The Obama Report Card: The Good, the Bad and the Incomplete

Yves here. I don’t mean to be mean to Alternet, or this particular author, who has written quite a few article I like. But I am astonished by the degree to which people on what passes for the left (and Alternet is way better than the norm) are reluctant to call out Obama’s numerous shortcomings. The gift to Big Pharma and health insurers known as Obamacare a success for the public at large? Medicaid expansion, yes. But the rest? Fuggedaboutit. And I am sure readers will take issue with all the other items listed in Obama’s “Big Successes” category.

As we’ve said, one of the best calls was made less than two weeks after Obama was elected. I think you’ll find the forecast by Robert Fitch to be more far more accurate than these cautious criticisms masquerading as measured.

By Steven Rosenfeld, who covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting.” Originally published at Alternet

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 and 2012, he didn’t just run on hope and change. He made hundreds of promises, everything from changing the way CEOs are taxed to allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs abroad. Those and scores more didn’t happen. And he hasn’t really addressed some of the key issues that will mark his his legacy, such as his overseas assassination policies involving drones and special forces.

As Obama approaches his final year, it’s become trendy among supporters to say he has done the best he can given Republican obstructionists in Congress and red states. There is some truth to this notion. Obviously, he’s been better on most issues than a Republican would have been, and certainly far better than their new flock of candidates. But as the GOP has become radicalized and pulled the political center to the right, some of Obama’s moderate stances have been wrongly labeled as liberal, which demonstrates how far right the public debate has become.

We at AlterNet have prepared a report card looking at successes, failures and a number of incompletes as Obama enters the last of his eight years in the White House. While there are dozens of issues and policies we could have included, we have chosen five in each of these categories that are especially important, compelling or decisive.

Big Successes

1. Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act, despite its hiccups and compromises with the health insurance industry, is the largest new federal benefit program in decades. It has extended coverage to nearly 17 million people and many of the red-state governors who opposed its Medicaid expansion to help the poor are changing their minds, meaning Obamacare enrollees will keep growing. While the lack of choices for people in smaller states and rising costs are a real issue and are discouraging people from getting care, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks U.S. health trends, says the ACA has lowered health care expenses for more people and employers than the opposite.

2. Stopping the great recession. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, Obama probaby would not have been elected without 2008’s crash led by the housing market implosion. George W. Bush’s response was spending $700 billion to prop up Wall Street institutions. Obama’s response was a similar scale stimulus package, which helped to reverse the hardship of millions of lost jobs and revive key sectors like the auto industry. Today, White House economic reports show the country is more or less back on its feet, although plenty of systemic inequality issues have yet to be addressed. But given that the crash mostly was driven by the private sector, Obama showed that the federal government has a major role to play in impacting America’s economic fortunes, should it choose to use that power.

3. Expanding civil rights. The highest-profile example is Obama’s reversal on same-sex marriage and LGBT equality issues. He began his presidency saying he opposed same-sex marriage and instead favored civil unions. But he changed his mind, and the Department of Justice joined the historic case in which the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality. There are other areas where the Justice Department has fought for civil rights, though not always successfully. It lost a big Supreme Court case that overturned the enforcement threshold in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, but has still sued to oppose new voter suppression laws in red states. Obama also reversed Bush-era anti-choice policies, including putting reproductive rights into Obamacare. The Justice Department has also pushed to ensure other affirmative action programs are followed, such as requiring a percent of government contracts go to women- and minority-owned businesses.

4. Embracing diplomacy. As 2015 ends, it may be hard to recall how much of a pariah nation the U.S. had become with George W. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, which ousted Saddam Hussein and fueled the region’s ongoing civil wars. Obama’s initial efforts won back the respect of the European community, though he was criticized by the GOP for withdrawing regular U.S. ground troops (special forces and drones remain). While he did not get anywhere with an Israeli-Palestinian settlement or Russia’s land grab in Ukraine, Obama’s reopening relations with Cuba, recent deal on Iranian nuclear weapons and backing of a global climate change accord underscore that he believes in diplomacy, not just using military force.

5. Climate change and science. Nowhere is the contrast with the GOP more stark than on climate change. Obama has accepted the judgment of scientists, rejected the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and has been engaged with climate change agreements. Early on, he reversed the Bush administration’s ban on funding stem-cell research and invested in solar energy. His Detroit auto industry bailout included higher fuel mileage standards. Obama is the first president to say global climate change is a real threat and he has pushed federal regulators to make the U.S. less dependent on carbon fuel, especially coal. His promise to adopt a carbon cap-and-trade system didn’t fly, but Obama pushed China to pledge reductions, including curtailing its massive reliance on coal, and he helped win passage of the global climate change accord in Paris in late 2015.

Big Failures

6. Empowering GOP extremists. There is a strong case to be made that Obama didn’t grasp how to use the presidency’s power—or podium—upon taking office and until his second term. A giant consequence was empowering today’s worst GOP obstructionists. By not rallying his base to vote in 2010, the Tea Party swept into office, giving the GOP control of the House, many state legislatures and governorships. Republicans then redrew congressional and state districts in once-a-decade redistricting that followed. That has locked in electoral advantages until after the next Census in 2020. These hardliners have since tried to block most of Obama’s big initiatives, from Obamacare to immigration. In the states, they’ve made it harder to vote and have rolled back reproductive rights.

7. Expanding the national security state. When running for office, Obama criticized Bush’s warrantless wirerap program that fed telephone data from all U.S. citizens calling overseas into spy agency computers. However, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comment that Obama might come to appreciate the Bush administration’s effort has proved prophetic. Books have detailed how the security state has grown bigger under Obama to Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the true extent of government surveillance. Meanwhile, Obama has aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers who challenge the constitutionality of these programs. With the exception of torture, Obama has continued or expanded many Bush war-on-terrorism policies. The foremost example is his overseas drone warfare program, which as filmmaker Robert Greenwald has shown, has led to many civilian deaths with virtually no public accountability in Congress.

8. Expanding charter schools. Under Obama, this pet cause of the richest billionaires and high-tech executives has rapidly grown across America. This has been the case, even as charter schools, which are led by entrepreneurs and in some cases, scam artists, rake in profits from taxpayer funds, have not produced demonstrably better results than traditional public schools. Obama’s unflinching support of charters and privatizing education has not only seen millions taken from needy school districts, but caused a shift in education that is overly test-centered, anti-teacher unions, and usurps the power of parents and locally elected school boards. Under Obama, the privatizers—led by Bill Gates and the Walton family—have opened a huge area of government to an industry led more by entrepreneurs than teaching professionals.

9. Coddling corporate America. Obama has never pretended to be a national leader on economic justice like senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But there is a difference between embracing reasonable policies that benefit big business and the public, and giving corporate America unneeded handouts or letting them off the hook for harming the economy and citizenry. Under Obama, almost nobody on Wall Street whose executive decisions played a big role in the 2008 crash was prosecuted. Meanwhile, the Dodd-Frank reforms passed to prevent another cycle of speculative boom and bust, are seen as doing little to change the financial sector’s worst instincts. Similarly, Obama has backed the pro-corporate Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which gives private industry power to deflect and overrule government regulations, as well as monopolistic control over their respective sectors. It’s notable that Obama turned to Republicans, not Democrats, to back his trade policies.

10. Political reform obstructionist. Obama supporters from 2008 might recall how he pledged to challenge and change Washington’s political culture. If there is one issue that determines how Congress and federal agencies function, it’s the rules and laws governing money in politics. Yet Obama has repeatedly shown he doesn’t believe in reform or in trying to rebalance the disproportionate impact of the wealthy on elections and lobbying. He has twice backed away from issuing executive orders requiring federal contractors to disclose political giving, which would spotlight a culture of insider favoritism. This is not surprising. He was the first presidential candidate to reject public financing since it was created 40 years ago because he was raising more money than Sen. John McCain in 2008. He also promised he would bar executive branch employees from leaving and becoming lobbyists, but has not issued any rules to stop Washington’s revolving door.

Big Incompletes

11. Addressing economic inequality. There is a fundamental disconnect between the latest White House economic and jobs reports, recovery of the stock market’s value and well-being of middle- and working-class Americans. In short, Obama’s optimism about America’s economic recovery and future is out of synch with households that feel wage stagnation, debt burdens, higher education cost pressures and see rising health insurance and medical expenses—even with Obamacare. The success of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is partly a response to frustrations many people feel about the economy and what the federal government could be doing to help. A review by PolitiFact of Obama’s campaign promises shows that most of his promises to shift the tax burden from average Americans to the wealthy have gone nowhere. Obama, meanwhile, has not made adressing economic inequalities a centerpiece of his rhetoric.

12. Comprehensive immigration reform. This is another major issue where the results have been more bad than good. Initially, Obama hoped a comprehensive bipartisan bill would pass Congress, but that effort died in the House. Several years later, he issued a series of executive orders exempting 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented people in the country from deportation—roughly the same percent as under GOP presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But those orders have been blocked in federal court after red-state governors sued. Meanwhile, his administration has deported more than 2 million migrants and more roundups and deportations are slated for early in the new year, according to recent news reports.

13. Lessening gun violence in America. After every mass shooting, Obama has called for sensible federal gun control laws—especially limiting the ability of almost anyone to buy militarized weapons and instituting better screening of gun buyers. Many congressional Republicans and some Democrats have decried the carnage yet refused to take legislative action, pleasing the National Rifle Association. Obama was correct in his Oval Office speech after San Bernardino’s terrorist attack that most gun violence in America is not from foreign threats, but from suicides, domestic disputes and accidents. But he’s not been able to get anything through Congress.

14. Racist policing and police violence. As institutional police violence continues, with unarmed people being shot and killed by cops across America, Obama seems to be on both sides of this issue. As the first black president, he has spoken out against the racism, profiling and vigilantism of “stand your ground” laws. But his blue-ribbon commission on police reforms did not suggest taking surplus Pentagon weapons out of local law enforcement’s hands. It recommended better training, which is not reassuring. On criminal justice reform, like ending mandatory sentencing provisions that disproportionately have fallen on communities of color, he has pardoned or commuted the sentences of more than 100 people, yet thousands remain in prison.

15. Getting out of the Middle East’s wars. Obama’s promise to close the book on the post-9/11 wars in the Middle East seems ill-fated. After withdrawing most ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, those countries and Syria have plunged back into civil war, with factions brutalizing the populace. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are said to be returning in Afghanistan. ISIS, with its stark Islamic calpihate, has emerged in Syria and western Iraq. While Obama has relied on special forces and drone attacks, what the U.S. will do next militarily, especially with ISIS, is an open question. Obama’s stubborn goal of ousting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has been frustrated by Russia’s entry into that war. Just as it does not appear Congress will let Obama close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it appears he will end his term with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Grading the President

There are dozens of issues upon which Obama’s presidency can be judged and evaluated. At his best, he has shown that government can act in powerful ways to reorient its safety nets and the economy and be more responsive to public needs, without the sky falling as his critics have blared. Nowhere is that more evident than with Obamacare, which despite its flaws, has scores of provisions that expand access to health care and is pushing medicine toward a more prevention-oriented and cost-conscious focus. His trust in diplomacy and focus on beginning to address climate change is also laudable.

