Obama at One: Little Surprising in Absence of Progressive Social Movement

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
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
Guantanamo, 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 Guantanamo 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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