The Obama Question

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gary Dorrien offers a critique of Barack Obama's presidency and argues that progressives should not give up on Obama even though many have been critical of his time in office. In The Obama Question, Dorrien contends that Obama’s achievements have too often been discounted.


Gary Dorrien

Comments [62]

political pop from America

No Im not because christianity is my belief and if someone else does not believe in the same value i believe in it leaves A HUGE window open of not trusting this person...

Mar. 16 2012 12:31 PM
Julius from Los Angeles

I found Mr. Dorien to be very unconvincing in his defense of Obama. He lost me right away when he said in effect that Obama had not misrepresented himself, but rather it was progressives wishful thinking. The fact of the matter is that there are a number of key promises he did not keep. Major policy platforms like the Public Option in the health care bill which he bargained away immediately. Moreover, ending the Iraq War was a major selling point and instead he followed Bush's negotiated timeline and even attempted to extend staying in Iraq (but the Iraqis wouldn't agree). While I always assumed Obama would not live up to all of his campaign rhetoric, I did assume he would maintain positions he staked out as a Senator. Instead his policies are to the RIGHT of those (e.g. telecom co. snooping). Finally, and this is why I can't vote for Obama, he has legitimized and legalized a host of the worst of Bush's attack on civil liberties, e.g. indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, authorized killing of U.S. citizens without trial, the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers whose major "espionage" seems to be embarrassing the government by revealing incompetence or immoral behavior. If Bush had done these last things, the outcry from the Democratic community would have been intense and resisted. In that way, Obama is actually worse than Bush. I haven't even touched on Obama's economic policies has been more in service of the banks and Wall Street than workers and homeowners. So despite, the positive differences from the Republicans, e.g. Supreme Court nominees, I can't keep choosing the lesser of two evils. Perhaps it is even better to have a Republican back in the Presidency so that a clear distinction can be made between what a Democrat should be and what they currently are - rational Republicans.

Mar. 15 2012 02:51 AM

Political Pop~'re being ironic...right??

Mar. 14 2012 05:23 PM
Political Pop from america


Mar. 14 2012 02:11 PM
EastBayGrease from Oakland, CA

Looks like those racist haters over at the Congressional Budget Office are doing their best to sabotage Obama's re-election. They report today that Obamacare will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade, rather than the $940 billion forecast when it was signed into law.

Great news for a country whose debt is approaching 100% of Gross Domestic Product. Thanks Progressives!

Mar. 14 2012 01:54 PM

Imagine if Obama had fought for the public option and card-check, against absolving bankers and torturers.

No one would have needed to drag their asses to the polls, they'd have gone willingly.

Obama is only interested in progressive ass when he's campaigning, the rest of the time he reserves his kisses for premium 1% ass.

Mar. 14 2012 01:40 PM

To dboy -

Re-imagine the last 2 years if all of those voters who watched or attended the Rally to Restore Sanity had actually dragged there asses to the voting booths on the following Tuesday. No repeated threats of gov't shutdown, No fight over the debt ceiling, no BS politcal pandering around health care and women's rights. No McConnell/Boehner/Cantor to lie to us. Instead our party and the needs of Progressives were put on the defensive by a well-financed minority.

I want my country to move forward but if we need to have a fight over the future vision of America, I'd prefer it sooner rather than later.

Mar. 14 2012 01:26 PM


I may agree with you. However, this is not to absolve BO of his clear and dangerous contradiction.

Passive acceptance is no substitute for critical, objective thought.

Yes it could be a LOT worse but, on the other hand think about what it SHOULD/COULD be.

Status quo is not a solution.

Mar. 14 2012 01:02 PM

I've been recalling the apocryphal IBM story about what Thomas Watson said to a young engineer whose mistake had just cost the company a million dollars. Ashamed and wanting to show that he could take responsibility for his failure, the engineer offered to resign before he got fired. Watson's response "I just paid a million dollars to educate you. Why would I fire you?"

The President needs all Democrats, Progressives and left-leaning Independents to vote on Election Day. The wacky Right - Obama is a muslim! Obama is a socialist! - are going to be voting. Have no doubt about it. Will we? Shame on us if we don't because the outcome is not pretty if Santorum or Romney is inaugurated in January.

