On Monday’s edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Olbermann’s guest, comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, offered sharp criticism to President Barack Obama. Maher is a supporter but didn’t hold back in his feeling that Obama isn’t making the necessary moves to bring about the drastic political change he campaigned about.
“[The president’s supporters are] getting to the point where they’re saying ‘Yeah, we still like Obama. He’s our guy. We’re glad he’s our president-but where’s the beef?'” Maher said.
He also remarked about Obama’s recent speech to the American Medical Association about the state of the health care industry. According to Maher, the very noticeable applause and cheers Obama received indicated that the industry itself is not too concerned with the president’s prescription for reform.
That’s troubling if you’re an Obama supporter, and I largely agree with Maher.
Yes, the president is currently facing two wars, rising unemployment, rising foreclosures and increased radical extremism. But thus far, I’m under-whelmed with his first five months in office.
For instance, what’s with this exorbitant number of “czars” he’s appointed to the administration? According to Politifact.com, the president has 28 czars overseeing everything from health reform to the automobile industry (“Car Czar” does has a nice ring to it, though). Why the administration needs so many, and just what purpose each serves, has yet to be answered.
Another issue is Obama falling short in upholding his promises to the gay and lesbian community. He’s expressed no intention to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996-approved bill allowing states to not recognize same-sex marriages. There’s also the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy regarding gays in the military. During the campaign, Obama promised to abolish both measures. If he doesn’t start working toward that, he
risks losing his credibility among a major voting block.
Concerning his assertion to “speed up the disbursement of the $787 billion stimulus money” to invest in hundreds of public works projects this summer, Obama predicts that will create or save 600,000 jobs before fall.
First of all: “saving of a job” is an easily exaggerated claim. Whether that really happens or not, the administration will declare victory for accomplishing such a thing. But the real problem is the stated goal itself. The U.S. economy lost 345,000 jobs in May alone, according to the Associated Press, though that’s admittedly fewer than economists projected. So, 600,000 jobs in three months doesn’t sound like a bonanza to me. The president also hasn’t said if these are long-term, or part-time versus full-time jobs.
Returning to the issue that inspired Maher to discuss the president in the first place: health care. Obama plans to invest $2.4 billion to assure that Americans can obtain health care either though their own provider or through a government-sponsored plan.
I completely agree with the president’s assertion that rising health care costs is one of the primary reasons for the current economic crisis. But he hasn’t yet delivered a plan outlining how much all this will cost, or how he’ll deal with all those industry lobbyists looking to derail his reforms.
Too many powerful and influential people stand to lose millions by overhauling the health care system. President Clinton faced similar opposition when he tackled health care reform in his first year in office.
While I hope that Obama stands firm, so far, I think he has played it way too safe.
Here is my bold prediction: If there’s no health care reform policy in place by fall 2010, it won’t be put in place at all. It needs to get done now while Democrats control Congress.
And I’m still hopeful for a successful first term, but, as Bill Maher put it: “I still have audacity-but my hope is fading.”