I was just starting to read Ryan Lizza’s “The Second Term: What Would Obama Do If Reelected?” in The New Yorker when my friend Dave Baugnon, a filmmaker from New Orleans, asked me the same question. Now I find that the more I read the more a gap grows between what I would like him to do and what he will probably try to accomplish.
According to Lizza, Obama’s campaign is highlighting noble intentions like dealing with climate change and containing nuclear proliferation, but he fudged in 2010, reluctant to confront Congress, on these very issues. The old question will continue to loom of “who Obama really is:” “an aspiring compromiser, a lawyerly strategist, or a bold visionary willing to gamble to assure his legacy.” His best opportunity for a breakthrough on energy policy, immigration, or tax reform, Lizza says, would come in 2013. It is more likely that he will spend his last two years on foreign policy. If he wants to leave a mark, says Lizza, he’ll need two things: a sense of humility, and a revitalized faction of Republican lawmakers willing to make deals with the president. It seems implausible to suppose that Obama would turn radical in his second term. And if he wins in November it will be by smallest margin in history. So much for hoping for a “mandate.”
If he has time for just one big initiative, what should it be? Housing reform, energy policy, immigration, the infrastructure? Several staff members favor “a bold infrastructure package . . . what would create jobs, has a government reform component, and could establish a legacy in the form of an upgraded power grid or high-speed train, with which Obama might forever be associated.”
Today’s Obama is not the man we hoped for when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Guardian Weekly (June 8-14) lead essay is about the man who has expanded the drone missile program and personally picks the targets, determines who shall die. His “kill list” defines a militant as “any military age male in the strike zone.” What would we say about the leader of another country who applied that principle to us? David Miller, a foreign policy adviser to both administrations says, “Obama has become George Bush on steroids.” In Monday's New York Times Jimmy Carter demonstrates that the United States has “abandoned its role as the global champion of human rights.” In drone raids the deaths of innocent women and children are considered inevitable. Guantanamo still houses 169 prisoners who will never be charged because they were tortured and can’t be tried.
I would like to see Obama eat a bottle of courage pills, straighten his backbone and confront those he seems to fear most: the right-wing Israeli lobby which has no desire at all to see peace in the Middle East and a just two-state solution; and the NRA gun-lovers who couldn’t care less when they read of the maniacs who shoot down students in classrooms or the street criminals who settle their differences by murdering somebody. I think many American Jews would support Obama if he cut off aid to Israel until they dismantled the illegal settlements and reached an agreement with the Palestinians on the two-state boundaries. And the America people would listen if he really taught them why guns in your house, car and pants do not make a safer society. Yesterday’s New York Times front page says, RATE OF KILLINGS RISES 38 PERCENT IN CHICAGO IN ’12. These gang wars and crime waves are not just bad kids killing other bad kids. They are a symptom of a sick society where the poor and weak become increasingly marginalized and the idea that human lives don’t mean that much anymore can start at the top of the pyramid where high tech drones blow away terrorism “suspects” and down below frustrated, ignorant, poor, unemployed urban drop-outs solve their “issues” the same way.
Raymond A. Schroth