Mar. 14 2012 12:51 PM
Opal from NYC

I consider myself a progressive and don't want to be included in a category with this disgruntled man--he's just as bad as the opposition. Get with it--RealPolitik. From the moment Obama was elected the Republicans were out to destroy him. If he were to follow a totally progressive program we would be in total gridlock. It's easy to sit in the background and criticize but being on the inside one gets a totally different picture. Yes, he has made mistakes, e.g., supporting shale drilling, which I am very much against. Obama is not perfect--perfection is hard to come by.
This man even criticizes the health care program! C'mon.

Mar. 14 2012 12:50 PM
Michael Dor from Long Island

Don't blame the Nader's people! The working class turned his back on neo-liberal politics of Clinton-Gore. This why Gore lost elections. The Bush presidency only accelerated the inevitable end of this neo-liberal free-market corporate capitalism. Bush presidency was a logical extension of the Reaganist approach of Clinton.

Mar. 14 2012 12:49 PM



i'm not the only one!

Mar. 14 2012 12:49 PM

Obama is for indefinite dentention without trial.

Claiming he wants to close Guantanmo is just defenders reacting to one of the shiny object he waves around to distract them.

Mar. 14 2012 12:48 PM

@Tru from Maplewood

The reason we criticize him is because his campaign was, in retrospect, completely cynical. And I say this as a right-leaning independent who vote for the guy. His only real goal, it now seems, was to be The President. Well, congrats Barak! Good for you!

Sure, other politicians suck too -- and Santorium is a truly frightening prospect. But rewarding Obama for his ruse is unacceptable.

Mar. 14 2012 12:43 PM

Opal from NYC~

Those rose-colored glasses look absolutely fabulous on you!

Mar. 14 2012 12:42 PM
John A.

Obama is weak on extrajudicial warfare, non-visible effects on wall street, and slow to manifest changes to healthcare. I'm still voting for him at this point, but I will be watching him react to these weaknesses in debates and ads. These are weaknesses and need strong explanation.

Mar. 14 2012 12:41 PM
The Truth from Becky

We will see which prevails Hope or Hate, soon enough.

Mar. 14 2012 12:41 PM

America is a country filled with religious and socially conservative people. A liberal could never win in modern times. Aside from being seen as weak, progressive push for progress. We are still debating evolution in public.

Mar. 14 2012 12:41 PM
Danielle Jensen

much as i may be disappointed in some of obamas actions or lack of i cannot understand dems,liberal,etc. not supporting him -would they rather have romney or one of those other jokers as president. I was one of those upset with him about not closing gitmo till 2 guests that were on your show at separate times explained why he couldnt accomplish this promise-he had no support in congress in where inmates would be housed, tried, etc.I am appalled at the degree of hatred towards obama from the right-to me it is not very thinly disguised racism-its obvious racism. it makes me ashamed to be an american. I confronted someone demonstrating with a poster of obama made up as hitler. maybe we have always had sickos like this but it seems on a whole other level now.

Mar. 14 2012 12:40 PM

You'd need amnesia to think Obama is "a noticeably different figure", he's just back in campaign mode.

Talk about wishful thinking.

Mar. 14 2012 12:40 PM

Obama kept more of George Bush's policies than he has not. He has proved to be a centrist in liberal clothing. The left got used and left behind.

Mar. 14 2012 12:39 PM

All candidates say whatever they need to, to get elected. Once elected, they usually get to the "center". Democrats and Republicans are owned by corporations. "Hope" has become a 4 letter word.

Mar. 14 2012 12:38 PM

3 of the 4 big-government anti-Bill-of-Rights Candidates are not Natural Born Citizens (Born in the US of 2 Citizen Parents). Romney's Dad George was Mexican. Santorum's Dad was Italian. I haven't found evidence that either Dad Naturalized as US Citizens. Maybe the Founders from NY had a good point when they insisted on the Natural Born Citizen requirement for Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Mar. 14 2012 12:36 PM
Tru from Maplewood

Stuns me every time I hear people complain about Obama. He gave so many clues that he was a moderate. Of course he holds King up, he is a black man in America. You folks expected to much from a politician. You made paintings of him looking up into th sky, you held him up to be the savior of all things progressive. You saw all these things in hm because he played things down the middle. He seemed thoughtful about things and sincerely considered all positions. He is not dogmatic. To paint him as a failure and not taking a stand on anything speaks more to your expectations. He, with an obstructive congress, got though the best healthcare bill possible, dismantled DADT, put in pace a cabinet post responsible for overseeing the banks. As you call him not progressive enough, the other side is calling hm a socialist. This tells me he's doing pretty decent job in this most hostile of environment. You guest needs to be fact-checked on some of his statement.

