Obama at the Hamilton Project, 2006: “This is not a bloodless process.”

By lambert strether of Corrente.

There’s been a sort of contest among the skeptics and hippies for the “Who Called Their Shot on Obama First” title, which I believe Adolph Reed holds (Village Voice, 1996), with Bruce Dixon (2007) also holding an honored place; both writers knew Obama in Chicago, which helped. However, along with Ken Silverstein from Harpers, left blogger A Tiny Revolution called his shot in 2006 (hat tip, Gaius Publius (hat tip jawbone)), based on Obama’s appearance at the first meeting of Bob Rubin’s The Hamilton Project, where he was the only Senator to appear. Here’s the video:

As Gaius Publius remarks:

It’s not long, it touches most of the bases, and tells you all you need to know about how Barack Obama would govern.

I’m going to color code the transcript using the same scheme I used for Obama’s inaugural (here; here), with one new category:

Blank screen: Placeholder material onto which the audience may project what they like. The phrase comes from Obama’s famous remark in the preface of the second of his two autobiographies: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”



Secular religion

A mish-mash of phrases from the Framer’s, Lincoln and MLK echoes, and so forth


Bathos is an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace

Neo-liberal catchphrase

“Free market,” “innovation,” “hard choices” etc.


“Our most vulnerable citizens”

Bipartisan shibboleth

“The troops,” for example

Dead metaphors/cliche

“Ring the changes on,” “take up the cudgel for,” “toe the line,” “ride roughshod over,” etc. (Orwell)

Sheer nonsense

Word salad

Falsehood or truthiness

A terminological inexactitude

Blank screen

Placeholder material onto which the audience may project what they like. The phrase comes from Obama’s famous remark in the preface of the second of his two autobiographies: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”


Lawyerly parsing and weasel wording


“Ladies and gentleman,” and so forth.

Here’s the transcript:


[OBAMA:] Thank you. Thank you very much. I would love just to sit here with these folks and listen because you have on this panel and in this room some of the most innovative,thoughtful policymakers, people who have both ideas1 but also ways of implementing them into action. Our country owes a great debt to a number of people who are in this room because they helped put us on a pathway of prosperity that we are still enjoying, despite the best efforts of some.2


  1. Surely Obama must mean “and”; “ideas” and “ways of implementing them” are not mutually contradictory, even in D.C.

  2. This is 2006, that is, before the Great Financial Crash that Hamilton founder, Goldman Sachs alum, Clinton Treasury Secretary, and eminence grise Robert “Bob” Rubin did so much to bring about, and which Larry Summers, less-than-well-endowed Hamilton Advisory Council member, did so much to prolong. The Hamilton Project “Our People” page makes interesting reading.


[OBAMA:] I want to thank Bob and Roger and Peter for inviting me to be here today. I wish I could be here longer. I am going to have to run after a few minutes because we do have an important issue relating to U.S.-India relations.

But when Roger originally called to invite me, not only to this forum but to invite me to engage in this project, I couldn’t help but think that this was the sort of breath of fresh air that I think this town1 needs.


  1. Beltway insiders refer to Washington, D.C. as “this town.”

[OBAMA:] We have all known for some time that the forces of globalization have changed the rules of the game—how we work, how we prosper, how we compete with the rest of the world. We all know that the coming baby boomers’ retirement will only add to the challenges that we face in this new era.1 Unfortunately, while the world has changed around us, Washington has been remarkably slow to adapt twenty-first century solutions for a twenty-first century economy. As so many of us have seen, both sides of the political spectrum2 have tended to cling to3 outdated policies and tired ideologies instead of coalescing around what actually works4.


  1. Social Security is fully solvent until 2037 even now. What challenges?

  2. A spectrum is not a binary opposition.

  3. “Cling to” here, remarkably, prefigures Obama’s 2008 gaffe regarding “bitter” Pennsylvania blue-collar voters “ who cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

  4. A courageous stance, advocating what “actually works,” and Obama punches hard by placing “works” at the end (Strunk, Elementary Principles of Composition, Rule 18) as we will see, not once, or twice, but three times; an example of epistrophe, the inverse of Obama’s current favorite rhetorical device, anaphora. I’ve marked this “Blank Screen,” because nowhere does Obama actually say what he believes “actually works.” One must assume that he can leave that unsaid, since “most of us are strong free traders and most of us believe in markets.” One is reminded, again, that the collapse of Lehman Brothers — the shock that won election 2008 for Obama — was only 894 days away from the day of this conference.

[OBAMA:] For those on the left, and I include myself in that category1, too many of us have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 19382, believing that if we admit the need to modernize these programs to fit changing times, then the other side will use those acknowledgements to destroy them altogether. On the right, there is a tendency to push for massive tax cuts, as Peter indicated from my speech at Knox College, no matter what the cost or who the target is, a view that stems from the belief that there is no role for government whatsoever in the challenges we face. Of course, neither of these approaches really works3.


  1. Oh, please.

  2. It’s hard to be sure what Obama means here. Social Security was passed in 1935. The Minimum Wages Bil was passed in 1938. Could that be what he means? [snort!]

  3. Epistrophe.

[OBAMA:] Before we came here, somebody was asking me, how do I maintain my idealism? I do because1 I think the American people know that neither of these approaches works.2 I think there is a broad consensus out there in the Country that we should be looking for common sense, practical solutions to the problems that we face. I think that there is a market. I think that there is a demand for solutions that are practical, that are based on facts, that are tested, and that require us to think in new ways.


  1. Obama doesn’t really answer “how,” unless “How do I” means “How can I,” and idealism means pragmatism.

  2. Epistrophe.

  3. If the solutions are “tested,” “practical,” and “based on facts,” then how do they require us to “think in new ways”?

[OBAMA:] A lot of the people who are here today have done that in the administration. Not only have they succeeded on many of their policies, but almost just as importantly, they have failed occasionally and have acknowledged those failures and adjusted their views. I think that is the kind of experimentation1 and attitude that all our policymaking has to pursue.


  1. FDR echo: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

[OBAMA:] One thing that we all know is that when you invest in people, people will prosper.1 When you invest in education and health care and benefits for working Americans, it pays dividends throughout every level of our economy.2 When you keep the deficit low and our debt out of the hands of foreign nations, then we can all win. Now, the economic statistics of the nineties that we are all so familiar with speak for themselves—income growth across the board,3 22 million new jobs, the lowest poverty rate in three decades, the lowest unemployment in years, and record surpluses.4 None of this, I would argue, happened by itself. It happened because the leadership we had, including many in this room, was willing to take on entrenched interests5 and experiment with policies that weren’t necessarily partisan or ideological.


  1. Not always the same people, of course.

  2. As below, working Americans are the passive recipients of “investments.”

  3. Though averages “across the board” conceal the increasing Gini coefficient.

  4. The triumphalism of “The Great Moderation” still had 894 days to run.

  5. Which “entrenched interests” were those? The unions, to pass NAFTA?

[OBAMA:] That is what I hope we will see from The Hamilton Project in the months and years to come. You have already drawn some of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles, many of them I have stolen ideas from liberally, people ranging from Robert Gordon to Austan Goolsbee; Jon Gruber1; my dear friend, Jim Wallis here, who can inform what are sometimes dry policy debates with a prophetic voice. So I know that there are going to be wonderful ideas that are generated as a consequence of this project.


  1. Here is Jon Gruber on “affordable,” as in the Affordable Care Act: “An item is clearly not affordable if no one in a group can afford it. But, by the same token, it is wrong to say an item is unaffordable if anyone in a group cannot afford it. In considering affordability for a group, we need to establish a sensible benchmark whereby insurance is considered affordable if “most of” a group can afford it. We can disagree about what “most of” means, but it would be wrong to define “most of” only as “very close to 100%.” Alrighty, then.

[OBAMA:] Not every idea will I embrace1, and I hope that one of the roles that I can play, as a participant in this process, is to not only encourage the work but occasionally challenge it. I will give one simple example.2 I think that if you polled many of the people in this room, most of us are strong free traders and most of us believe in markets. Bob3 and I have had a running debate now for about a year about how do we, in fact, deal with the losers4 in a globalized economy. There has been a tendency in the past for us to say, well, look, we have got to grow the pie, and we will retrain those who need retraining.5 But, in fact, we have never taken that side of the equation as seriously as we need to take it. So, hopefully, this is not just going to be all of us preaching to the choir. Hopefully, part of what we are going to be doing is challenging our own conventional wisdom and pushing out the boundaries and testing these ideas6 in a vigorous and aggressive way.


  1. Anastrophe, departure from normal word order for emphasis. Here Obama underlines that he’s not really committed to any particular idea (except for what “actually works,” of course).

  2. But watch and see if he does.

  3. That is, “Bob” Rubin, the man who called for indivdidual Social Security accounts (privatization) three days before Obama won his mandate for hope and change in 2008.

