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Barack Obama's campaign theme as he ran for president was "change we can believe in." He delivered that message in a compelling fashion and tens of millions of Americans responded.
After Obama was elected by a clear mandate from the American people, an incoherent, angry astroturf far right movement developed. The Tea Party was born. They primarily screeched about how far left Mr. Obama would take the nation. The stimulus bill passed to avert a rerun of the Great Depression was the first and final straw for patriotic white, middle aged, affluent Republican males who just "wanted their country back." In the eyes of America's far right, Obama was and is a socialist, a destroyer of everything American, so far to the radical left, that there was little difference between him and Joseph Stalin....or Mao.
The reality of Obama's presidency, naturally, runs contrary to Tea Party lore.
Obama pre-emptively caved to conservative forces even in the stimulus bill. He increased the tax cuts in the bill to curry favor with the oh-so-bipartisan right....he received 3 GOP votes in the Senate, none in the House.
Obama escalated the senseless military occupation of Afghanistan much to the pleasure of neo-conservatives. Definitely not a passive, hippy, leftist stance.
In the health care "debate", the socialist Obama, the far leftist Obama, refused to allow single payer to be placed "on the table." He played political rope-a-dope with the "public option", then voluntarily complied with the wishes of conservatives by excluding any such provision from the final bill....a bill which saw zero GOP support.
More recently, the former "most liberal senator in the Senate" pre-emptively caved again to conservative wishes by unilaterally announcing his consent to new offshore oil drilling. A move currently biting his pre-emptively conciliatory ass.
The new president nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Ms. Sotomayor, though a fine choice for the bench, was certainly no liberal.....despite the lunatic ravings of the far right.
The question came early for liberals. If Obama was a progressive, when would he provide the leadership-evidence proving it? Alas, it was not, and is not, to be.
On state secrets, detainee trials, assassination policies, and government transparency....the "liberal" Obama has been further to the right than George W. Bush. Obama has expanded the neo-conservative doctrine, not reined it in.
And so it comes as no surprise this morning to learn that Barack Obama will be nominating Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stephens on the Supreme Court.
Stephens, though nominated by the Republican, Gerald Ford, was the leader of truly progressive thinking on the Court. Ms. Kagan is no Stephens. Her record on diversity is disappointing, to say the least. She has a sure-to-be-exploited-for-theatrical-value-by-conservatives, connection with Goldman Sachs. In the past she has shown support for the Cheneyesque view of an expansive executive branch.
Ms. Kagan's addition to the Court will, as Glenn Greenwald explained a month ago, move the Court further to the right. A Democratic president, one who campaigned on change Americans could believe in, but one who has done very little other than appeasing the failed conservative right, is actually going to take the Supreme Court of the United States deeper into conservative territory.
It very much reminds me of the Democrat, Bill Clinton, passing welfare reform at the gleeful urging of Republicans.
In the past, I have referred to Barack Obama as a pragmatic incrementalist. If "change" was coming via Obama....it was baby step change. With the nomination today of Ms. Kagan....I must re-evaluate even that characterization.
By appointing the blank-slate-with-neo-conservative-leanings-and-a-link-to-Goldman-Sachs, Elena Kagan, President Obama is demonstrating that he is simply an appeaser. The president has decided to take the easy path in an election year. He doesn't want to ruffle the feathers of already-extremely-angry conservatives. For what possible reason....I don't know.
Kagan was previously confirmed for the Solicitor General position by a bipartisan vote in the Senate of 61-31. Republican Senators will put on a show during the confirmation hearings to come.....but they will know today with Obama's announcement that he is appeasing them. They will know that this Supreme Court choice is one made to avoid an ugly fight before the midterm election. Republicans will know that Obama, rather than being a socialist or a leftist, or even a progressive,....is but an appeaser. A pursuer of unilateral bipartisanship to the demise of the nation, an incrementalist, a pragmatist, a centrist.....and now, a seemingly weak appeaser.
Today's announcement, though not totally unexpected, is a huge disappointment.