In the course of electioneering, Barack Obama massively exaggerated his intentions. He played on hope, built expectations, and was destined to disappoint. As a president he presents himself as mindful that his predecessors have left him a considerable agenda. He is faced with formidable opposition to almost everything that he sets out to do, he needs to act tough and make enemies for the sake of the principles he claims to uphold. He needs to carry his public goodwill to shore up his reforms, push through a second stimulus package if needed, ensure that healthcare reform is anything like the plans he speaks of, leave Iraq and stand-up to Israel.
His actions belie his rhetoric. For all the plentiful ‘tough talk’ there have been few strong actions. He fudges issues and fails to deliver his promises. For those that think that his policy half-measures are better than nothing, please bear in mind that an insufficient stimulus package and half-baked heathcare reform could well prove counter productive. Critics of the plans will be able to say, “we tried them once and they didn’t work. Now you want more money? Why throw good money after bad?”
The highlights of his presidency have been the reversal of Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, his easing of restrictions on Cuba, and the change of rhetoric on many issues. With the exception of providing government funding for stem cell research, his achievements are easily exaggerated. His presidency has been characterised by morally deplorable foreign policy, compromises that please nobody and competent public relations management in the face of a largely servile media. (When Obama is criticised by the media, it tends to be on insignificant or spurious grounds).
In regards to the change in rhetoric, little else has changed. During his presidential inauguration speech Barack Obama said, “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.” This is nonsense. America is a friend to its client states and an enemy to those that get in the way.
Obama has proclaimed his commitment “to governments that reflect the will of the people” and of ‘democracy promotion’. Indeed, Obama called for increased investment in ‘democracy promotion’ in Latin America. As it turns out, those investments were to do the opposite of what he claimed they were to do. Democracy promotion funding has been used to support a military coup d'état in Honduras, which overthrew a democratically elected president with a progressive agenda.
The money for democracy promotion funds the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These agencies heavily funded the various organisations that formed Democratic Civil Union of Honduras.
Its [Democratic Civil Union of Honduras] only objective was to oust President Zelaya from power in order to impede the future possibility of a constitutional convention to reform the constitution, which would allow the people a voice and a role in their political process.
Despite apparent ‘condemnation’ through careful description of the coup as “not legal”, Obama has tacitly supported the coup d'état and the coup government financially and militarily. When Obama talks about ‘difficult’ issues his speech is laden with considerable obfuscation. All too often it is what he deliberately omits the objectionable truths. Obama has not acknowledged the coup d'état as a coup d'état for fear of forcing his own hand.
Obama has portrayed himself as being tough on Israel. He told Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “settlements have to be stopped”. Yet Obama has done nothing about the continued expansion of settlements. America continues to fund the Israeli government. The U.S. has plenty of leverage over the Israel and there is historical precedence in using it. For example, during his presidency George H. W. Bush (by no means the most progressive president) suspended loan guarantees to Israel because of settlement expansion. Obama chooses to do nothing.
When discussing America's 'new' approach to counterterrorism Obama said, “America's moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership”. Yet extraordinary rendition continues unabated. The “historic consensus” on significantly cutting carbon is a cynical exercise in greenwashing. It is full of loopholes and too long term to really effect Obama’s presidency. The planned departure of US troops from Iraq is a weak line of action that comes up short. It is an unquestionable fudge.
Obama has eased restrictions on Cuba and said that he seeks “an equal partnership”. These changes are, as Fidel Castro rightly considered them, "positive although minimal". The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba is still in place. The U.S. continues to punish Cuba by keeping in place this hangover from the Cold War whilst continuing to support dictators and aggressive regimes that it views favourably. A global superpower continuing to undermine small island is not grounds for an equal partnership.
The actions of the Obama administration expose Obama for the largely unprincipled and wilfully deceptive man he is. In the light of the military coup d'état in Honduras Hugo Chavez addressed Obama via Venezuelan state television. He said, "don't deceive the world with a discourse that contradicts your actions". Fat chance