The bleak, post-holiday doldrums known as “January” gets a little jolt every four years with a presidential inauguration speech. These are wonderful events, in which the most bad-ass, blow-you-up country to ever exist in all of human history sends figurative power from one dude to the next dude.
Four years ago, our new president’s skin color signified a monumental shift in the possibility of American politics, and only a privileged caucasian asshole would say anything to minimize what that means.
But since I’m more of a reptilian asshole, I’m going to dive straight into a quick refresher on how, shortly after being sworn in, president Obama received a ridiculously presumptuous Nobel Peace prize, framed thusly by HuffPost:
The announcement drew gasps of surprise and cries of too much, too soon. Yet President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday because the judges found his promise of disarmament and diplomacy too good to ignore.
The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee – four of whom spoke to The Associated Press, said awarding Obama the peace prize could be seen as an early vote of confidence intended to build global support for the policies of his young administration.
They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama’s calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen its role in combating climate change.
Too good to ignore? Too good to be true would have fit better, but in the forums I frequented back then, pointing out the initial betrayals of president-elect Obama with examples like his cabinet appointments—fucking Geithner—was met with a wild hysteria of incredulous disdain.
Then, after four years of watching his foreign policy evolve into the nightmare we see today, the president conjured the stones to say this:
A decade of war is now ending…
Sure, ending after four years of escalating drone strikes, even on Christmas Eve of last year:
There was no ceasefire from the Obama administration during the holiday. In fact, it appears they waited until Christmas Eve on purpose to conduct a couple strikes as there had not been action in the covert drone war in Yemen for well over a month.
In earlier wars, there may have been some kind of a truce because most of the soldiers and their families would be celebrating Christmas, however, characteristic of drone warfare, the drone pilots who carried out the order to fire upon suspected militants were nowhere near the area of the strike. They were completely detached and, depending on where they were when they directed the flying killer robots to attack, they were likely able to go home and see their family on Christmas Eve.
Because of these kind of discrepancies between words and actions, I tend to think the president may continue saying one thing, while doing the exact opposite. You cynics out there may call that lying. I call it performing the duties of his office.
The first big test of Obama’s word/action problem may be the Keystone pipeline:
A day after Obama made a strong commitment to climate in his inaugural address, the governor of Nebraska signed off on the pipeline, leaving it up to the White House to decide on the fate of the project.
“Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline … would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska,” Dave Heineman, the governor of Nebraska, wrote in a letter to the White House.
The approval now leaves the fate of a project seen as a litmus test of the administration’s environmental credentials entirely in Obama’s hands.
The Keystone pipeline has local consequences, as jhwygirl highlighted in this post.
It’s also a cause even the Sierra Club is willing to be disobedient over:
Earlier this week, the Sierra Club announced that it is lifting its long-standing institutional prohibition on civil disobedience so that it can protest the development of the tar sands. The club’s board of directors approved the change, which executive director Michael Brune made public on Tuesday. While staff and board members have previously participated in acts of civil disobedience in a personal capacity, this is the first time that the organization will take part.
With all this alleged momentum behind taking scary climate trends seriously, it’s not yet clear how the more prominent push for new gun legislation will influence the policy goals of Obama’s second term legacy-machine.
And then there’s the strategic retreat of congressional Republicans with the debt ceiling:
A plan to suspend the federal debt limit cleared a key hurdle in the House on Wednesday, easing the threat of a government default for at least four months.
But congressional leaders were already looking toward the next crisis: deep automatic spending cuts that look increasingly likely to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.
The next crisis is already penciled in, and congressionally speaking, obstruction is still the dish of the day.