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I support President Obama because he is unquestionably a positive alternative to George W. Bush. That said, however, like many others, Blacks especially, I am very concerned about his propensity for accommodation and reversing himself on major issues. On certain domestic and foreign policy matters his position is indistinguishable from that of his predecessor.
This column welcomed the new president as a positive mega-change, but cautioned, "...those who believe Obama to be a flawless icon will be sorely disappointed." Legitimate questions regarding some of his positions were raised even during his campaign and continued with even liberals and progressives grumbling over cabinet nominations, his equivocating on a campaign promise to approve faith-based aid on an agreement by religious charities not to discriminate in hiring, sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and the $787 billion Stimulus bill.
Many Americans and arguably, a majority of Blacks, embraced the myth that Obama's presidency ushered in an age of color blindness, i.e., a "post-racial society." This kind of thinking was pervasive and served to blunt a comprehensive critique of Obama's potential and performance, but the halo effect has diminished considerably.
Ironically, Eric H. Holder, Obama's choice as the nation's first Black attorney-general, was, at first, anything but accommodating. He urged Americans, in and out of government, to action, stating, "The United States is a nation of cowards that urgently needs to begin confronting the issue of race before it polarizes the country further... Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards." It is evident is that even if Obama pre-sanctioned Holder's remarks, he himself did not, and has not, clearly articulated a similarly forceful position on the primacy of race in America.
As for Blacks, too many fail to admit they are only one of many special interest groups, most of whom pound on Obama's door much louder and longer than they do. Moreover, unless Blacks present strategic initiatives from unified fronts, they will remain perpetual moaners outside of the loop of influence. Further, strategic unity among Black leadership is indispensable for securing and maintaining a place at the nation's decision-making tables.
Two years into Obama's presidency, many concerns have proven to be predictors. In short, concerns about his over-accommodation and downplaying the role of race were warranted. He has backtracked on several key issues and continued several of George W. Bush's policies. For example, he embraces national security policies that he once criticized. Earlier this month, he decided to try five accused conspirators before a military commission in the prison at Guantanamo rather than in a civil court in the United States.
Public criticism of terrorists' trials in a U.S. civilian court was widespread so Obama eventually backed down. Remember, in the first week of his presidency he issued an Executive Order calling for the closure of Guantanamo within a year, "to restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great, even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorists." (So much for President Obama's sincere but unsustainable executive intention to close Guantanamo.)
Another noteworthy example is Obama's voluntarily continuing a Bush's policy he criticized while campaigning-the "state secrets" doctrine which allows the government to shut down a trial on the grounds that it would betray sensitive information. The Bush Administration invoked the doctrine to prevent the disclosure of information about abuses in the war on terror. The Obama Administration has embraced the same doctrine.
Still another example is Obama's signing of an extension of three sections of the Patriot Act. One of the provisions allows investigators to obtain business records or other "tangible things" with a minimal showing to a judge of a connection to terrorism. Arguably, such vague criteria are prima facie discriminatory and will likely curtail the rights of those under investigation.
The list of Obama's equivocations and accommodations is considerable, ranging from bailing out mega banks and corporations at the expense of the average citizen, to his war in Libya-as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan, which he inherited.
Yes, President Obama is operating under severe pressure and the emergence of arch conservatism, exemplified by the Tea Party movement has added immeasurably to the tremendous stresses of the office. Nonetheless, he has accomplished a great deal in two years and heading the list is national healthcare, for the first time in U. S. history.
Barak Obama's presidency has altered neither racism nor political and economic realities but signals, as never before, seeds and hope for actual change. Those most in need, Blacks especially, must insist that the President's policies include discernible benefit for them as well.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail