I’ve been suggesting for quite some time that Obama’s campaign promises were overpromises, that once reality reared its ugly head and he had to look at the problems facing the country, at home and abroad, right in the face, a lot of what he wanted to do would go right out the window. I was astonished at Obama’s apparent cluelessness to that effect during the Presidential debates, and continued to be so even after the financial markets collapsed.
Really, the ability of a President to change policies is a lot more limited than we like to believe, particularly during campaign season. The President has a big effect on judicial nominees, a significant effect on some dimensions of foreign policy, and a moderate effect on economic policy. “Change” is a bigger promise than a lot of voters realize.
So I’m becoming a little bit too smug about this for my own good. But the evidence for “things-are-not-really-going-to-change-all-that-much” mounts:
- Robert Gates will stay on as Secretary of Defense
- Obama wants to do a “large” economic stimulus
- He’s in favor of bailing out failed banks
- The President-Elect now suggests that we should not roll back the 2001 Bush tax cuts to their pre-2001 levels after all
- He thinks a “surge” will work in Afghanistan
- And he’s backing away from withdrawing all combat troops for Iraq in 16 months, saying some will stay on after that to fight ‘terrorists’ for an indefinite amount of time.
I’m not saying that these are necessarily bad policies. An Afghanistan surge, in particular, seems like a good idea. Gates has done a good job at Defense and is not seen as a particularly partisan figure, so I commend the President-Elect for deciding to keep him on. The raw Keynsian economics, well… Let’s just say that I have my doubts at leave it at that for now.
No, what I’m saying is that Obama ran on a platform of change. The people who voted for him voted for change. But these are hardly big changes from the policies being pursued by the lame-duck Administration right now. A promise of change is turning into a policy of continuity.
The only thing changing seems to be Obama’s plans.