I Volunteered For Obama in 2008, But His Support of Landmines Is the Last Straw
When friends of mine learn that I have broken my deal with Barack Obama, and no longer support the "light of the world" (as one English friend calls him), they passionately rally around his presidency, almost pleading with me to give him more time, to keep the faith, and asking, moreover: what choice do we have?
A calling to account is not the same as "a lazy cry of betrayal." There's nothing lazy about it: since day one of the inauguration, many of us have been shocked to see Obama going into reverse on his campaign pledges faster than Lewis Hamilton in an F1 car.
The president may have failed to protect low- and middle-income Americans from the Wall Street predators who created our financial mess -- indeed, they are his closest advisers.
He may have brusquely fired or exiled some of his most progressive staff as unwanted baggage. And his attorney general is starting to act like one of George Bush's henchmen: attempting to protect the previous administration's torture enablers, such as the infamous lawyer John Yoo. Obama's most recent Oslo speech, accepting the Nobel peace prize, on the heels of his caving in to his captor generals in sending 30,000 more soldiers into the Afghan bloodbath, was chilling in its implications, extending a long tradition, going back to Woodrow Wilson, of war-making for liberal, "humanitarian" reasons. No wonder politicians such as Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and a whole museum-load of neocons welcomed his Oslo "pragmatism" as "hardheaded and pro-American".
Where Obama is succeeding is in dividing what remains of the American left between a majority of Obama-no-matter-what-he-does partisans and a minority of undeniers like myself.
As I write, Obama is desperate to rally support for the corpse of the health bill he emasculated with the help of pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists. He's been dreadful on jobs, neurotically passive where he should be pounding the pulpit, Roosevelt-style, and pouring money into shovel-in-the-ground work.
As president he's got enormous leverage to whip Congressional "centrists" into line -- an off-year election is coming up, and candidates need his party's money. But Obama in office has turned out to be strangely aloof and distant from people's real anxieties. We thought we were electing a community organizer in the Saul Alinsky mold and what we have is a Harvard law professor in the line of John Kennedy's "best and brightest" who dragged us into Vietnam.
My personal breaking point, after months of jaw-dropping astonishment at Obama's betrayals, was his refusal almost alone of the world's leaders to ban child-killing landmines and cluster bombs. His state department announced this shameful policy on Thanksgiving eve, as if to hide it from public notice. Obama is continuing Bush's policy of refusing to honor an international antipersonnel landmine ban -- the Ottawa treaty -- signed by 158 nations.
It's so cruel and pointless. Mostly the victims are the rural poor, many of them children of the same age as the president's two daughters. They die from shock or blood loss far from any hospital; and the survivors suffer amputations and blinding.
I can't help but imagine my teenage son being blown to pieces because he's got the curiosity to pick up an enticing yellow-finned cluster bomblet. Why can't Obama imagine it for his kids? Since the official story is that the United States no longer produces or deploys these horrible weapons, why not ban the things? "National defense needs" is the answer: please.
I voted and worked hard for Obama in 2008, partly because I admired his wonderful mother, Ann Dunham, who like my own mother once survived on food stamps and raised her son in liberal feminist New Deal values. On the campaign trail, and still today, Obama repeatedly invokes his mother as "the dominant figure in my formative years ... the values she taught me continue to be my touchstone …"
If Ann Dunham were alive today she – like Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son to a needless war in Iraq – would camp outside the White House office and demand: "Son, what are you thinking?"