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I haven't updated this page in ages, but I think it's fair to say that Obama is rapidly going from worse than GWB to worse than Nixon with the recent war on the press and everybody's privacy.

Obama offered "Change You Can Believe In"

It's fair to ask, what changed?

After more than three years in office, Obama's record makes it possible to objectively evaluate his claim that he represents change progressives can believe in. What follows is an analysis of 22 core issues, some in greater depth and others to a lesser extent (feel free to offer to help out), that represent real world policy manifestations of core liberal philosophical ideals as put into practice by the Obama administration. Each of the issues identified in the table below links to a page with greater detail and citations. I welcome any comments and criticisms, positive or negative, and my real email address is linked at the bottom of each and every page.

So, without further ado, on 22 key liberal measures, Obama performed as follows:

Glenn Greenwald

American Extremist (cartoon)

Matt Taibbi Blog

Dan Carlin (podcast)

ACLU: Keep America Safe and Free

Issue Change? Blame Party of "NO"?
Drone Attacks Worse

As of Feb 5, 2012: Obama 260 attacks, Bush: 52

Not just worse, but 13.4x worse (5x as many attacks in 3 years as GWB managed in 8 (260/3=86.7/yr; 52/8=6.5/yr; 86.7/6.5=13.4). Murdering innocents is nothing to be proud of but it stands as one of Obama's largest anti-achievements.
Nope. No Republican is forcing Obama to kill innocent people by drone attack.
War in Iraq Better

Despite Obama, not because of -- Obama lobbied Iraq to stay.
Maybe thank them. We are getting out on GWB's timetable.
War in Afghanistan Worse

Obama is responsible for Twice as many deaths in a quarter the time period (8x worse death rate) and more than 3.5x as many troops as was GWB.
Nope. Obama's escalation was his decision.
War in Libya Worse

The constitutional division of duties is further eroded by Obama's failure to comply even with the weak requirements of the War Powers Act. As a result, it is now easier than ever for the president to start a war on his/her own initiative.
Nope. Obama's decision to attack was his own.
Uganda Worse

Getting more deeply involved in bloody internal conflicts is stupid.
Nope. Obama's decision to send troops is his own.
Torture No Change

Intentionally immunizing perpetrators makes one a collaborator.
Nope. This was a prosecutorial decision Obama made. As the head of the Department of Justice, he could have launched investigations.
Warrantless Wiretapping Worse

Immunizing, continuing, and making new arguments in support of the program are inlaudable acts.
Nope. In fact, Obama's DOJ argued vehemently in favor of the warrantless wiretapping. No Republican controls the DOJ -- this was 100% Obama's choice.
Unlawful Detention Worse No. Obama has taken a despised Bush/Cheney policy, continued it, and even signed a bill memorializing the odious policy in law. Obama's only reservations in signing the bill, stem from the fact that he feels he already has the power, and the bill makes a Supreme Court review more likely. Given that Obama agrees with Bush/Cheney on unlawful detention, it would be a real stretch to blame the GOP for Obama's own beliefs.
Unlawful Execution Worse

Way worse. This is the practice of dictators and tyrants.
Nope. This is Obama's policy of his own making without aid or hindrance from the GOP. Of course, like GWB, he is keeping the legal rational secret. Welcome to a nation of secret laws, just hope you don't break one.
Health Care No Change

The medical industry always gets what it wants. Secondly, it could be argued that this measure should be rated "worse" because the medical insurance lobby scored a lot bigger with Obama than the pharmaceutical lobby did with Bush.
Yes. However, Obama's quick capitulation makes one wonder whether it would have mattered even if the GOP was on the side of reform.
War on Drugs No Change

Of course, Obama promised otherwise.
Nope. This is 100% Obama -- nobody in Congress can tell him how to use his law enforcement resources.
Preventing the financial
fraud that led to meltdown
No Change Yes. But again, his capitulation to such a weak bill makes one wonder whether he had any intention of ever doing anything about it, aside from touting a paper tiger.
Prosecution of Financial
Fraud Post Meltdown
Worse, but comparison not possible. Nope. This falls squarely under the aegis of the FBI, of which Obama is the head. If he wanted to investigate and prosecute, he could start tomorrow. That he doesn't, means he doesn't want to.
Environment No Change Nope. Being lax on Deepwater Horizon, or hiring a Keystone Pipeline lobbyist was his own decision.
Government Secrecy Worse. Obama is running the government in secret more than any other president in history. In fact the classification of documents increased a whopping 40% from 2009 to 2010 for a total of 77 million documents -- indeed, the increase alone is equal to Bush's most abusive year of 23.4 million documents. Nope. Obama's choices regarding the classification of documents are his decisions.
Government Accountability No Change Nope. Obama controls the Executive branch and has the power to make it more accountable.
Whistleblowers No Change

Although realistically, this should be graded "worse" because Bush was a mental shrimp, Obama is educated and yet still acts like a Napoleon.
Nope. In criminal investigations, Obama is top dog. The fact that the White House has it in for whistleblowers is an Obama issue, not a GOP issue.
Unfair Trade Agreements Better but not good.

Free trade with Canada, Great Britain, Germany, or any other first world economy is reasonable because the costs of production are reasonably well correlated. Free trade with third world economies does not benefit Americans.
Nope. Though the GOP probably helped.
Unemployment Worse, but probably not Obama's fault.

It probably isn't fair to pin this on Obama as the seeds of the recession were already planted. It would however, have been nice if aside from Wall Street bailouts and banker bonuses, something was done about jobs.

Verdict: ineffectual.
Cluster Bombs Same.

The Obama Administration loves cluster bombs, and has been working hard to undermine the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty designed to prevent the indiscriminate murder of civilians. Naturally, the US is not a signatory so it is doubly odd it would wish to weaken this treaty.

Verdict: just as evil.
No. Obama's attempt to subvert the cluster bomb treaty was his own decision and in no way hindered by the GOP.
Plan B Birth Control Same.

The Obama administration has refused to allow easier access to Plan B. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was nominated by Obama in 2009. While Obama once promised that science, not politics, would rule policy, he now expects us to believe that he trusts the scientific advice of Sebelius with her Masters in Public Administration, over that of the head of the FDA (Margaret Hamburg) who has a medical degree from Harvard.

Verdict: same -- but one wonders, if this was 2006 and Obama was president, would he have even allowed Plan B to be sold over the counter like Bush did?
No. Obviously not -- this was Obama's decision to make and again, he made it as a right wing conservative without any help from the GOP.
Gay Marriage Better.

Obama endorses support for gay marriage, but stops short of Federal support. In other words, this puts Obama in a morally superior position over GWB on this issue, and at the same level as Dick Cheney on gay marriage. There's also the curious inconsistency with his refusal to sign an executive order on ENDA, which would make it illegal for contractors to the Federal government to discriminate. Perhaps the coming days will some forward progress on something that is more than words, and real action. Still, while not a great leap forward, it is at least a step.


Worse than Bush: 8
Same as Bush: 9
Better than Bush: 2
Worse than Bush, but not Obama's fault: 1
Better than Bush, but not Obama's accomplishment: 1
Can't make a fair comparison: 1

The truth is, "Change You Can Believe In" was nothing but a deeply ironic marketing ploy. Sadly, as demonstrated above, Obama has proven himself to be nothing but a neocon. Obama brought us change, but it was a strengthening of the Bush/Cheney presidential abuses and as a result, we are worse off in any measurement important to liberals: civil liberties, peace, economic equality, or the environment.

Comments, corrections, or additions:

Updated May 9, 2012