Assessing Obama: Another View

I don’t believe you can judge a president absent the context of their presidency. This is why I have always been weary of comparisons to Lincoln (now there’s a context) or FDR.

All presidents and their presidencies are the product of their time and circumstance. Inseparably so. So it is in this time and under these circumstances that we must assess Obama.

Witness the wisdom of democracy. Even a brainwashed, uninformed, misinformed electorate knew this time was different. They understood, on some level, that time is running out. So, with a passion not seen in our lifetimes, they embraced a candidate who truly embodied change. It was the “fierce urgency of now” campaign for a country and a world in an increasing state of emergency.

So Obama swept into power with an unusual, unprecedented mandate. Millions of Americans thought they voted him in to really make some serious changes to the country. In Obama’s own words, to change the way Washington does business.

It was a fucking lie. It was all a lie. While Obama was up on stage claiming that since “they didn’t finance my campaign, they won’t control my White House”, secretly, behind the scenes, “they” already controlled him. They still do.

In any context, Obama would be considered a conservative president – a preservationist of the status quo. But in the context of our current world condition, Obama’s subservience to what is is unforgivable.

Greatness arises from crisis. We are all tested and the choices we make, to face the crisis and use it to achieve a greater good, or to kick it down the road for future generations, determines our fate. Obama failed his test. He chose to pass on change, to bow out of conflict, to leave the most dangerous and destructive force in American history not only intact, but empowered.

Understand, it is not Obama’s failure to take on the banking cartel that makes his failure stand out. Or his failure to present the country with a new vision for the future with the $1 trillion he was granted to spend.

It is his failure in the context of opportunity. Never in our lifetimes (unless you were around in the early 1930s) has there been such an opportunity to really change this country and the world.

Imagine if Obama had taken the side of the overwhelming majority of Americans and said “No.” No, we will not give you trillions of dollars. We will nationalize you and break you up and re-regulate you so that you may never do anything similar. Additionally, we are going to investigate you and get to the bottom of how this happened.

Oh there would have been a fight. Obama would have won. He said it himself. Some idiot from the White House press office leaked that Obama had told a gathering of some of the top bankers that the only thing separating them from a mob with pitch forks was him.

They thought they were showing the president being tough by leaking the comment. What they really did was show the real role of Obama’s presidency. To protect bankers.

But Obama has protected a lot more than bankers. By refusing to nationalize the banks, and enter them into a controlled dismantling, Obama was really protecting the shambles of a failed ideology.

That’s because, at heart, Obama is just another visionless, Harvard assimilated empty suit. And all he knows is what he’s been trained to know: NOLIBERALISM.

In Obama’s world, the crash of the financial economy wasn’t the manifestation of a failed ideology. It was just the boys going a bit too far. And so the remedy, as he said to joe the plumber, was balance.

The guy’s a fucking idiot. His mentors, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin. Idiots. How does someone so smart get so stupid? Ideology. Ideologues believe in the perfection of their ideas. That’s mistake number one. Then they will do the most irrational things to defend those ideals.

Obama, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and all the other idiots of the new Wall Street just spent upwards of 20 TRILLION DOLLARS not just to bail out the financial sector. It was to bail out the perfect idea that markets are divine and democratic government is evil.

That is why they couldn’t nationalize the banks. It would have been an admission that no PR firm could have concealed. When Alan Greenspan finally admitted that his ideology of market supremacy was “flawed”, the corporate media quietly swept that from public discourse. Nationalizing much of the banking system would have been a little harder to conceal.

So what we have now, under the stewardship of Obama and his economic team at Goldman Sachs, is a big fat lie; a quasi-fascist, corporate/government hybrid bureaucracy, managing the greatest act of fraud ever perpetrated, all behind a free market facade.

One can argue that Obama is just being presidential by utterly failing to live up to his campaign promises, caving to the plutocrats, and serving the war machine. But that is only a conception of the presidency  concocted by our enemies. The fact is, Obama has had the opportunity to fight for change, serve the people, and live up to the promise that got him elected, over and over again. Yet, no matter what, he fails to lead. Why?

