Saturday, January 19, 2013

Second-term Suggestions/First-term Grades

I remembered that I posted my suggested 10-Point Program for a Barack Obama Presidency; what I was surprised to see was that I posted it way back in December, 2006 (if I'm not mistaken, before he had even announced his run for the office).  It's a very ambitious agenda with a high bar of expectations, but my goals back then, and my grading below, show that I really had high expectations (and I still do). Here's a quick synopsis of what I was looking for back then, what has been accomplished--fully or partly--what remains to be done, and whether I think he should or will do anything about it.

(Here they are--the numbers are not in a particular order, but for reference):

10. Get Control of climate-changing gases - He's done one significant thing, setting up aggressive goals for improving the fuel efficiency of the U.S. motor vehicles.  There is still much to do, plenty of evidence more needs to be done, and reason to doubt it will get done.  Cap-and-trade is a spoiled concept, we are congenitally opposed to participation in any global agreement, and we seem committed to fracking and tar sands use.  My suggestions would be to commit also to development of: 1) solar; 2) wind; 3) better batteries; and 4) recycling of animal waste for fuel.  This is playing the long game, aiming at progress that will outlive his Presidency. Obama Grade (up 'til now): C.

9. Preserve our biosphere. We are losing the battle to preserve species rather quickly--the best I can suggest are various forms of natural and artificial arks. O.G.: D-

8. Rebuild our relations with the world.   With a few exceptions, this has been successfully completed.  Russia, China--those are countries with which we are doing our best, their political obtuseness is not our fault; Iran--we just need a clear concept and success can be obtained; the world of Islam--some improvement, more possible; Europe, other developed world allies--no problem; the underdeveloped world--see Islam.  O.G.: A-

7. Visualize our children's/grandchildren's society, and the implications of that vision. I would rate this as the most urgent and most practicable area for a focus of Obama's second term.  It will translate into intelligent Medicare/Social Security revisions, as well as the needed educational and infrastructure improvements.  It's a topic that's a bit high-falutin' for a speech to self-absorbed American adults, but not for a commission. The grade so far really is an Incomplete, but I would have to judge rather harshly the lack of visible effort. I do think Obama's heart is in it, as shown by his frequent references to his children's future, so I realistically think he can improve his grade with a little diligent effort. O.G.: D+

6. Reform the U.N. Charter.  I really want Obama to do this; now that Susan Rice isn't going anywhere else, she could focus on this and maybe make some real progress.  If not now (the freedom of a second term, an internationalist President with an eye on his legacy), it will never happen. O.G.: C-

5. Get control of armaments.  Even back then, my description of this objective included both nuclear non-proliferation and private weapons in Americans' hands. It's taken awhile, but Obama has now stepped up on the latter, and he's doing his best on the former.  Of course, the critical near-term outcomes for both ("common-sense" new gun restrictions, successfully keeping Iran from going nuke without war) are still in doubt.  O.G.: B+

4. Establish clearly the political dimensions of privacy and of permissible government intrusions into it. This is a difficult topic, and time is working against us:  government's ability to snoop effectively expands, and resistance is beaten down mercilessly.  Although I don't really agree with the "data must be free" philosophy, the recent case histories of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Aaron Swartz are troubling, in that all indicate the trend is for power of the State overpowering those individuals who challenge on the basis of freedom of information.  If you think it through, though, those efforts do not help preserve the eroding right to privacy.  What I am looking for is some restoration of limits on intrusion into people's privacy--whether they are "normal" or famous--and I'm not seeing any progress. I'm not sure Obama or his Administration are on my side, or if they have any point of view on this.  On the other hand, their offenses in this area have not been massive, like the Bushite ones were. O.G.: C-

3. Provide healthcare to our people. Back then, what I was advocating would be recognizable as (optional) Medicare for All. We didn't get anything like that, but we did get the Affordable Care Act, and even that he had to spend huge amounts of political capital to ram it down the throat of the resisting Republicans.  I am advocating, rather than raising the Medicare eligibility age, reducing it (to 55), which would a great step forward.  I know it has no chance, but my job clearly is to advocate sense in opposition to nonsense.  O.G.: B

2. Electoral reform. This is my second-highest priority for the Second Term, after #7 above.  We have gone backwards since my original 10-Point Program was presented; consider that it was before the Citizens United decision, the two most expensive elections in history, and renewed efforts to suppress voters (albeit, failed ones). All is yet to be done, and Obama is in a great position to push for it, and his rare comments upon it (he made one on Election Night 2012) have been favorable.  On the other hand, the Electoral College worked very well for him, and he might (mistakenly) view it as a friend.  O.G.: C-

1. End the "War on Drugs" (or at least give it some focus on the more harmful ones). The latter phrase in parentheses is the operative objective, and President Obama seems to be going that way--though without expending any political capital.  The key test in upcoming months will be his Attorney General's directives with regard to the new laws in Washington and Colorado permitting personal, non-medical possession of marijuana. So far, it seems to be a live and let live approach:  if the states don't impinge on Federal prerogatives, he will leave them alone.  That's OK, as long as it persists, as public opinion is moving the right way on this for the first time in--forever. The Colorado/Washington initiatives are the opposite of the pernicious exercise of states' exercise of their authority to which I have occasionally referred as "States Wrought".   O.G.: B

My calculation of his overall grade on this course, which I will call Greatness 101, is a 2.63 average, a C (on a 5-point GPA basis).  It is at least an Honors course, if not an Advanced Placement level one (in high school terms).  Again, this is a measure of my strict grading against a difficult set of standards, and certainly not grading on the curve.

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