  4. Losers.” Alrighty then.

  5. These ideas resurfaced with the “skills mismatch” bullshit.

  6. Which ideas?


But I can’t think of a better start, given the people who are participating today. I am glad that Brookings has been willing to provide a home for this wonderful effort.

Just remember, as we move forward, that there are real consequences to the work that is being done here.1 There are people in places like Decatur, Illinois, or Galesburg, Illinois, who have seen their jobs eliminated. They2 have lost their health care. They have lost their retirement security. They don’t have a clear sense of how their children will succeed in the same way that they succeeded. They believe that this may be the first generation in which their children do worse than they do. Some of that, then, will end up manifesting itself in the sort of nativist sentiment,3 protectionism, and anti-immigration sentiment that we are debating here in Washington. So there are real consequences to the work that is being done here. This is not a bloodless process.4


  1. A second case of both epistrophe and “Blank Screen,” since Obama does not actually say what “the work that is being done here” might be.

  2. Anaphora, repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences; “They have…,” “They have…,” “They don’t…,” “They believe.” The disjunction between “we,” who “move forward,” and “they,” who (apparently) do not — Obama does not explicitly say who suffers the twice repeated “real consequences” — would trip Obama up in campaign 2008, with the “bitter” / “cling to” controversy. Note that Obama presents “them” (and not “we”) as passive (“have seen”) with respect to “the work that is being done here.”

  3. “Your people, sir,—your people is a great beast!” (Alexander Hamilton). If “they” should become active, nothing good will come of it: “Nativism” and “anti-immigrant sentiment” are not especially subtle ways of saying racism, a brutal and shameful truth, but also a prefiguration of 2008, where many of Obama’s opponents were branded as racists simply for not supporting him; “protectionist” is anathema to the “free traders” in the room.

  4. Indeed it is not “bloodless.” There are “real consequences” in terms of morbidity and mortality, including suicide, for the policies that Obama and his colleagues in “this room” actually implemented and successfully normalized. Their policy outcomes — before we get to that 1938 Cat Food — look like this (chart from Brad DeLong):

[OBAMA:] I think that as long as all of us retain that sense of passion1 about the ultimate outcome that we2 want, which is a stronger, more prosperous America than we are passing on to our children, then I think we will do well in this process. I am glad to be a part of it. Thank you very much.


  1. In the paragraph above, Obama may have meant “bloodless” in the sense of unimpassioned.
  2. Who?



  1. No doubt!
* * *

Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned!

UPDATE Notice the complete absence of Secular religion; that’s for rubes.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ben Johannson

    Obama sees the people as animals to be herded in whatever direction he and the plutocrats he worships think best; if we’re good maybe we’ll get a pat on the head.

    1. brian t

      He’s a politician. They all do that. Wouldn’t it be someting if a non-politician became President, as in e.g. Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders”? The book is partly thriller, partly Clancy taking swings at the political establishment, lobbyists, the tax code, and so on, but it is fun to imagine.

      I’m not sure what that chart is supposed to add to this analysis, considering that Obama became President in January 2009 – when the slide was already well underway – and couldn’t be expected to have an immediate effect on the economy. It’s not a “leftie talking point” to acknowledge that the damage was done before he took office.

      1. from Mexico

        brian t says:

        I’m not sure what that chart is supposed to add to this analysis…

        The proof is in the pudding, that’s what it adds.

        In his speech Obama is paying homage to the Rubinite wing of the Democratic Party, the very people who played such a pivotal role in imposing the disastrous neoliberal policies that resulted in the GFC and the devastating employment situation we have today.

        1. from Mexico

          And from this point on, Obama has never veered from being a hardcore neoliberal ideologue, despite all the empirical evidence that it is a failed, disastrous doctrine for all but the 0.01%.

          1. jake chase

            If BHO were 100% white instead of 50% white, nobody would ever have paid him the slightest attention. He attracted support from the faux left as America’s Great Black Hope, and the same pathetic politically correct nonthinkers supported him a second time, and continue justifying him as we speak, for the same romantic reasons. This support is without regard to his well documented abandonment of every balleyhooed ‘position’ (posture really) which supported even tangentially any important interest of the 99.8%, and his imposition of one draconian measure after another to shore up the rent extraction ediface of finance.

            Obama is a class warrior pure and simple, and he labors in support of the class he has every intention of joining, in which respect he is no different than WJC, who was lucky to be in office as the bubble was inflating, as opposed to after it collapsed.

            Now, what are all you frustrated voters going to do about it?

          2. indices

            “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”
            Considering the usually available choices, how would TPTB feel if the voter turn-out in the next presidential election was around 30,000 nationwide? Well, probably: “mission accomplished!”

          3. Brindle

            16 years earlier (1990)…

            Obama becomes editor of The Harvard Law Review:

            —Referring to his fellow students at the review, whom he edits, he said: “These are the people who will be running the country in some form or other when they graduate.

            If I’m talking to a white conservative who wants to dismantle the welfare state, he has the respect to listen to me and I to him.

            That’s the biggest value of the Harvard Law Review. Ideas get fleshed out and there is no party line to follow.”—

            So back in 1990 Obama “respects” the “white conservative” who wants to “dismantle the welfare state”.
            Obama has been a neoliberal class warrior his whole adult life.


          4. Charles LeSeau

            As weird as it sounds, I think some of them (Democrats) just don’t know still. They’ve heard it, sure, but somehow they still see him as a “centrist,” and they still believe his talk represents his political positions (“…but he can’t make any headway against them darned republicans!”). I’m talking about some bright people out there too. I know many ardent Obama supporters who certainly did better than I did in school and career, some who are absolutely brilliant professionally. But they just don’t seem to get access to any politics but what they see on TV or in popular print media, and maybe they’re scared of the truth. On the other hand, Democrats know something’s lousy about their party, or else they wouldn’t come out in such force with the Sisyphean ‘lesser of two evils’ proselytizing during election time.

            I’m not sure, but I think some enormous section of Democrats and other members of the Liberalis Ubiquitus species simply get their kicks out of making fun of the right, and that’s about the extent of their political activity or thought outside of voting and urging others to. As long as they still have cushy jobs (lots of them do), Obama’s policies make no difference. The whole Comedy Central bit really pretty much sums it up. Or Wonkette, where the entire site is devoted to poking fun at the right and not much else. Sins of omission are of course everywhere.

            As an example of many people I know, those who already have health insurance simply do not see a problem with the ACA. Whereas someone who intentionally has boycotted insurance companies and the medical industry all their lives – someone who sees the ACA as nothing but the most foul type of creation of gov’t/corporate fusion – is maybe not going to be a Democrat.

      2. different clue

        What the chart adds is that these were the outcomes of the policies Obama joined the people in this lunch at supporting. One presumes that Obama also joined/joins the people in this room at supporting the outcomes.

  2. mad as hell.

    Obama is attempting to cut social security, medicare and veterans benefits with his budget to be revealed this week. Still lurking on the back burner is the Keystone pipeline approval.The MSM is having a tough time spinning this in Obama’s favor. They are trying but is the public buying it?

    How much of an uproar by those affected will help to tarnish Obama’s gutless cuts. If this goes over with little outburst look for more attacks and cuts on the populace. However if the people’s indignation is loud enough then Obama better start picturing that crowd he had to look at again at his inauguration as just a small sampling of those that will see him as a sellout. I would love nothing more than to see those many if not more screaming at the white-house gates.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Perhaps a better way to phrase that would be, “How much outrage will the media allow to be visible”?

      You could get a direct answer from the White House where the media gets every syllable it regurgitates, but those – like a few other policy details – are secret to the public. Or you can look at a prime example such as HuffPo and you have your answer. Basically Obama, I mean zero, ZERO or zip; kinda like a big, huge, “O”. A few yips from the far left (Sanders) and the obligatory meow growl from the unions (AFL-CIO), and that’s it. That’s the rage. That is how much “effective” public push back you are going to see even if there is a ten million man woman and children march on DC. Politicians understand now-a-days that they do not have to react to actual public opinion, only to the perceived public opinion the “guardians of the news” allow to be seen as they allow it to be seen.

  3. from Mexico

    Here’s what caused the prosperity of the 1990s: a private debt binge and resulting credit and asset bubble the likes of which the world had never seen before.


    The part about keeping “debt out of the hands of foreign nations” is simply not true, as this graph illustrates:

    “U.S. net external debt/GDP”

    1. Klassy!

      See, this is where I have to go with the explanation that the guy just isn’t very bright. It seems anyone with half a brain could have seen the very ponzi-ish quality to the 90’s “prosperity”. And cheap oil.
      But yes, evil too.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Thought and empathy go hand and hand. Empathetic people ask “why” and so forth. People who don’t care about anything other than themselves, don’t ask those questions about the situation because it wouldn’t interfere with their preferences.