But Obama’s greatest early attraction, his aversion to the arrogant leadership of George W. Bush, is now being seen by many as wanting. Following the ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, national polls say he’s not seen by Americans as a reassuring counterweight to public fears over foreign threats. As David Axelrod, his 2008 political guru, told CNN, his response to Paris was “tone deaf.” His Oval Office speech after San Bernardino emphasized the need for gun controls, which is factually correct, as most of the country’s 33,000 annual gun deaths are from suicides or domestic disputes. But the public often seeks more visceral reassurance and its absence creates openings for loud opportunists, exemplified by Donald Trump.

While polls say most Democrats approve of Obama, the enthusiasm is gone. It’s common for sympathetic pundits to say he’s done the best he can given the GOP’s opposition. But for the most part, Obama’s accomplishments, failures and unfinished business show he’s been a president with a moderate record—except for the security state and drones—even if he’s labeled by his critics as liberal. As Republicans push the political center further to the right, it’s no wonder many Americans feel they have a half-satisfying president.

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  1. Winston Smith

    If I was passing out grades, with the TPP project, Obama gets a big fat F-

    Never liked the guy, knew the hopium and changium memes and slogans were a big scam!

    Worse than Bush, because you at least knew where Bush stood. Obama is a fraudster of the worse kind!

    Jill Stein’s got my vote if Uncle Bernie isn’t on the ticket!

    In my humbe opinion of course!

  2. Skippy

    Still caught in the high beams of the increasingly rabid thugpublican ideological fundamentalists….

    Skippy…. scared shiteless that it might be like opening the door on O2 enhanced blast furnace.

  3. James Levy

    Almost all commentary in the US mass media (which Alternet is on the fringes of) has as basic assumptions two memes: “compared to the Republicans” and “in the real world.” I think if we want to be honest that we must say compared to a President Cruz or President Santorum, Obama looks fairly good. And as the commenter notes about Paris, in “the real world” tens of millions of Americans take it for granted that the job of the President is to “keep us safe” by slaughtering foreigners in sufficient numbers so that they fear us. Obama has done a lot of his slaughtering under the radar with drones and assassination teams and, being a black guy with a funny name, this is not sufficient to make many feel “safe”.

    Here, our criteria are different. We have both a broader picture of what is happening, what was and is possible (we could be wrong about the extent of what’s possible, but that’s another argument), and what the potential options are. All these factors lead us to see Obama as a dubious or awful president (opinions differ, even around here). Objectively, I think most of us who find Obama seriously wanting are more objectively correct than those who excuse what we see as his deliberate malfeasance.

    On a personal note, all this horror is affecting me personally and sending me into flights of rage. This also hurts the critique of Obama because sometimes it gives off the “angry white guy” vibe that can be ugly and render your criticisms suspect. I know that global warming and gun violence have me so upset that my own judgment is at times distorted, although I can’t have much truck with anyone who isn’t deeply upset by these phenomena. And the old academic stance of radical objectivity and dispassion really can be a pose and socially sterile–leadership and mobilizing people is rarely all about dispassionate objectivity and pulling one’s punches with neutral language. It all leaves me baffled as to the way ahead.

    1. DJG

      Jim Levy: An excellent comment. As always, you argue carefully and even use unfashionable words like “dispassionate.” (And how many blogs these days have commenters who might use the word “probity?”)

      On a personal note: I don’t believe in hope, which is a theological virtue. By and large, it serves Christian eschatology, which is why I became suspicious of the decidedly un-religious Obama and his use of it. (Not right away. It took me till after the first inauguration and the Cabinet of re-treads.) And I am not persuaded the arc of history bends toward justice in the United States of America, which may be what makes the country exceptional. American crassness has defeated even its greatest prophets, not just Martin Luther King but Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, and Sinclair Lewis.

      Yesterday, I had an open house to begin the year, and we touched on insurance. Many of my friends are free lances or self-employed owners of small businesses. We touched on what has happened here in Illinois, collectively blanched, and then discussed the fact that after 19 years of free lance I took a job. It is a plum job, and it has health benefits. ACA is going to grind down the middle class, and the happy talk of extended coverage doesn’t talk about the crappiness, the insulting crappiness, of the policies.

      I suspect that major change with regard to global warming, peace, and conversion to a new economy will not come from the United States. You’d think that a nation that adores England would note how the British Empire decayed and how the north of England was a swath of poverty and degradation well into the 1960s. So the solutions are going to come from smaller, odder places, just as mammals were a small and odd group when they arose, years ago. Portugal is intriguing, as is Norway. Sweden is trying in ways that the U.S. just won’t do. And even Japan changes in remarkable ways. And I would never rule out Brazil.

      Recommended reading: It may be the moment for Cavafy, who knew about decadent societies and the feeling of loss. See “Waiting for the Barbarians” and “Ithaca.”

      1. Yves Smith Post author


        You may know that some interpretations of the Pandora’s Box myth have the release of “Hope” at the very end not as a type of relief, but as a final scourge.

        1. DJG

          Yves: Yes. Thanks for the reminder about what was in Pandora’s Box. I also recall the Greek idea of anankē, necessity. It may be that this year, which is beginning “too newsy,” as you noted, may be a time to think about necessity, so as to get the United States off its path of dreamy stagnation. I note today that a federal building in Oregon is besieged by the gun-righteous. Talk about dreamy. Talk about stagnation. Talk about the necessity of putting hope back into the box.

    2. MG

      I am a lot more cynical than you. I would argue strongly most Americans simply don’t care if the President vaporizes lots of Muslims in drone strikes even if they are innocent collateral damage. Ditto special forces raids or other proxy wars in the Asia and Africa. If they aren’t effected in any way, it is simply ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

      The only thing that counterbalances some of my thought on this issue is how little individual life means in much of the non-Western world. After having traveled in India and China a lot, I’ve seen firsthand and realize how neither of these countries or significant numbers of their citizens care and are even outright cavalier in their attitudes to the deaths of their fellow citizens let alone foreigners. Simple and sad truth is that life is still considered cheap on most of the planet.

      1. Theo

        It’s the nature of human beings. I think Goethe said something about his countrymen that seems apt here and it is not a verbatim quote: so estimable in the individual, so deplorable in the aggregate.

  4. sd

    Obama came in with Democratic majorities in both houses. Why does he always get a free pass to blame “obstructionist” Republicans? People were begging for a change in direction. Truly mediocre status quo writ large.

    1. beene

      Obama get a free pass as its the only thing todays democratic leadership can say. Which is we not as bad as the other side. Truth is on economic and violations of rights which really matter to the majority there is no difference; thou the republicans may have an edge on economic issues.

    2. Inverness

      You got it. Obama has a lot of enablers. I think the little “good things” he does (Iran negotiations, baby steps to curb climate change, nods to growing prison population, etc) are just palliatives to shut up the progressive opposition, to the extent that even exists.

      1. Steven D.

        Obama blew that majority as quickly as he could. Democrats were happy to lose majorities because they no longer had to produce results and could say the Republicans made me do it.

        If they were serious, the Democrats would have passed an omnibus budget reconciliation with a big jobs program. They could have done this with simple majorities in both houses. It’s the lack of good jobs that is causing the implosion of society. And that’s on Obama and the Democrats who didn’t turn things around when they had the chance.

        TPP is the big tell for Obama. He’s fighting for that like nothing else.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          All of the “Incompletes” belong in the “Failures” column. And the “Successes”? ACA belongs in the “Failures” column, at least for anyone who cares about the cost of healthcare and understands single payer. Stopping the Great Recession belongs in the “Central Banks” column, they put $13T on their balance sheets and the bill just has not come due yet. Diplomacy? Bombing 7 nations with no declaration of war does not count as “diplomacy”, recall that Jimmy Carter went 4 whole years without a single shot fired in anger, now THAT’s diplomacy. And please point me to one single solitary foreign policy “success”, I suppose you’d have to mention Cuba and Iran, Cuba was a gimme and it’s far from clear that the Iran rapprochement has succeeded and is a net “win” for the US given the witches brew of the ME.
          Obama wins my coveted “Worst_President_Ever” award, and yes I’m counting Andrew Johnson and Millard Fillmore. He simply normalized everything we hated about Bush, from Permanent War to unbridled corporo-fascism to a free pass for Wall St to unlimited spying that would make the Stasi drool. And no mention of the War on Whistleblowers. Can we also mention the $100M he spent on personal Versailles-style vacations? C’mon people…we know a “good” president when we see one, or even a marginal one…and O is at the other end of the spectrum.
          I live in Australia and people often ask me what I think of Obama. My reply: “I think he’s a war criminal, a corporo-fascist, a hypocrite, a liar, and a fraud. But he’s got a passable jump shot, so there’s that”.

          1. david s

            It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s a liberal or a progressive looking at the Obama years as anything other than a huge bust.

          2. Steven D.

            Obama has said he aspires to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps. However, the closest analogy is Buchanan, who thought the way to handle the slavers’ power was to appease it, just like Obama appeared to think the way to handle corporate power was to appease it. And like Buchanan turned out to be the agent of the slavers’ power, Obama is the agent of corporate power.

    3. Larry

      The same exact script that we had under Bill Clinton. It turns out when you give people hope, they come out to vote for you. Especially at a time of economic crisis. But then when you deliver nothing for the largest block of voters, you quickly disenfranchise them and they either change their vote or don’t bother to vote at all. The Senatorial elections in Massachusetts were a good barometer for Obama’s quick loss of appeal. We had a tightly contested race between our former Attorney General, Martha Coakley, and Scott Brown for senate. Coakley was an awful candidate who was a somewhat effective AG, but had no personality or desire to run a strong campaign. Scott Brown was a fluff candidate who had been a local state representative. When the race was clearly close due to the democrats failed policy and the potential for Scott Brown to be a deciding vote agains Obamacare, Obama himself came and stumped for Coakley. A sitting president who had won an overwhelming majority of the vote in Massachusetts could do little to bring up Coakley’s flagging campaign. Scott Brown was elected and had a largely feckless few years in office. Now look who sits in that Senate seat. Elizabeth Warren, who one could say has stood up to Obama’s largest policies and is by no means a democratic insider. So this is to say that most democrats or temporary Obama supporters were quickly disillusioned when the president they got didn’t match the marketing promises they received on TV. But Obama doesn’t care about building a majority any more than the Clintons did. He cares about his personal power, perception, and ultimately his own wealth.

  5. craazyboy

    Sure looks like an Obot, tuned down to soft sell mode. The “failures and incompletes” remind me of GWB’s aweshucks moments. Iran needs to be moved from the Big Successes category to the aweshucks column now. Because, aweshucks, furry faced crazy mullahs. If only they were more like bankers, corporate America and the security state – where we could control them better?

  6. PlutoniumKun

    A few months ago on a thread here I asked generally what people thought actually motivated Obama – what makes him tick as a person – he clearly isn’t a narcissist like Clinton, or a captive of his upbringing like Bush. I got some really interesting answers, its a pity I can’t find them now. I don’t believe that he is the sociopath that some on the left think he is – there is enough evidence from the first 2 years or so of his presidency that he was genuinely trying to do the right thing by the economy and in the Middle East, but the speed with which he retreated into an establishment shell at the first sign of trouble was remarkable and disturbing. I suspect that for someone thought of as a ‘thinker’, he seems to have a lack of real self awareness.

