JEFF PEARLMAN

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The Great Disappointment

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Barack Obama is approaching one year in office, and I’ll be blunt: Huge disappointment.

Huge.

My conservative friends predicted this, I suppose, and maybe they’re right. I’ve been happy with some of the things he’s done (primarily in the area if civil liberties) and deeply perplexed by others (not moving faster on Gitmo; ignoring gay rights, Afghanistan troop levels). He ran on some major issues, and he’s ignored most of those.

Yet it is tonight, as I sit here writing this, that my disappointment has turned to disgust. And it’s all because of health care.

If all goes along as expected, Barack Obama will eventually sign into law a health care bill that doesn’t do shit. I don’t like cursing on this blog, but I want my anger to bloom in full color. Barack Obama is about to sign a health care bill that sucks ass and doesn’t do shit.

Remember the public option? The thing that Obama based a good chunk of his campaign upon? Well, it’s gone. Farewell, adios. We Democrats can blame Joe Lieberman all we want (and I have—he’s the biggest snake in a lair layered with them) on this, but that’s letting our president off waaaaaaay too easily. Truth is, Obama talked a big game about the public option, then all but dumped the idea as soon as he won the election. Seemingly overnight it went from imperative to important to sorta cool to—poof! Gone. Instead, the new bill will force all Americans to purchase insurance from private companies at insane costs. And while (Good news!) companies can no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, they can (Very, very, very, very bad news!) charge people with pre-existing conditions as much as they want. Literally, they can invent a price, then hide behind, “Well, we offered coverage …”

Am I mad at the Republicans? Of course I am. Incensed. Across the board, they decided to universally oppose everything the president brought to the table; to make this—in Jim DeMint’s words—his Waterloo. They showed no interest in finding a way to offer health insurance to all Americans; they used terms like “death panels” and “taking away grannie’s rights” to scare off millions of citizens. Their principled stands against health-care reform lacked all principle—make no mistake about it … this was about winning future elections and damaging a president. Period.

And yet, I don’t care. I really don’t. Because we have a Democratic president with an enormous majority in the House and Senate. He had the chance to do this, sans Republicans; to use all that political capital and kick ass. Truth be told, he was blessed with the great opportunity to follow the Bush-Cheney approach to perfection: Pick your important issues and ram ’em down your opponent’s throats. Believe me, I detest Bush and loathe Cheney. But in this area, they were right. The Democrats weren’t going to negotiate with Bush on things like wiretapping, so the White House said, “Fuck it—we’re the powers that be, and this is important. We’ll go alone if we have to—and just try and stop us.”

Obama, however, doesn’t have that in him. He’s a negotiator; a deal maker. He wants to please everyone, even if we wind up with a diluted puddle of crud that tastes like moldy Tang. (If life were just, he would tell Joe Lieberman to f••• off. “You don’t wanna support this bill, in your liberal state of Connecticut? Fine. But I will make certain you never win another election. Ever.”) I had such high hopes for this bill; for people across the nation finally being able to seek medical help, income be damned. I also had such high hopes for Barack Obama, a man with the gift of eloquence and the curse of wimpiness.

In 2008, I voted for a man who was primed to lead.

In 2009, I am led by a man all too willing to follow.

You know what hurts the most? I love politics. Looove politics. Anyone who reads this blog knows it. But I can’t keep having my heart broken. Obama’s inauguration was one of the brightest moments of my life. Not merely because we had a Democrat, or because Bush was leaving, or because he was African-American. No, it’s because he seemed … different. Special. Genuinely prepared to lead. But as Keith Olbermann spelled out tonight in this must-watch dismissal of the president, politicians are politicians are politicians. Every so often someone unique comes along–a John Anderson; a Ross Perot; a Dennis Kucinich; a Ron Paul—and the establishment finds a way to laugh him off the stage; to dismiss him as too crazy; too nutty; too out there.

So what are we left with?

Jack shit.