Mar. 14 2012 12:36 PM
John A.

Since the guest is from a theological seminary I found it interesting hearing also jimmy carter, in bible study now, say that in the bible there are hundreds of places that say 'help the poor', but not one that said to lower taxes on the rich. Yet bible following politicians still go their ignorant course. Ignorant of the bible too.

Mar. 14 2012 12:35 PM
Michael Dor from Long Island

Obama is clearly a man of the Democratic Party machine, that succeeded to deceive us with a worn out jingle of change., this is why he unable to make the promised change. After Obama the Progressive Left is going to purge the Dems, like the Tea Party purges GOP.

Mar. 14 2012 12:31 PM
The Truth from Becky

Oh only 3/4s - oh ok let's see uhm what makes a whole? 4/4s..laughable!

Mar. 14 2012 12:30 PM
Opal from NYC

People expected Obama to walk on water. For one, economics is not a science and it's so hard to tell what's right. I have yet to hear two economists agree. As for his appointments, I thought that by appointing these conservatives who had a certain knowledge of the system, he could use them to obtain his own goals.
If the only thing Obama did was pass a health care bill, it would warrant his re-election.
I think it is very bad to dis Obama given the horrible alternatives.

Mar. 14 2012 12:30 PM
Marcos from the Bronx

Of course there is a difference between Progressives and Liberals!

There are several ways to describe this.

Most broadly speaking: Progressive covers a wide net of the left, from liberal democrats, to socialists, or radical democratic anarchists, or religious progressives who care about social justice but are not "liberal" in their views of scripture.

All Progressives are not Liberals! Liberalism is a specific ideology which socialists and anarchists have many differences with.

Not all liberals are progressive! The Liberal Democratic party of Great Britain is a centrist party, not progressive. And technically Liberal Democracy is the basis for the ideology of both major parties in the USA. Both the Democrats and the Republicans.

There are many good reasons why the left is using the term Progressive rather than Liberal. Mainly, because Liberalism's assumptions change being enacted from the top down, and change being a product of intellectual intercourse rather than working class struggle or mass movements, are highly discredited among most folks who are left of center.

On Obama: We are disappointed with him because he said he would do things that he did not do.

1) Employee Free Choice Act ("Card Check") for Union Elections.
2) Health reform with a public option.
3) A stimulus that would be as big as the experts said it needed to be.
4) Ending Bush era policies of the "War on Terrorism".

Peace and Blessings

Mar. 14 2012 12:30 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Yes...The collective amnesia that we all indulge in rather than recall what was the Dubya presidency is amazing.

From the dubious SCOTUS involvement in his election to raiding the Treasury to the benefit of the friends and donors to an unjust war to lax oversight of the sub-prime securitizations that fed the bubble that blew up the economy...Just amazing how little we want to remember about those horrible, horrible years.

Mar. 14 2012 12:29 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Many independents and those on the left assumed Obama would "change" the system. Obama, as a career Democrat, is part of the the system, and when one is part of the system - they will at best try to REFORM the system, not CHANGE it.

Look at Gorbachev as an example.

Mar. 14 2012 12:29 PM
John from New Brunswick

To progressives or liberals who "won't lift a finger" to re-elect Obama next fall: What kind of progressive goals or agenda will be realized if Romney or Santorum become president?

Mar. 14 2012 12:29 PM

@Becky, self-proclaimed truth-teller.

I had no inflated expectations for Obama. I just wanted minimal competence, primarily financial. Instead, we've been treated to the Goldman-Sachs Full Employment Program, a deficit that spirals to 130% of GDP, a Democratic party that hasn't had the stones to even propose a budget for over 3 years now, a healthcare law (passed unread and by dubious legislative means) whose supposed funding depended on gaming the CBO scoring using cuts to Medicare that will probably never happen. In short: good grief!

Mar. 14 2012 12:27 PM

Here is the report that DIRECTLY refutes Gary Dorrien's claim about Obama on the stimulus. Dorrien needs to inform himself better:

"The Memo that Larry Summers Didn’t Want Obama to See"

Mar. 14 2012 12:26 PM

BO has prosecuted more "whistleblowers" than ALL previous presidents COMBINED...

so much for transparency!!

