There's a new opinion piece that unequivocally puts the blame on the dysfunction in government squarely at the feet of the Republicans. And as far as it goes, I have no qualms with its assertions -- in Congress, the Republicans are determined to be obstructionist and unreasonable. But I've seen folks point to that article as a defense of Obama's record, and I think that's ridiculous. The Obama Administration has the power to do many things. Many of the things he has done (or failed to do when he could do them) are abominable.
Suppose there was no limit on how many terms a president could serve, and W not only ran but won re-election in 2008. And suppose that he's running for office again in 2012, and in the past four years, his administration:
- Signed into law an expanded Patriot Act that goes beyond how awful it already was before 2008;
- Participated in the deficit hysteria that keeps us in a long-term recession;
- Greatly expanded the use of drones;
- Greatly expanded the use/abuse of the state-secret argument in cases and FOIA requests;
- Advocated for and signed into law indefinite detention;
- Escalated the war on whistle blowers to unprecedented levels;
- Claimed the right to assassinate Americans (and exercised it);
- Backed down on environmental regulations;
- Created precedent in attacking revenue for Social Security, and proposed changes to Social Security that would ensure poverty for millions of retirees (arguably to prevent millions of retirees from having even greater cuts to the Social Security), instead of, you know, working to make simple and effective fixes to Social Security like raising/removing the contribution cap;
- Backed down on a ban on contractor discrimination based on sexual orientation;
- Advocated the use of strip searches for minor offenses;
- Did not go after the illegal use of torture or prosecute Wall Street/banks for their malfeasance, but did step up attacks on medical marijuana.
Some of these are more important than others, but this record is awful -- I would never consider voting for Bush with that record behind him (and I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty -- these are just the ones that come to mind, and so they're slanted toward more recent events). Yet these are things that Obama has done (follow the links) -- not Congress or Republicans, but Obama. That the name and party behind those in/actions is different gives me no reason to reconsider my position. Nor does the fact that in some instances Republicans have proposed even more radical things. Even the fact that Obama can both nominate federal judges and serve as a check against such radical proposals is inadequate given how awful he's been without Republican involvement.
Of course I've focused on the bad, and it's only fair to consider the good he's done. Sadly, many of the good things he's done are qualified successes. The two unqualified things I give credit for are signing into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and nominating Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. The stimulus bill was a lot better than nothing, but it was still too small and poorly designed to get us out of the recession, and its effect was dampened by deficit deals he later made. Health care reform was a lovely idea, but the law that got enacted is from a template from the very conservative Heritage Foundation, and keeps getting watered down. Leaving Iraq is a good thing, if you overlook that the Obama Administration tried to stay longer (ironically, it was bound by an agreement made by Bush that the Iraqis wouldn't budge on). The Dodd-Frank Act may be an improvement over the status quo (or not, I'm honestly not sure), but what it mostly did was create confusion and give industry a chance to negate its effect.
I have a couple of individuals I'm considering voting for. But I can safely say that the person I'll decide on isn't the nominee of a major party.