Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nader and Klein Blast Obama

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and journalist Naomi Klein both had articles yesterday that blasted President Obama for not pushing hard for change on various issues.

I respect both of these figures and I think that their criticisms are worth reading in full. In the meantime, here are a couple of snippets from each.

Ralph Nader:

Given all the burgeoning crises in the United States and the world, the only global military and economic superpower (albeit in serious deficit straits) needs a transforming leader, when, at best, it has a transactional leader in the White House.

I say "at best," because President Obama displays an uncanny inability to deal. He is not even anywhere near Lyndon Baines Johnson in that regard. This lack is due more to his personality than to his character.

His is a concessionary demeanor, an aversion to conflict and to taking on entrenched power, a devotee of harmony ideology not because he doesn't believe in necessary re-directions, but because he does not project the strength of his beliefs and willingness to draw the line-here and no further-as did Ronald Reagan or FDR.

In the shark tank known as the federal Washington, D.C. Obama's personality projects weakness as someone who does not take a stand and fight, as someone inclined to rely on his rhetoric to explain his withdrawals, retreats and reversals.

Naomi Klein:

Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the U.S. economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the U.S. took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.


Imagine if these three huge economic engines -- the banks, the auto companies, the stimulus bill -- had been harnessed to a common green vision. If that had happened, demand for a complementary energy bill would have been part of a coherent transformative agenda.

Whether the bill had passed or not, by the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the U.S. would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world.

There are very few U.S. Presidents who have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. More than anyone else, the Copenhagen failure belongs to him.

1 comment:

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