From the perspective of liberals, the Obama administration has been downright awful. Obama set the tone for his presidency by involving a misogynistic, heterosexist, and anti American religious extremist, Rick Warren, in the inauguration. From continuing torture in Gitmo, Bagrham, and the rape rooms of Abu Ghraib to pushing financial reforms that are far too heavily weighted in favor of the banksters, Obama has pursued Republican policies that vast majority of the time. We are still in Iraq. Obama's Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton, is doing everything in her power to start a war with Iran and to spark and Arab-Israeli war. This administration may let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire in the face of a huge deficit, but they are doing nothing to repeal Reagan's tax cuts for the rich. Our bloated military budget keeps growing astronomically. Illegal spying on Americans continues just as it did under Bush, and the Obama administration has continued to follow the previous regime's policy of obstruction of justice for criminals like Bush and Cheney.
Whether this administration is called the third Bush term or the eighth Reagan term, things have been dreadful. And, the string of betrayals found its epitome in the reverse Robin Hood wealthcare bill. Liberals have every reason to be really, really pissed off at President Obama.
Perhaps that's why Obama has been throwing some bones at us lately.
Recess Appointments to the NLRB
Desperate to prove that they are more bought than the Democrats, Republicans have been blocking nomination votes on two appointees to the National Labor Relations Board. Once wealthcare had passed, Obama used his constitutional powers to appoint Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. Having an NLRB with a voting majority and one that isn't biased against workers is important for union organizing. Unions need all the help they can get, especially since the excise taxes on mediocre health plans (as opposed to the rest of the plans which are just plain awful) will weaken their bargaining positions considerably if they go into effect as scheduled by the wealthcare bill in 2018.
Nuclear Arms Agreement with Russia
Many on the left and the right are exaggerating the significance of this arms agreement. Even after it goes into effect, Russia and the USA will both be able to kill everyone on the planet many times over. The main significance of the bill, and it is important, is that reducing the number of nuclear weapons reduces that odds of an accidental nuclear strike or nuclear war.
Visitation Rights Expanded
Obama's record so far on queer issues has been all over the map so far, but this is one case of Obama doing something that is even better than most people have realized so far. From the Gay City News 4/16/10:
In a Memorandum to the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, President Barack Obama requested that the agency develop federal regulations to ensure that hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs — which make up virtually all the nation’s hospitals — allow visitation and medical decision-making by the individuals designated by the patient.
In the opening paragraphs of the two-page memo, released on the evening of April 15, the president said, “Uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”
The interesting, and seldom discussed, aspect of this is that the visitation rights and designations for medical decision makers are not limited to lovers, same sex or opposite sex. This directive will get rid of the most heinous examples of discrimination against single people of all sexual orientations and gender identities while dealing with cruel heterosexist discrimination.
Some Regulation of Mountaintop Removal Mining
The Environmental Protection Agency has finally put some regulations on the unethical and environmentally disastrous practice of mountaintop removal mining. The destruction of mountains and the poisoning of drinking water resulting from this demonstrates what a disgusting lie "Clean Coal" is. Regulation of Big Coal on this issue is a positive first step towards what needs to happen in the future: banning this mining practice and phasing out coal entirely.
The hopeful side of me would like to think that maybe Obama realizes that he needs to give Democrats and liberal independents positive reasons to show up to the polls and vote for Democratic politicians. The awfulness of the GOP just isn't enough. I am a bit hopeful, but I'm clear eyed enough to realize that Obama's record in the White House gives us all an overwhelming numbers of reasons for skepticism.