Stand up, of course, means many things to many people. But in the
context of my question, I define it as standing up for campaign pledges made in
two elections; to end Wall Street and banking abuses, uphold his oath to defend
and protect the Constitution of the United States, break Congress loose from
its ideological deadlock, ease the burdens imposed by a shrinking economy and
set America on a sustained and sustainable path to its former international
reputation. That reputation necessarily includes a sense of fairness,
opportunity and respect for international law.

I voted for him on the basis of
those pledges and a concern for the direction of the country after 9-11.
Perhaps you did as well.
Having won that election by 7.25% and 10.5 million
votes, he came as close as any president in recent times to a mandate. He was
given the choice between standing up and rolling over. For whatever reason, he
chose to roll over. In my mind, he threw away the opportunity that such
mandates seldom provide and opted for the continuing policies of fear-based
politics and re-election at any cost. In his defense, the circumstances at his
inauguration were far bleaker than either he or the nation might have supposed.
To list but a few;

  • Wall
    Street
    was a disaster born of decades of bailouts by the Federal Reserve in
    a scam (there is no other word for it) that privatized winnings and socialized
    losses. President Obama chose to bring back as his closest financial advisors exactly the same people from exactly the same private sector that
    enabled the crash he inherited. He gave in and threw money at them once again
    and ‘too big to fail’ came into the American lexicon. They were indeed too big,
    but the price of salvation might better have been a breakup of large firms into
    smaller, the separation of commercial and investment banking, a haircut for
    investors and the wholesale dismissal of top management, perhaps with
    indictments, perhaps without. He blinked, when he promised us a steady eye, no doubt
    terrified by the tales of collapse whispered in his ear by those same advisors.

    The result? Wall
    Street recovered, unchanged and unrepentant, while the American worker and a
    shrinking middle class staggers under the burden of that failure.

  • Healthcare.
    He got it, but it was and is a Pyrrhic victory without the ‘public option’ that
    might have made it a success. Obama caved on that as well, giving us a
    controversial and largely despised patch-job in order to achieve anything at all. ‘Anything at all’
    necessarily took that steady eye off the ball at a time when other matters were
    far more crucial.

  • Banking.
    With management bloated on record profit, deep into fraudulent mortgage scams
    and faced with the burst bubble those scams produced, our largest banks faced
    equity shortfalls that would have sent earlier iterations into FDIC
    receivership. Again, when he could have taken over the most egregious offenders
    and reopened them as Federal banks, Obama blinked and threw our money at them, yours and mine. As
    Federal banks, they might have been broken up and managed properly,
    substantially changing the banking environment for the better. Instead, a CEO
    or two at the top lost their jobs, but from Bank of America to Wells Fargo,
    from Citigroup to JPMorgan Chase, they’re still 
    ‘too big to fail’ and (recently, according to the Justice Department)
    ‘too big to prosecute.’ That’s a watershed
    admission
    that belongs entirely among Barack Obama’s no changes you can believe in.
  • Guantanamo
    was a promise to a major part of Obama’s base, its closing meant to heal the
    outrage over disclosures of Abu Ghraib and the outright torture poisoning our
    culture at home and reputation abroad. Through two Obama administrations it
    remains open, the President outgunned by Republicans and some Democrats in the
    Senate. The President himself claims it was (and is) a major recruiting agent
    for al Qaeda and Muslim terrorists worldwide. Repeatedly, he shows the world
    the incapacity of an American president with his failures. As Commander in
    Chief of the Armed Forces he could have closed it by Executive Order and let
    the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, fight out the result. At the very
    least, the moral burden would be elsewhere than the Presidency. He blinked and
    continues to blink, save for an end to waterboarding.
  • The
    debate he ‘welcomes’ and will not have
    . I watched a recent 45 minute
    Charlie Rose interview with Obama and it was heartbreakingly the same
    president; controlled, speaking down to me like the professor he is and, in my
    view, lying through his teeth. I understand that presidents prevaricate and
    have a long history of listening to them do just that. But the nation is in
    crisis and the time is long past to ‘stand and deliver.’ Edward Snowden, Julian
    Assange and Bradley Manning are heroes to me and criminals to this President.
    End of ‘debate.’ As I write this, it appears Snowden’s father has forwarded
    terms to the Department of Justice under which his son would turn himself in
    for prosecution. Perhaps that, if accepted, will bring the ‘debate’ to where it
    needs to be, American courts on American soil. Mr. President, dial up Eric
    Holder and get this job done if you mean what you say.
  • Breaking
    Congress loose from deadlock
    is something on which I’ll give him a pass.
    Congress has buried itself with a less than 10% approval rating and seems indifferent
    to crawling out from under the dirt. I know Obama tried to be bi-partisan and got
    his balls handed to him each time. But to continue the national divisions that
    exacerbate that deadlock is not conscionable, nor is it part of the pledge he
    made. Part of ‘standing up’ is holding people’s feet to the fire in front of America.

    For twenty-seven years, Grover Norquist got away with pledging all Republicans
    to ‘no increase in taxes’ under any
    circumstance. Talk about feet to the fire,
    Obama should go after him for illegally circumscribing the constitutional
    obligation of Congress and cause the
    uproar that will result. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States
    Constitution, states “The Congress shall
    have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.”
    gives
    Congress a power that Norquist has essentially denied them. That denial
    prevents Congress from negotiating an economic path forward.

  • Setting
    America on a sustained and sustainable path to its former international
    reputation
    has not been an apparent priority, much less an achievement.
    Former President Bush left the new President Obama with America’s reputation in
    free-fall across the globe. That downward spiral continues under policies that
    are essentially unchanged; a shrinking economy, job loss, domestic spying, international
    fear that we have lost our way and political arguments that support that view,
    including disastrous immigration policies and the bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy
    of record numbers of citizens, cities and even states.
The difference between
politicians and statesmen is individual. People who are politically active,
especially in party politics are, quite obviously, politicians. To be a
statesman is a steeper climb over a considerably longer period of time and we
Americans are impatient with both time and climb. Perhaps that’s why we produce
so few statesmen and such a volume of partisan politicians. Their goal is
re-election, party dominance over all and to hell with the nation’s long-term
welfare. We elected Barack Obama (twice) with the diminishing view that he
might be the statesman we so badly needed. He has, in my opinion, turned out to
be a politician and not very apt in even that lesser role.
Obama stated positions we found
attractive and trusted him to fulfill. Rather than go to the wall with those
pledges, he turned professor on us, trying to bring bipartisan agreement to a
strongly and wearyingly partisan Congress. We are not a classroom, we are a
nation in great distress. Nor are we students in lecture hall, taking notes for
an exam. Knowing not what else to do, we have begun to take to the streets in
search of freedom and fairness in our damaged society. Those demonstrations are
as much against Obama’s own disregard for
‘change we can believe in’
as they are Wall Street and the continuing
decline of an America we once knew and remember.

Barack Obama is a young
president, with decades remaining for personal reflection on his service to
America and its legacy. The day is late and the time is now. Time for the real President Obama
to please stand up.