A Reply to the New York Times on Obama's Victory

by Dennis Loo

The day after Obama's victory, the New York Times ran the following editorial. After their essay is my response. 

"The Next President" by the New York Times Editors


11/5/08


This is one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts. An American with the name Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white woman and a black man he barely knew, raised by his grandparents far outside the stream of American power and wealth, has been elected the 44th president of the United States.


Showing extraordinary focus and quiet certainty, Mr. Obama swept away one political presumption after another to defeat first Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be president so badly that she lost her bearings, and then John McCain, who forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear. His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world.

 Mr. Obama spoke candidly of the failure of Republican economic policies that promised to lift all Americans but left so many millions far behind. He committed himself to ending a bloody and pointless war. He promised to restore Americans" civil liberties and their tattered reputation around the world.

With a message of hope and competence, he drew in legions of voters who had been disengaged and voiceless. The scenes Tuesday night of young men and women, black and white, weeping and cheering in Chicago and New York and in Atlanta's storied Ebenezer Baptist Church were powerful and deeply moving.

Mr. Obama inherits a terrible legacy. The nation is embroiled in two wars - one of necessity in Afghanistan and one of folly in Iraq. Mr. Obama's challenge will be to manage an orderly withdrawal from Iraq without igniting new conflicts so the Pentagon can focus its resources on the real front in the war on terror, Afghanistan.

The campaign began with the war as its central focus. By Election Day, Americans were deeply anguished about their futures and the government's failure to prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of deregulation. Mr. Obama will have to move quickly to impose control, coherence, transparency and fairness on the Bush administration's jumbled bailout plan.

His administration will also have to identify all of the ways that Americans" basic rights and fundamental values have been violated and rein that dark work back in. Climate change is a global threat, and after years of denial and inaction, this country must take the lead on addressing it. The nation must develop new, cleaner energy technologies, to reduce greenhouse gases and its dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Obama also will have to rally sensible people to come up with immigration reform consistent with the values of a nation built by immigrants and refugees.

There are many other urgent problems that must be addressed. Tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance, including some of the country's most vulnerable citizens - children of the working poor. Other Americans can barely pay for their insurance or are in danger of losing it along with their jobs. They must be protected.

Mr. Obama will now need the support of all Americans. Mr. McCain made an elegant concession speech Tuesday night in which he called on his followers not just to honor the vote, but to stand behind Mr. Obama. After a nasty, dispiriting campaign, he seemed on that stage to be the senator we long respected for his service to this country and his willingness to compromise.

That is a start. The nation's many challenges are beyond the reach of any one man, or any one political party.

***

This what I submitted to the NYT's website in response to their editorial above:

You write that Obama won because he sees "the utter failure of government to protect its citizens." If this is so, then why did Obama vote FOR the Telecom Amnesty Bill that legalizes the government's ubiquitous spying on all of us? If I'm not mistaken, the NYT editorialized against this outrageous bill that legalized the White House, the NSA, and the telecom companies' felonious breach of the 1978 FISA bill.

When the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was being considered in September of 2006, you editorialized that if you're going to filibuster anything, filibuster this, this bill that would legalize torture and strip habeas corpus rights from anyone deemed an "unlawful enemy combatant" by Bush or one of his people.

Yet Obama, though he voted against the MCA, failed at that historic moment on two counts: he refused to filibuster the MCA and he expressed his disagreements with it on the grounds that it was "dumb," not on the grounds that it was barbaric and unthinkable. Thus, he along with the Democrats, allowed this monstrous bill to pass when they could have and should have stopped it with a filibuster.

Failing to protect its citizens? Obama voted for the massive bailout of investment banks.

Failing to protect its citizens? Though Obama opposed the Iraq war initially, he has voted funding for it on every single opportunity.

When the invasion of Iraq was being prepared and public opinion was being created to justify it through the repeated and deceitful use of lies, the NYT failed to ever utter the words "international law" or the words "the UN Charter." Had it done so, it would have been clear that invading another country that has not first attacked you is the highest war crime of all. Those who were paying attention at the time knew that there were no WMD in Iraq, but EVEN if there had been, that would not have justified an attack. If possessing WMD were sufficient grounds, then any country on this earth could justify attacking the US as we have the largest inventory of WMD in the world and are the only ones to ever have used nuclear weapons on others. Indeed, Obama has threatened very vigorously to do so against Iran.

While it is a good and historic thing that finally the GOP has been beaten at the polls and this beating has FINALLY been officially recognized, unlike the 2000 and 2004 elections in which the losers took office, we should be under no illusions about what is to come. Change will only come if the people demand it through creating their [own] independent, extra-electoral actions the way that the war in Vietnam was ended and civil rights were won. Civil rights and the end of the war were not won through the largesse of condescending saviors. They were won through the inspired and heroic struggle of millions.

How can the infamous atrocities of the Bush White House be made right merely by voting? Will Obama prosecute these war criminals? When Bush finally admitted that he approved of waterboarding, what did Obama do? Did he immediately call for Bush's resignation as a war criminal? This is what Obama said: "[O]ne of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances."

What, if not exceptional, have been the actions of the Bush White House?

For the rest of his comments and a commentary on it, see http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4664&Itemid=220

Dr. Dennis Loo, Los Angeles November 05, 2008 10:49 am