    I’m less cynical than some about his motives with Obamacare, drones and TPP. I think Obama is, quite simply, not as bright as everyone assumes. I’ve met very educated, progressive-minded people, who will defend strongly some very regressive policies on the basis that ‘yes, they are not ideal, but they are a step in the right direction, anything else is not politically feasible’. And yes, I used to think like that (NC being one of my big educators). It sounds pretentious to say people like that are not ‘enlightened’ yet, but to an extent it is true. It took me many years to shake off the assumptions of my own education (conservative) and upbringing (conservative). Quite simply, I think Obama isn’t bright enough to realise that a clever political compromise is not the same thing as a good policy. He is surrounded by too many privileged people to realise that the consensus among privileged smart people is one distorted by deeply conservative and regressive assumptions. You can see it in his pre-presidential writings – he genuinely believes deep in his guts that if the self-identified ‘smart’ people have a consensus, then its the right thing to do.

    But back to the point – I agree with Yves that this article is surprisingly generous to Obama, and given that it comes from the left, it shows that his natural charm works even on people who should know better. I find it shocking and dismaying at just how regressive and damaging Obama has been. If you compare him to another very conservative Dem – LBJ – the comparison is particularly stark. LBJ, in the face of huge odds and his own natural political proclivities, did quite amazing things in terms of Civil Rights and protecting the poor. Obama has, in my view, made things even worse, in a much more favourable political environment. I’m particularly horrified at his supposed environmentalism – he has done absolutely nothing that he wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming into doing. I believe that deep down he has a natural distaste for ‘regular folks’. In theory he wants to help them, but he can’t help wishing they didn’t actually exist. I’ve met a lot of people like him – many come from privilege, many do not – the fact that they think they bootstrapped themselves up makes their contempt even stronger.

    1. Inverness

      Yet, I do think Obama is quite bright, with a subtle wit and a profound understanding of oppression. I read parts of one of his books, and his poetic way of exploring how the poor on Chicago’s South side live was truly moving. Which makes his transition to the dark side even more troubling.

      That’s why I think he’s ultimately just plain cynical. What makes him tick? He’s one of the most powerful men in the world, and he has plenty of enablers in the “intelligentsia” and on media outlets like NPR and the New York Times to convince him that he’s some sort of great compromiser, a martyr for the Middle Path. I really do think Obama thinks he’s just so damn reasonable, if only he didn’t have to content with Congress and “bitter working class people.” Ha. You’re right, when he had both houses, he didn’t exactly push for Wall Street prosecutions and regulations, did he? But why would he invest emotionally in that version of himself, which is the highly unflattering portrait of somebody who sold his soul?

      After awhile, you buy into the narrative which both enables, and is flattering, to you. And I don’t think brilliance makes you immune to that, not when you have access to all of that power. The mind is a flexible thing, and even smart people can just create new stories which are validating.

      I recall seeing the German film “Mephisto,” with Klaus Maria Brandauer. Brandauer’s artist was a well-meaning, left-leaning guy who slowly went along with the Nazis, since it was beneficial to his career. I wouldn’t underestimate what access to power and money can do. I suspect that Alexis Tsipras wanted to sincerely help his fellow Greeks out of economic devastation. However, the Troika has way more goodies to give him, than Greece ever could. So, why wouldn’t he be seduced?

      Truth be told, Obama has grown very creepy to me. More than a few of us have vivid images of him with that deck of playing cards of those on the kill list. I am not charmed by his appearances with media darlings like Jerry Seinfeld and Marc Maron, who, perhaps unwittingly, legitimize the great droner. To me, his chilling asides (like droning rivals to his daughter’s favourite pop group, sharing his contempt for the angry poors, or his story about decrepit world leaders peeing themselves) reveal somebody who has lost touch with his humanity and has become dangerously self-satisfied. Jerry Seinfeld shared that “power corrupts.” Did Obama recognize himself in that equation? Does he even care anymore? Either way, he has a very lucrative future career in speeches and publishing, so I think he’ll be just fine. Leave it to the plebes, those pesky consciences.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        @inverness, I think you are generally right about that. I found part of his writing quite moving, but I always felt there was something calculated about it, something that didn’t feel quite right. Even reading about his academic career, he always struck me as someone always so careful to quote and study the ‘right’ philosophers and writers and past politicians, reminiscent of those post grad students I know always careful to modulate their writings to their Professors prejudices. But I’ve always suspected this was instinctual rather than calculated with Obama, but its hard to be sure. But one thing that immediately struck me when I was reading his books was his huge lack of curiosity about economics and science – there was nothing, absolutely nothing to indicate he gave any thought whatever to those subjects.

        I do think that he (along with his close advisors) see themselves as ‘the grown-ups in the room’ and bulwarks against ‘the crazies’. Supporting drone strikes can be seen as ‘grown up’ policy when you are constantly dealing with hawks. But in his foreign affairs his understanding has always seemed to me to be shockingly shallow. As an obvious example where he could have made a very real difference without too much political issues, he could have reached out more to progressive governments in South and Central America, but he let the same old neo-imperialist playbook work itself out there, with a constant undermining of democratic centre left governments in the region. He could, for example, have simply refused to give in to Hilary’s idiotic ”tilt to the Pacific’ policy which is stupidly tin eared about China’s genuine geopolitical concerns. He could have said ‘no’ to the Saudi’s idiotic attack on Yemen. He could have stopped the meddling in the Ukraine and tried to understand Russia’s genuine local concerns better without necessarily sucking up to Putin. He could have stood up to Turkeys meddling in Syria and Iraq (not to mention the Gulf States support for Islamacists). These are all things he could have done within his powers and with little real political cost, but he didn’t do them. These, to me, are all evidence of someone out of his depth rather than someone who is a complete cynic.

        1. Inverness

          PK, your analysis is certainly fascinating, in particular the portrait of Obama as the teacher’s pet. My brother-in-law completed both a PhD in philosophy and a law degree. He equates his academic career to glorified clerking, more than an investment in the life of the mind.

          Obama seems to have just the right combination of intelligence, political correctness, breeding, and a conformist streak to thrive as a full-fledged member of the elite, whether in academia or in Washington. He certainly lacks the iconoclastic/rebellious streak which you see in brilliant minds like Noam Chomsky, unless he’s disciplined enough to keep that under wraps for opportunistic reasons.

          1. Left in Wisconsin

            Obama seems to have just the right combination of intelligence, political correctness, breeding, and a conformist streak to thrive as a full-fledged member of the elite, whether in academia or in Washington.

            Well said.

          2. skippy

            Methinks this describes Obama to a ‘T’

            “Neoliberalism generally also includes the belief that freely adopted market mechanisms is the optimal way of organising all exchanges of goods and services (Friedman 1962; 1980; Norberg 2001). Free markets and free trade will, it is believed, set free the creative potential and the entrepreneurial spirit which is built into the spontaneous order of any human society, and thereby lead to more individual liberty and well-being, and a more efficient allocation of resources (Hayek 1973; Rothbard [1962/1970] 2004). Neoliberalism could also include a perspective on moral virtue: the good and virtuous person is one who is able to access the relevant markets and function as a competent actor in these markets. He or she is willing to accept the risks associated with participating in free markets, and to adapt to rapid changes arising from such participation (Friedman 1980). Individuals are also seen as being solely responsible for the consequences of the choices and decisions they freely make: instances of inequality and glaring social injustice are morally acceptable, at least to the degree in which they could be seen as the result of freely made decisions (Nozick 1974; Hayek 1976). If a person demands that the state should regulate the market or make reparations to the unfortunate who has been caught at the losing end of a freely initiated market transaction, this is viewed as an indication that the person in question is morally depraved and underdeveloped, and scarcely different from a proponent of a totalitarian state (Mises 1962).” – Joe Firestone

            Skippy…. a product of environmental conditioning which was mentored in the early stages of political – life – by where the currant paradigm could be extended and advanced.

        2. sd

          Instead, one of his earliest initiatives – and remember, this marks the use of his earliest political capital in May 2009 – indefinite detention. I was beyond horrified and have regretted voting for him since that day.

          Indefinite Detention = the real Barack Obama.

          1. 1 Kings

            Or siding with the telecoms sanctioning surveillance the first week he was official. Or Summers and Geithner. Or the great O-Care insurance sell out. Or pretending he was going after the banksters. Or Fracking. Or, Or, Or.

            By the way, “The Great Droner’ by one of the commenters above is genius. Certainly applies in a multitude of ways.

            1. participant-observer-observed

              Notice your litany of or, or, or-s exemplify how nearly all of the so-called incompletes are actually failures (although we can count Congress and Senate as whole class failures).

              I couldn’t even read about the so-called economic recovery and bank bailouts by holding my nose. NC readers would need Dramamine (polite way if saying it).

              Nevertheless, I have had a few dreams about informal meetings with Bho, and while i seem to have tried to give him some guidance, he was always charming and amicable…maybe simple good manners is enough to score with excellence.

        3. DJG

          PK and Inverness: Astute comments, very thought provoking. I recall a profile of Obama in the New Yorker that referred to him as a Javanese prince, a pregnant metaphor, given his background. I believe, though, that the writer was referring to ceremonial kingship. Obama as embodying a symbolic kind of power.

          I think that Obama is detached, which has meant that he is inured to the suffering of others. Surely, the video-kill of Osama bin Laden is detached (and immoral, but let’s not go there yet)–especially publishing photos of the control room. This detachment evidently continues into retail politics. If he isn’t giving a grand speech, he doesn’t want to have to shake hands. There have been repeated complaints from congressional reps that he doesn’t call. Not even colleagues in his own party.

          The detachment devolves into a certain designed lack of excellence. He may be competitive, like many business people, but he lacks the ability to get things done. The endless droning about his background as a professor of constitutional law (it’s an article of faith among his fan club) is belied by his policies (Guantanamo, drone killings, the extrajudicial killing and disposal of OBL). Yet he was so detached as a con law prof that he neglected to publish articles or books about the U.S. Constitution. Who did he influence? No one is ever quoted as saying that the class was good or that Obama has any kind of constitutional theories. Again, he’s the Javanese prince, ceremonial, detached, waiting to rule. He’s like an ever-shiny-and-new M.B.A.

          He went to an elite high school, an elite college, and an elite law school (where he has the distinction of being an editor of a law review yet, again, never publishing). The detachment is internal and external–an empty suit, a child of privilege, no understanding of the consequences of wielding power.

          I owe Geraldine Ferraro an apology–isn’t she the one who was hushed for saying something like, So he gave one good speech? And the whole kerfuffle about the location of the Obama library, with the many sites? Isn’t the presidential library supposed to be at the person’s “home,” and does Obama have a home?

          1. Inverness

            I recall Angela Merkel complaining about how cold Obama is. She argued that at least Bush seems to connect on a personal level. Merkel and other world leaders were surprised at his unwillingness to socialize. When Europeans, in particular Germans, find you too reserved…this also speaks to your theory of detachment, albeit on a social level.

            1. Martha Retallick

              Wait a minute. Did I just read that? Angela Merkel complaining about how cold Obama is? Yeesh!

            2. fajensen

              Germans like to sit and have a (“few”) beers before or after the official program – as the schedule allows – where one can discuss the real concerns that one has without anyone taking notes or just talk about “homey” things, like coffee making, hiking or home-built pizza ovens.

              It’s important to them to meet people “without the uniform” – the next day, it’s back to the “Herr Ing. Jensen”, “Frau Schultze”, “Dr. Ing. Wilhelm” again.

