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Now THIS is the Obama we voted for

Barack Obama had quite a week last week.  Combined with his recent trip to Europe and the Middle East, we’re starting to see “hope” and “change” interacting with the real world.

Obama’s first 100 days have been dominated by economic concerns, and with good reason.  Ultimately, Obama’s first term will be defined by the economy.  But the reality is that Obama’s economic decisions have been largely dictated to him.  Though you wouldn’t know it from listening to conservative talking heads, had a Republican won the presidency his economic policies would have been quite similar to Obama’s.  It’s easy for the GOP to criticize Obama’s stimulus now that they’re out of power, but the reality is that economic theory demands government spending during a recession.  The size of the stimulus is largely dictated by the size of the crisis.  A Republican president (or another Democrat) may have allocated the money differently, but the bottom line would have been much the same.

That’s why, despite the unprecedented size of the stimulus (and of our national debt), Obama hadn’t done much of anything outside the box.

That’s changing now.  He’s completely changed the United State’s relationship with Cuba merely by easing unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions.  In response, President/Dictator Raul Castro has indicated a willingness to at least talk about sensitive (and previously off-limits) issues as freedom of the press, human rights, and the release of political prisoners.  It’s too early to predict how this will play out, but if the outcome we desire is a free Cuba, this is a step in the right direction.  At the very least, it’s a step toward ending the hypocrisy– strict sanctions against Cuba while we bend over backwards to ensure that our trade relationship with China (and their infinitely worse human-rights violations) continues.

Obama has demonstrated that he understands the changing world.  He’s aware that the US is no longer in a position to dictate policy to the rest of the world.  Of course, the Sean Hannity’s of the world portray this as capitulation or surrender– how dare a US leader listen to the rest of the world?  We view it as leadership.  Obama has not compromised American national security– but he HAS shown humility and awillingness to listen.  This can only serve him (and us) well in the future.

obama stock Now THIS is the Obama we voted for

The situation with Latin America is similar.  Conservative pundits have taken exception to Obama’s interactions with Hugo Chavez in particular– though once again, all Obama has done is demonstrated that he’s willing to listen.  By taking a less arrogant position, Obama has increased the chances of meaningful change in our relationship with Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.  He’s made no concessions– only changed the tone of our relationship.

By releasing the torture memos last week, Obama did what justice and transparency demand.  On the other hand, by refusing to prosecute CIA personnel and others involved, Obama has signaled a desire to avoid petty distractions and move forward.  While the waterboarding era is regrettable, prosecuting those responsible would do little good– and would ignite a political firestorm.

In short, Obama is doing what we thought he’d do.  It’s early (and PLENTY could still go wrong), but he’s shown an ability to listen to foreign leaders without compromising American interests.  He’s shown a desire not to linger in the past, but to confront problems head-on and move forward.

During the campaign, we thought that Obama’s soaring rhetoric was more than just talk.  We believed that he understood the world of 2009, and more importantly that he had a vision for the future.  We thought that his ability to analyze problems and build consensus were exactly what we needed at this critical moment in history.

So far, he has not disappointed.

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4 comments to Now THIS is the Obama we voted for

  • Dan

    about thing only thing I disagree on is presecuting the torturers and war criminals. I believe this needs to be done to show the world we actually DO hold those responsible for heinous acts in the name of our country accountable for their actions. And also to show future politicians, agencies, and/or anyone else acting on behalf of our nation that we do have a line that can be crossed. If we don’t learn from mistakes of the past we are bound to repeat them.

  • Lord Tantrum

    I understand where you’re coming from, Dan. I disagree because I don’t believe members of the CIA or our Armed Forces should be punished for following orders. Therefore, we’d have to prosecute those at the top– probably including Bush & Cheney. As much as I’d personally enjoy seeing that (Cheney particularly), it would be an unbelievable political mess at a time where we can not afford distractions. Thanks for reading!

  • Rob

    I believe whoever was involved in the torture should be brought before and tried in a court of law. This kind of thing is only going to be done again and again if the people responsible can get away with it, or at least get away with it for a long time, and then when you are found out, you know you will be off the hook. The US is a nation that was supposed to be “better” then torture of its prisoners. The CIA, Armed Forces know better themselves because they are briefed on these kinds of actions, in case they are taken prisoners themselves. But, I disagree that it should be President Obama that should pursue this in any way. He has enough to deal with at this current moment, the fact that he made the information public should be enough for others to take up the cause as I am very sure many are. Bush & Co murdered thousands of innocent people on both sides in these wars, and lots from other countries that were brought into this debacle. How can we excuse these people who started a war on lies, innocent men and women are dead because of this, Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering, not to mention the whole region is unstable at the best of times.

  • Lord Tantrum

    Well, it looks like you guys may get what you want. Obama seems to be reversing course and indicating that prosecution may be an option.

    I still think it would do more harm than good, but we’ll see.

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