        Being evil and not knowing how things work/being stupid go hand and hand.

        1. CB

          Never thought about it that way but, yes, being focused no further than the end of one’s own nose and intent on remaining makes one spectacularly stupid. Tho not necessarily ineffective. Evil is almost a throw-in at that point. Humans respond emotionally to certitude and Obama and his ilk have that in spades.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Evil is easy. The advertised Catholic Saints, ignoring the barbarian kings and stolen mythological figures which made it into the club, chose a hard path. Francis of Assisi could have just been more charitable. Thomas Moore could have found a way to get into Henry’s graces without looking like a coward. No one would have judged someone harshly threatened with being fed to the lions.

            Being good isn’t easy. Thinking, not to be confused with regurgitation, isn’t easy either. Its really easy to conclude Dr. King “I have a Dream” speech is about just a color-blind society where anyone black, white, green, klingon, or even female, but its much harder to recognize that King is going on to describe the construction of a promised land, overflowing with milk and honey where the lion lays with the lamb, because that means work about how to achieve it and maybe changing one’s own lifestyle or questioning the behavior of good-mannered people.

            Saying “we need to work together/bipartisan/independent” and “lets cut the bullshit,” doing it is not. Dr. King realized this and wrote about this from prison when he described “the white moderate.” They choose the negative peace because its easy. Bull Conner doesn’t bother them, so they don’t have to fight him. They can wait him out. Their evil is easy, and they choose not to think because its easier.

            They will work hard if they perceive something to be sexy or fun. “Partisan” Democrats will line up for rallys and cocktail parties, even waving signs for hours, but if you ask them stand outside a Wal-Mart for an hour to register voters on a nice day, all you will hear is “my talents are really suited for that…” Its the easy choice again, and people go unregistered because evil is easy. The rally is fun. Having people tell you to go to hell isn’t fun, but registering voters is hard. An hour of registration work will do more than a rally, a yard sign, or a bumper sticker will ever do.

            Its like the President’s 5% paycut. His lifestyle won’t change. He won’t work an extra day of his life, but it sounds good to people who don’t think. If the President was bright at all, he would have made sure to sign the money over to some food bank which shows he is a complete idiot.

            I hate these people so much.

        2. sgt_doom

          Well spoken and articulated, NoTimothyGeithner, although one would also expect such behavior from a population which has been thoroughly infantilized as the American populace appears to be!

          All one need do is carefully research the backgrounds (as in business, organization memberships, and family) of the following people:

          Reuben Jefferies III
          Daniel Zelikow
          Victoria Nuland
          John Brennan
          Diana Farrell
          Timothy Geithner
          Valerie Schulte
          (etc., etc., etc.)

          to get an idea of the big picture. I don’t know anything about the sinking of the Titanic, but I do know that the owner, which was the International Mercantile Marine Company, was pivotal in the selection of the world’s most incompetent ship’s captain.

          I also know who the owners of the IMMC were: JP Morgan (majority owner) and John D. Rockefeller (minority owner) and that Morgan and Rockefeller members were scheduled to board the Titinic, but at the last minute bowed out, and the sinking most effectively destroyed one of the top five richest families back then, the Astors.

          I also recall that on 9/10/01, the Pentagon’s comptroller announced that their auditing team (the DIA’s Financial Management group) uncovered an unaccounted for (missing) $2.3 trillion in DoD funds, and that on 9/11/01, almost the entire auditing team died when an airliner crashed dead center into the Pentagon’s west wall.

          These are important events which should be reflected upon….

          1. nonclassical

            sooo…you should also know to follow the $$$$=”Buzzy” Krongard from CIA during Reagan Iran-Contra, to CIA banking money laundering, to Deutche Bank takeover of bank used by CIA, to “puts” on United-American Airlines just prior to 911, to “Blackwater” after 911…

            ….find personal history of “Buzzy” Krongard:




      2. seabos84

        yabbut …
        I was working as a Micro-serf in Redmond from May ’97 to Jan. ’03 — a lot of fools I worked with were buying Cisco or Microsoft or … stock cuz it kept going up & they would acknowledge that it kept going cuz all the fools were buying it & it was a game & … “I’ll get out before it falls apart” – and a few did.
        Of course, a lot of the fools would be mouthing the idiocy-du-jour about how all these stocks were gonna double and split every 18 months cuz … up isn’t down …
        I was 37 in ’97 and I think for a lot of the 35 to 50+ year olds I was around, they were just hoping that they could get a good run on the money machine and bail out – we’d already missed being 22 and getting That Big Job.
        Oh well. Ponzi schemes are Ponzi schemes.

      3. hunkerdown

        Is advocacy for the interests of those like themselves to be considered stupidity or malice?

  4. craazyman

    i was wondring where the blue was, then I saw the note at the end.

    whenever you hear these types talk it’s alwasy “We” this, “We” thAt.

    Whater “We” gomna do with “them”. Whater “we” doing to do with “the loser, them, the people, they, youze, etc. et.”

    Bob and I, ‘WE’ are gonna lead um by the hand up into the light. Some may fall by the wayside. Some may not make it.

    But “we” gonna get owselves on TV and up in front of a microphone and we gonna start talking and talking. And talking. And talking. banana banana banana. ba da da ba da da ba da da. ba noon a ba noona ba noona. be dee del ba dee del ba dee del. oohmmmmmmm. ohmmmmmmmmm. than you, thank you, applause applause

    We gonna get our picture in People magazine. We gonna get famous. We gonna get our face in every eye. We gonna get our head in every head. We gonna be everwhere all the time. We gonna take all of yuze and swallow yuz. and then we’ll be you and you’ll be we. and then we all be together, but it’ll be our face, our voice, our head, our glory. Glory be to us. glory glory.

    There you go, there’s a modern politician for you. Maybe an ancient one too. Maybe all of them. maybe most Generals too. Maybe even Lee and Grant. Maybe even, I hate to say it, Lincoln himself. maybe even Lincoln. I guess if you have 50 million or 100 or 300 million it gets that way. Somebody jumps in front of them and says “We” when they really mean “Me”. and then all hell breaks loose. Maybe the hell was already there before there was even a “We”.

    1. jake chase

      Especially Lincoln. He went to war to prevent people from getting away from the clutches of Big Money. I admit they were not particularly admirable people insofar as they insisted upon owning other people, but I don’t think that was a decisive factor in Lincoln’s determination to subdue the rebellion.

      1. Expat

        You’re exactly right, although it’s not often said that way. Lincoln was, among other things, anti-slavery because slavery was a drag on business; that’s how he came to the attention of the kingmakers who positioned him for a run for the presidency. This is well established historical fact.

        Similarly, Obama was for a solution to the health care problem not because of the uninsured, high costs or anything like that. Rather, as Obama saw it, the US’s pricey care was a drag on business compared to countries with health care for all. I recall observing the similarity in temperaments at the beginning of Obama’s foray into health care. But under Lincoln the ruling class was divided, geographically at least, and US history makes it clear that unless the ruling class is divided only dreadful drek spews from the halls of government.

      2. craazyman

        certainly not the decisive factor, not at all.

        But what’s remarkable to me is the shift over three to four years. Lincoln had one thing, besides a certain honest lust for power, and that was he allowed himself to be moved by ideas. The difference between the first and second inaugural addresses is an infinity. It’s like a different mind entirely speaking.

        Then there’s that last picture before he was killed, I think by Gardner, where Lincoln looks like an exhausted knobby old man, a spirit more than a human being. You can almost see it written in the expression on his face “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” it would have been true. My guess is he knew he was merely a tool of forces so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. It’s easy to criticize, from our day, but the strength it took to navigate all that would have destroyed utterly 99,999 out of 10,000 men. I don’t mean to be sentimental, I’m just trying to see the absolute reality in the situation. Alexander Gardner I think somehow found it here . . .


        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Lincoln’s first Inaugural was given while Winfield Scott had Washington under martial law, Lincoln came to Washington incognito, and they were still trying to avoid war when Scott was telling Lincoln they didn’t have the resources to evacuate or resupply certain union bases.

          Did his thinking evolve as much as the horizon people hoped to avoid was reached? Emancipation was in many ways a moot issue for much of the rebel areas and probably for the whole confederacy by the time of the Emancipation Proclamation because U.S. soldiers were freeing slaves on their own.

          I don’t want to say Lincoln didn’t change his feelings over time because how could you not. Lincoln’s decisions weren’t made with a marble edifice on the mall in mind. They were made with rebel armies forming and four months between an unpleasant election and the inauguration. Its one of the reasons they moved the inauguration up to January.

          Religious imagery and flowery language were huge at the time. Joshua Chamberlain’s book will make most people today throw up.

  5. Klassy!

    Missing in the transcript: “Take off your bedroom slippers. Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

    Oh shoot. Sorry. Different speech. Different audience. But wouldn’t it have been nice if he finished off this speech with that line?