          2. OIFVet

            “He may be competitive, like many business people, but he lacks the ability to get things done.” Yet, like many business people, failing upwards has been part of Barry’s compensation package. It’s part and parcel of the US clepto-chrony-capitalist system. And the best is yet to come, just you wait until he vies with Bubba for being the richest ex-president…

            1. optimader

              Clinton’s natural skill has been his adept, and presumably disingenuous ability to insightfully focus and project empathy toward people, make them think he has their interests. Combined with an ability to triangulate opportunity, this is why he is such a excellent grifter
              BClinton’s naturally ability to interact and ingratiate seems to me to be exactly the skillset BHO is utterly void of.
              I think IN GENERAL, one on one most people have a hard time not liking BClinton. It is what it is.
              OTOH, other than BHO’s true believers, most of whom probably are of relatively modest means other than the Hollywood liberal dilettante sort that want the superficial interaction w/ the first half black POTUS, I don’t really see BHO pulling off a BClinton scale you?
              His narcissistic nature will inhibit that. So ok some BOD opportunity, maybe some foundation at UofC?, but who in the serious old money crowd will want to engage him as a peer and for what reason?

              He kinda has the charisma of a POTUS version of Alberto Gonzalez.

              1. OIFVet

                You may be right, but then again all of Bubba’s charisma couldn’t overcome Barry’s shtick in 2008. Barry left them all in the dust in fundraising, and a large chunk of that came from Wall Street. So unless there is no honor amongst thieves, Barry will get his payday. And FWIW, ‘serious old money’ looks like a pittance compared to the serious new money whose bacon Barry saved. Besides, I don’t really see Bubba rolling with the old fogies club, I see him hobnobbing with Bono. In any case, we shall find out soon enough just how much Barry’s service is worth.

                1. Optimader

                  Serious old money is a misnomer indeed, makes that serious money, that said i doubr Bono lets a nicjel go too easily. Wall st looks to future opportunitybho will be yesterdays fish wrapper in a year. On 2098, thats a pretty good surrogate fot HRC charm. I just dont see BHO being a wheeler dealer which in the end is about all BClinton has to offer anyone,
                  Still such a shame Chicago is BHO last known address

                  1. OIFVet

                    “such a shame Chicago is BHO last known address” Dude, this fact harshes my mellow every time. Throw in the inevitability of His lie-barry coming to the neighborhood and I completely crumple into a bottomless pit of self-pity. The thought of the hordes of 0bots making the pilgrimage to Hyde Park in the coming years is simply unbearable.

                  2. Optimader

                    haha.. Some serious phone typing there.. Was waaaaiting at midway on a mission of mercy. Im too nice somtimes, and even cheaper than uber.

              2. DJG

                There is always the “reasonable Democrat” seat, held for so long by Sam Nunn, on the board of directors of General Electric. So there are opportunities for Obama, too.

    2. Norb

      All these problems will only get worse as long as the measuring stick for success is profit generated. Or leaders, though not overtly evil, wish to think themselves enlighten and benevolent. They keep us safe. They keep the best possible economic system rolling along. From the elite perspective, its a job well done. The contempt comes from the lack of empathy for the lower classes. However, empathy is driven out of our current system because the only thing that matters is profit. Empathy is impossible because if energy was spent considering the impact of policies on actual citizens lives and the environment, and decisions made on that basis, the current system would collapse.

      Take the recent net-metering decisions in Nevada. Any sane person would think net-metering is a no-brainer. But this is a policy that will eventually lead to solar energy being a true public utility. Energy captured from the sun, fed into a system for public consumption. Its use, maintained and regulated by Democratic governance. We can’t have that because where will the Profit come from? So a sustainable policy is undermined.

      What motivates Obama is he is a true believer in Capitalism as the best possible system for the manufacture and distribution of goods and services. Until more people can be convinced of a better way of production and distribution, the Obama’s of the world will rule supreme- until they kill us all or drive us into abject poverty.

      The only other alternative is to build smaller, self sufficient networks.

      1. susan the other

        I agree with this summary Norb. I actually think Obama was an idealist, as opposed to former presidents who were all pretty realistic, cynical and equally disastrous. Capitalism has bamboozled them all. I’m not sympathetic to O’s administration but I swear I’ve seen true anguish on his face that even he couldn’t hide. So I’m all for practicality at this point. Smaller, self-sufficient networks would be a good start.

    3. Sam Adams

      What motivates Obama? I’d venture his upbringing as a half black outsider licking the Windows who now sees himself at the main house dining room table.

    4. Carolinian

      he clearly isn’t a narcissist like Clinton

      You’re kidding, right? Of course some of us who have always seen Obama as a total narcissist could be wrong, but “clearly isn’t”–where does that come from? In fact I’ll just quote you later in your comment.

      he can’t help wishing they didn’t actually exist. I’ve met a lot of people like him – many come from privilege, many do not – the fact that they think they bootstrapped themselves up makes their contempt even stronger.


      1. PlutoniumKun

        A true narcissist wouldn’t be as obviously thin-skinned as Obama is. If he was narcissistic he might actually have been a better president, narcissists don’t back down at the first obstacle the way he constantly seems to do.

        1. Carolinian

          To punish Narcissus, the avenging goddess Nemesis made Narcissus fall hopelessly in love with his own beautiful face as he saw it reflected in a pool. As he gazed in fascination, unable to remove himself from his image, he gradually pined away. At the place where his body had lain grew a beautiful flower, honoring the name and memory of Narcissus.

          –MS Encarta

          If it quacks like a duck…..

        2. nycTerrierist

          Narcissists are thin-skinned. Unflattering feedback is met with
          ‘narcissistic rage’.

          from wiki:

          “Narcissistic rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. Narcissistic injury (or narcissistic scar) is a phrase used by Sigmund Freud in the 1920s; narcissistic wound and narcissistic blow are further, almost interchangeable terms.[1] The term narcissistic rage was coined by Heinz Kohut in 1972.

          Narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist feels that their hidden ‘true self’ has been revealed. This may be the case when the narcissist has a fall from grace, such as when their hidden behaviors or motivations are revealed or when their importance is brought into question. Narcissistic injury is a cause of distress and can lead to dysregulation of behaviors as in narcissistic rage.

          Narcissistic rage occurs on a continuum from instances of aloofness, and expression of mild irritation or annoyance, to serious outbursts, including violent attacks and murder…

    5. lambert strether

      Totally not a narcissist; it takes a truly generous spirit for a young man to author not one, but two autobiographies….

      1. John Parks

        And….probably another book contract in his near future. Yes, truly generous, to a fault.

      2. DJG

        Puts him in a league with Augusten Burroughs, who appears to have four. And Anne Lamott, a veritable fount of autobiographies, somewhere between three and seven.

        I note that the esteemed Jacqueline Susann confined herself to a single autobiographical work, but it had a poodle in it.

    6. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama isn’t just the object if the Obot devotion, he is the biggest Obot of them all.

      Obama like Clinton before him has no sense of the large picture, his own power, and any particular plans beyond Presidentin’.

      Universal health care was never an end goal for either President. Being put in the history books as a bipartisan hero was their goal. Healthcare was a means to an end. They picked what they perceived as the easiest path to what they could call change. Bill handed off responsibility to his never elected wife with no relevant back ground in hopes no one would attack her. The difference between Bill/Obama and other narcissists (even Bernie is full of himself. He thinks he can have George Washington’s old job) is they don’t grasp the difference between quality and brand.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Big incompletes: playing more rounds of golf during two terms than any other president.


      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        He has a place in the history books as “the first black president” nevermind that he was a complete disaster. Next up we will have “the first woman president”, same outcome (hopefully not much worse, that would be difficult but given her politics and her backers she’s already in the runner-up spot for my “Worst_President_Ever” award..

    7. kimsarah

      Sorry, but there’s a picture of Barry in the dictionary right next to the word narcissist.

  7. verifyfirst

    I voted for Obama over Hillary in the 2008 primary because I did not want another Bill Clinton administration. What I got was another Bill Clinton administration–the same advisors and staff, whose advice Obama followed, especially economic advice. Obama is a lawyer by training, no numbers required.

    As a professor of constitutional law, I would have guessed Obama would have at least been strong on civil liberties, but he was not.

    Two bumper stickers I wrote for my car–“Drone bomb Obama’s kids, as he drone bombs the kids of others” and “Hillary and Barack are war criminals”.

    Sorry if these are “too weak”.

    They are magnetic, so I can take them off when others are in the car with me–I worry about being attacked by an enraged Prius driver here in “progressive” Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Speaking of bumper stickers, my favorite in the Reagan era was “Give Hinckley a Second Chance”.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    A long post could be done on the subject of American sports, football in particular, as self mandated training wheels to our corresponding political duopoly; America! Locked in Lovers of making decisions based on two and only two choices by the time tested means of blind rage and blind team loyalty to raw ignorance. For short, we could call it, Concussions – USA.

    The pluses this author attributes to a morally and ethically bankrupt individual who with overwhelming shock and awe provided by the system described above, Concussions – USA, conned Americans into making him president of their sometime democracy would simply dissolve into public ridicule and laughter under any other system (unless it had America’s big gun pointed right at it’s head).

  9. Kokuanani

    I’m curious – but too lazy to go over there & find out — how regular Alternet readers are replying to this fluff.

    1. Jack Heape

      For the most part, the Alternet readers are not buying it. Here is one well written sample that mirros what most are saying;

      It’s been said that greatness = potential + opportunity. If there’s one thing Barack Obama has had, it’s potential: a first-rate mind, superb communication skills, and a natural gift for politics. But most presidents fail to achieve genuine greatness, even those who are brilliant and talented – because circumstances that exist during their times in office don’t present the opportunity to either develop greatness or to fully manifest it. Kind of a “…the times make the man” argument.

      Not so with Obama. If ever the nation’s desperate circumstances begged for deep, permanent, structural reform and change, 2008-2009 was it. Obama had Wall Street at his mercy. He held the absolute moral high ground with regard to the Bush/Cheney torture horror show. And he had inherited an economy that had been decimated by eight years of gross Republican negligence and mismanagement. With the mandate for “Hope” and “Change” of his landslide election victory, plus Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House, no president ever had more political capital, i.e. opportunity with which to alter the course of America for the better…and in the process, achieve true greatness – right up there with Teddy Roosevelt, at least.

      So how did Obama respond to this gift? He backed away. He cut his millions of supporters loose. He immediately began making atrocious deals with Republicans in Congress. He refused to prosecute even a single Wall Street crook. And he refused to prosecute anyone associated with Bush & Cheney’s war crimes.

      It’s hard to understand how one can fight so hard to achieve the presidency, and for so long, only to be gifted with the opportunity to make a genuinely historic difference – and thereby go down in history as one of our greatest presidents – and in essence say, “No, thanks. I’m good. I’ll just go after the low-hanging fruit, and call it a day.”

      1. montanamaven

        This Alternet reader is typical of “progressive” thought. “It’s hard to understand”, he says. I often see that phrase. “Hard to understand” unless you really looked at his very typical political career in Chicago and paid attention to this bit of insight from “Audacity of Hope”. Speaking about Reagan:

        “I understood his appeal….It was the same appeal that the military bases back in Hawaii had always held for me as a young boy, with their tidy streets and well-oiled machinery, the crisp uniforms and crisper salutes.”

