Take Bill Clinton. He promised to end discrimination in the military by abolishing don’t ask-don’t tell. No sooner in office, Clinton reneged under pressure from the brass.
It was mostly downhill after that cave-in. Clinton retained as chairman of the Fed Alan Greenspan, the high priest of unfettered capitalism, deregulation and Republicanism.
Triangulating furiously, Clinton stole a GOP plank by abolishing welfare “as we know it.” He pushed global capitalism, meaning free trade for corporations. His liberal instincts vanished.
So, will Obama have the steel to take on the military-industrial-congressional complex ruining America? And if he does, can he do anything about it?
One part of the baleful complex is congressional. Members of Congress find larding their districts and states irresistible. Example: F-22 fighter jet parts are made in 300 of 435 congressional districts.
Then, will Obama muster the will to end the American Empire? Will he bring home the troops from Afghanistan and Iraq soonest?
The foolish expenditure of blood and trillions of dollars and worldwide moral revulsion are not worth it. Moreover, those two wars are unwinnable as was America’s war in Vietnam.
Afghans have defeated every invader for centuries, most recently the Soviets. Iraqis justly abhor the American occupiers of their country.
Then, will Obama have the will to greatly reduce the 761 U.S. bases, not counting those in Afghanistan and Iraq, circling the globe? Will he have the will to slash the bloated $1 trillion annual Pentagon budget?
Will he put the nation on a peaceful footing rather than its permanent war footing? Will he stop America’s world policing? Will he reverse the reprehensible unipolar policy of President Bush?
And how about the gratutious military strikes in Pakistan and Syria, blatant violations of international law? Will Obama have the will to halt them?
And torture? This heinous policy must be reversed. Will he close Guantánamo as a gross violation of the Fifth Amendment (due process) and the Sixth Amendment (speedy trial)?
It is long overdue for America to improve the life of its citizens. Obama can start with universal health care, something that the civilized nations of “old” Europe have long had.
And he can push for the progressive tax system making the weathy pay much more. And he can acknowledge the paramountcy of working people.
And isn’t it excessive to have 16 intelligence agencies? Will Obama stop spy agencies like the CIA from launching airstrikes? That is hardly intelligence-gathering.
Will Obama admit that the U.S. worldwide war on drugs is an expensive fraud, that the global war on terror is a costly folly? Will he reverse the inhumane policy toward Cuba, a small nation with universal health care and paid maternity lacking in America?
Will he restore the Constitution that Bush so blithely tore up, knowing that law rules, not monarchial presidents?
Obama also needs the guts to halt the threatened restart of the Cold War. The Russian bear is growling — and with good reason.
American bases ring Russia. America’s influence is growing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is placing a missile system in Poland. It is expanding NATO to Russia’s doorstep. America backs Georgia, overlooking its unprovoked assault on South Ossetia.
Who can blame Russia for wanting to put short-range missiles along its border with Poland to counter the Bush plan to build a missile defense system in Europe?
America under Bush showed arrogance and defiance of world opinion. Will Obama halt those obscenities?
Fortunately, some nations are beginning to show spine. South America, led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, is shouting “¡Bastante!” (enough) to historic U.S. hegemony. Iraq is unwilling to meekly accept the permanent presence of America.
Nevertheless, Obama faces an enormous obstacle: Washington. Its culture is so resistant to reform, so incestuous, so much a business-as-usual town. It hates the very word reform.
Obama can be the greatest president since FDR, changing “this sorry scheme of things entire.” He should not listen to the cries of centrist Democrats to go slow.
He should jettison all those Democratic and Republican retreads and insiders being considered for key positions, the very people who politicized and compromised good government.
The nation badly needs boldness and vision. The status quo was bad yesterday and even worse today.
True, Obama will have a bully pulpit to fight a reactionary Congress. But remember: presidents propose, Congresses dispose.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.