Mar. 14 2012 12:25 PM

Well said, Hugh.

Mar. 14 2012 12:24 PM

BO has killed more innocent people with unmanned drones than GWB!!

Mar. 14 2012 12:23 PM

Why can't progressives produce a successful counter movement that finds political representation like tea-party has?

Mar. 14 2012 12:23 PM
Jack from New Jersey

No one on today's program has mentioned the idea of "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." He has followed a progressive wish list, but he's done a *lot* of good.

Mar. 14 2012 12:23 PM
The Truth from Becky

You are absolutely correct about one thing - President Obama never counted on the extreme racism getting in his way of bringing both parties (one America by the by) together. Blew his mind and mine...who yells out "lie" who has ever yelled out "lie" toward the President of these United States on the floor of congress?

Mar. 14 2012 12:22 PM

Has Gary Dorrien forgotten that Obama caved to demands to extend the Bush tax cuts. Give us a break. Obama has had over three years to show some spine or something resembling decency. He's shown nothing but cowardice and craven slavishness to Wall Street.

I am more disgusted by Obama than I was by Bush.

Mar. 14 2012 12:22 PM

Geithner® and Summers™ ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

These two have orchestrated the GLOBAL financial MELTDOWN.

They should be in JAIL!!

I hate to say it but, one really needs to question BO's capacity when considering his loyalist to these criminals.

BO really does STINK!!

Mar. 14 2012 12:22 PM

Obama's campaign method was to keep things fuzzy unless pressed, in which case he would feint in a progressive direction only to reverse himself as soon as his position was secured.

-Claimed he would take public financing and his competitors should do the same

-Pushed for FISA

-Said he would not sign a health care bill without a robust public option, then called it a "fetish".

-Claimed he would renegotiate NAFTA, while telling the Canadians he would do no such thing, then lying when the conversations were leaked. A triple back-stab.

As someone who follows politics very closely, I wasn't surprised, but claiming the feeling of betrayal is all due to progressives' projecetions is unfair.

Obama is neither weak nor brilliant. He is essentially a weasel. He'll fight like hell, but only and exclusively for his personal advancement.

Mar. 14 2012 12:21 PM

I am a constant critic of the president--I wrote a critical entry in my blog about his homophobia before he was sworn in. And I am an occupier--I think the system is SO BROKEN that voting is pointless. However, I have to say I am going to campaign and vote for the man because the thought of a Romney/Santorum White House makes my toes curl.

Mar. 14 2012 12:19 PM

Where do we place the greatest failures of Obama?

He's been center-right on economics after promising otherwise. Contrary to Gary Dorrien's claim, we know now that Summers blocked the full content of Christina Romer's proposal even reaching Obama (not that Clintonite Obama would have cared).

On healthcare, we know (courtesy of Tom Daschle) that Obama opposed the public option _exactly_ at the time he was publicly endorsing it in 2008.

Obama has allowed torture to continue at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The international community condemned the US for torturing Bradley Manning here in the US. He has denied due process - repeatedly. He has been MORE secretive and more violent towards whistleblowers than Bush.

Obama refused even to investigate Bush war crimes. He has only grudging acceded to demands that something like investigation of Wall Street criminals.

Astonishing. A total capitulation on everything. Utter cowardice. BUT only if you think Obama actually was a liberal. He wasn't. He's Reagan Democrat. A Clinton. Revolting.

A stood in a line of hundreds at the Brooklyn Museum to vote for the toad in 2008. I absolutely will not vote for him no matter what Republican ends up running against him. Obama is a war criminal, just like Bush.

Mar. 14 2012 12:19 PM
Ross from New Windsor, NY

Would Gary Dorrien think that President Obama's rejecting (for now) the Keystone pipeline an illustration of the progressive president's fighting for a progressive cause?

Mar. 14 2012 12:19 PM

As Senator, Obama raced McCain to DC to vote for the Patriot Act and the Bailouts, during his presidential campaign.
Anybody who thought Obama would not be Bush IV was a fool.
Look at what these birds do.... not at what they say.

Mar. 14 2012 12:19 PM
The Truth from Becky

OMGoodness, I can hardly contain myself listening to this dude because I know there is some uninformed hillbilly somewhere taking his words here as the Gospel.