        That is a statement that goes beyond maintaining the status quo which is what our two parties are tasked to do. Parades and crisp uniforms; tidy, well-oiled. It’s a love of military spectacle that creeped me out way back in 2007. And creeps me out again with “we came, we saw, he died” from Mrs. Clinton.

        1. Code Name D

          I agree. “Hard to understand” might be better spoken as “I don’t want to believe it.” I still find myself trapped in that mode of thinking. I want him to be a good president, if only because so many of my peers truly believe in him. But an honest and skeptical position just doesn’t allow for such rose colored glasses.

          Still, this writer has echoed many of my own thoughts. When Obama was elected, he wasn’t just elected on a wave of hope, but on a wave of disillusion. Many conservatives and libertarians that I knew have had their world views regarding capitalism and free markets completely shattered. You can whistle past the graveyard, but never as the undead are clawing their way towards you.

          They were looking for answers – real answers. And they thought Obama might be a good place to look. But Obama rescued the old narrative from its own destruction. He rebuilt the free market temple. It was a historic opportunity that was thrown away.

          Now, its as if the economic collapse of 2007 never happened. Ironically undermining Obama’s own legacy of “saving” the economy.

          And I have a feeling that this illusion too will not last long. When China falls over, we will be confronting an economic implosion that will be far larger than 2007. What worked to save the economy last time, will not work this time – because it didn’t actually work last time either.

          And what really worries me is that it will be a damnation not of free markets, but of Liberalism. Republicans will stand up and proclaim this as proof that free markets are the only alternative. And the Democrats will stand tall and proud and declare with one voice – “me too.” It’s about the only thing Obama knows how to say.

    2. diptherio

      Reaction there is largely similar to that here: Obama is a failure on nearly every count, is actually a conservative, and this “report card” is giving him too much of a pass. Encouraging!

      Here’s a representative comment from dave3137:

      Oh, yes, and let’s not forget the guy who stood by his Wall Street pals (Geithner, et al.) and told the banksters “help me to help you,” while letting “Main Street” drown in the crisis they did NOT create. And let’s not forget how this administration let people go because Breitbart and Fox threw up a smokescreen. And let’s not forget that this administration is trying desperately to shove a “trade deal” (or three) down our throats that have almost zero advantages for ordinary Americans. And let’s not forget how this Administration’s justice department failed to prosecute ANY banksters but managed to exact a few minutes’ worth of profits as “fines” — while bragging these were “record-breaking.” Oh, and remember how Obama spoke out so forcefully against the “death panel” crap? And remember how “single payer” disappeared after big pharma had a White House meeting? And remember ending “endless war”? Closing Guantanamo? And oh yeah, let’s not forget to give “credit” for “the most transparent administration in US history.”

    3. ks

      I was too familiar with Rosenfeld’s Obama apologias to do more than skim the article but did skip down to comments and was relieved to see Alternet readers disputing each one of Obama’s purported successes, as well as Rosenfeld’s obtuse take on Ukraine. Even diplomatic overtures to Cuba and Iran were not so much initiated by as forced on him, though if anyone mentioned that, I didn’t see it.

  10. Llewelyn Moss

    Obamacare, a Big Success. hahaha.
    It mandated participation in a system that is based on horrific price gouging.

    Stopping the great recession, a Big Success.
    Yeah the Morbidly Rich did nicely by transferring their losses to the taxpayers. Thanks Bush-Bama.

    After those two, I can’t take the list seriously.

    It’s either Bernie or I go full Green Party from here on out.

  11. Glen

    I don’t consider Obamacare or our “economic” recovery to be successes unless, 1) you’re rich enough not to need Obamacare and 2) you’re rich enough to benefit from the “economic” recovery. Nobody else benefited aside from those using the Medicare expansion, not the middle class, and most definitely not the poor.

    Anybody who still votes Democratic based on “this is the best we can get” is admitting that our democracy is broke and they are getting screwed. One of the required actions to fix our democracy is to quit voting for the Democratic party based on that self defeating rational. I will vote for Bernie, I will not vote for Hillary.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m with you, Glen and Lleweyen.

      And I’m meeting quite a few Republicans who don’t care for Hillary or Trump. Tells me that the Sanders campaign has a huge opportunity to pick up votes.

  12. mad as hell.

    You won’t find a better entertainer than B.O. I think in the last week I saw references to him hiking on some travel channel and also doing a segment with Jerry Seinfeld. Come on folks he’s giving America what it wants in it’s screen captured environment

    I’ll never forget the time my wife and I were sitting in a restaurant and across from me was a family or I at least assume it was a family of father, son and daughter.Teenage Son was playing some game on a hand held device.Early twenty something daughter was texting on a smart phone. Old school pop had his head tilted up and watching some show on the tv. I did not hear one word uttered that entire time by the Screen family.

    Obama knows we are a nation of screen watchers and being the entertainer that he is covers the part exceptionally well. Although I have lost interest in watching his shtick anymore.

    1. Carolinian

      He is the designated spokesmodel for the “love me I’m a liberal” wing of the power duopoly (as opposed to the “proud to be an asshole” wing), and as reward for staying on script he gets to enjoy the considerable privileges of office–privileges that, according to plugged in commentators like Pat Lang, he enjoys greatly.

      Obama’s only noteworthy accomplishment is providing the country with it’s first African American President and for that he will always deserve some credit. He himself may be a big phony, but the pride this accomplishment has given to many black people isn’t. One can also say that in a long line of Presidential mediocrities Obama is merely the latest. Clearly it’s our American system that is deeply flawed and unable to cope with ever more serious problems.

      1. roadrider

        Obama’s only noteworthy accomplishment is providing the country with it’s first African American President and for that he will always deserve some credit.

        The question I always ask people who make this claim is: “Would you consider this as significant if Herman Cain or Ben Carson had become the first African-American president?”

        I will be asking this question in a modified form of Hillbots pushing the first woman president thing: “Would you feel the same way if it was Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?”

        African-Americans may have derived some pride in Obama’s presidency but in terms of economic ans social justice he’s given them nothing – maybe less than nothing.

        Identity politics is a poor substitute for candidates with sincere agendas that serve the greater common good. That’s the lesson we should learn from Obama (and Clinton).

        1. Carolinian

          But they never would have/will become President. Give Obama some credit as a politician at least.

          1. roadrider

            Weak and irrelevant response.

            I’ll give him “credit” for being able to con his way into the White House but that still leaves the question about the right-wing AA/female candidate unaswered – a typical Dem/liberal/Obot dodge.

            1. Carolinian

              I was attempting–politely–to point out that your big revelation to Obama defenders was nonsense because people like Bachman and Herman Cain could never be elected President therefore the “how would you feel” question has no meaning. It’s hardly irrelevant that Obama got himself elected President since he did so by presenting an image of African Americans that defeats the cracker stereotypes and gives blacks a dignified role model. This may be purely superficial on one level but it’s hardly nothing. As resident of the state with the highest proportion of black citizens I can tell you that there has been a perceptible change in the way blacks and whites–in my area at least–treat each other.

              As to whether I am an “Obot,” work on your reading skills. Check my original comment.

              1. roadrider

                No, your response is a nonsensical non-sequitur to my question. Its a hypothetical (you know what that is – right?) The names I mentioned are for illustration purposes. Its completely irrelevant whether they “could have been elected president’ or not. The purpose of the question is to expose the fallacy of identity politics by asking if an African-American or woman who represented a political agenda that you found repugnant and even inimical to the ethnic/racial/gender group they belong to was elected president would you consider it as significant an achievement?

                Your argument amounts to special pleading for Obama. We have no way of evaluating your subjective claims about “perceptible change in the way blacks and whites–in my area at least–treat each other.”

                As for Obama “presenting an image of African Americans that defeats the cracker stereotypes and gives blacks a dignified role model” – tell why you can’t say that about Ben Carson. Yeah he’s a loon and but he was also a successful neurosurgeon. Herman Cain was a successful businessman. Don’t they also “defeat cracker stereotypes”? And Obama is just as big a political grifter as those guys. He’s just more polished and better at the game. Excuse me if I’m not impressed by that.

                Finally, its you who needs to work on your reading comprehension (and logical reasoning) skills. I said that your ducked my hypothetical with a dodge typically used by Dems, liberals and Obots. That does not equate with calling you an Obot, only that you’re using their debating tactics.

                And as for your so-called “politeness” – you know what you can do with that – right?

                1. Carolinian

                  I’m not asking you “to be impressed by that”…. just stating the objective information that many blacks view Obama as a hero just as many Catholics viewed
                  Kennedy as a hero and hung his picture up in their houses. Identity politics isn’t all nonsense unless you think things like civil rights and gay rights are nonsense. Now that one President has broken the color barrier perhaps we can have another black President who isn’t a tool.

                  As to the rest of your reply, please continue to fling poo. I think I’ve stated my point.

      2. fsfsd

        I’m not really sure that’s a plus. I mean, this is not the 1960s South where that sort of thing had a progressive ring to it. Obama’s election, other than one of a desperate electorate, is really just confirmation of the extirpation, through demography, of Western Civ, at least as ethnic Caucasian people are concerned. In the future, not that many decades from now, there will not be many, if any, Caucasian presidents–really not much to celebrate, just changing of the guard, so to speak.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama loves the limelight, but he’s going on shows, not drawing the crowds himself. Jerry Seinfeld isn’t edgy or provocative (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and he can’t say no to the President, in a way a Carlin might, more mock the person to their face the way a Colbert might if he were so motivated. I didn’t watch the Seinfeld appearance, but I’ve heard he is the nicest celebrity to meet.

      Obama has recognized that the screens which once featured him are no longer tuned in and he’s searching for attention. Every Presidential candidate is inherently an anti-Obama candidate.

  13. roadrider

    Yeah Yves I almost lost my lunch when I read this on Alternet yesterday. But I guess its par for the course from the Dem/liberal establishment. For better or worse, Obama is their guy, just like Hillary will be their girl and IOKIADDI (its OK if a Democrat does it). Neoliberal Heritage Foundation/Romney health insurance “reform”? No problem! It’s a “Big Success”! Turning a blind eye to the largest, most destructive white-collar crime wave in our history? Well, he had “no choice”. “Foaming the runway” for the Wall St perps while screwing ordinary workers, distressed homeowners and fraud victims? File it under ‘saving the economy”. Continuity (and worse) with the Bush/Cheney foreign policy and “War on Terrah”? Well, that’s just “keeping use safe from the 21st century boogey-men that fuel the MIC and the warfare consensus among the “serious people”. And I haven’t even gotten to economic inequality remaining the same (or even worsening), the TPP, persecution of whistle blowers, inaction of student loans, promotion of Arctic oil drilling while pretending to be serious about climate change and on and on.

    Obama’s disastrous, failed presidency should have been a wake up call for Democrats and liberals. Instead they’re doubling down on neoliberalism, militarism and Wall St toadyism in the form of Hillary Clinton. Their delusion that demographics and progress on social wedge issues will rescue them from the Republican dominance at the state and local level resulting from the disenchantment of voters with their party and candidates (case in point – losing the Maryland governorship to a Republican real-estate hack mostly because of low turnout in Dem strongholds) seems to be unshakeable. They don’t seem to get that its not enough to not be the Republicans or to be only slightly less worse than them.

