Commentary: Hope gives way to 'No, We Can't'

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 22, 2009 

You may remember all those Obama campaign cheerleaders for change chanting, "Yes we can!" during last year's campaign events.

This year, in the 10th month of his presidency, it doesn't really seem that they can, or that he can. Nothing much has changed except the size of the federal budget deficit and the National Debt, both swelling and swollen by the humongous bailout of Wall Street and the big banking corporations.

Any hope that we'd witness and celebrate a return to the rule of law after the departure of George W. Bush and his unindicted co-conspirators has long gone a' glimmering. President Barack Obama would rather face an uncertain future than look back at an ugly past.

Never mind that this nation was founded on the concept that no man, however powerful, is above the law, not even a king.

The president-to-be promised a swift withdrawal from the Iraqi quicksand, but that hasn't come to pass, either. Instead, we witness a slow-mo pullout that will sort of end things on the Bush administration's timetable of late 2011 for the last American combat troops to be gone, and God only knows when for the rest to leave. That's if the Iraqi parliament can pass a new election law in time for elections to be held on schedule in January.

Obama promised that America's Devil's Island, the prison for terrorists and not-terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, would be emptied and shut down by January of 2010, That doesn't look very likely now, either.

There was the promise of real reform of our faltering and very expensive health care system, which doesn't cover upwards of 49 million human beings. This administration would include a public option -- something very like Medicare for everyone -- to provide competition for the insurance companies and a negotiating lever to lower the price of pharmaceuticals.

Months were wasted as Blue Dog Democrats negotiated with Just Plain Dog Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, supposedly trying to write a compromise health care bill that would attract some, a few, okay just one, Republican vote to satisfy the desire for bipartisan support.

The White House, after negotiating on television some kind of voluntary price reduction deal with Big Pharma, sat back and let the Congress critters wheel and deal in the backroom while the health care lobbyists poured more than a million dollars a day into the legislators' back pockets.

Without the stick of a public option plan, which Obama no longer said was necessary, the only thing left to beat them with was carrots -- carrots and dead promises.

Candidate Obama, while promising to get us out of Iraq, also promised to refocus our attention on Afghanistan, the war long neglected by the Bush administration that he said really mattered when it came to our national security.

When he got into office, the new president promptly threw in another 20,000 American troops that the commanders said were urgently needed in Afghanistan. Now they're back lobbying for another down payment of 45,000, or is it 60,000? Do I hear 80,000? Will they be back next spring pleading for another 50,000 or 100,000?

Obama and his national security advisers are rethinking the whole Afghan thing, they say. Given their track record to date, can there be any doubt that they'll solomonically decide to cut the baby in half and call it a compromise?

We'll end up neither in nor out, with no hope of victory -- even if some of the wise men could define what victory in Afghanistan might look like. Someone in the White House will go on the Sunday talk shows and define it as a compromise.

Those who elected Barack Obama president hoped he'd be an agent for desperately needed change in America. Turns out he’s more of a politician, more a creature of Capitol Hill, than they could ever have imagined.

Helen Thomas, my old colleague at United Press International, recently stunned an interviewer when she said that Barack Obama "lacked courage." Helen sure got that right.

At a time when we need a display of raw courage and a commitment to lead America in a drive to reclaim what was right about our country and our people and restore a better vision of what we could become, instead we get compromise; we get a search for bipartisanship from those who will never deliver it; we get a bowl of mush in place of cojones.

I guess the answer really is: No We Can't!

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