Mar. 14 2012 12:18 PM
The Truth from Becky

Why do you people revert back to Reagan? What about the darn 8 years of bush in between?

Mar. 14 2012 12:17 PM

@Proto -- Don't forget about his 'commitment to transparency' and the paradoxical subsequent spike in anti-whistle-blower activity.

Mar. 14 2012 12:16 PM
hmi from Park Slope

Massive incompetence, primarily economic, is the hallmark of the Obama administration (and I have a laundry list of other defects).

So, yeah:
I voted for Obama last time, and I won't lift a finger to reelect him. I'd do a write-in for Henry George first.

Mar. 14 2012 12:15 PM
The Truth from Becky

Economic debacle = the bush years - 8 of 'em

Mar. 14 2012 12:15 PM

Its amazing that democrats can complain about our represented leader, but Dems have better cohesion than the republicans! The democratic party never produced a Tea-Party internal-like counter movement where every quack and gallop found voice under the 'republican' umbrella??!

Mar. 14 2012 12:14 PM
The Truth from Becky

We need a lie detector here to analyze some of these remarks!

Mar. 14 2012 12:14 PM

The mystery for me: Is Obama indeed left at heart, but acts moderate in order to appease? Or were his inner principles in fact moderate to begin with?

Mar. 14 2012 12:14 PM
The Truth from Becky

Anyone who declares that President Obama "betrayed" them had unrealistic expectation at the outset.

Mar. 14 2012 12:12 PM

I don't think a republican could have been as sucessfully evil as Obama.

He lied about:
1. Guantanamo
2. the health care bill is basically worthless
3. he gave the finishing blow to the wholesale robbery of public funds by the banks.
4. Iraq and afghanistan is a continuing disaster
5. Increased extra judicial killings, drone warfare. Has not improved the image of the US as a unilateral imperialist aggressor.
In short, hes a good democrat.

Mar. 14 2012 12:06 PM
Sandy from Upper West Side

Public school advocates (as opposed to the corporate and Gates-backed "Education Reform Movement" people) see no difference between the G.W. Bush education agenda and Obama's. In fact, the president has simply yielded education to Arne Duncan and the corporate ed reformers. Parents hate the Duncan agenda. Is there any hope Obama will replace him and help restore and strengthen local control of education in his second term?

Mar. 14 2012 11:20 AM
Political Pop from america

what Canidate would most likely mirror President CArter???

Mar. 14 2012 10:42 AM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, CA

Ed from Larchmont: Your comment makes sense only if you believe that preventing the implantation of a zygote is an abortion...I suppose that that conclusion (and that destroying a foetus were infanticide) if you believe a zygote were an human being with all the rights pertaining thereto. This notion is ridiculous, was rejected by a scholar as Catholic as Aquinas, and brings up interesting theodicial and soteriological problems given that most zygotes either don't implant or are aborted soon after naturally.

Or do you swerve your car to avoid hitting acorns in the middle of the road, on the theory that they are exactly the same as tall oaks?

George from Brooklyn: There are words to which some refer to as 'snarl words'---they turn off rational thought, supervening it with F.U.D.. Not all are acceptable in public discourse, so you can't get away with using 'black' or 'ni--er', but 'socialist' and 'foreign' and 'Muslim' do nicely. (So does 'abortion'.) They are not nouns or adjectives, but instead commands that say to their intended targets/victims, 'Hate him.'

The Left are certainly not free from these, but because the Right and their base feel more embattled---you get _so_ much less just for being a white man than you used to, and they feel cheated---and because the Right have lost any commitment to the Enlightenment that they once had, and in fact disparage knowledge and reasoning in favour of the gut-brain, they seem, to my biased but attempting-to-be-fair eyes, to be an occasional excess of the vaguely-Left Democrats but a stock-in-trade of the severely (morbidly, I hope) conservative Republicans.

Mar. 14 2012 10:25 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The one thing President Obama is clearly dedicated to is abortion: making it pervasive, making all Americans pay for it. He is bought and paid for by Planned P. Quite a legacy.

Mar. 14 2012 05:52 AM
George from Brooklyn

Why do many conservatives see President Obama as a socialist when he is seen as a disappointment by many on the left?

Why is President Obama being portrayed as a Muslim or foreign born? Is it part of an attempt to delegitimize the president as American?

Mar. 14 2012 02:27 AM

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