Barack Obama and missed greatness

Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was wrapping up his presidential campaign, I thought to myself, “This man just might have greatness in him.”

I wasn’t 100 percent certain, but hearing him speak … watching him inspire hope … seeing the reactions people had to his words, well, I’d seen precious few people carry that sort of swag. We are, after all, a country always looking to be inspired and moved; always looking for that beacon of light atop a hill. Here, in Barack Obama, I thought we were in for something genuinely different.

I was, it turns out, mistaken.

I don’t think Barack Obama has been a terrible president. He’s 1,000 times better than George W. Bush; 100 times better than Jimmy Carter; 10 times better than Gerald Ford. But, come day’s end, he’s, well, sorta mediocre. Always compromising, always taking the meek way out; always talking an incredibly great game while delivering lukewarm leftovers. The president I thought I was voting for was a fighter; a battler; a leader; a man who held certain steadfast beliefs and would do anything—anything—to fight for them.

Again, I was mistaken.

What has inspired me to write such words was New York State’s recent legalization of gay marriage. Much credit goes to Andrew Cuomo, our governor, who took the lead on a controversial issue and, through much backroom negotiating, made it happen. Years from now, he will go down as a central figure in the battle for equality; a leader who, when called upon, led.

Meanwhile, our president—a liberal man from a liberal state; someone who knows what it is to struggle as a minority—has done shit on the issue. S-h-i-t. He wooed gay and lesbian voters with big talk; he accepted their donations with the faint promise of being their spokesperson. And yet, here we are, the tide changing, and the man who should be guiding the way takes zero (literally, zero) action. It is embarrassing. And pathetic. And, worst of all, weak.

The argument comes: Oh, it wouldn’t be politically wise. He has an election to win in 2012. The nation isn’t ready. Well, bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Back when John F. Kennedy and, with his death, Lyndon Johnson (a friggin’ Texan, for Christ’s sake!) fought for (and passed) the Civil Rights Bill, they had much to lose. So many states were against it … so many Southern Democrats would never forgive their party … yet Kennedy and Johnson kept in mind the most important thing: They were right. And they were willing to fight.

Our president is unwilling to fight. He is soft and genteel, and while I applaud the capture of Osama and was psyched for health care reform (which, even in its passing, he wussed-out on) and believe some of his fiscal policies saved us from even greater disaster, I am horribly dissatisfied by his overall record.

To hell with politics.

I want a leader.

PS: That said, not this leader.

10 thoughts on “Barack Obama and missed greatness”

  1. Would you respect Obama more if he just came out and said ‘I support gay gay marriage completely, but I believe that it is a state issue” rather than playing politics (which people can see right through) and saying “My views on Gay Marriage is evolving” and giving nothing?

    Because people would respect him if he did that. He would give a clear stance and even Michelle Bachmann would agree with that (Republicans & their States’ rights). I think you have to let the states decide for themselves, rather than ‘force’ the issue. The change is happening.

    Obama is walking on eggshells in a divided country. He’s been a disappointment, but he walked into an impossible Presidency given what Bush handed over to him. If he loses the 2012 election over gay marriage, then we all lose.

    There’s 100 other more pressing issues that you can name (job creation; the wars; healthcare; immigration; climate change; oil or lack thereof; education; foreign relations; technological innovations; cures for diseases) that, if a Republican were in charge, there would be a great chance that they would fuck up 1 or more of these things that our country would never recover from.

    Bush was extreme, but the (religious) right seem to have been hijacked, dominated, and influenced even more by the extreme now more than ever. Fighting for gay marriage would be a short-term win and something to be proud of, but long-term? It may not matter at all if there’s no oil or alternative energy resource and if nothing is done about the climate. We would all be fucked (and maybe we already are no matter what).

    My fear is that Obama fighting for Gay Marriage would be a Pyrrhic victory.

  2. This sums up my thoughts perfectly.

    It seems that rather than leading, his goal is to become some sort of Christ-like figure who brings everyone in Washington together. That is not a president’s job. His job is to lead and to solve problems which, for the most part, Obama hasn’t done.

    Unfortunately, the GOP is such a disaster that Obama is the best we can do.

    I deeply regret supporting Obama over Hillary in the primary. He has devolved into a much worse version of the Republican-lite president that I feared she would be.

  3. Marty, TPOTUS said in an interview with evangelical pastor Rick Warren that he is morally opposed to homosexual marriages. You can look it up on YouTube.

  4. Obama did say that to Rick Warren and during the 2008 Election campaign (so did Joe Biden). But he has also said (along with his press secretary) ‘my views on gay marriage are evolving’ and even came out to applaud New York a bit.

  5. Well, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is coming to an end, right? I think it’s unfair to say he hasn’t done anything for the gay rights movement. If I remember correctly, his Justice Department has also stated that it will not defend the legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    I’d love to see Obama wipe the floor with the GOP on all of the issues with which I think the Republicans are “on the wrong side of history.” But he isn’t. And things are changing anyway. So I accept being left emotionally frustrated in exchange for the movement I see on the issues that are important to me.

  6. I think David Brooks has it right when he says that Obama would be a better Senate Majority Leader than President. He too often tries to slowly build consensus rather than actively pushing an agenda. It certainly is nice to have deliberation after the ‘my way or the highway’ Bush years, but it’s ultimately a weak leadership style.

  7. Well put. In fairness, Hillary, Edwards and the rest of his legitimate Democratic competition in ’08 seemed to limit their support of the gay community to tolerance of civil unions. However, that’s not an excuse. If leaders failed to lead beyond the herd, we’d still have “For Whites Only” drinking fountains.

  8. I think Hillary would have been a capable president, but I wonder if she would have carried on many of the Bush Cheney policies as Obama has done. As for Carter, while maybe he was not the greatest president, I think he tends to get a bum rap, primarily over the hostages.

  9. I’m generally supportive (perhaps overly supportive) of Obama, but I’m insulted by his lack of support for gay marriage. And I’m not gay. I’m just someone who grew up in a country where “equal rights for all” was taught in classrooms and preached by politicians as if it was actually true. It isn’t. The fact that marriage equality is even a debate is baffling to me. If hope is indeed audacious, as our President once said, then stating the truth should be fairly easy. And that truth is that presented with an opportunity to support equality for all citizens, our President took a pass. That, I believe, is unbecoming of a President, just like marriage discrimination is unbecoming of our country.

  10. Do you want him to lead or to win?

    Because if Obama had come out and said, “I think New York should pass this” then all of a sudden a bunch of GOP state senators who were thinking of voting it have a big problem.

    That was a tough enough vote for them. If it had looked like they were doing Obama’s bidding, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

    Sometimes, leading isn’t about shouting.

    And had Kennedy lived, the Civil Rights Bill would have been shoved in a drawer.

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