    Until the Dem/liberal establishment wakes up I’m afraid that not much will change. I think its better to focus less on worrying about which establishment apparatchik will win the presidency to changing the electoral process so that more voices are heard (opening up the debates) which I hope will get more voters engaged in participating. That’s the only way to take down the establishment that produces empty suit infotainment candidates like Obama and Clinton (not to mention the GOP troglodytes).

  14. Jim McKay

    Seems we/U.S. has become content grading our leaders withing paradigms of mediocrity. Seems like yesterday, the 2k election mess… recounts in Florida, Jeb’s state troopers impeding black voters getting to voting booths, the black box voting machines producing more votes in Repub precincts then there were registered voters, Kathryn Harris (was Jeb “doing her”?) exerting “authority” ignoring law….

    Scotus’ decision remanding consideration of Florida recounts back to Florida Supreme Court was a calculated political decision to run out the legal clock, as several key SCOTUS members have explicitly and implicitly acknowledged. And then Tom Delay’s illegal thugs bused into Florida on Tax Payer’s dime, to thwart recounts.

    BushCo and winger chest thumping but blind bravado intimidating their way to an election “victory” demonstrated the same blindness they executed in their other disasters: ignoring Enron, the lies behind Iraq, “Mushroom Clouds” and Israel’s crimes levelling Lebanon, bailing out Banks while U.S. economy crumbled….

    This was biggest political wakeup call of my life, and now 15+ years in the rear view mirror. AFAIC, the influences that allowed that to happen have gone unchanged. The U.S. tail still wags the dog. The Bush years were an illusory horror, setting the U.S. and world back in almost unfathomable ways.

    Obama was elected with Bush approval ratings the lowest of ANY president in history. Many of the hardest of hard right wingers I knew who treated their neighbors who criticized Bush as moral enemies, had come around to grudingly acknowledge he was an…. asshole.

    Obama had a mandate. He had an opportunity to change directions hugely had he the courage, vision and grasp of reality many “hoped”. Despite many capable economic advisers after he won but before the inauguration, my heart sank when he announced nomination of Geithner: eg. someone guaranteed to “fix” things by moving piles of money around, but not remove the people who stole so much and deceived (literally) the world banking system. He instead gave them a get out of jail card, and re-filled their bank accounts and “trusted” them to “fix” things.

    This is my take on BO’s “hope”.

    He has done little more then continue in Bush’s worst foibles, and in many ways looks to me like the world is worse off now then when he arrived. The ME mess has grown, and false premises under lie our disastrous polices there. In both US media and current candidates, these delusions seem to be accepted fact.

    I take issue with author’s (similarly assumed untruth) “Russia’s land grab in Ukraine”: that utterly ignores all the other forces (US and Israel policy especially) at play there with no regard for local interests: another example of “US Interests”, no matter how selfish or destructive to a given area… if expressed by the White House, it must be so.

    WRT authors bullet points, I take issue with 2 items in particular:

    – Energy: BO nominated the right guy (Dr. Chu): he knew the “territory” and was on the cutting edge of the science… both from climate aspect and energy generation alternatives. Obama ignored him, subjugated Chu’s best advice to “more pressing” issues dominated by Geithner recommendation (“we can’t afford energy until economy is fixed”). But there was no hope of “fix”, and “kicking the can” down the road on clean energy is the same as learning to “live with cancer”. Chu left quietly, no wonder.

    – Embracing Diplomacy: I’m glad he did Cuba… didn’t see that coming. Decades overdue. But… despite our cascading disasters in ME, BO has learned little. Putin is the “threat”, when evidence is overwhelming Russia’s efforts in Syria are turning the tide there. Biggest contributors to Syria mess have been Turkey and Saudi Arabia (they’ve funded ISIS): US policy ignores this. Putin has reached out… repeatedly. Love to see Putin and BO (or next president) together, in public… for a week: open, frank discussions where the public can decide, not “policy makers” and advisers looking for an advantage for their petroleum client. Seems backroom discussions on Kerry’s latest tour are moving towards some acknowledgment of this, but just as crooks on wall street still run the show, we’ll never root out biggest cause of foolish Sunni/Shia endless conflicts without acknowledging those who fuel it. Again, worst players in this arena: Saudis and Turkey (Ergodan).

    I guess I’ll just leave it there… could write a book on this, but so what? I think BO had one of greatest opportunities to change course of America in huge ways, and in ways that were badly needed for US’ and world’s future. He missed most of them.

    And at the risk of sounding racist, I’m disappointed at so many of our High Profile African Americans so many look up to (Oprah, Denzell…) who speak of BO with pride seemingly on advancement socially we could elect a Black president, but have ignored these larger issues. I think they could have done far better, to press him.

    When it’s all said and done, from where I site, we and the world are moving far too slowly and blindly to do what’s needed to ensure a bright future for a lot more people. Our most pressing problems have been kicked down the road, and hardly acknowledged. I see not one current candidate even close to addressing things the way that’s needed.

    Just not enough courage, clarity and truth… period.

  15. wbgonne

    At a moment of historical inflection, when the fate of the entire world was to be determined, Barack Obama deceived the American people into believing he would usher in the systemic change needed after the collapse of conservatism. Instead, Obama revealed himself as a neoliberal ideologue who attempted to destroy progressivism and, in doing so, revived conservatism. Obama’s deceit squandered the last good chance for the nation and humanity to roll back global warming. For that alone, history will condemn him.

    As for his “substantive accomplishments,” the only one even worth considering is his use of diplomacy. But, as usual with Obama, there is sleight of hand. Yes, he has shown reluctance to enter shooting wars. But at the same time, he doesn’t hesitate to use drones and economic weapons to inflict untold punishment and generate evermore strife and create new generations of people who hate America. Which brings me to another point about Obama: apart from achieving his neoliberal dystopia, Obama’s primary goal appears to be that he look good and be respected. (That weakness is why the Democrats and the Left might have inhibited Obama had they not defended and enabled him.) From Obamacare to fracking to economic royalism to race relations, Obama wants credit now and doesn’t care that everything he has set in motion is a ticking time bomb.

    All things considered, Obama is the worst president in American history. He was supposed to be the corrective, like FDR, showing the genius once again of the American Experiment. Obama had the mandate and he had the power but he was a liar and a fraud. Obama is an historical failure, one from which I’m not sure we can recover.

    1. roadrider

      At a moment of historical inflection, when the fate of the entire world was to be determined, Barack Obama deceived the American people into believing he would usher in the systemic change needed after the collapse of conservatism.

      He never wanted to change the system – he merely wanted to be the guy who presided over it.

      1. Ché Pasa


        People who were paying attention, which I guess weren’t a whole lot, saw pretty early that Obama was running to the right of Hillary. There was never much of a systemic “change” promise in what he had to offer.

        He offered a change from W’s bloody bluster and hope of escape from Cheney’s visceral contempt for basic decency, and sure enough… that’s about as far as the Hope and Change thing went.

        Policy-wise, millions of Americans were forced into poverty from which most will never emerge. That was true under W and that is true under Obama. Economic policies are approximately consistent, favoring the financial sector at the expense of workers and social services. The Obamacare insurance scam might well have been implemented by a Republican president with or without a Democratic congress.

        Foreign policy is different, but mostly because the failures of the Bush/Cheney model were monumental and unsustainable. Foreign policy is marginally less terrible, marginally less bloody, but it’s no less imperialist, no less absurd, no less foolhardy.

        1. kimsarah

          Yves saw this early on, noting that Obama never promised to deliver what the gullible hope and change electorate hoped he would.

        2. fsfsd

          It wasn”t that obvious for some months ater the eleciton. Obama’s main strenght during the race was as a cipher, he had a short stint in the Senate and some PC street activism–basically a blank slate. He spoke all the right buzz words and, yes, even gave bromides about real reform: single payer, no more wars, end extra legal operations.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Incorrect. Read the Robert Fitch article we linked to. Matt Stoller called him out early.

            And it was obvious what Obama was about weeks after the election, the minute he announced Timothy Geithner was his Treasury Secretary nominee.

    2. Ché Pasa

      Obama is the worst president in American history

      Oh fer gawdssake. Everybody knows that W was the worst president in American history, “all things considered.” Obama is merely the worst since W.


      1. wbgonne

        I disagree. Bush was an abject failure in large part because he was pursuing a doctrine that was dead. Conservatism was spent yet Bush insisted upon it until it failed floridly. But we’ve had other failed presidents in out history and we’ve recovered. In a democracy like ours, the ballot is supposed to provide the corrective to such political failure. And that’s exactly what Obama promised. Hope and change, remember that? But Obama lied — utterly and fundamentally — and, in doing so, Obama wrecked what remained of the Democratic Party, sent our polity into a tailspin and — most ominously — set us on a likely irreversible course of calamitous global warming. All things considered, that makes Obama the worst president in American history, IMNSHO.

        1. Ché Pasa

          Bush/Cheney were not conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. They were radicals, especially Cheney, who saw that his mission in life was to redeem the legacy of the Nixon-Ford debacle — by killing and displacing millions in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan, creating as much chaos overseas as he could, and destroying what was left of a semi-egalitarian economy.

          Pleased and proud of his accomplishments he is to this day. At least for his part W knows better than to crow.

          1. wbgonne

            Bush/Cheney were not conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. They were radicals

            They were radicals because they were pursuing a dead ideology, namely, conservatism. The neoliberals like Obama and Clinton will soon be seen as radicals too, and for the same reasons. Neoliberalism, just like its corporatist cousin conservatism, has failed to address the common problems that popular government is created to address. That becomes more obvious every day, yet the neoliberals just double-down on failure because they benefit personally from the failures.

            1. fsfsd

              Though there “are no enemies to the Left” (aside from the anti-Caucasian PC people), there is a traunche of difference between Conservatism and Radicalism. The former want to retain wealth and tradition, the later want to steal more and destroy positive, Left, tradition.

  16. Mark

    I’ve lately become aware of an unfortunate consequence of Obamacare that perhaps Yves or Lambert could devote a post to: the rise of private exchanges.

    My wife is a retiree with health benefits from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Starting this year, OPERS eliminated its group Medicare Advantage plan for retirees, replacing it with – you guessed it – an exchange. Specifically, Towers Watson’s OneExchange. OPERS retirees now choose a plan each year. They then pay the premiums directly to the insurer, with subsidization (in the form of a reimbursment) from a Health Benefit Account funded each month by OPERS.

    After we started getting mailings from OPERS about the switchover last fall, I did a little online searching. It seems “exchangification” is a new trend in private health insurance – for employees as well as retirees. Here’s how Towers Watson touts OneExchange:

    “Private health insurance exchanges enable U.S. employers to rein in rising health benefit costs and mitigate the associated risks, while keeping their commitment to sponsoring coverage for employees. Towers Watson’s OneExchange, today’s most sophisticated private health insurance exchange, combines advanced exchange technology with Towers Watson’s long history of innovation in health care benefit plan design and implementation.”


    Notice the subtle change from employers having a commitment to provide coverage for employees to a commitment to “sponsor” coverage.

    Obamacare – the gift that keeps on giving.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      In 2014, the company I retired from also stopped providing retiree medical coverage to Medicare-eligible retirees like me, and replaced it with a health reimbursement account (HRA) to reimburse premiums for Medicare Advantage plan coverage or Medicare Supplement insurance and Medicare Part D insurance, which we retirees must pay in the first instance, and we too only get the reimbursement if we purchase the coverage through an exchange administered by the same benefits consulting vendor that also manages the claims under the HRA account.

