Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama: Year One

A lot of new books on Obama on the market, many of them unflattering, but Jonathan Alter offers an inside look at the first year of this administration in his new book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One,

... an exceptionally well-written account of President Obama's first year in office. Brimming with fresh and judicious ideas, his book fuses political analysis, subtle insights into the president's mind and policy debates into a fast-paced, crisis-filled story. "The Promise," based on more than 200 interviews with Obama and his close friends and aides, provides an uncommonly candid look inside a somewhat walled-off White House.


  1. I feel like "The Promise" has been broken in recent months, as Obama no longer even mentions Gitmo, which was supposed to be closed down in January, seems hopelessly out of his realm on the issue of immigration, seeming to be caving into conservative interests on the subject. He apparently still plans to make renewed offshore oil leases a part of his energy plan even after this awful tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. His belligerence on sanctions on Iran has now led to counter offers by Brazil and Turkey to defuse the situation. It was Obama who was supposed to start a new chapter in our relations with the Muslim world. Instead, he seems to be following the same playbook as the Bush administration, moving troops from one theater of war to another and even talking about mobilizing NG troops along the Mexican border.

    This is a bad time to be rescinding on "The Promise" he made during the campaign, as it only gives the Teabaggers more ammunition. He should be taking firm stances and challenging the Republicans like he did back in January when he faced off against the House Republicans in Annapolis.

    Not too late to go back to "The Promise."

  2. All I know is I wouldn't want to be the President.

  3. Ironically, illegal immigration has declined the past two years. In fact, illegal immigration has been trending downward ever since 2005. You would think this administration might want to remind the media of this.

  4. But don't you think that might involve them in saying something positive about "the fence"?

  5. This list of what O's been up to was sent out 3/16/10 (more to follow)

    1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending
    2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices
    3. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women
    4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
    5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB
    6. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information
    7. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family
    8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act
    9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible
    10. Limits on lobbyist's access to the White House
    11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
    12. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date
    13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren't even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan
    14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
    15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
    16. New federal funding for science and research labs
    17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards
    18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect
    19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools
    20. New funds for school construction
    21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out
    22. US Auto industry rescue plan
    23. Housing rescue plan
    24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan
    25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying
    26. US financial and banking rescue plan
    27. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed
    28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards
    29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops
    30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010
    31. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols
    32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic
    33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
    34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
    35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job
    36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast
    37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles
    38. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales
    39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government
    40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children
    41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program
    42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones
    43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
    44. Expanding vaccination programs
    45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters

  6. Continued:

    46. Closed offshore tax safe havens
    47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
    48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back
    49. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices
    50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
    51. Lower drug costs for seniors
    52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings
    53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel
    54. Improved housing for military personnel
    55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses
    56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals
    57. Increasing student loans
    58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program
    59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy
    60. Established a new cyber security office
    61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.
    62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts
    63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness
    64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient
    65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced
    66. Improving benefits for veterans
    67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration
    68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud
    69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco
    70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules
    71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports
    72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons
    73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive
    74. Making more loans available to small businesses
    75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare

  7. And finally:

    76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court
    77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans
    78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000
    79. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel
    80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan
    81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan
    82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans
    83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production
    84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters
    85. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket
    86. Held first Seder in White House
    87. Attempting to reform the nation's healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured
    88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform
    89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform
    90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform

    [Oh, yeah, he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office]

    nytempsperdu PS: Since the list was compiled there was a little item called HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM (how soon we forget...)

  8. Yeah, I know the health insurance reform goes in Congress's column, but I think he played a bit of a role...

    Sorry to be forum space hog, if briefly, now re-entering woodwork...

  9. He's been busy and the recent passage of the Banking Regulation Bill and his new mandates on truck fuel efficiency are both positive.

    But, he lost the ball on immigration and hasn't been getting his message out in general the past few months. He needs to address the media and the people, use his staff to counter all this nonsense spreading like spam through the media, close down and Gitmo and roll back efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  10. Thanks for the list, NY.

    I love our President.

    While I disagree with some (or even many) of his positions, he has my total respect, and believe he's the best President we'll see in our collective lifetime.

    It's like that Obama family portrait I posted awhile back -- it just makes me feel better knowing that they are living in the White House, even if I don't always agree with everything they are doing there.

    According to Alter, he got suckered into making some decisions by the outgoing Bushers about Afghanistan, but when he figured out what was really going on was when he hit the brakes hard. That's also apparently when he called in the military and called them on their insubordination.

    This is one of those cases where I passionately disagree with his decision, but can at least say I understand what he is trying to accomplish.

  11. I like Obama as well, but it seems to me he has become too cozy with the military,

  12. Seems Woodward is behind the 8-ball on Obama,

  13. Fascinating! I've never seen that before.

    I was just reading somewhere about the rush to publish the Obama books so that they could get out ahead of the pack. Turns out that Alter and Remnick both had the same title for their book: The Promise. Maybe Woodward also named his The Promise.

    Ryan Lizza, David Maraniss, and Bob Woodward all have books coming out.

  14. As for West Point, from the sounds of what Alter has written, Obama had to have a show down with the military.

    But it's not the military, as far as I can tell -- it's the occupation that Obama doesn't seem to want to deal with.