On March 4, 1929, on the occasion of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration, a journalist wrote:

“We were in a mood for magic. . . the whole country was a vast expectant gallery, its eyes focused on Washington.  We had summoned a great engineer to solve our problems for us; now we sat back comfortably and confidently to watch the problems being solved.  The modern technical mind was for the first time at the head of government. . . Almost with the air of giving genius its chance, we waited for the performance to begin.”


She might well have been speaking of the anticipation many of us felt on January 21, 2009. A great number of us listened to Barack Obama’s campaign call for change we could believe in and thought that he was a believer in government’s moral responsibility for the economy and the public good, a philosophy most clearly characterized by the New Deal.  I was ecstatic. I was proud of my lifelong devotion to a party that accepted the idea that a government has a duty not to the monied and the power brokers but to the young, the elderly, the poor, the sick and the middle class.  I need to be clear here; I didn’t expect Barack Obama to be another Franklin Roosevelt but I did hope he might be a second Harry Truman.  Sadly, the disappointment that defined Hoover’s administration soon began to define President Obama’s.   Hoover inherited many of the problems which would lead to his failure as a president but neither his philosophy nor his policies did much to alleviate the conditions fueling the depression he had been elected to fix.  It appears that this too may be said of President Obama.

I’m not sure when my disillusionment with the President started but I believe it was when it became clear that he was not going to prosecute even the most outrageous of the Bush era criminals for even their most egregious crimes.  “We want to look forward, not backward” rang hollow and facile.  Any two-bit crook would love for a District Attorney to apply the same logic to him but the irony seemed to pass unnoticed.  Nixon was pardoned without us knowing what crimes he committed and ignoring the Bush thugs was just the logical extension of that tradition.  I can’t help but wonder how low this bar can go.

My discontent grew during the health care debate when the President refused to become involved and fight for the provisions he had promised during his campaign.  His lack of involvement resulted in a law that admittedly insured more people but left in place a profit based system that was at the heart of the problem with American medicine.  Health insurance should not be a for-profit industry; it shouldn’t an industry at all.  Providing health services isn’t the same as building cars or trading stocks.  It’s a service not an enterprise and when it fails the results are final and catastrophic to the ones it fails.

I think my disenchantment with the President peaked at it’s current and hopefully final level during the next big  debate, financial reform.  Again, President Obama remained above the fray as a weak law that addressed almost none of causes of the near Second Great Depression emerged.  While the President seemed to play no role in shaping the law, he was more than happy to present it as “the most significant financial reform legislation since the 1930s.”  I suppose if you’re comparing it to the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act of 1999 or The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 it is significant but if you are comparing it to the Glass-Steagall Act, The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is little more than a gnat standing along side an eagle.

This administration has disappointed me so many times and on so many levels that I just have to stop here or I might write straight through the night.  In the President’s defense, though, perhaps those of us who call ourselves liberals or progressives share some of the blame.  Perhaps we’ve been remiss in recognizing the war the radical capitalists  and the social regressives  have declared on the middle class, on women, on the sick, the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and the poor.  Maybe we haven’t been sufficiently strident in demanding that the President also recognize that there is a war and involve himself in it.  Maybe we just haven’t been clear that we are willing to lose a few rounds; we just want him to fight.  We just want President Obama to act more like candidate Obama.  Maybe we’ve also been remiss by allowing what passes for journalists these days to involve us the titillation of the chronicles of Anthony Weiner’s penis so they don’t have to write about the tremendous income inequality that is stifling this country or how our government has been stolen by big money interests.  I just don’t know.

Recently, the President conceded that there were days when he thought, “one term was enough.”  Funny he should say that; I find myself feeling the same way.  I voted for President Obama with great enthusiasm. Tears even came to my eyes when NBC announced he had won.  It was the first time in years I had voted with any degree of ardency but President Obama’s first term has been marked largely by empty rhetoric, hollow promises and a failure to act decisively to protect and restore the rapidly disappearing middle class .  Rather, he has shown himself to be much more concerned with the interests of the greedy, avaricious and most likely criminal Wall Street plutocrats, continuing and extending the Bush era shredding of our constitutional protections and in involving us in yet another war without resolving either of the two he inherited.

It troubles me to say that I will probably vote for President Obama again.  I’ll do it only because the alternative will most likely be unthinkable.  I’ll vote for this Barack Obama but I’ll be thinking of the one I thought I was supporting in 2007-2008 and I’ll be a little nostalgic and very heavyhearted.