You've probably heard that comedian (more on that in a minute) Bill Maher, host of a show on HBO called "Real Time," has entered, stage left, to become a leading critic of President Obama from the liberal point of view. There's one aspect of Maher's jihad that I disagree with, which is how he says that Obama has not been the president he thought he was voting for.
From my perspective, Obama has been exactly the kind of president I expected -- too cautious, sometimes losing substance in pursuit of a kind of useless bipartisan style, needing a constant push from the masses to do the right thing. It why I've made the same argument here again and again and again -- that journalists and activists should be passionate defenders and advocates for ideas, but not for people, because people will let you down at least some of the time.
Right now, Obama isn't getting that push, and you can see the results:
They're getting to the point where they're saying 'Yeah, we still like Obama. He's our guy. We're glad he's our president. But where's the beef?" And it's easy to make speeches. What's hard to do is stand up to corporations. Corporations and their incredible strength are what have ruined this country so far. And this president we thought might be the one to stand up to them. I'm losing hope. I still have audacity but my hope is fading."
The specifics are even more troubling in some cases. It's not as front-burner as fixing the economy, perhaps, but it's disturbing and puzzling that a man who speaks of the "audacity of hope" is more timid than the American people on advocating for gay rights, especially on the miiliary's ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The other thing that is troubling and also pointless is that Obama is clearly breaking his promise to be more transparent than the presidents who have come before him. We're seeing this repeatedly now, with the continued sealing of White House visitor logs the latest offense.
On gay rights, Obama seems obsessed with not becoming "another Bill Clinton." That's absurd -- this is 2009, not 1993. On transparency and other presidential powers, this is exactly what progressives and others were warning about during the Bush-Cheney power grab, that there was no reason to think that a Democratic president would volutarily roll those back. The losers are the American people.
One more thing: A few months ago, I (and many others) noted there's probably something wrong when it took a comedian like Jon Stewart to expose some of our financial charlatans. But now Bill Maher clinches it: Comedians are the last remaining truthtellers in America.