Obama promised that he'd clean up Washington, that he'd take the high road, and that he'd be bipartisan and concilliatory. His commitment to those promises has got him bending over backwards to please the most crooked and bitterly partisan reactionaries in the republican party, at the neglegence of the other "change" he gave us (well, those of you who voted for him anyway) the vague impression that you were supposed to "hope" for.
If the democrats had the balls to put up a candidate who had the guts to say "this country is on the wrong track, and i'm going to do everything i can to get it back on the right track, whatever it takes, damn the conservative critics" during the election, i might have voted for em. Instead, we're in the position where the republicans are still defining the agenda, and i suspect by the time the cabinet selection process is finished, they'll still be running the country.
Let's take a quick trip back to 2004. To the day that i swore i'd never waste my vote and volunteer time on a spineless democrat again, that is, the day that Kerry stopped counting votes in Ohio. On that day, George W Bush made a nice little speach about how, obviously this is a nation divided, and how his party is going to have to reach accross the aisle and be more bipartisan.
Two days later, he made a much more vigorous speech about how his slim, contestable margin of victory was a "mandate for his policies", and how for the next four years he'd be doing everything he could to do everything he'd always wanted to do. And then he did. And the party cheered him for it.
Now we're in a position where the democrats have actually won by a big margin, one that's actually worth calling a mandate, and because the democrats are still spineless, that mandate is being squandered on appeasing right wingers. I wonder if there's a major difference in mentality behind this. If democrats expect their leaders to be principled, to do what they say and republicans don't. Seriously, do democrats pay closer attention and hold their elected officials to a higher standard? It sure seems like it. It seems like republicans are willing to forgive their officials' indescretions and outright lies as long as they get a tax break or some fiery xtian rehtoric (depending on which kind of conservative zealot they are).
There's a tradition in American politics i learned about in school. It's called the "100 days". The first hundred days of a new president's first term, he's given some slack. He's allowed to take risks, make mistakes and to familiarize himself with the position, the dynamics and with the compromises that need to be made in that position. The media and the opposition party are generally expected to be forgiving, make some concessions, and compromise on some issues. Back in November the media and republicans whined endlessly that Obama would be coddled as the 'golden boy' forever (well the ones who weren't arleady trying to impeach him, or hanging nooses in trees, that is). Now, here, in reality, dude didn't get 20 of his 100 days.
On the cabinet appointments: All politicians are crooked. All politicians have always been crooked. Crookedness is part of being a politician, and exploiting tax loopholes and avoiding paying taxes on whatever little thing you can get away with is part of being a prominent rich American. Of course they don't know about it, Tom Daschale doesn't do his own taxes, he does the same thing every rich american does, he pays someone to get him the best deal he can get, even if it's only "close enough" to being legal. This is another example of democrats holding themselves to a higher standard. Look at the business cronies and crooks Bush packed into his cabinet, and how did republicans react to the left's accusations and complaints about these candidates? With dismissal and bitter outrage at having been questioned at all. I'm not saying that i support lower standards than Obama has set for himself, but i highly doubt that his more moderate (read: conservative) appointments, or the republicans he's putting on his cabinet (a third one this week) recieve the same level of scrutiny or criticism. The end result is going to be: a cabinet of ineffectual moderates or outright conservatives who are no more clean than dashale or geitner, but who just haven't been looked over as thoroughly.
On the stimulus package: not one republican in the house voted for it, and now it's gone through the senate, where (i haven't read the details yet) it's probably been stripped of half it's targeted programs and filled with tax breaks for the 'middle class' (ie the rich). Now, i'm no fan of stimulus packages, bailouts, and other programs designed to prop up a failing economic system. I'd like to see shock therepy, let the failing system fail, it'll be hell for a while, but the rebuilding will be actually much improved, it'll be a system and set of institutions based on present reality, not on historical precedent and obsolete theory (milton friedman). That option's not on the table, so let's look at what is: compare this package vs the opaque blank check for the financial industry that Bush passed. The democrats' package actually specifies where the free government money will go, and directs it toward sustainablity and growth programs that at that least attempt to reshape our economy into something that won't fail in exactly this same way next year.
Those republicans who supported the first but blocked the second have shown themselves as completely intellectually bankrupt, hopelessly partisan and unworthy of compromise. They clearly don't have a problem with wasting tax payer money, they supported the first bailout, so what do they have a problem with? The environment, urban children, artists, the lower class, liberals. They're so blinded by 20 years of bitter rhetoric against strawman versions of these people that somehow it seems they'd rather dump billions of our dollars into the huge sucking vacuum of crooked financial institutions than invest anything in our future.
There is no such thing as bipartisan compromise with people like this. Obama had a spine, he'd say so, he'd use his mandate and his bully pulpit to insist on getting his 100 days, and ram the plan down Wall Street and K Street's throats. But he doesn't, so he won't, and no "leftist" elected under the current system ever will. The problems with american politics are structural, and we're not going to get a new structure until we stop legitimizing the old one.