Its been my observation that a president has but a few short months – if that – of glowing appreciation from the country and what he chooses to do with that short time span as his first set of acts will forever dominate his presidency. Even if those acts seem little to him and his staff. Bill Clinton signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell order which I think completely alienated him from the moderate to Conservative side of the country who cannot accept gay people in any way. One of George Bush’s first acts was to raise the threshold of the EPA’s standard for lead in drinking water. I think most of us on the left knew exactly where his presidency was headed, and even after 911, Katrina and a near banking collapse, that notion of complete and total kinship with the worst of Corporate America’s excesses remains.
So, how is Barack Obama doing so far? Well, he’s signed an executive order banning torture (funny, I though that was already banned?), he’s suspended trials at Gitmo, he’s reversed an executive order signed by George Bush shortly after 911 that made it possible to forever conceal presidential documents under executive privilege.
On balance, at least so far, the only people who are going to object are the hard-Righties who insist on carrying on the Bush Legacy. The trouble comes when the first major test of these orders – particularly the detention and interrogation orders – comes along. We have to expect that it won’t be long in coming. When some terrorist attack happens in Bali and kills Americans, there will be pundits all over the airwaves insisting that these harshest of Bush Policies be restored. The question is: will Americans respond to this fear mongering, or will we stand firm?
It will probably be the answer to this question that will either make Obama a near-Lincoln quality president in the eyes of Americans, or a near-Bush.