The Left Are Prematurely Judging Obama

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[The Post Election Frenzy]

It has not taken long for the criticism, skepticism, and second guessing to begin.

President Elect Barack Obama has not even been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and his critics on the so-called progressive left are angry that his cabinet selections suggest a shift to the center or to the right. Meanwhile, critics on the right claim that his actions in response to disgraced Illinois Gov. Blagojevich are politically motivated.

There are few political realities that Obama’s detractors need to appreciate and respect. There is a difference between campaigning and governing. During the primaries both candidates, Senator McCain and Obama played to their bases in order to win their parties nominations. In the general election both candidates had to move closer to the center than their bases preferred in order to have any chance of winning. Many would argue that McCain’s failure to move closer to the center, by selecting Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate to placate the conservative base, cost him dearly.

Now that Senator Obama is President-Elect Obama, he has to focus on governing. He can’t effectively govern from the progressive left. America is not as liberal or progressive as the left would like nor as conservative as the right would claim. These political realities are compounded by the practical realities of the housing crisis, banking crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, auto company crisis, and so forth.

For the most part, President-Elect Obama has chosen to fill his cabinet with competent administrators and not ideologues. He seems to be focused on real solutions not theory, conjecture, or philosophy. He is selecting individuals who understand how Washington works and will be able to help structure legislation, pass legislation, and implement effective policy.

Obama decided to retain the services of Robert Gates as defense secretary in order to ensure continuity in defense strategy in these very perilous times. While this does not sit well with the progressive left, no one has greater first hand knowledge of the complex issues that face America today.

Granted, not all of the individuals selected have unblemished records. For example, Senator Clinton or "Billary" voted for the war and brings Bill with her. Much to the dismay of progressives, during the Clinton Administration Congressman Rahm Emanuel helped to get NAFTA, the Crime Bill, and welfare reform passed. In private practice Eric Holder has represented some questionable corporate clients. In spite of these issues, if President-Elect Obama is as strong-willed as a president as he was a candidate, these appointees and others will be implementing his policies and not allowing the interests of others to control him.

During the primaries and general election, Obama was criticized by Senators Clinton, Biden, and McCain and he was pilloried in the media for not having the requisite experience to "answer the 3:00 AM call" or respond to a real crisis.

Gov. Palin questioned his experience as a "community organizer" by saying, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities…" Now that he is selecting experienced and qualified people to serve in his cabinet, including some of his former detractors, the criticism has changed from a lack of experience to whether he has abandoned the progressive left. Some progressives are even calling into question his commitment to their issues and his honesty.

As if the attacks from the left are not enough, the right has launched their attack as well. As a result of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, being charged with conspiring to sell President-Elect Obama’s now-vacant Senate seat, political vultures are circling overhead trying to tie him to the scandal.

In spite of the fact that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said prosecutors were making no allegations that Obama was aware of any scheming; Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia is on record as saying, "The serious nature of the crimes listed by federal prosecutors raises questions about the interaction with Gov. Blagojevich, President-elect Obama and other high ranking officials who will be working for the future president…"

Why does this raise questions when no connection, direct or indirect has been made? Just as in a time of war, America is in such dire straights that now is not the time for partisan "gotcha" politics of past.

In spite of the fact that Blagojevich himself is on record having said, of the Obama team, "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation," Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), states "President-elect Barack Obama's comments on the matter are insufficient at best." President-Elect Obama has stated, "I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening" and the U.S. Attorney has made no allegations to the contrary.

What else is Obama to say? The truth is its own defense.

Instead of contributing to the media feeding frenzy, President-Elect Obama and his team are being measured, judicious, and practical in their approach to this issue. Obama said on Friday, December 12th that he would release the results of an internal investigation into what conversations his aides and advisers may have had with Blagojevich in a matter of days.

"What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office," Obama said. Instead of allowing Obama time to determine the facts, Duncan levies criticism by saying, "Americans expect the highest degree of transparency from their elected leaders, rather than promises of openness on the campaign trail."

As chairman of the RNC Duncan is the spokesperson of the party and speaks for every Republican who does not say otherwise.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "President-elect Barack Obama's transition team said it had completed an internal review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- but wouldn't release its findings until Christmas week, at the request of federal investigators."

In a written statement released by his office late Monday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald confirmed that he asked for the delay, saying he wanted more time to conduct interviews. Conservative journalist Britt Hume says, "It is curious that Obama has been so cautious about it. He is a cautious man, but you do wonder, don't you? Wonder about what? Even though the Obama team does not have to comply with the request, why would they not?"

The one thing that President-Elect Obama and his team cannot do is get caught up in the conservatives questions or the media’s frenzy and start to put out statements that later prove to be inaccurate. They must remain disciplined and not allow the desire for short-term responses to cause long-term problems.

I am in no way trying to insinuate that president-elect Obama and his team are above reproach or should not be questioned. Democracy demands that our representatives be held accountable for what they say and what they do.

For the progressive left to question cabinet appointments and claim that they’ve been abandoned or betrayed before the first executive order has been signed or the first piece of legislation proposed is premature, reactionary, and somewhat naïve.

For the conservative right to try and create a story where there is none is just republican politics as usual. This just demonstrates that they have not learned a lesson from the recent election; the American electorate is tired of their politics as usual.

It is important to understand that many of the causes of the countries problems are grounded in flawed ideology designed to consolidate power and wealth into the hands of a few while the majority in this country are left to suffer. The solutions to these problems will not be grounded in ideology; they will require vision, wisdom, honesty, judiciousness, collaboration, and cooperation. All of these are qualities that President-Elect Obama has demonstrated through out his life and career. If they were good enough to get him elected president why can’t people be patient enough to see if they will also help him govern?

Ask not what a President Barack Obama will do for you; ask what you can do to help a President Barack Obama address the tremendous issues that this country is facing.

Black Star columnist Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer and Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "On With Leon," a regular guest on CNN’s Lou Dobb’s Tonight, and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to or email:

© 2008 InfoWave Communications, LLC.

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