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Tom Hayden on Obama

Tom Hayden on Obama

By Dennis Loo (9/7/12)

Tom Hayden, one of the founders of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), a leading force in the 1960s’ protests, has an article at his website entitled “Saving Obama, Saving Ourselves.”

He wonders in this piece why some on the Left are so critical of Obama:

Why Obama’s achievements are dismissed or denied by many on the white liberal-left is a question worth serious consideration. It may only be a matter of legitimate disappointment after the utopian expectations of 2008. It could be pure antipathy to electoral politics, or a superficial assessment of how near impossible it is to change intransigent institutions. It could be a vested organizational interest in asserting there is no difference between the two major parties, a view wildly at odds with the intense partisan conflicts on exhibit every day. Or it could even be a white blindness in perceptions of reality on the left. When African American voters favor Obama 94-0 and the attacks are coming from the white liberal-left, something needs repair in the foundations of American radicalism.

I honestly don’t know what Hayden is talking about.

I certainly don’t dismiss or deny Obama’s achievements.

I’ve been really vocal in calling attention to Obama’s singular achievements. But then, maybe Hayden doesn't include me in his complaint since I'm obviously not part of the "white liberal-left." Do you think?

I think it’s extremely important that people pay attention to what Obama has done because it matters not just for his term(s) in office but even more importantly what precedent it sets for the future because that will be much more lasting in its impact.

The most notable of these achievements is not that he is the first black president of the United States.

No, Obama’s most important legacy, one that will continue to reverberate with successive administrations, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, is going to be that he is the first (black) U.S. President to …

legitimate the following, thereby making them the norm:

Torture and rendition, including torture unto death of more than a hundred detainees, by refusing to prosecute or even much investigate the confessed torture policies of Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Bybee, Rice, et al; if Obama had not refused to release the graphic photographic evidence of torture and death by torture, then those photos would have created a popular groundswell of revulsion for the Republicans and against torture and would have made the prosecution of those responsible for torture much easier, and would have additionally created such anger towards Republicans that they would have been discredited as a viable political party for years and unable to stand up against any other initiatives that the popularly elected Obama wanted to do, including offering a public option for health insurance, and the GOP would not have been able to gain seats in Congress in the 2010 elections and wreck the havoc that they have since;

Indefinite detention without charges – in fact, Obama’s gone further than Bush and said that he will hold people indefinitely if he thinks that they pose a danger, even if they’ve been found not guilty in a court of law or military tribunal (talk about upholding the rule of law!);

Drone warfare (including against even American citizens, and their use against innocents, both inadvertently as well as deliberately);

Ubiquitous surveillance over all of us, treating everyone as a suspect, no matter what we have or haven’t done;

Executive actions independent of any supervision by other branches of government or the public (including the president having a personal “kill list” of people who he orders assassinated, thereby exempting actions by the president from the rule of law) – imagine if Bush had announced that he had a “kill list;”

Aggressive war – attacking a country that has not first attacked you – by continuing the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, launching new wars against Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and possibly Iran, and by employing the same justifications for these unjust wars as Bush and Cheney (the so-called and inaccurately named “war on terror”);

Bailing out big business and Wall Street, including billions in bonuses to the 1% who were responsible for the mortgage crisis – in failing to hold Wall Street accountable, Obama helped to fuel the Tea Party phenomenon since a strong strain within that movement is opposition to Wall Street and the big banks;

Silencing, threatening, and intimidating whistleblowers such as Julian Assange and what Bradley Manning is accused of doing;

Accepting the Republican position that abortion is something that women should apologize for and being the first American president to overrule his own FDA and make it harder for a girl to prevent a pregnancy;

Sign a law (the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012) that gives the military the right to take away someone’s U.S. citizenship and to put people away indefinitely based merely upon someone’s accusation;

Deporting even more immigrants than Bush did.

Forgive me for listing only a partial set of Obama’s accomplishments. I could go on and on. Obama has been able to do things as a black president and as someone who many people trust that a white male Republican president such a Bush or McCain or Romney would never have been able to do without sparking massive street protest. Even though this is only a partial list, I think you can agree that these are notable accomplishments in their own right and Obama should be fully recognized for them.

(Feel free to write in and leave a comment or submit an article in which you can add to the list of Obama's accomplishments that he fully deserves to be recognized for.)

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