What makes a man turn neutral ... Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality? -- Zapp Brannigan
If the Obama administration was a color, it would be gray. Far from the socialist revolution feared by the right and still pathetically whined about by the TEAbagging crowd, and far from a paragon of strong liberal policies effectively executed, Obama is no longer the enigma that worried many voters in 2008. We know exactly where he comes from:
This may seem a betrayal to liberals who thought they were voting for a more inspirational version of Howard Dean. With his message of hope and significant change, Obama's base thought that transformational policies were going to sweep across this country: better schools, faster and cleaner transportation options, renewable energy , a transparent and ethical government, a peace-oriented foreign policy and single payer health care reform. In fact, Obama's rhetoric throughout the campaign and the earliest days of his presidency implied that he intended to deliver on these promises.
Obama has been far too willing to compromise on all these policies. The brand of health care reform in the process of passing the Senate is a giveaway to major insurance conglomerates that bears little resemblance to the government-managed option most voters wanted to see in 2008. The administration decided to pass an opportunity to cease the Afghanistan war, instead dedicating more troops to the conflict. A weak compromise on climate change revealed the diplomatic weakness of the Obama White House. Thus far he has failed to close the infamous prison at Guatanamo Bay and deal with its inmates. Obama's brand of clean energy initiatives boil down to the same kind of tax incentives that failed to stimulate development during the Bush Administration, just targeted at different industries. And Obama's transportation plans? $8 billion for high speed rail - not enough to build a single rail line.
It isn't that progress hasn't been made on all these promises. $8 billion for high-speed rail is $8 billion more than we have ever had before. The Bush Administration and Republican-controlled Congresses failed to make any progress dealing with detained enemy combatants. Obama simultaneously set a target date for a drawdown when announcing that additional troops would be deployed to Afghanistan. For the first time the United States will participate in a global treaty to reduce human impact on the climate, and the health care reform, while a compromise, is a landmark piece of legislation that will reduce the cost of health care and expand its accessibility.
Obama's willingness to compromise and assume the middle ground makes him an effective leader who has actually had a very productive first year. He is down-right Clintonesque. He occupies the same grey-area as Clinton - in the middle of the political scrum.
Let us not forget that Clinton led the Democrats to disaster in 1994. Count me among those who hope that Obama can deliver in 2010.