Perhaps the loudest of these voices belongs to Joseph L. Galloway, military-affairs columnist for McClatchy Newspapers and a relentless critic of the rogues who ran the George W. Bush administration.
Galloway says Obama's greatest failing has been his refusal to take decisive action on matters of justice. In a column titled "Obama's Promise of a New Beginning Now Seems Hollow," Galloway writes:
Who stole our change?
Who hijacked a popular uprising that was going to put a stop to business as usual in Washington, D.C.?
What happened to Barack Obama on his way to the White House?
The Republicans have been so busy trying to paint President Obama as a socialist, as a radical, as a Marxist, as a Muslim, as the Devil, that they haven't even noticed that he has become one of them.
Obama promised "change we can believe in," and Americans went to the ballot box and indicated they wanted it. Obama was their guy:
He would be the new broom, sweeping out the dirt, collecting the trash, and fixing everything that was broken and tarnished and perverted in our government, in our nation's capital, in our White House.
He swept into office on a high tide of good will and anticipation. He was going to fix Wall Street. He was going to end the war in Iraq. He was going to bring a new era of transparency to government. He was going to stimulate a faltering economy and give new hope to a shrinking, frightened middle class. He was going to close the prison at Guantanamo and end the torture policies of his predecessors. There was even a hope that we would investigate how we went wrong and who ordered it.
Obama remains a compelling talker, but some of his most ardent supporters are beginning to wonder whether he is much of a doer:
Oh, he can still talk the talk and he does that incessantly. But he seemingly can't walk the walk. He may still sound like a revolutionary but more and more he looks and acts like George W. Bush, albeit a George W. Bush who can speak a complete sentence in the English language.
Obama's approval ratings are beginning to unwind and begin a long downward spiral among those who had believed in the promises of change. There was a golden moment when change was possible, but it is gone now.
Here in Alabama, Ground Zero for corruption in the Bush Justice Department, many progressives are wondering why new Attorney General Eric Holder has seemed little inclined to look into political prosecutions such as the Don Siegelman case. Galloway says progressives in other parts of the country are having similar thoughts:
There was one thing Obama absolutely had to do, even before tackling an economic meltdown and the Wall Street and big bank rip-offs:
He had to reassure Americans that we all live under the rule of law; that no one by virtue of holding the highest offices in the land, or having the biggest bank account, is above the law.
It was incumbent on new President Obama to step back and let justice be done. Let the investigators do their job, Not only to let justice be done but let justice be seen to be done.
Obama, however, got his priorities all out of whack, Galloway writes:
But no. He said he wanted to focus on the future, not revisit the past. He needed to get moving on stimulating a floundering economy. And he screwed that up, too, reaching out to the very pirates who had looted their stockholders, their own companies, their own country to find someone to appoint as Treasury Secretary, thus reassuring Wall Street that he wasn't going to turn over any apple carts.
He declared that we, as a nation and people, would no longer torture our enemies and suspected enemies; would no longer lock them up and throw away the key; would no longer violate our own laws and those of the international conventions governing warfare.
But he trooped over to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters to reassure those who had "only followed orders" when they tortured and abused helpless prisoners that they would never face justice. Nor would those who gave those illegal orders.
I have enormous respect for Galloway. But it's reasonable to ask this question: Is he jumping the gun here? Is he being a bit too harsh, a bit too soon?
I think he might be. I don't think the time for change is necessarily gone. But I also think Obama's base might desert him if he continues to be soft on matters of justice. And that could mean a one-term presidency at a time when the country desperately needs firm, stable leadership.
If Obama does not look backward long enough to ensure the public that former Bush officials are not above the law--and do it pretty soon--his presidency could be in trouble.
The bottom line? The Obama administration would be wise to pay attention to Galloway's words:
His promises of transparency in government weren't worth a pitcher of warm spit. He sent the new, cleaner Justice Department lawyers into court to use the same limp arguments of national security to ask judges to back off on doing their jobs.
And bit-by-bit the possibility of change disappeared; bit-by-bit the hope of a renewed and reinvigorated American democracy and way of government faded away. Those who had held a dream in their hand closed their hand and crushed it.