Friday, May 15, 2020

Hey America, let's go through the Obamagate

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Trump, displeased by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies' investigations of the criminals and traitors who staffed his 2016 campaign and early administration, is deploying Barr (and his own deranged rhetoric) to smear and criminalize those efforts and tie them to the past administration under the rubric of "Obamagate."

In Trump parlance, "Obamagate" is a mass of trumped-up charges and projections advancing the fiction that Obama, like Trump himself, deployed law enforcement and intelligence to pursue his personal enemies and protect his personal friends. Obamagate is a moral looking glass through which Trump's face is imposed on Obama's.

I'll give Trump this: The term does have a certain resonance. Would that this country could pass through an equally fantastic Obamagate to various norms and benefits we took for granted when Obama was president.

If only we could..
  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when the president put the national interest above his personal interests, and worked as hard to advance prosperity and opportunity in states run by his political rivals as in states run by his political allies.

  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when the president put scientists in charge of scientific problems and followed their direction.

  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when the president, faced with difficult, complex problems, sought input from advisers and experts of diverse views, absorbed the information they provided, and acted accordingly.

  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when most of the world looked to the U.S. to lead on international problems like global warming or, um, pandemic response, and when majorities among our allies and people worldwide held the U.S. in high regard.

  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when the president laid out problems and proposed solutions to the American people in clear, fact-based presentations.

  • Pass through an Obamagate to a time when heads of federal agencies worked to advance the agency's mission -- e.g., to protect the environment, advance alternative energy sources,  promote fair and affordable housing, extend access to health insurance, fight racial disparity in the administration of justice -- rather than to subvert and corrupt them. 
I am not so sure in retrospect that Obama was the right leader for the time he served in. He underestimated his adversaries, from Republicans to Putin, from ISIS to Assad. Worried about deficits and deficit scolds, he hedged on key domestic policies such as ARRA and the ACA and weakened them. He appointed Treasury officials who hung homeowners slammed by the housing crisis out to dry while bailing out the big banks, with only weak conditions attached to the largess. His Justice Department failed to hold any individuals at major financial institutions accountable for massive collective fraud.  He let Republicans roll over him in budget negotiations in 2011 and 2013. He failed to deter or warn loudly and clearly enough about Russian election interference.

But no one who doesn't marinate in right-wing disinformation should doubt Obama's integrity, intelligence, or will to promote the general welfare, in the U.S. and the world. May we pass through a gate to restored leadership that meets those standards.

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