Sunday, January 25, 2009

The 'Economist' on Obama and the Question of Betrayal

By Ben Trott

The 'Lexington' column in this week's Economist focusses on Obama's betrayal of the left - either real or perceived. It lists some of the criticism which have so far been made of Obama by progressives, liberals and those further to the left - many of which have also been flagged up on this blog.

Unsurprisingly, when the paper ask the question (which one cannot help feeling is being asked somewhat rhetorically) 'Should Mr Obama worry about all this?', there answer is: 'Not much.' The column continues,
'For one thing, he is still hugely popular. A whopping 79% of Americans approve of him. Two days before the inauguration, when a preacher told a crowd that Mr Obama was not the Messiah, he was booed (in jest, one hopes). For another, Mr Obama is not breaking as many promises as his former fans imagine. Mostly, he is breaking only promises they think he made. Had they read the small print, they would have seen that he left himself some wiggle room. During his campaign Mr Obama was, as he put it himself, “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project[ed] their own views”. He gave a lot of people the strong impression that their most urgent goals were also his. As president, he can no longer maintain this illusion.

'He must make trade-offs. He wants to cool the planet, but without stifling growth. He wants to close Guantánamo, but without freeing anyone who will then shoot up a shopping mall. He cannot govern from the centre without upsetting his left flank from time to time; nor should he try. He also wants to be re-elected and, if the past is any guide, he will pursue this goal with ruthless pragmatism. During the campaign, for example, he said he favoured civil unions but refused to endorse gay marriage. Cynical observers suspected a fudge—that he said this only to dull the sting of Republican attack ads. It seems the cynics were right: last week a gay paper dug up a long-lost questionnaire from 1996 in which he strongly endorsed gay marriage. In this case, Mr Obama really is more liberal than the image he projected. In others, the opposite may be true. The world will know soon enough.'
The LGBT paper referred to is the Windy City Times, which as the name implies is based in Obama's former hometown of Chicago. have uploaded the relevant pages of the newspaper's report here.

The Windy City Times website also provides a link to the following White House policy statement on LGBT rights, published as Obama was sworn in as President on January 20.

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