Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 12th, 2011
Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (Finn/Kornblut, Washington Post, 3/7/11):
President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.
It’s not the last straw for me; that was somewhere along the line a while ago. But it did seem to merit a response, so I made one, with apologies and credit to James McMurtry’s great “Cheney’s Toy” song.
To family, friends, and neighbors who like Obama – I’d drink a beer with him too, he’s eloquent, thoughtful, all that. That’s not the point. The point is that the facts unfortunately show he’s not on my side on a lot of critical issues. So I’m not on his. The video provides a partial bill of particulars and ends by suggesting — or rather pleading for — the course of action in the title of this post: “Primary him.” For a set of links supporting some of this, see my ongoing list gathered under the tag “obamadisappointsagain.” After a while, of course, it’s stupid to be disappointed, but that’s how I felt at first, and the label remains convenient.
Last December, Michael Tomasky at the Guardian zeroed in on a DailyKos diarist’s similar plea and called it “deeply silly.” Yet it wasn’t “just” some DailyKos netizens who were and are grumbling; in the same month, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner laid out a good case for a primary challenge in the Washington Post: Save Obama’s presidency by challenging him on the left. Two key paragraphs:
With his base deeply disillusioned, many progressives are starting to believe that Obama has little chance of winning reelection unless he enthusiastically embraces a populist agenda and worldview – soon. Yet there is little chance that will happen without a massive public revolt by his constituency that goes beyond rallies, snide remarks from television personalities or indignant op-eds.
Those of us who worry that a full-scale Republican return to power in 2012 would be a disaster not just for those hurting from the Republican-policy-inspired economic meltdown but also for the environment, social justice and world peace believe it is critical to get Obama to become the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008. Despite the outcome of last month’s election, it is unlikely that the level of his base’s alienation will register with the president until late in the 2012 election cycle – far too late for society today and our future tomorrow.
Lerner believes — and I agree — that a challenge could galvanize activism on the left going into the 2012 general election. And the point need not be to sink Obama’s ship — it will be good just to board it for the general election campaign; that might mean, say, switching Vice Presidents, or getting commitments for other cabinet posts. And of course getting commitments to reverse the disappointing policies of his first term. If none of that turns out to be possible, though, there’s a real question in my mind whether electing a Republican in Democrat’s clothing is really all that preferable to electing one the left can actually organize against.
That leaves the question of “who?”, of course, and here Lerner suggests a number of possibilities. Tomasky indicates that the two I’d favor most — Feingold and Dean — have apparently ruled out anything of the sort. Yet situations can change. And at any rate, Obama himself was not a household word when his meteoric rise to power began. New leaders can emerge. I hope they do.