I think Chris Hedges’ assessment of Obama has no match for getting to the bottom of it:

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years. Brand Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, including the use of drones sent on cross-border bombing runs into Pakistan that have doubled the number of civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to ease restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus.

Brand Obama offers us an image that appears radically individualistic and new. It inoculates us from seeing that the old engines of corporate power and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country. Corporations, which control our politics, no longer produce products that are essentially different, but brands that are different. Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush. The Bush brand collapsed. We became immune to its studied folksiness. We saw through its artifice. This is a common deflation in the world of advertising. So we have been given a new Obama brand with an exciting and faintly erotic appeal. Benetton and Calvin Klein were the precursors to the Obama brand, using ads to associate themselves with risqué art and progressive politics. It gave their products an edge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand with an experience.  


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  1. that I was planning on writing an Obama hitpiece today. The story of Obama’s banker bust is something I’ve been trying to get to for a while and today was my designated day to do it. I only added a slight bit at the end to respond to Buhdy’s piece, which I don’t entirely disagree with.

  2. …literally. Kind of like our Robert Fisk, in a way.

  3. It is his failure in the context of opportunity. Never in our lifetimes (unless you were around in the early 1930s) has there been such an opportunity to really change this country and the world.

    But the way things seem to be headed….in part because of the decisions he has made….I think the opportunity will be increasing. Iow, we are in for worse. And perhaps when the next crisis hits he will use it as the opportunity for real change.

    And this time, he won’t have a powerful opposing force to blame not being aggressive on. Unless there is a miracle, the Repubs will be all but irrelevant after 2010

  4. It certainly has left me rather unenthused to put it mildly. I’ve generally been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, as we all know he’s inherited a mess. So I have focused on the health care reform agenda, as it is the least politically risky [simply because an overwhelming majority of people wanted reform], and he would only stand to gain by “letting in all hang out”. The obstructionists would have never gained traction. They would have been at risk, not Obama. And even in the unlikely event that the Conservatives in Congress succeeded in a filibuster, Obama would have won as a champion of the people. Instead he bought into the Waterloo bullshit.

    This has been an epic fail, because the legislation that would have caused the least political risk has been bungled. And the thought that he never really wanted a robust public option in the first place is definitely betrayal. But this, I guess, we’ll never know.

    I now await his decision on Afghanistan. As far as I’m concerned, it’s for all the marbles.

  5. That’s what Kennedy and Reagan were, too. Obama is the perfect synthesis of the two. People should have known he was like this when they picked him up. I certainly did, and I voted for him anyway, and I won’t apologize. We’re only a year in. I’m not so anxious to pull the fail lever yet.

    The sell-out lever? Well, sure. Only fools believe they’re the same lever, and only suckers get bent about that anyway. It beggars belief that people still act all surprised and offended about the very idea of the branded BHO presidency attempting to restore “national self-confidence” instead of instituting lightning-quick change. You know who else tried to do that? Jimmy Carter-and they shat on him, too.

    Am I really supposed to be outraged that OMG a Democratic politician is a tool of the Friedmanites? That he would not instantly tear down the system that put him in the White House? That he would be the change we wished to see just because he said so? Is my enthusiasm supposed to precariously hinge on someone else’s accomplishments? Am I supposed to waste my time and love and energy and good will for that?

    Oh, the pearl-clutchings of compromise. Ay, the shame, the utter disappointing that a man refuses to martyr himself for the sake of someone else’s immutable, pristine, and lifeless principles.

    So the president’s human. Boo fuckety hoo.

  6. Thank you!

    I do believe we’ve been “snookered.”  Obama had corporate backing from the get-go and, thus, I never thought that he would be able to do all that he envisioned that he “wanted” to do — CHANGE for that reason.  And, of course, any candidate who doesn’t have major corporate backing doesn’t make it first base.

