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Why people don't like Obama

Andrew Sullivan ponders that question today. I'm feeling link lazy. So go to the Beast if you want to read it in full. Basically he makes the reasonable points that he helped keep the economy from being worse than it was, passed a form of universal healthcare, oversaw the ousting of bin Laden and Qadaffi, and has conducted himself in a more or less presidential manner. That's all true. And of course that hasn't prevented the right from completely freaking out over everything he has done.

But more than the outrage from the right, Andrew has a harder time pinning down why liberals aren't happy with Obama. I think a big part of the problem for liberals were our expectations for Obama coming into office. We had just suffered through 8 years of the ridiculous Bush administration. And at the end of that we suffered a big recession. On top of that Obama came in with the uplifting and hopeful rhetoric that suggested that he wanted to change things and implement strongly liberal policies. And after the election, he looked to have enough votes in congress that would allow him to do that.

But starting with the very first thing he did, the stimulus, we didn't get exactly what we wanted. Looking at the data now, we know that things were much worse than we thought and we were therefore expecting unreasonable results. We also saw the beginnings of slight dissent from moderate Dems who, even if Obama would have pushed for more stimulus, would have been hesitant. When Obama took on his next issue, we saw those moderate Dems gum up the works again when it came to things like the public option in the ACA. Then you had the failure of a carbon tax and an extension of all the Bush tax cuts.

Maybe Andrew is right that its a bit unfair to be mad at Obama for not getting all of that. But that is only part of the problem. Andrew doesn't even mention national security and foreign policy. At least for me, this is the biggest reason liberals have been mad or disappointed with Obama. He has ended the torture policies of the Bush administration. But he didn't hold any of them accountable for what they did. He hasn't shut down Gitmo, balked at trying terrorists in the US, killed American citizens without due process, and to my knowledge done nothing about warrantless surveillance or the bloated anti-terrorism bureaucracy. Plus he escalated things in Afghanistan, hasn't done much in Iraq, and started a war with Libya without going to congress and trying to say it wasn't actually a war.

For the most part he has been barely distinguishable from Bush on the foreign policy and national security fronts. And up until the great recession, those issues were the most important for liberals. By not changing the course Bush set out Obama has made it more difficult for future presidents to do the right things.

I think Andrew is probably hearing from the loudest and most boisterous opinions from liberals. Most of us are a bit disappointed. But we aren't all that angry with Obama. And certainly nowhere close to how the right feels about him. What I hope these past few years will teach liberals is that we have to temper our expectations for presidents. Much of what they do is tied to the situation with congress and other structural factors throughout the country. And because of that, we need to spend more time focussing on congress and how we can positively affect those forces.