Lessig On Obama
Very nicely put:
It's certainly not fair to criticize Obama for not being a Lefty. He wasn't ever a Lefty. He didn't promise to be a Lefty. And there's no reason to expect that he would ever become a Lefty.
But Lefties (like me) who criticize Obama are not criticizing him for failing our Lefty test. Our criticism is that Obama is failing the Obama test: That he is not delivering the Presidency that he promised...
Now I'm not sure whether it is leftist, or rightist, or centerist to govern through special interest deals. It certainly is Clintonist. It's precisely the administration that Hillary "lobbyists are people too" Clinton promised. And were she President, and had she done exactly what Obama has done, then no one, I included, would have any reason to criticize her.
But beefed up Clintonism is not what Obama promised. He promised to "take up the fight." His failure to deliver on that critical promise -- the promised that distinguished him from his main primary rival -- or even to try, is a failure that everyone, Lefties included, should be free to complain about without suffering the rage of Gibbs.
I am crestfallen over two profound issues: civil rights and accountability for war crimes. Maybe in the long run, it will come out all right. And I understand the necessity of pragmatism and the awful legacy this president inherited. But you cannot head up a government that uses evidence based on torture and remain the candidate so many of us supported in 2008. And you cannot actually take a position that is directly against the tide of history and morality on gay equality and pretend you are a new kind of politician, prepared to take on the fear of the far right that gripped the Clinton years.
These are not questions that are susceptible to pragmatism alone. It is because many of us take this president's intellectual and moral integrity seriously that we find these compromises too much. Because they are not compromises. They are surrender.