      I don’t think this move had anything to do with Obamacare. My Obamacare obligations to purchase coverage are satisfied by my payment of premiums for Medicare Parts B and D. As far as I know, Obamacare doesn’t force me to face a penalty for failing to purchase Medicare Supplement Insurance.

      I think the move was prompted by the following financial considerations: the move enables the employer to shift contractual retiree medical obligations from a defined benefit obligation to a defined contribution obligation. This shifts the risk of rising premiums from the employer to the retirees. It also enables the employer to work its way out of the obligations over time, since it has no obligation to raise its defined contribution amount to keep up with inflation in health care premium costs. Finally, it divorces retirees from any medical benefits that active employees and younger retrirees get, over and above what Medicare provides. Medicare Supplement Insurance only covers deductibles and copayments under Medicare Part B.

      My sister-in-law also retired from the same company, from a union-represented position. Her union went along with the employer, and agreed to stick bargaining unit retirees with the same deal management and the non-represented got.

      This is not your expose. Maybe it’s a start.

      1. MaroonBulldog

        By increasing the population covered by health insurance, Obamacare also increases demand for physicians to treat the additionally covered. Where are all those physicians going to come from?

        Last year, the primary care physician who had been treating me for ten years resigned from the practice group, and I received a letter asking me to select a physician from new members of the practice group, who were now accepting patients. When I called, I was given a list of six young physicians to choose from: three graduated fromf medical schools in India, one from Pakistan, one from Colombia, and one from a local osteopathic medical school here in the United States.

        Apparently, once consequence of Obamacare is a brain drain of medical practitioners from the rest of the world, mostly trained at the rest of the world’s expense.

  17. frosty zoom

    first, a big shout out to our buddies at the nsa! happy new year, guys!

    now, how could someone as evil as barack obama receive anything but an expulsion from the high school of human governance?

    if only he’d stick to doodling on his desk..

  18. NotTimothyGeithner

    Emotional attachment, and breaking away from the pack is hard. I never liked the President. I thought his speeches were word salad and his books were boring and full of conventional wisdom. I have no problem pointing out his mistakes. If you thought the Preside the was a once in a lifetime figure in 2004, how would you feel if you decided to read his 2004 DNC speech?

    -Plenty of Democrats don’t want to become “racist unicorn chasers who want equality today” or acknowledge that the people they said were loons in 2009 for suggesting Obama didn’t pass rainbows after eating were right and received undue criticism. There was a considerable amount of nastiness directed towards Obama critics who dared point out that guys like Rahm Emmanuel were disasters waiting to happen.

    There is a good element of the population who has internalized an acceptable left-center-right view of politics. For them judging Obama as a failure would mean judging the left and center as failures. They have lives where they might not know the name and general background of every Senator and just hear a simple Republican/Democrat pie fight. They then assume he GOP is dastardly clever to have foiled Obama and his wonderful plans. Obama critics and even potential critics were drowned out for so long the echo chamber doesn’t repeat a narrative of the Team Blue Reagan admirer desperately wants to be a Republican.

  19. shinola

    In 2008 I voted for Mr. Obama. I was hoping for real change.

    I did not repeat that mistake in 2012…

    1. John Wright

      In 2008, I voted for Obama,

      In 2012, I followed Noam Chomsky’s voting advice for the 2012 election, he suggested Obama is better than Romney but if you are in a state that Obama will win easily, vote third party so he will not see an approval mandate.

      I voted for Jill Stein as California was a safe win for Obama.

      A co-worker, in 2008, suggested he might vote for McCain-Palin because the USA political system was like a drunk who had not hit bottom. He thought McCain-Palin could be that absolute bottom and then real change could happen in 2012.

      He did not view Obama as much of change agent, and this was borne out by subsequent events.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Both Chomsky and Ellsberg suggested that; both lived in “safe” states, Mass. and Cal.

        Personally, I think that sort of strategic voting is self-defeating, but by the time the election rolled around, there were very few “swing” states, so it was essentially an endorsement for Jill Stein.

  20. montanamaven

    Oh, and another “tell” that this is conventional writing from conventional propaganda is the phrase “Russia’s land grab in Ukraine.” No, there was a coup in Kiev helped by 5 Billion US dollars. Right wing thugs forced the elected President to flee. Then all kinds of crazy statements about banning the Russian language in Ukraine and Russian speakers being sub human made it pretty easy for Crimea which Krushchev had ceded to Ukraine in 1954 to vote to go back to Mother Russia in an election. It was a defensive move not a “grab”.

    1. DJG

      Yep. That was one point in the article where I checked out mentally. The writer never heard of Victoria Nuland?

      1. Jim McKay

        The writer never heard of Victoria Nuland?

        Her husband is Robert Kragan, co-founder of PNAC (Project for a New American Century). Incredible damage Kragan engineered. Hard to fathom how Nuland made it into a BO admin., much less in position to craft US Ukraine (the coup) policy.

        1. John Wright

          The extended family tree branches around Nuland are also interesting.

          Nuland’s brother-in-law, Frederick W. Kagan, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

          Nuland’s husband is described on the Brookings site as “Robert Kagan is a senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings.”

          So the Brothers Kagan have Brookings and American Enterprise Institute covered and then Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, is the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State.

          The extended family continues in the business as Frederick Kagan’s wife, Nuland’s sister-in-law, Kimberly Kagan, heads the “Institute for the Study of War”, which is described at

          “The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a USA-based think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan. ISW describes itself as a non-partisan think tank providing research and analysis regarding issues of defense and foreign affairs, but has been described by others as “a hawkish Washington” group favoring an “aggressive foreign policy”.

          “The non-profit organization is supported by grants and contributions from large defense contractors, including Raytheon, General Dynamics, DynCorp and others. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.”

          Note that Victoria Nuland has worked for Bill Clinton’s administration, Dick Cheney, Obama/Hillary Clinton and now Obama/Kerry.

          She is famed for a captured phone conversation in which she said “F**K the EU” while discussing Ukranian politics with the US ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, and for serving cookies in the Ukraine after the government was toppled (

          Perhaps other families are “into peace” , but this one appears to be “into war”.

  21. tegnost

    Successes? 1.) medicaid clawbacks 2.)trillions instead of billions for wall st. 3.)reproductive rights for same sex couples 4.)drone diplomacy 5.)ice free passage through the arctic
    Looks an awful lot like the “failures” list are the successes, no need to comment further
    Incomplete 11.) more people living in tents, true, but not everyone yet 12.) H1b, H2b 13.) less gun violence, yep mm hmmm 14.) shoot the potentially violent 15.) go on a congressional junket to israel, but then come back to the house of reps, don’t like, stay there forever, what would that accomplish?
    tegnost reporting from LJ, the land of no (well, extremely lame) public transportation and unabashed HRC supporters. Think I’ll sit outside the breakers and watch the world go by…

      1. tegnost

        yeah sure but I’ll just watch it go by, LJ is a town in san diego with lots of ferraris and that sort of thing it’s a pretty weird place and where the mom half of the family has lived since the 70’s. I’ve tried to live here but never succeeded, but it beats seattle in january and february. Mitt lives here, and the winklevoss twins too I think. HRC is their kind of people

        1. tegnost

          for example tonight at dinner it was watch out, those republicans want to cut social security, I had to physically hold my lips together as I’ve been here a week and my views are unpopular. 3 of the 4 adults, not including me. in the medical industry so it’s an exercise in patience.

  22. blurtman

    The president repeatedly lied to Americans early on in his first term when he said that the banks had committed no crimes. The president’s failure was not merely a failure in prosecuting and jailing bankers, it was much more:

    1.) illustrating to all the undeniable existence of a two-tiered justice system. There are folks doing time for money laundering, you know.
    2.) not re-establishing faith in the US financial system.

    Perhaps it was a designed plan to shine a light on the corruption and hypocrisy that is Amerika, but I kind of doubt it.

    1. Warf Rat

      In truth, Obama and Eric Holders inaction on the prosecution of white collar criminals has highlighted the undeniable two-tiered justice system……….too bad nobody is paying attention. One could say that all the failures of Obama’s presidency have done a good job shinning a light on all that is wrong with our country.

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      The terminology “Coddling corporate America” under the “Big Failures” list is much too charitable to this administration. This hasn’t been about inviting a big campaign contributor to a sleepover at the White House, and the issues are ongoing.

  23. TedWa

    More succinctly, he’s the Wall St Manchurian candidate and any benefits we the people have derived from his Presidency have only been “trickle down” at best. He lied at every turn to the American people to become President in 2008 all the while knowing that once in office his masters on Wall St would be well served. He’s smart enough to fool everyone that voted for him – is that ever worthy of praise by Democrats? No – only by the Republicans that he had emboldened. They must have been laughing their arses off when they saw how this hope and change Presidency was unfolding in the 1st week and every week since. He had exposed his Achilles heel the 1st week in office, appointing one Wall St veteran after the other and the REpugs saw this and attacked. The Republican party was on it’s way out, their President had lied us into wars and into invading other countries, torture and war crimes. But Barack alone saved them from their fates, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. No, nothing about BO should get a passing grade. As he said to Hillary in 2008, the Presidency is just a figure head office (not an office for a leader). Figure head and trickle down voodoo economics, that’s about all we the people got. Oh yeah, and don’t forget all the Republican victories over the last 8 years that never should have happened.

  24. CraaaaaaaazyChris

    As I look back on the Obama presidency, his primary domestic achievement seems to be “Gay Lives Matter”.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      After major pressure and defeats in court. DADT was struck down before it was repealed, and Obama came out for gas marriage after fighting efforts against an anti-gay referendum in North Carolina.

  25. James Housel

    I often wondered as he was led to the stage for his inauguration if someone didn’t point out the snipers and hand him a script. After all, Kennedy was killed for not following his…We have been captive of the “deep state” for a long time. The business of America is the enabling of a global looting. Always has been, always will be.

    It was obvious from the appointment of Eric(Pardon Me)Holder, Timmy (what tax?)Geithner and Robert Gates that nothing was going to change and that hope had left the building. Maybe that was the point, that it was pointless to hope.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Or he was a pronounced Reagan admirer and claimed the right to bomb anywhere on the planet whenever he felt like it all along and you didn’t listen?

      1. James Housel


        I confess I voted for him in 2008 (with reservations). The “lesser of two weevils”. And perhaps seduced by “Dreams from my Father”. I didn’t expect revolution, but I also allowed “hope” for a moment. I voted for Jill Stein in 2012. And I vote in EVERY election. But I can’t forget Emma Goldman’s wisdom, “If elections changed anything, they would make it illegal”.

    2. TedWa

      Don’t forget all the Republican victories over the last 8 years that never would have happened if he had been a man of his word. He owns those too. If the scale is A to F, I’d give him a G.

    3. wbgonne

      I often wondered as he was led to the stage for his inauguration if someone didn’t point out the snipers and hand him a script.

      I was and I remain astonished at how Obama metamorphasized immediately after he won in 2007. I listened to a lot of Obama speeches in 2007 and I read his books and that Obama never stepped inside the White House. This transformation being so exquisitely executed, a suspicious mind might consider an orchestrated conspiracy. Maybe a rational mind, too, because the alternative explanation proves elusive.

