for America over the last two years has gone from a clarion call for sweeping change to a status quo yawner representing the thing that he warned us Hillary and McCain would initiate: a Third Bush Term.
Instead of promised health care reform, he’s delivered a plan that further enriches industry and continues to leave millions behind. His energy bill failed despite his party’s own historic numbers in the House and Senate. He’s ramped up the two wars he said he was against before he was for them.
Last week upon his decision to skirt the U.S. Constitution by launching a war on Libya, Obama suggested that the mission there would be brief. Like Bush cajoling us into a decade long commitment in Iraq, Obama suggested that there are "dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States" if we did not act immediately and without congressional consent.
Just a few days later on March 27, the AP’s Bradley Klapper reported that America’s involvement in the Libyan "operation could continue for months." Obama’s own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has even refuted the President’s claim that the situation in Libya threatened American interests. In his own words on ABC’s "This Week" program on March 27, Gates acknowledged the Libyan situation "was not a vital national interest to the United States."
Today the national debt stands at $14.2 trillion with the U.S. Treasury reporting that it will rise to $19.6 trillion by 2015. We already have a $1.17 trillion tab for two foreign wars to which we are committed indefinitely and are now pledged without authorization to a third. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate today is at 8.9 percent, a full 2.1 percent higher than it was on Election Day 2008.
For those keeping score at home, welcome to the Third Bush Term.
Is it not time for someone to get Mr. Obama a new pair of pants?
Nathan R. Shrader is a PhD student in the Temple University Department of Political Science. He can be reached at [email protected]