Friday, March 20, 2015

Obama's Grades At The 6-Year Mark

Obama after his election in 2008. All things were possible then including straight A's

Time now to assess President Barack Obama's grades at the crucial 6-year mark. These assessments are based on examining his performance and decisions on multiple fronts, from peace diplomacy, to national security, defense of civil liberties, speech craft, environment, transparency, and executive leadership. Brief explanations will be given after each mark, and a lengthier one will follow the lone 'F' earned, for transparency. These objective assessments are more important than ever after watching some of the clips on Chris Hayes' 'All In' last night, featuring right wing crazies at public meetings with Rick Santorum yelping hysterically about Obama "gone crazy" and "destroying our country". Of course, any such jabber disqualifies these knuckle draggers from having any opinion worth consideration!

Now the marks:

Speech craft:   A minus

Based not only on his 'State of the Union' speeches but others given at various venues in the past six years.

Economy: A

Unemployment now down to 5.5 % and stock market at all time highs. What more can be said?

National Security:   A minus

Obama has done everything one can rationally expect on multiple threat fronts, from ISIS, to Iran. Only the crazies are dissatisfied with his approaches and want more wars- expending blood and treasure we cannot afford.

EnvironmentB minus

His veto of the Keystone XL pipeline has gained many kudos from enviros, but this still hasn't damped disappointment with his support of fracking, intentions to do offshore drilling (off the east coast) and the export of low grade fossil fuels elsewhere (cf. The Denver Post, 'U.S. Exports Pollution, Offsets Advances' Dec. 9, p. 15A)

Peace DiplomacyB

Good, and again would be better if it hadn't been for the fact that he needed Russian help to ensure we didn't get into a Syrian debacle two years ago. Never mind, he seems to have found a backbone against neocon pressure for wars, for now. We need him to be especially alert he doesn't make any missteps by courting the neocons and assisting them against Russia in the Ukraine.

Executive LeadershipB

While Obama began as a tepid leader, he's now become a "ball buster" with his executive orders and actions, including on immigration, health care and the environment. It gives the repukes fits but it warms the cockles of liberal hearts!

Defense of civil liberties: D

Let's see: his refusal to oust CIA head John Brennan after the CIA was busted for spying on the Senate, his pursuit and prosecution of whistle blowers under the 1917 "Espionage Act", his refusal to come to the defense of Edward Snowden when he exposed the NSA's awful overreach in the mass snatching of data - violating the Fourth Amendment. The only reason he avoided an 'F' is that he did (eventually) propose a review board for the NSA programs.

Transparency: F

Obama promised full transparency on his election and then promptly dropped the ball....or never wanted it in the first place. His going after gov't whistleblowers has already been noted, but the real wake up call for me was the failure to deliver archival records  (mainly from the CIA) on the JFK assassination in the 50th anniversary year of that event, e.g.

Those of us in the JFK assassination research community were severely disappointed given how many doors had already been opened under President Clinton's watch (when the JFK Records Act was passed.). By comparison it was a giant step backward under Obama.   We suspected that the CIA had notified Obama that they didn't want their 1960s "tradecraft" exposed, but really...seriously, that wouldn't be used any more anyway, including techniques such as: splicing the head of a patsy onto another's body (with a rifle), poison pens to kill witnesses, aerial imaging photography, i.e. frame by frame projection of a film to the rear of a glass screen with minute traces of paint added, then re-shot - which would have been used to alter specific frames in the Zapruder film.

In truth, the only reason NOT to disclose this antiquated tradecraft would have been to protect those actually involved in the conspiracy to kill JFK. After all, if the pertinent documents were released exposing it, then all and sundry would know it COULD be done and those knotheads that howl about "tin foil" hats and an implicit chuckle factor would be put down once and for all.

But while some may believe this National Archives' misstep to be unique, it's actually turned out to be part of a pattern. According to an article in yesterday's Denver Post ('Administration Sets Record For Withholding Documents', p. 11A):

"The Obama Administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Associated Press."

The article also noted:

- The gov't took longer to turn over files when it provided any

- More regularly stated it couldn't find any documents at all

-Refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be newsworthy

- Acknowledged in nearly 1 of 3 cases the initial decision to withhold or censor records was illegal

Worse yet, the backlog of unanswered requests grew by nearly 55% by year's end.  This despite citizens, journalists, businesses and others having made nearly 714, 231 requests for information.

While some may respond with rolling eyes and smug smiles at the seriousness with which files are pursued by some citizens, they really do not get it. They don't get that alert citizens have a responsibility to hold their government (and President) to account. And if they fail to do that - irrespective of whether the issue is the assassination of a past President, drone kills, or NSA secret programs - they don't merit being called citizens.

Obama, fortunately, still has time to pick up the two low grades, but like a student far behind in Calculus or Physics, it will take a lot of sincere effort and plain old hard work.  I for one am confident he can do it - assuming he really wants to!

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