  6. Stephanie

    This was the first time I really got why racism is a problem for neoliberals and market-led development. From an (ideological) free market perspective, in which ‘being human’ gets in the way, racism gums up the (market) works. So much of O’s appeal to liberals is that he symbolizes post-racism, a societal good in their eyes….but from O’s perspective, it’s just about markets.

    Thanks. That’s a great example of coding.

    1. Brindle

      Yes, for many liberals having the first African American president is more important than the fact that his policies are essentially Republican.
      That the majority of African Americans are being hurt by Obama’s agenda is not discussed.

      The neoliberal/DLC types are well aware how “identity politics” can be used as an instrument to suppress critical thought and action.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        At this point, Obot/Democratic support isn’t about Obama being non-white. They may say that to deflect and offer something to make critics of Obama to expose them for what they are. This is about THE TEAM not being questions. What is the difference between Obots and people who stood outside the courthouse defending the behavior of some star athlete/Joe Pa/ the Rutgers Coach? This is about them not taking responsibility for being ignoramuses, and in the case of Democrats, not necessarily Obots, being a Democrat is their identity because its been their identity. Policy outcomes aren’t as important as being a Democrat. Obama is a great orator because he is a Democrat speaking. Even if they are literate and are familiar with great speakers, they wouldn’t care because this is about making them feel good about their team.

        1. Massinissa

          To be fair, couldnt the same be said of Republicans, and say, Reagan?

          Or George W. Bush while he was president, though they through him unceremoniously under the bus the moment he left the white house. I sort of hope that will happen to Obama: it would be a sort of justice. But it almost seems more likely that Obama will be the lefts ‘Reagan’ for decades: The incompetent stooge the party cant stop speaking platitudes about in order to show theyre loyal party stooges.

          Sigh, Americans are so simple minded to fall for this sports team BS

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            To be fair, I’ve long since stopped caring about Republicans. They should have been left for dead as a political party and politely ignored after the 2008 election. The issue is who didn’t recognize that situation and anyone who believes its worth more than a second to listen to a REpublican before laughing at their gross stupidity and cruelty.

            If Obama and the Dems investigated Iraq, there might one or two Republicans left out of prison.

          2. nonclassical

            ….”might be one or two repubLIEcons left out of prison IF bushbama investigated Iraq”…

            but instead bushbama (aka “house negro”) cut deal (proven-WikiLeaks) to NOT do “investigations”….(but now U.N. has demanded investigation)

        2. Brindle

          “Obama is a great orator because he is a democrat speaking”.

          Since the summer of 2009 I have consciously chosen not to listen to Obama for more than 90 seconds or so when he gives a speech.

          He is skilled at being a propagandist and no reason to subject myself to it.

          I do read transcripts.

          A few months ago Obama gave a press conference and I decided to listen to the whole thing (masochism?). It lasted maybe 40 minutes or so.

          Obama basically “answered” five or six questions and filled the air with verbiage for five or six minutes per question, not really saying anything substantial.
          The press conference was an exercise is throwing up smoke screens, chaff and dead end alleys.

          1. CB

            I can’t listen to him, he’s a pompous, gasbag boor. I tried during the first campaign, but he’s so full of himself and so, well, nothing, really, all hot air yada yada. Windy City.

          2. NotTimothyGeithner

            If you read Obama, he’s as vapid as any local luminary who wants to demonstrate leadership through a letter to the local paper about the need for bipartisanship when it comes to legislation. Obama sounds serious to “Very Serious People.”

            Its no surprise the creator of “1600 Penn,” a wretched show, was Obama’s top speech writer.

        3. ohmyheck

          On an individual level, is it the old “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” If it is more important to your ego that you be “right”, then you will be like the group you described. Here is a link to a terrific paper written about the “Authoritarian” mindset.
          PS—it is 261 pages, but you don’t have to read the entire thing to get the gist of it.

      2. CB

        “That the majority of African Americans are being hurt by Obama’s agenda is not discussed” by the majority of African-Americans, either. Black Agenda Report notwithstanding.

        1. pws

          Obama sucks, but it makes sense for blacks to be forgiving. There can only be one First Black President, and the fact that his an abysmal charlatan doesn’t alter the fact that Obama holds that historic position.

          It’s sad.

          So much better if they had a Kennedy or an FDR in there. But no, they get this dog’s breakfast instead.

          Almost all the Republicans I know, and I know quite a few, will tell you that Obama is an evil, incompetent, sociopath. That judgement would, in fact, be correct, if it wasn’t quickly followed up with, “I guess that’s what we get for electing a —” and then further endorsement of Obama’s actual policies by the same people (though a refusal to believe that Obama’s proposals are actually in line with their thinking).

          Thomas Frank once said that most Americans don’t view politics, particularly national elections, as something they have a lot of say in. Rather, they view them as entertainment, as a sporting event, like professional wrestling or football. I think that’s an example of learned helplessness and hopelessness, which should have been Obama’s actual campaign slogan.

          1. Ned Ludd

            I re-watched the video after following one of Lambert’s footnotes. I noticed this revealing bit:

            Obama: My policies are so mainstream, that, if I had said the same policies that I have back in the 1980’s, I’d be considered a moderate Republican.

            Obama defines mainstream policies as being the policies of moderate Republicans. The Democrats of the 1980’s were apparently too far left for Obama.

          2. Massinissa

            Its a sad day when Walter Mondale and Whats-his-name Dukakis are considered “too far left” by much of anyone, much less a democratic president…

          3. nonclassical

            ..throw out Cheney-Rummy-CIA director Casey, REAGAN is too far “left” for bushbama…

    2. Klassy!

      The good progressives imagine themselves the spritual heir of John Brown because they voted for the nice black man. Somehow, in all the patting themselves on the back they do they miss the knife he has planted there.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Dem Patriotism: “This knife wound will kill me, true, but thank God it’s not as bad as the knife the Scaaaary Team would stick in me (and I’ll be taking it for the team)”.

  7. JGordon

    Oh man, Obama is nothing but an empty sock puppet full of catch phrases. I’m stunned. Who could have known?

    Although another way of looking at it is that this is exactly the kind of guy Americans should have representing them, simply because he reflects them so well.

    1. Massinissa

      Gordon, I have to agree with this today.

      Though I didnt vote for him, I voted Stein, so at least my conscience is clear. The “lesser of two evils” crap pissed me off so much. I dont see how so many folks buy into that nonsense: Isnt it obvious theyre being controlled?

      1. JGordon

        Oh, well, I actually believed in Obama and I teared up a bit when I watched his first inauguration. I still believed in America and the political/economic system at that time.

        But since then I’ve become complete jaded and cynical about this whole mess and I’ve come to see that the only way that the American people can reclaim their dignity and humanity is for the empire to fall.

        1. nonclassical

          ..wrong, JG…
          all it takes is (as David Stockman said last week) ending the fantasy that $$$$ is NOT “property”-rather $peech…and PUBLIC election financing-no lobbyists…

          we all know wha

      2. Brindle

        Me too…voted Stein. It’s nice to have a relatively clear conscience after leaving the polling station.

    1. Montanamaven

      Ah, saved me looking up the link to Paul Street. His “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics” is filled with linky goodness. Here’s one:
      Taibbi in February 2007 “best BS Artist since Clinton” who had been suspicious since Obama’s 2004 speech: http://www.alternet.org/story/48051/obama_is_the_best_bs_artist_since_bill_clinton
      Kevin Alexander Gray wrote a scathing critique of Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” which contains my favorite quote of Obama’s about liking the tidiness of military bases. http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/02/10/barack-obama-lost-in-the-foothills-of-hope/
      Street’s take down (see above link) of the much hyped Democratic Convention speech is ripe for color coding.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Because the left is still so fragmented it doesn’t even know its own history?

      It’s really telling that Reed, Dixon, and Street all knew Obama from Chicago, and were appalled and repellled.

      * * *

      Any other early calls? Readers?

      1. Synopticist

        He was always the most right wing of the 3 serious democrat candidates for 2008. That was pretty clear from the outset, to my eyes at least.
        He was chumming up to Leiberman, praising bankers and talking about droning Pakistan from the word go. Clinton had the support of the unions. Obama had his skin colour.

        This is why i’m slightly unsympathetic towards the constant screaching about the Obama sell-out. He telegraphed it from the outset. It reminds me of people who were astonished when the UK libdems turned out not to be to the left of Labour after all. If they’d spent a few minutes actually reading the policy positions they’d set out, they wouldn’t have believed it in the first place.

        1. jrs

          Yea but why wouldn’t anyone think Hillary would also be a corporatist given the policies of her husband’s administration, exactly how Clinton’s govern is the devil you know … oh but they are all devils.