    Obama came out fairly strong in the beginning — “I’m going to cut the CEO’s salaries to $500,000” and other like spoken words, such as nabbing all out of country banking and corporations on their taxes, etc., all of which we have seen him shy away from over time.  No matter what the issue is, it becomes diluted and gradually washed away.

    Disappointing is the understatement of the year for all that continues on at his behest and those mapping out his chartered waters.  We’re simply victims of the outcomes of the charting and heard, but ignored.

    These wonderful banks that were bailed out have found new found strength and power and now are screwing their customers across the country.  Yep, Chase, for example, has been sending out “Important Notice Regarding Changes to Your Account and Your Right to Reject Changes”  So what are these changes?  For each credit card that you may have, the language is as follows:

    I am in receipt of your Notification to me, received September 22, 2009, pertaining to the above account number, indicating that the following changes “will be effective for billing cycles that begin November 1, 2009, and thereafter. . . . . .

    (C)  We are changing the minimum finance charge to $1.50 if any periodic finance charge is payable for a billing cycle.

    (D)  A Variable Rates section is added to your account, if not already in effect.

    (E) The standard APR for purchases will change to a variable rate:  the Prime Rate plus 15.99%, which as of August 15, 2009 would be 19.24% (minimum 21.99%).  

    The APRs in this section will apply to current and future balances  on your account unless you choose not to accept them. . . . .

    . . . .  The changes will take effect with your December 2009 Statement.

    If you reject the changes, your card will no longer be available for use for new activity, including purchases, the account will be closed (if it is not already closed).

    Please note that if you choose not to accept the changes;

    — You’ll still be responsible for any outstanding balances of your account.

    [This, of course, would include the newly inflated interest rate.]

    — Any rewards points or miles you have earned will be forfeited unless you call us to redeem before your account is closed.

    — If you have overdraft protection linked to your Chase checking account, you will no longer have coverage once your credit card account is closed.

    ADV7136   003B023862 09/09″

    and the variable interest rate is different for any credit card(s) you may have with them.  

    Fortunately, I do not keep balances, as I pay on a card or two each month and pay the balances, but this arbitrary decision to hold credit card holders’ hostage to these new decisions pertaining to interest and a variable rate that BLEW ME AWAY.  And I wrote on each such Important Notice, spelling out the terms and then, at the end telling them what I thought of these moves of theirs at a time when Americans are losing, jobs, etc. and how despicable it was on their part and that I was closing the account on principle.  I’m sure it’s not just Chase using every means to gouge people and take advantage of the plight of so many.

    I have maintained an Amoco (now BP) Motor Club card (handled by Chase) since 1983, and, maybe, actually used it in all those years eight times or so.  I just received a billing charging me $16.50, representing a late charge and a finance fee. Why, because my last bill that I paid arrived one day late and I had paid off the balance, as well.  I called to see if those charges could be reversed in view of my payment history and long-standing customer relation and was told, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, it’s too late.”  I said “I just received this what do you mean it’s too late?”  She just repeated herself.  I waited a few days and tried again, but to no avail.  Now, I have written a letter to see what can be done.  

    So the point of all this is that while it is we who helped them out, they now turn around and screw us in any way they can.  And there’s nothing stopping them — that’s empowerment.


    More sad news!  The Supreme Court ruled again Don Siegleman, in his appeal.  What a dreadful thing — this poor man has been struggling for so long to get it straight, and still, he’s screwed, and all Rove’s filthy deeds still go “untouched.”  

    (Sorry if this seems a bit rambly — a little tired right now.)

  7. is that in a few years the Democrats will no longer convincingly be able to blame Bush for the state of the world.

  8. Eloquent, Toque.  I hope you don’t get tendonitis from hammering so many large nails, but I appreciate your work.

  9. Both Ford an Obama took office in the wake of a civil liberties crisis. Ford, however, had the advantage of a Congress controlled by the opposite party, with guts.

  10. went up $50.00 across the board.

    And a friend just learned that his home owners insurance just went up 12%.

    • publicv on November 17, 2009 at 17:35

    with all the leadership in general over the past few decades,that led to Obama as president.

