Liz Cheney is such a mixed blessing. On the one hand, she says and does things which reveal the truth of what so many Republicans really believe; on the other hand, her tactics are effective, which means she causes real damage to American politics and culture. It's like she's revealing a cancerous tumor, then before it can be cut out, she feeds it so that it metastasizes and infects the rest of the body politic.
What Liz Cheney does best is inspire fear. She doesn't inspire anyone to reach higher, to be better, or to improve the world around them. All Liz Cheney preaches to the public is that they need to be afraid of anything and everything around them. Her latest efforts, the "Keep America Safe" ads, are designed to specifically inspire fear that the Justice Department employs lawyers who represented the legal interests of human beings held by the government in Guantanamo Bay.
How insecure does a conservative have to be in order to genuinely fear the possibility that people at the Justice Department strive to serve the impartial interests of the law, the Constitution, and Justice for All?
One of the things which is supposed to differentiate modern liberal democracies from totalitarian, dictatorial, and fascist states is the principle of transparency: what the government does — and especially what it does to its own citizens — occurs out in the open for all to see. This helps ensure that the question "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes," translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?" or "Who watches the watchmen," is "We will watch them."
But the people cannot watch, much less guard, the guardians when government actions are cloaked in secrecy and buried in bureaucratic mazes. This helps authoritarian regimes of various sorts survive because it's hard to rebel when you don't know for sure where the government is or what is can do. This also helps democracies crash because a democratic system requires that sovereignty be invested in the people — and people are not sovereign if officers of the state can simply make them "disappear" without trial, due process, good reason, or anything else that citizens in a liberal democracy assume are necessary aspects of their legal system.
Fear continues to be the driving force in the policies of America's government. The differences in this regard between Obama and Bush seem to be minimal at best, though it's unclear how much of that is because there isn't enough difference in the men themselves and how much is because Obama simply hasn't made enough fundamental changes in how the government generally and the national security apparatus in particular operate. To be fair, these are changes that will take a lot of work and time because of how deeply ingrained fear has become.
What's more, even if Obama had made more extensive changes by now, we'd certainly still be seeing a raucous, fear-based reaction from conservatives that would probably end up driving the public narrative and debate anyway. Regardless of his intentions, I don't think Obama has enough force of personality to shift the media and the public away from their fears and towards a more positive outlook that relies on attitudes of self-confidence, self-empowerment, and rationality. It's American culture that needs to change in fundamental ways, not just American government.
People's disappointment at the health care "compromise" should not be surprising. Was there ever any serious doubt that we'd get a "reform" which transfers massive amounts of money from the people to the corporations while doing little to genuinely relieve the pressures created by a broken, for-profit system? Real reform would not only reduce profits but increase people's security, both of which are anathema to corporations that thrive on fearful people sending them money (keep in mind that Bernanke is comfortable with 10%+ "official" unemployment for the foreseeable future — and he will not be risking any of his own comfort). Of course health insurance corporations are getting what they wanted.
Yet many liberals do seem surprised and are looking for some place to lay the blame: Democrats who are afraid of conservatives, conservative Democrats betraying the party, Joe Lieberman behaving exactly as Joe Lieberman typically behaves, etc. If any of these were the true problem then there would be no real justification for surprise because they are all so predictable, but none are the ultimate or primary problem — and maybe that's why so many liberals are surprised. They haven't been looking in the right direction: we didn't get the change so many are dying for because those ostensibly behind it were never very interested in more than what we have right now.
So Obama has approved a "surge" of troops in Afghanistan, ensuring that the war there will continue for the foreseeable future. This is coming after already dramatic troop increases, outstripping the pace of troop deployment throughout the Bush administration. Although Obama has denied that our commitment to war there is "open ended," talk is cheap. In fact, the only thing cheaper than talk may be the lives of Americans placed in the hands of America's ruling class which sees foreign wars as a means towards preserving and enhancing their power over the nation.
On a practical level, America's commitment is indeed "open ended" in that we have a standing commitment to use war in the Middle East to preserve the power of wealthy American corporations and individuals. This has not been renounced nor will it be. The Obama administration hasn't even renounced Bush's policy of making war on those who are no current or immediate threat. Quite the contrary is the case because the government has admitted that the Taliban is no threat to the U.S. and al-Qaeda exists in Afghanistan in tiny numbers, yet the entire surge of 30,000 troops is predicated on suppressing both.