        2. pws

          He didn’t play by Marquis of Kingsbury rules against Clinton, it was a dirty Primary (Florida again, of course… the state where American Representative government goes to die). (Not that Clinton is even remotely close to any sort of savior figure… it’s just hard to imagine anyone being actually worse than the current President.)

      2. Yves Smith

        There was more tussling about him than you would think. Appears some of the record has been expunged, or at best forgotten:


        Stoller was nearly thrown out of the Democratic convention in 2004 for not falling in with the paens over Obama’s speech. Much of his skeptical stuff seems to have been on servers that are now dead (mydd), but I can find footprints of continued Stoller skepticism in 2006 (along with that of others, such as Pachacutec at FDL):


          1. Ned Ludd

            The old MyDD post by Chris Bowers is a real harbinger of liberal attitudes during the Obama presidency.

            • There is a lot of mental gymnastics to acknowledge Obama’s statements while also making excuses. “Unlike, say, Ann Coutler, I don’t actually believe that Obama thinks he is referring to the entire left when he makes statements like this.”

            • When Bowers feels betrayed, he ends up (metaphorically) prostrating himself before Obama, sounding a bit like Job pleading to his deity. “Why are you treating me like this? Is this a sign you don’t want me to help you anymore? Do you honestly believe that attacking me is more valuable than I [sic] help I can provide?”

            • Bowers sees Obama as worthy of devotion. “Like I did in Illinois, I imagine virtually everyone in the netroots would be willing to work, bleed, and walk through the fire for that Obama… This man has potential for all-time, worldwide greatness for the first half of the 21st century.”

            Bowers isn’t looking for a tactical ally. He’s looking for someone to follow. Bowers wants to “work, bleed, and walk through the fire” in order to exalt his leader to “worldwide greatness”.

  8. ambrit

    The very fact that he was speaking before the ‘Hamilton Project’ should have told the people just where he was headed.
    His earlier career has been spun as evidence of his stature as “Great Bringer Together.” A hard eyed analysis would re-define his role as “A— Licker In Chief.” (I know, it’s an ad hominem, and early in the comments thread to boot, but, well, there you are.)

    1. jawbone

      I have nothing but praise for those who saw through Obama early on. And the MCM let voters down terribly by preventing us from really knowing about him.

      Alas, one had to be pretty deeply into political minutia to have known about Obama appearing before the initial Hamilton Project meeting — and being the only Dem Senator to do so, as lambert notes.

      I had not heard Obama’s ’04 speech, had only heard about it*. When it became apparent he was going to run for the Dem nomination in ’08, I still didn’t pay him all that much attention. But, when he surging, I realized I needed to learn more.

      It was not easy to learn about him. My excuse was that I seldom made it to the last page of all the Google links. But I did learn enough about him, especially how he would stake out lib positions to win the voters over, but then would make private appts with the Big Money or Big Bidness and, somehow, in the cases I came across, almost always went for a solution, or tried to achieve one, which would please the Corporatists.

      Krugman had also made it clear Obama was playing with fire by offering up SocSec and Medicare well before he announced for the run.

      Anyway, I could not vote for him back in ’08. But, in all honesty, I did not fully realize how awful he could be, and had my state been a close race I just might have swallowed hard and voted for him.

      I never dreamed he would be as bad for the 99 Percent as he has turned out to be. And bad for the world.

      *”Only heard about” Obama’s convention speech in -04. There was nothing but fulsome praise for his speech and the MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) has not stopped praising it or other speeches of his since then.

      I was somewhat stunned at how terrible he was as an extemporaneous speaker and debater. What a disconnect between his set piece speeches and his ordinary speaking.

  9. TK421

    Isn’t anyone going to talk about what’s really important: Sarah Palin said something stupid onTV the other day!

    1. CB

      Here’s the thing, tho, Sarah says something stupid and she gets hammered and dissed; Barry says stupid things all the time and he gets a serious audience and from what’s left of the left, serious argument. It’s really about who has power, isn’t it. He was always perceived to have the kind of backing that implies power and she wasn’t. I don’t see Sarah as any dumber or more destructive than Barry.

      1. Massinissa

        Stupid people with no power like Palin are funny.

        Stupid people with oodles of power like Barry are much more destructive, and much less funny.

  10. jo6pac

    Lambert Strether you are one Mean Person and thanks this Great. I’ll pass it along to some non-bot friends.

  11. scraping_by

    When Barry includes himself in the left, he’s not just flipping the narrative, the way most right wing propaganda does.

    Here, the structure is that right and left are positions on certain wedge issues restricted to hobbies, interests and lifestyles. Economics is judged, here and elsewhere, as a functional, objective field. The stuff of mechanical operation as opposed to impassioned opinion.

    Wedgers operate in things that don’t have resolution, or that can be kept alive with minimal effort/noneffort. The current highlights are homosexuality and gun control, both being kept in suspension by drifting attention. By contrast, they pretend the laws of money are known and eternal, and they’re just

    It’s preaching to this choir to note that economics is never neutral, that distribution is never mechanical, that production doesn’t depend on inequality, and class structure is always the issue, especially when it’s denied. And that an endless series of booms and crashes isn’t working very well, if you can call that working.

    Another quick observation: The stuck out paragraph where he boasts about being in demand is actually a deliberate part of the smokescreen. Self-promotion and naked vanity really do impress some of the less grounded among us. Not just intimidating the peasants, but identifying with the Rah-Rah, positive thinking, network marketing crowd or the Ivy League New Elites. In this crowd it’s mostly the Ivy Leaguers’ self-satisfied sense of grand selection being recognized and the operate with giants. Meh.

    By the way, did you note how Barry made that harmless gaffe about Ms. Harris just as the news about his beginning to stick the knife into social benefits was breaking? I didn’t see, did the gaffe story break in Drudge? Whatever, it’s The Narrative and the rest is MEGO.

    1. scraping_by


      Wedgers operate in things that don’t have resolution, or that can be kept alive with minimal effort/noneffort. The current highlights are homosexuality and gun control, both being kept in suspension by drifting attention. By contrast, they pretend the laws of money are known and eternal, and they’re just well-trained mechanics doing God’s Work.

      Second cup of coffee…

    2. thesystemoftheworld

      Another slick construction is to liken the mechanics of the market with evolution, survival of the fittest. See, it’s a “natural” process, whoever wins does so becasue they are the best, the fittest. You can no more argue with that than the Divine Right of kinds that gives them their authority. Meanwhile “the market” is entirely a human invention, defined by rules that were created by people.

    3. Expat

      “did you note how Barry made that harmless gaffe about Ms. Harris just as the news about his beginning to stick the knife into social benefits was breaking? ”

      Excellent catch. The Harris story is a three-day wonder in the papers, the social security-medicare cuts not so much.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Barry O says and does insulting things on a routine basis, and this isn’t the first sign of his disdain for women, the real Democratic base.

        Part of its ignored because the normal watchdogs are in the tank for Democrats.

        Off the top of my head:

        -Larry Summers
        -the long game over birth control funding; only outrage from women’s groups prompted action
        -having Cardinal Dolan give the prayer at the DNC Convention; although thats more offensive to everyone who doesn’t approve of pedophile protectors.
        -requirement for a parents permission for girls under 17 to have access to Plan B
        -Of course, Mr. Obama’s economic policies are well not particularly suited to anyone other than the super wealthy.

        It wasn’t a gaffe. Its who he is.

        1. pws

          The worst was the firing of Shirley Sherrod. However, that was more likely over political differences (she was trying to actually help people) then over the fact that she was a woman.

    4. pws

      “By the way, did you note how Barry made that harmless gaffe about Ms. Harris just as the news about his beginning to stick the knife into social benefits was breaking?”

      Well, that’s another wedge issue. Corporate Feminism.

      Apologizing to rich, politically connected women over, basically, nothing, while making sure that non-rich, non-politically connected elderly women get to eat cat food or dumpster dive for their meals.

      Oh the trials of being, rich, good looking, and having an important political job!!! How terrible to have to endure being complimented on your looks! (He should have complimented her on her bank account, then he wouldn’t have had to apologize.)

  12. Jagger

    I am afraid I didn’t realize who Obama was until he started appointing his cabinet shortly after his 2008 election. The cabinet was a reflection of him and his policies. And very suddenly I knew. And I did not vote for him in 2012.

    First Bush and then Obama, a one-two punch that destroyed my faith in the political process.

    1. Brindle

      G W Bush and Obama grind the people’s faces in the dirt and the inside the beltway elite cheer them on and say “yea, “adults in the room!!” “being responsible”, “living within our means”.

      The joy and smug satisfaction with which TPTB display when the majority of people live with less and less is an ugly reality.

  13. tongorad

    Hope! Change! Obama, the TED talk president.
    I spent some time in the corporate trenches, amongst a cadre of “brand builders” and “creatives.” Obama speaks their lingo.

