Barack Obama has few, if any, more adoring fans in the world of establishment punditry than New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. Back in February, Herbert constructed an entire column around the ultimate Obama fan cheer: he venerated Obama as a "chess master," a "championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike" who "is smart, deft, elegant and subtle." That's what makes Herbert's superb column today -- lambasting Obama for his "unwillingness to end many of the mind-numbing abuses linked to the so-called war on terror and to establish a legal and moral framework designed to prevent those abuses from ever occurring again" -- so significant.
Note that Herbert is not complaining that Obama has failed to move fast enough to fix these problems. Rather, he's exclusively criticizing Obama for Bush-replicating policies, positions and abuses which the administration has affirmatively embraced and aggressively defended. And as Herbert suggests in his last sentence -- in which he argues that Obama's actions are mutually exclusive with the pledge "to get our moral compass back" -- these issues were not ancillary to progressive objections to the Bush presidency but were central to them. As Herbert says: "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House." If a full-fledged Obama admirer like Herbert has the intellectual honesty to acknowledge this and be angry about it, that's a fairly compelling sign of just how extreme this has now become.
There's a lot between those quotes. Go read.
I'm torn. On the one hand, I trust Obama simply because he's everything Bush was not. I want to trust him. I have no doubts whatsoever that Obama is orders of magnitude better than Bush in terms of intellect and engagement. I feel better with him in office and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in a lot of areas.
On the other hand, some of the things he's doing piss me off too, particularly 'preventive detention'. I understand the concept, having been 'preventively detained' a few times so I wouldn't hurt myself or others, but I was always released when I sobered up and walked out of jail with a charge sheet and court date in my pocket. Open-ended years-long preventive detention is a crime Bush committed and I'm appalled that Obama is keeping that policy in place. If he can prove that someone is planning something against us and that detention prevented it, that's one thing, and he has a case in open court and that's OK. Locking someone down on spec is a different matter altogether, an unconstitutional abuse of power worthy of pussy cowards and war criminals like Cheney and Bush. I expected it from them, but not from Obama. How he uses it remains to be seen, but it's wrong. Period.
I hate Bush and Cheney, and the mere fact that they survived each night in office and were able to get up in the morning kept me pissed off anew every morning for years. It was no way for me to live but I survived it and hoped for a new day with Obama.
In large measure we're getting that new day with him, and I genuinely like him and respect him for the most part. I still have high hopes that the U.S. is on the road to recovery with him and I think we're basically on track, but in the areas that hold over Bush policies, he's fuckin' up big time and is a huge disappointment.
Always remember, one 'aw shit' wipes out 10,000 'attaboys'.