Sunday, January 24, 2010

Howard Zinn: Obama at One.

As Zinn says it is Obama's rhetoric rather than his policies that stand out. In spite of his change of tone with respect to the Muslim world in practice in areas such as the Palestine Israel peace process nothing has happened and he has not been able even to restart peace negotiations. Zinn does not mention Honduras but there his rhetoric again was no match for reality. The coup leaders in effect won and Micheletti snubbed negotiatiors and then simply refused to follow through and presidential elections went on as if nothing had happened. The US will nevertheless recognise the results. Zelaya was never returned to the presidencyand Micheletti never resigned!

The Nation
Obama at One: Little Surprising in Absence of Progressive Social Movement
by Howard Zinn

Looking back at President Obama's first year in office, The Nation asked members of its community to give their assesment of his performance. You can share your take on Obama's highest and lowest moments in the form provided here. Here is historian Howard Zinn's response:

I've been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama's rhetoric; I don't see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.
As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that's hardly any different from a Republican--as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there's no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people--and that's been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama's no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That's the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he's not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as "suspected terrorists." They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he's not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he's gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he's continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.

I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president--unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.

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