  14. rob

    “the new boss,same as the old boss”.
    Obama has been a “jive-ass m-f’er”,ever since he arrived on the scene.I have always felt that he reminded me of an “eddie haskel”.And it was/is frustrating how some people actually listen to this schmuck as if he were a real person.I remember reading his article in foreign affairs before the 2008 election.In it he was a complete corporatist.He has done just what he said he would. and doesn’t do a damn thing about all the crap he spews equivocolly.Which for some reason is the only thing the pro-obama crowd seems to hear.
    Nice touch on the color coding.I like to see the “groupings”/subheadings of layers of BS.

    1. Montanamaven

      Eddie Haskel. “Yes Mrs. Rubin”. You nailed it. In 2008 I said that if elected he would be our “Tsk Tsker in Chief”. I found his style of talking very condescending with all the Cosbylike tsking about personal responsibility. You heard me, fat kids. All scoldy scoldy like your worst 6th grade teacher.
      I feel now permanently trapped in “Leave it to Beaver” like that movie “Pleasantville”.

  15. HotFlash

    Thank you, Lambert. Better than a croissant with my morning coffee. I twigged on his FISA vote, but still have tons o’ ‘liberal’ friends I just can’t talk about him with. Maybe they’ll figure it out someday. The irony is that my repub friends, well, mostly relatives, hate him for all the wrong reasons.

    Esp appreciated yr comment about lack of secular religion — heh.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      FISA is what did it to me, as well. And all those strong arguments from principle against it — and they were good principles — that the D loyalists and career “progressives” puked up as soon as he made the move didn’t help any. It was all kayfabe, just from the side I thought I was on.

    2. jrs

      Some Republicans actually hate him for some of the right reasons: civil liberties. And then usually a whole bunch of dubious reasons as well.

      1. jrs

        The dubious reasons I encounter are basically things like Republicans (even RMoney!) would have revived the economy better. However even these are only half wrong, the economy has been a disaster for most people under Obama.

  16. Jackrabbit

    True believer or willing tool?

    Hillary’s stone-walling, non-answer is apt here: “At this point, what difference does it make?”

    It was the Democratic Party establishment and fawning faux progressive “leaders” that pulled this Trojan horse inside the gates.

    So lets not make the mistake of first glorifying him and then making him a lightening rod for everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

    It’s a duopoly. He’s a symptom.

      1. Jackrabbit

        There are 100 “eager practitioner’s” waiting in the wings.


        I’m all for using Obama’s betrayal to guide future action. But what is the take-away? What has been learned?

        1) That democrats were snookered by this smooth-talker?

        2) That the Democratic Party is locked in a duopoly that is accepting of, and dependent upon, greed and cronyism.

        If it is the former, the well-worn response will be: he’s a politician – what did you expect? (Nothing to see here). And nothing changes.

        If it is to be the later, then critics should not forget to make the point: he’s a product of the system/duopoly.

          1. Propertius

            Oh, yes indeed. I remember expressing some doubts about young Mr. Obama when his less-than-savory Chicago associations began to surface in the media early in the campaign (at the time I was a member of the state Executive Committee and state Central Committee for the Democratic Party here), only to have one of my colleagues respond,

            Oh yeah, he’s a crook. He’s completely mobbed up. But he can win!

            And they wonder why I’m not “active” anymore…

          2. ohmyheck

            @ Propertius— Yikes! That sucks. I was a member of the Democratic Party all of my life, but certainly not as involved as you. I don’t know what I am trying to say, other than it must be very painful for you to see what the Party has become. I’m sorry.

        1. jawbone

          Obama is a tool of the Corporatist power center, which now controls both parties. He may well have been their creation, a modern Manchurian Candidate.

          Their goal is to make Corporations and Big Money the control centers of anything with economic effect. And the profit is to flow upward to the Big Players.

          A D candidate was going to win in ’08; the Corporatist Powers That Be merely had to make sure that candidate was one of theirs and they were home free. Well, home floating on trillions of back door money from the Fed, etc.

          Initially I thought part of his assignment was to destroy the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party. Or the whole party. Having a purpoted Dem prez go after SocSec and Medicare will help with that….

  17. docG

    Yeah, we get it Lambert. You can’t stand Obama. Message comes through loud and clear. So what else is new?

    Frankly, this verges way too far in the direction of crackpot paranoia. If I were you I’d give it a rest.

    1. Mary Margaret's wurlitzer

      Crackpot paranoia! what an interesting choice of invective, to attack evidence of crime as minor as abuse of function. It says a lot about the source of this comment: this is not some wannabe Dem dupe. This is ventriloquists sticking up for their puppet.

      c.f. some recent classic deep-state propaganda : poll public opinion on state crime so you can talk about it in the same breath with secret lizard people, fake moon landings, the antichrist, and UFOs. So if you acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that the US government executed JFK, or fabricated a casus belli for aggression in Iraq, you’re like those crackpot paranoids who got abducted and anally probed by Zeta Reticuli Grays.

      This is a traditional way to police public discourse: conflate conspiracy and state crime, like the focus of this propaganda poll, the coup against JFK carried by US government officials (the anniversary’s coming up, and they’ll need to obscure lots of facts.) The same term, conspiracy, is used to describe the extrajudicial killing of MLK carried out by US government officials, or the extrajudicial killing of RFK carried out by US government officials (they’ll need to squirt perfume on a reeking CIA-directed show trial.) They’re the ones talking about conspiracy, not me. I’m talking about crime.

      The latest “conspiracy” is a big hairy piece of evidence that sank without a ripple: the public statement by Paula Broadwell, whose pillow talk beats any number of SCI accesses, that persons were detained in a USG Benghazi black site. If so, that’s not conspiracy, it’s crime, as enforced disappearance is a per se violation of the Convention Against Torture by Barack Obama, The Man Who Stopped the Torture. There’s nothing shadowy about it – it triggers a binding legal requirement of independent investigation per CAT Article 12. The crime of torture is supposed to be back behind us, so the conspiracy label is used as a reflex of dismissal to protect official impunity.

    2. scraping_by

      False equivalence.

      The Tea Party and other rightist organs depend on flocks of loud mouthed followers barking slogans and bullying any who don’t bark along. Therefore that’s politics, and the left should do so, and anything is just weird.

      The consent of the governed is the official national position. Published by slave owners, alas, but a good rule of thumb in any situation.

      The best informed Americans become leftists or Sovereign Citizens. Don’t know what that means, exactly.

    3. Yves Smith

      Wow. Foaming at the mouth, the tell of someone who can’t muster a coherent rebuttal.

      Let’s see, Obama spoke at the temple of neoliberalism, in 2006, not as a member of the loyal or not so loyal opposition (as in inviting the other side in to take a measure of them) but as an enthusiastic fellow traveller. Lambert further parses his speech in considerable detail. That’s substantial evidence.

      So what EVIDENCE do you have to counter the basic charge, that Obama is a flim-flam man, who in this speech said he was a part of the left but his policies and actions are clearly (and also by his own admission) Republican on pretty much every axis except social rights?

  18. Brooklin Bridge

    I’ve been interested to see how HuffPo handles Obama’s formal sell out of the Democratic soul and it has been truly classic. Let it go out with a wimper would sum it up. They led the defense with the standard “Adults have to do what adults have to do” article by the official HuffPo regurgitator of White House talking points, one Mr. Sam Stein (which they have already taken down – probably due to eggs and tomatoes thrown), followed by the usual, “only the far far left is opposed” article which doubled as a Soliloquy by Bernie Sanders (Sanders will be sure to go through several of these Hamlet like performances to no one in particular before this is over) and the obligatory wimper of the unions as expressed by the AFL-CIO. And, of course, they have already posted Obama’s defense: I assume more pap along the lines of, As adults, we must all [snort] sacrifice”, but I refuse to read it.

    Note how HuffPo always manages at least two things at once with these miserable articles. They let Sanders have his soliloquy while at the same time turning opposition to SS and Medicare cuts into a jab; something only fit for the far left and those wreched unions.

    Sam Stein: official White House A-S-*_W-I-P-*, or Lambert’s brilliant nasobrunial sycophant:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/obama-budget_n_3019281.html

    Bernie Sanders as Hamlet: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/bernie-sanders-obama-budget-social-security_n_3023799.html

    Meow AFL-CIO: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/06/obama-budget-proposal-cut_n_3029598.html

    Obama’s Pap:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/06/obama-proposed-budget-not_n_3028022.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

    1. Heron

      Funny how “we all must sarifice” never translates to the people taking home 80% of US wealth paying a greater percentage of taxes. Funny how “we all must sacrafice” never means “we’re going to pass laws encouraging companies to increase wages and decrease executive compensation, that strip citizenship from tax-shelter abusers, and that declare companies that do most of thier business overseas foreign corporations for tax and regulatory purposes.” I can hardly be the only person sick unto death of being lectured on economic morality by this class of looters, conmen, and theives.

