Evaluating Obama's initial year
Issue date: 1/8/10 Section: Ed-Op
I know students who live in a fantasyland about the grades they're earning, but nothing compared to this. I decided to make my own report card, dividing Obama's course work into six categories: (1) restoring the rule of law; (2) Iraq; (3) Afghanistan; (4) reviving the economy; (5) health care and (6) global climate change.
The rule of law being restored proficiently is important because we've just survived a regime, installed by a judicial coup d'etat that has weakened our nation far more gravely than 9/11, which spent eight years feeding the Constitution into a shredder. Obama's first task was to bring the ringleaders of this regime to account, and to signal in word and deed that the days of executive tyranny were over.
His response? He declared that Bush and his minions were off limits to any prosecution, or even a judicial inquiry. Obama forestalled any congressional investigation by tying up the leadership of the two houses for a solid year in the health care debacle. This, in addition to lining the pockets and guaranteeing the monopoly interests of the insurance giants and Big Pharma, also scuttled meaningful regulation of the financial markets and a host of other pressing reforms backlogged by 40 years of reactionary politics.
Obama declared that he would close Guantanamo Bay, but what he didn't say was that he would reopen it at a new prison site. At this site in Illinois; detainees can still be held indefinitely without charge or trial-this, after eight years of confinement. He authorized show trials in some high-profile cases but signaled that the defendants might continue to be held even if acquitted. Stalin or Mao themselves couldn't have gamed the judicial system better.
In other respects, Obama has extended the Bush regime. His justice department has invoked the so-called state-secrets privilege, a novelty pirated from the British and widely used by Bush, to quash a California lawsuit challenging Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. A federal district judge in Washington, D.C. has meanwhile held the defense department in contempt for failing to record the interrogation of a detainee as mandated by the court.