    Do you not witness the real opposition to change?

  11. a documentary on the Obama campaign. I wanted to see what it would look like from a year later. I worked for the campaign during the primaries. It struck me that he and his handlers were all about inspiration. I saw him through the lens of a year later as a cheerleader, an inspirational huckster. Bush was one too. The movement he engendered was real, his message was not. I quit his campaign when he voted for FISA, according to my precinct boss so did many others.

    My question is not so much about Obama the figurehead or brand but WTF is going on with the people who worked hard to get him elected, who believed and saw the fierce urgency of now? At GOS we have the die hard loyalists who are only interested in winning with a D. The rest of the country as Grayson says doesn’t give a rat’s ass about electoral gamesmenship they wanted change real change not this bs. So maybe if this continues which it will the results of the agenda from hell will make people do what they always do stop giving their consent to tyranny. What will it take to turn the tide? when does the bamboozle become intolerable and force people to get their heads out of the sand?          

  12. several years ago, and since then, every time I’ve heard a politician toss out that term, this story comes to mind.

    It was originally a joke about citizens of a certain European nation, which will remain unnamed.  Although there are rare exceptions, U. S. citizens who trace their ancestry to this country seem to enjoy poking fun at themselves.  

    In the unlikely event that you may want to retell it, and have friends who identify with a particular nationality AND have a great sense of humor, you can merely substitute the surnames with those that might be readily associated with that nationality.  Please keep in mind that the first person mentioned in this variation is Obama and that the blank can be filled in with whatever nationality you might prefer.

    Be forewarned.  Once you read this joke, you may find yourself recalling it again and again.

    Here goes…

    A well-known drill instructor with the ___ Army gathered a bunch of fresh recruits and proceeded to yell at them:

    “Don’t you ever forget, you sorry-a**ed mama’s boys mother-fu**ers!  You’re in the Army now, and we’re going to run a tight ship!  

    For starters, you need to know that you’ll be expected to change your underwear once a week!

    Greenspan, you change with Rubin;

    Rubin, you change with Summers;

    Summers, you change with Geithner…”

    Well, you get the idea.

    I suppose it would be funnier if it wasn’t so true.

    • Arctor on November 17, 2009 at 20:09

    Obama took the clear national mood and mandate for change and diverted the stream for his puppet masters. Obama did not select Emmanuel or Axelrod, they found him: a perfect tool for the oligarchy to use to obstruct any progressive movement for change after the debacle known as Bush/Cheney! To continue to ask to give him time, or think he has a clever strategy flies in the face of the utter bullshit he has promoted from day One, he started with FISA, continued through Geithner/Summers, and even yesterday in response to why Gates withheld torture photos, he uttered the backpedaling, weasel explanation that these photos simply represented the actions of ” a few bad apples!” Please Obama supporters, stop wasting all our time and future trying to explain the man, his utter failure is crystal clear: we need someone else, an independent with stature, we need a third party candidate for 2012 whatever the outcome: win, lose, or draw!

  13. Someone posted a link to your entry at Closed Left, where the rule is that truly progressive policies are to be silenced and dismissed as impractical in favor of highly impractical and doomed-to-failure ones driven by right-wing sentiment.  As is typical for such truth-telling, the response was sneering contempt and false accusations – with the usual lack of the substance of the argument being addressed.

    It’s sad how low the progressive movement has fallen.  We’re shut out always, because we insist on trying to placate political parties.  Back in our heyday, political parties were our bitches.

  14. While driving home from downtown appts. yesterday afternoon, listened to Thom Hartmann, who talked a bit about the lack of accountability issue.  He said that a very close friend of his is a friend of Holder’s and it seems his friend intimated that there was a kinda’ “co-option” from the beginning — that Republicans have served to stymie (total blockage) just about anything and everything in terms of any sort of progressive moves.

    F..king sad state of affairs in this country.

  15. tin foilers have had Obama’s number well before he was even selected.  When you have retired astronauts, intelligence geeks and other living outside CONUS there have to be good reasons.

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