      1. Heron

        gah wth was up with my internal spell-check there :/ That should be “sacrifice” both times, obviously.

  19. Susan the other

    So Brookings has been focused like a bankster on one thing forever: Free Trade. And Obama says “I’m a free trader” and “I’m a politician of the Left.” The problem is I just dunno what to do with all those losers, the ones who are being left out of the Globalized Economy! Obamaspeak would never hold up in court. Somebody needs to tell him, yes, he can have his obsequious little opinions, but he can’t have his own facts. Really, as we now know, the problem was never what to do with the people who lose out in a globalized economy. It’s what to do with the ones who win. Obama, politician of the Left, wants to let them have their own planet. The rest of us losers know what a disaster that will be. Obama is oblivious. As far as I can tell Obama has no coherent logic to his politics at all.

    1. jawbone

      Make Medicare so expensive with out-of-pocket increases that seniors self-limit their “greedy” use of the medical system and die off earlier?

      A form of culling the herd.

  20. Heron

    This isn’t about Obama directly, and thus somewhat off topic, but I just want to note how annoyed I am that the budget-hysterics have claimed Hamilton as thier mythological father-figure. Hamilton was the brain behind US national banking. He was a champion of a managed, floating, persistent debt and the commercial benefits it would bring us. He was an advocate of frequent and shameless bond issue when rates were low, and of Federal support for civic improvements like canals, turnpikes, ports, arsenals, and coastal forts. He was an early advocate of Industrial Policy who encouraged US manufacturers to violate copyrights early and often. He was an early champion of federal funding for a national army, a national navy, a national corp of engineers, scientific research, and the merchant marine. He fought hard, against the persistent stupidities of other founding fathers who spouted the same tight-money nonsense as these neo-liberals, to keep US currency weak so that the early US would hold a favorable trade position relative to Europe.

    I certainly wouldn’t call Hamilton a Keynesian, but he at least actually understood economics, which is quite a bit more than one can say for these wealthy Hayekian self-flatterers.

  21. VincentP

    Since I think we pretty much all agree that Obama is and always was a sort of neo-manchurian conman and was perhaps obvious about it for those who had the eyes to see, I have a related question. It goes to motive, your honor.

    I am trying to do the math myself on the SS numbers. I followed the link to the SS site linked in the notes of the article, and found this:

    “Social Security’s expenditures exceeded non-interest income in 2010 and 2011, the first such occurrences since 1983, and the Trustees estimate that these expenditures will remain greater than non-interest income throughout the 75-year projection period.

    The deficit of non-interest income relative to expenditures was about $49 billion in 2010 and $45 billion in 2011, and the Trustees project that it will average about $66 billion between 2012 and 2018 before rising steeply as the economy slows after the recovery is complete and the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. Redemption of trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury will provide the resources needed to offset the annual cash-flow deficits.”

    So if I read that correctly, all trust fund assets must be redeemed from the General Fund of the Treasury when needed, and it’s been needed for the last 2 years and is projected to be needed for the net 75… correct?

    Ok so – how much is in the General Fund? This is what I found from the Treasury’s website:


    Uh… the General Fund hasn’t had a positive balance in over a year. So these deficits must be financed by debt, which is of course purchased by the Federal Reserve.

    Now I’m also wondering, though I couldn’t find it on the SS website – does the “interst income” also come from the (empty) General Fund? If so, how is this not functionally equivalent to the trust fund being a box of IOUs from a counterparty who is broke and, once the outflows began to exceed the inflows two years ago, has been paying the IOUs by borrowing more and more money every year, in perpituity, just to meet his existing obligations? Did obama not say in 2011 that if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised, SS checks couldn’t be sent out?


    Could this not be the reason for Obama’s sudden interest in “entitlement reform”? I mean, think about it. The fund would’ve acted as a sort of slush fund and been compeltely self-sustaining as long as there was more money coming in than going out. Nobody would’ve been the wiser until the flow reversed, and then it would be game over. Aren’t I describing a Ponzi scheme? Did 2010 mark the SS “Madoff Moment”? Yes, the Federal Government can and is keeping the ponzi going by borrowing/printing/taxing/cutting benefits. That being said, it seems obvious that a. the “Trust Fund” is empty and b. the situation fundamentally changed two years ago.

    What am I missing? Sincerely posing the question folks, I just don’t understand why people have this impression that the “Social Security Trust Fund’ actually exists in any meaningful form? I mean, it’s not like there are tangible assets that can be sold off, unless I suppose we’re talking about selling Federal land/equipment, but what’s to stop the Government from simply changing the rules when it comes time to make the tough decisions? Isn’t that exactly what’s happening?

    1. ohmyheck

      The US Government borrowed, without consent, from the SS Trust Fund, as I understand it. This fact is the elephant in the room.
      What is “theoretically” supposed to be in the Trust Fund verses what is actually IN the Trust Fund, available for use to fund the SS checks sent out monthly to recipients—kinda like the gold in Fort Knox….

      I know there are folks who read here that know alot more about this issue. But it makes sense that if the US Government “borrowed against” the SS Trust Fund, then that is one very good reason for all this talk about “cutting entitlements”, which is complete BS, imho.
      The 1% do not want to pay taxes and the 1% do not want to pay back their loans. That’s stuff is for schmucks…

    2. jrs

      I’m not sure your missing anything in terms of details (at least in my view). What’s missing though is context, which has been covered here:

      1) social security taxes were raised in the 80s to provide the quite large prior surpluses. The money was used to enable lots of non-SS, non-Medicare spending while keep low income taxes, especially low taxes on the wealthy. The low taxes then (plus the Bush tax cuts later when SS was STILL running a surplus) have enabled ever more money to be be concentrated in the .01%. The tax code now is at best is minimally progressive and with capital gains and so on it’s not even that. So all those low taxes that enabled ever increasing concentration of wealth were indirectly enabled by SS as well.
      2) the Fed currently prints money for anything it really wants to fund. Banker bailouts, sure from here to eternity, or whenever QE winds down, whichever comes first. But social programs, no way.
      3)what exists in the trust fund is government bonds. If these are never to be paid, isn’t that a default? And if the government defaults on those bonds why won’t it default on other government bonds. Now who do you think the SS bonds are owed to? And who are the non-SS government bonds owed to? Who is richer?

      So yes taxes would have to be raised or money printed to fund SS, but defaulting on SS in the context of all this is class war by the .01% against the masses.

      1. jrs

        “So all those low taxes that enabled ever increasing concentration of wealth were indirectly enabled by SS as well.”

        I obviously mean enabled by the increased SS taxes in the 80s, I’m not blaming SS as such for that looting.

  22. The Dork of Cork.

    Socialism exposed.

    [OBAMA:] “One thing that we all know is that when you invest in people, people will prosper.1 When you invest in education and health care and benefits for working Americans, it pays dividends throughout every level of our economy”

    You can see how the elite look upon us.
    Conduit Asset people.
    They make decisions about us based on our “yield potential”

    When resources are plentiful Rome gives us Bread , when not ………….its not worth pushing resources through these conduit asset people as the yield declines or becomes negative.

    Its a bankers paradise.
    They can sitting Zeus like atop their monetary throne…..making decisions , good or ill for us – all based on our yield.

    They might as well give us a number.

  23. jawbone

    lambert, I was out of my usual internet use when Obama gave his second inaugural and I missed your dissection.

    Great, great stuff.

  24. kevinearick

    Lose-Lose Equal Government, Assigned Rights to Bankruptcy

    Dialing, Mr. Kissinger: this is an anti-missile calling. Is your Silo home?

    One third of Bay Area residents were born outside of the United States…

    US Senator Harry Reid is inclined to recommend more relaxed provisions for family-based visas…

    Business and labor groups met over the Easter weekend and reached an agreement on a new guest worker program that will bring thousands of low skilled workers to the US…

    It reveals that these groups’ once formidable opponents against each other are now banding together to see a comprehensive immigration bill being passed…

    The next picket line demanding immigration reform may not just be farm workers and health care providers. Engineers, techs, and start-up business owners may join in. This ‘capital of Silicon Valley’ has an important stake in easing the burden of acquiring permanent residency for its high tech work force…

    Holders of the biggest portion of Stockton’s Debt insured $165 million in bonds the city issued in 2007 to keep up with the payments to the California Public Employes Retirement System as property taxes plummeted…

    Stockton now owes CalPERS about $900 million to cover pension promises, for the city’s largest financial obligation. Many struggling cities across California [and the nation] are in the same situation…

    Legal observers of the first-ever Chapter 9 bankruptcy case questioning state pension obligations expect an appeal to decide whether the 10th Amendment that gives rights to states is more powerful than federal bankruptcy law…

    ‘There’s going to be a tsunami of retirees in the next couple of years,’ said Eric Lachia, Interim Organizer and Incorporator for US Medicare PH. Our goal this year is to promote and expand the current policy of [T]emporary ’emergency/urgent care’ coverage..

    Supreme Court hears same-sex marriage cases; huge potential for benefits…

    With business and labor now in agreement, Congress is now more comfortable in moving forward with legislation…

    Crack me the f- up; it’s like listening to the preacher sermonize about his own stupidity as an example to the flock, every Sunday, in perpetuity, the we-are-all-sinners-so-we-should-have-infinite-do-overs speech, and then blame Act of God for ‘black’ swan events. Careful who you hop in bed with. Real labor doesn’t negotiate. After the first quote, penalties and interest begin.

    It’s not a negotiation. Do you negotiate with your children (don’t answer if you do)? DNA is DNA, and life/health is no accident, despite the best effort of 45x leveraged self-insurers with government guaranteed income to persuade you that is. The old man isn’t passive; he just has much better things to do than negotiate with stupid. Humanity, much less the legacy family bank, is not the center of the universe.

    Congress guarantees the outcome with consent of its manufactured, self-reinforcing majority, the Fed digitizes the debt money, the police come after your children, and you get martial law, with soft digital power, and then hard power if you are found to resist. War is not BLOODY complicates. I don’t need a slide rule, or an IBM smartcontroller, to deliver the appropriate response. How do you suppose a guy gets run off from 7 different unions, in a row, for speaking his mind?

    There is always a mob and it is always going over the cliff, chasing labor, which is the only entity capable of building a bridge to the future. Careful upon which bridge you choose to build your home. The self-fulfilling foundation of the corporation – public, private and nonprofit, is poverty, which is why it crumbles every time, as designed. A derivative is a derivative is a derivative, and contrary to his admonishment to you, Buffet is a derivative, as is his organization of feminists, and their mutual puppet in the White House. Cool is a fad/facade for the ignorant. How much of a tell do you need?

    I am not going to be responsible for giving you an aneurism, by telling you what all is going on here in ‘frisco, but I will relay this: so, I’m listening to the anxiety-ridden kid telling his story about getting a pad for giving up alcohol, wearing designer clothing brought down by young feminists from Seattle for the ‘homeless,’ before telling the homeless to go down and pick from amongst the clothes he was wearing when he was on the street.. It never ceases to amaze me how much of the economy is modeled after the Salvation Army.

    Nothing, I repeat, nothing in this life is free, but if you consistently work intelligently, sooner or later, you are going to get your shot to jump that bridge. Just say no to stupid. It’s a sequencing operation.

  25. mrtmbrnmn

    m.bloomberg, the dwarfish napoleonesque multi-billionaire mayor of wall street, once referred to b.obama as “the most arrogant man i have ever met”. boy-howdy, there’s a character reference testimonial for ya!

  26. jfleni

    “Barry Babble” :That’s what all this word-play garbage amounts to!

    It’s also a dirge for the rule of law, the hope of economic security and jobs for regular folks, the survival of Medicare and Social Security, and even the survival of a responsible and free society. At the same time it’s a hymn of praise for never-ending economic (and physical) abuse and law-breaking by plutocrats and their po-lice good buddies.

    1. jrs

      you forgot survival of the planet (or much human life on it anyway and a whole bunch of other species before that time comes). And they wonder why we hate people like O.

  27. jfleni

    Re: jawbone says:
    I have nothing but praise for those who saw through Obama early on. And the MCM let voters down terribly by preventing us from really knowing about him.

    Don’t polute your eyeballs with the MCM, read Black Agenda report. There, Barry is Quimbo and Sambo all in one.

  28. kris

    I have only two words:


    I remember Chris Whalen saying that Bob Rubin runs the white house via Jack Lew before anybody knew who jack lew is.

    This proved it.

    1. kris

      Mr Strethner
      Thx a million for this article.

      I’m thinking of starting to compile a list of “interests” financing MOSTLY to one party.

      So far:
      Democrats: Pharma (obamacare, hands down), Big Banks ?? (this post from you proves it)

      Republicans: Big oil (hands down) (h; Military industrial complex???

      The way I see, the US gov is the product of each lobby group financing their own people into power, thus it is some kind of ‘lobby group infighting’.

      1. jrs

        Even that is cold comfort, so Dems will have sold out to Pharma and Banksters. So one might think: ok well at least they haven’t sold out to fossil fuels as well, so at least they’ll be ok environmentally. But the truth is they HAVE sold out to big oil as well, they don’t deal with climate change, they covered up for BP after the spill, and they’ll likely give the ok to Keystone XL.

        And though the environment is my priority if one were to take the R side on this: “ok Reps have sold out to the oil companies but at least they won’t be in bed with those corrupt banksters”. But TARP was Bushes baby etc.

        Seems to me they’ve all sold out to everyone just maybe one party might have sold out to an even crazier degree than the other (Obamacare concessions to pharma are completely crazy, etc.).

  29. John Yard

    Democratic Primary 2014: is there a site which can serve as a clearinghouse for information on the 2014 Democratic primary ? If Dem house members vote ‘yes’ on Social Security cuts, these members should face primary opposition in 2014. For this to work , it will be necessary to start soon, particularly for candidate recruitment , which is critical. Considering this measure will be opposed by 65%+ of the electorate , there is a real prospect of success.
    Republicans if possible should be encouraged to do the same on their side. This is actually a broad non-partisan issue.

  30. Hugh

    Thanks, great catch and great break down of the rhetoric.

    Sometimes, even the most inveterate liar will inadvertently let slip a deeper truth and I think Obama’s “This is not a bloodless process” is one of these. Kleptocracy, in fact, is an intrinsically and incredibly violent process. Osama bin Laden killed 3,000 people in New York, and that was once. Our modern kleptocrats murder that many every month just through denial of healthcare. They steal millions of homes, and throw millions out of work. They loot the pensions, bank accounts, and labor of hundreds of millions. They put tens of millions in the servitude of perpetual debt. Indeed this is not a bloodless process, but you will never find blood upon the hands of those who order and oversee this violence. Their violence is institutionalized and bureaucratized. It is the banality of evil decked out in a three piece suit, but no less evil or murderous for that.

    Obama in his speech peddles a typically Establishment liberal line and in doing so, illustrates the absolute corruption that lies at its and his heart, a few crocodile tears for the “losers” that is those of us in the 99%, and obsequious adoration of and identification with the lords of creation in the 1% who created this destruction.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s important to blow Obama’s ethos to smithereens.

      As soon as people start listening to what he is actually saying, his power will rapidly shrink.

      Adding… And therefore these posts and the technique really are aimed at his jugular. Greatest orator of our time, and all that.

  31. Shutter

    He’s an immature self-centered young whelp who should have been taken to the woodshed when he was young — but Dad wasn’t around.

  32. Hank

    I for one was a believer in the president in his first run for president. I sent my first contribution to a candidate and planned on vating for the first time in my 46 years of life.
    That is until I was watching the news and saw the person I believed in sitting down at the table with Mr. Rubin at some DLC Economic conference. I turned my back at that point on any hope if there ever being change to this countries underlying power structure.
    We are on our own in this CUNTry….live hard and don’t expect freedom unless you have the income to buy it.

  33. cripes

    Let’s face it, Obama is a run-of-the-mill corporate flack; a spokesperson, a dutiful servant to the academia-corporate borg that spawned him and Cory Booker and Deval Patrick and a thousand other fancy-pants seditty negroes feltching their way to the pinnacle of 21st century Bookerism. He’s nothing without the Pritzkers, and Bob Rubin and David Axelrod’s branding campaign. He’s an advertising gimmick. He’s Coke Zero, Froot Loops, Pop Tarts; a sugary, empty calorie, harmless-looking motherfucker until you wake up with a bad case of diabetes.

    He’s the negroe who barely fought for the rights of gay people to kill brown people, and accepted The First Nobel Prize for doing nothing. And the only true thing he ever uttered was tha part about being a blank slate for other people to project their hopes upon.

    What’s significant is that this transparent offal succeeded, and continues hoodwinking millions of loyal Obots, into some factless and thought-free adoration of a complete phony.

    But, if it wasn’t Obama, it would have been another placeholder. Hillary, perhaps. First woman….wow.

    And the war against workers (I refuse to mewl “middle-class” ever again), youth, immigrants, whistleblowers, homeowners, tenants, the disabled, elderly, low-class, chicken-bone-throwing (his words, not mine) negroes, and everyone else in the rest of the world will continue, during Obama and after Obama. He’s a cog in a long line since Reagan, Thatcher, etc. But he sure ain’t the last.

    Like the little Bushbaby, I’l be glad to see him go, and fear for what comes next. At least I won’t have to see his smug, lying face on TV every day.

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