    4. montanamaven

      Long before his inauguration, he was a made man. Ken Silverstein in Harper’s wrote “Barack Obama Inc” back in 2006. Black Agenda Report and Paul Street knew him from Chicago. Adolph Reed Jr wrote earlier than that and then repeated it in 2008 in The Progressive.

      He’s a vacuous opportunist.I’ve never been an Obama supporter. I’ve known him since the very beginning of his political career, which was his campaign for the seat in my state senate district in Chicago. He struck me then as a vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him. I argued at the time that his fundamental political center of gravity, beneath an empty rhetoric of hope and change and new directions, is neoliberal. – See more at:

      There was information early that he was the corporate pick, but people chose to put their fingers in their ears. It was the most frustrating time for me in my sojourn into politics. And it continues. I just had a new acquaintance tell me that Obama will go down as one of the great presidents. Sad.

  26. sid_finster

    I don’t know how many O voters lurk here, but let me ask you this:

    When you voted for Obama in 2008, is this really what you expected?

  27. Steve from CT

    Three things stand out for me from Obama’s first couple of months in office that indicated what kind of President he would be.

    1. Appointments. Rahm Emanuel, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Eric Holder and Arne Duncan. I would also throw in Sebelius as well. What did we expect from this crew of neoliberal thinkers. We got no prosecutions of Bush war criminals or Wall St criminals, bailout of banks but not Main St, “never let a crisis go to waste,” privatization of schools, a health reform that will ultimately self destruct and many others mentioned here.

    2. Disappearance of the famed Obama multi million person mailing list which could have maybe made a huge impact on the next few Congressional and Senate elections. Why did this list go into hiding for way too many years.

    3. Despite his rhetoric to the contrary, listened too much to the neocon advisors ( including HRC) on foreign policy and Holder and Rahm on domestic issues. At that point, hope and change went out the window. What happened: prosecution of whistleblowers, more black inmates, affordable housing programs cut, Guantanamo stays open, schools turn private, environmental regs are not enforced, progressive voices are ignored. Not what most of us voted for.

    And he didn’t play golf with Speaker Boehner!!!!

    1. Arizona Slim

      I don’t think that big mailing list went into hiding. I think that a lot of the people on it unsubscribed once they realized that they had been baited and switched.

      1. Pavel

        Well I unsubscribed from that Obama list about 3 months into his first term, already pissed off and disillusioned — Rahm’s appointment and some other decision at the time was the prompt.
        However somehow Hillary’s PAC got my name off it, and I got repeated donation requests from the Ready For Hillary people, without an “unsubscribe” option, which to me makes it borderline illegal spam.
        And recently I got an email from Harry Reid’s group, on the same address. All very fishy, and extremely annoying.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Obama’s rise was rather oddly meteoric, so gives rise to suspicions about his being groomed by powerful interests – not necessarily the CIA. Certainly my wife thinks so, so i have to take the idea seriously.

        However, without some idea of who or what those “shadowy interests” are, this makes little practical difference. Of course, we can make a good guess based on who benefits from his policies; but that’s just good ol’ political corruption.

        In general, it’s hard to make sense of recent history without thinking about the Wizard of Oz.

        1. Lambert Strether

          If we imagine competing factions within the 0.01% maintaining portfolios of political options (some exercised, some not, and options very much including players) then there were probably several Obamas being groomed more or less simultaneously; and not all of them panned out. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that Deval Patrick, Barack Obama, and the odious Cory Booker all had similar signatures, as it were, but I see that as factions being driven to the same conclusion by similar logic; what Tim Berners Lee calls “the test of independent invention.” (In other words, there’s not one Wizard, but a class of Wizards. Baum’s oversimplification is dangerous.)

          1. TheCatSaid

            Have you read “Coup de Twelve” yet? Highly recommended.

            It describes–by one who was there in person (and confirmed by the author in several 2012 interviews after the book came out) that the 2008 US presidential election was a project of a well-developed business plan, presented to 12 targeted shareholders in approx. 1999-2000. Each shareholder had to contribute $500 M plus relevant sectoral expertise required to implement the plan. The business plan succeeded beyond the shareholders’ expectations.

            It explains why events after the 2008 election went as “far” as they did (i.e., exceeding Obama’s elitist/corporate sell-out evident from his early “community worker” days, as richly documented here on NC and the many astute comments above).

            Truth exceeds fiction once again.
            (NB while the book is labeled as “fiction”, only a few fig leafs of names/sequences were changed to avoid lawsuits. Per author interviews, the events unfolded as described.)

  28. timbers

    I said early on in other blogs years ago that Obama is easily the most right wing President in history, and soon after said he was the worst President in history.

    Some posting here ridiculed me at the time on those other blogs for those statements. Now many comments sometimes paraphrase the same thought.

    TPP alone (Modified Feudalism. That’s more right wing than even the Tea Party – am I right?) makes Obama the most right wing President in history and it’s not even close. And the reason I called him the worst, is because of the Trojan Horse Affect he has being an enemy behind the oppositions lines or what Glenn Greenwald expressed by saying “Obama may not be more evil than Bush, but he is the more effective evil.” By occupying the party that is supposed to be liberal when he is not, he can more effectively and quickly pass right wing change from within than could the most right wing of all right-wingers in the other party.

  29. Greg T

    This passage is pretty typical for a Democratic partisan. One would expect a similar essay from the likes of Sean Wilentz, but mr. rosenfeld’s is laced with a bit more criticism and is less overtly apologetic.

    The ACA is hardly an unqualified success story. It does some good things; Medicaid expansion in most states, it has reduced the number of uninsured. However it’s success at controlling costs is ambiguous. Moreover, most participants now realize that they have bought a catastrophic care plan, that they have to pay very high deductibles before insurance even takes effect. This is simply a subsidy to the health insurance industry, it’s not a system designed to protect the health and welfare of citizens. ACA is better than what existed before, but not by much.

    The author’s characterization of Russia’s ” land grab in Ukraine” is completely misleading and conveniently ignores the role of the US in engineering a coup of the duly elected Yanukovich government. It likewise ignores US support for a neo-Nazi government there that threatens Russia’s interests in Russia’s sphere of influence.
    Maybe one should ask if Middle Eastern countries agree with the Obama Administration’ s emphasis on diplomacy.

  30. Oregoncharles

    That article reminds me of the reason I left Alternet. FWIW, I used to be a dedicated commenter there. But during the campaign in 2012, they systematically rigged their coverage (coverage is far more important than endorsements), suppressing anything that made Obama look bad – more than any other liberal site I followed. The final straw was when a good article by one of their own writers was unceremoniously removed from the front page and relegated to a cubbyhole where you wouldn’t find it unless you were looking for it. That made it clear there was an editorial judgement (probably by the publisher) to censor their reporting.

    I thought that was unforgivable, so when the election was past I made a fuss in as many comments as I could and then abandoned the site. They sell ads, so clicks are worth money to them, and I was providing a lot of clicks. At this point, I visit it only when NC provides a link I want to read. I doubt the publisher has changed.

    This article goes beyond “cautious” to the sort of coverup they committed in 2012 (personally, I don’t think much of Rosenfeld). I’m not criticizing Yves for posting it – it’s a good example of something or other, and generated a lot of discussion. But mainly, it’s an example of the difference between NC and in-the-bag sites like Alternet or Salon, where I sometimes post links to NC articles just to be difficult. Did it today, on the article on Obamacare by Paul Rosenberg. Remarkably, that elicited a plug for NC from the author (Rosenberg – boy are those names easy to confuse)!

    1. Lambert Strether

      Ah yes. I remember Open Left from 2009 – 2010 very well… Just another career “progressive” site suppressing single payer advocacy because Obama. Of course, if they’d gone full on for single payer then, the ground would be prepared now for the real solution. So their tactics did real damage.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Yeah, Alternet did that, too, including authors I previously respected. It was a regular epidemic.

        the article I used was one of yours on Obamacare, an update.

  31. Dave

    30 to 40% boosts in health “insurance” premiums for Middle Class Americans and small businesses mean that there’s no or little money for consumer spending, starting households etc.

    Wait until year over year December sales numbers are released. The Obamacare expense recession has already begun.

  32. MG

    Volunteered and did a lot of work for the Obama campaign in later half of ’07 and through ’08 in CA and NV. Enthralling and brought together groups of progressives in the Bay Area that rarely had little to do with one another especially folks from Oakland/East Bay with folks from Marin County and SF. Also a lot of older and younger folks too. Made several close friends who I remain close with despite having moved back to the Philly area in ’10.

    Knew Obama wasn’t going to be able to accomplish anywhere near what he was laying out because of the Wall Street campaign contributors who poured in funds late, the likelihood of a bunch of the Clinton White House folks would be appointed to key positions during his 1st term including Hilary, and how a meaningful portion of White America would see him largely regardless of what he did or said (just a n!gger in the White House regardless of his white mother because culturally that is what he identified himself as even if it was in part an opportunist play).

    Even by those standards, I have been really disappointed. Obama strikes me not as a narcissist or opportunist. Just a cynic with a very limited and close circle of advisors who are quite willing to settle for almost anything, call it a victory, and move on.

    Obamacare did expand greatly expand access but it gave away huge taxpayer-funded subsidies to almost everyone involved in the healthcare industry except the medical devices industry who got hit the 2.3% excise tax. Even that just got repealed by a large bipartisan majority in Congress. Besides the ‘Cadillac tax’ it had no real cost control provisions which is the real boondoggle of American healthcare.

    The only area where I did see Obama push hard and willing to stand up to a lot of political pressure even among a number of Democrats was in regards to Iran. First US president in a long time who was willing to take a real stand against a key Israeli interest along with denying the US military/intelligence hawks their goal of increasing the dangerous escalation of rhetoric and saber-rattling vs Iran. Yeah there is a real danger the agreement leads to a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East with an obvious outcome being the Saudis pursue a covert nuclear weapons program. Still, the deal that was struck was better than the continue status quo or other alternatives.

    I guess the only comfort I feel in Obama’s Presidency at this stand point is that we didn’t get an uberhawk like McCain in his first term or a Romney/Ryan presidency in ’12. The alternatives clearly are worse from a private Cruz fundraiser dinner I was invited to last month in NYC.

    I fully expect now that Ryan is the Speaker of the House that he will push long and hard to do several things he has clear as day the past few years including looking to move Medicaid to a block-grant format, repeal Obamacare and replace with a tax-credit system, undue the Obama tax hikes, greatly lower both corporate, income, and capital gains rates, repeal the estate tax permanently, and chip away at SSI through ‘reforms’ that hack away future benefits. Ditto more horrible free trade agreements including bilateral ones along with more worker visas. The only question is whether Ryan is really dumb enough to push the ’12 Romney/Ryan tax plan which actually would have greatly increased income taxes for people making $30k-$100k annually while giving away the farm to the wealthiest folks.

    1. marym

      After 7 years, do Obama defenders sometimes wonder whether this endless parsing of his betrayals and failures, excuse-making, Republican and racist blaming, and lesser-evilism has actually helped enable his commitment to serving the elites at the expense of everyone else?

      Congress doesn’t negotiate trade agreements. As far as Ryan chipping away at SS, giving tax advantages to rich people and corporations, and supporting horrible trade agreements negotiated in secret by the Executive branch, maybe Obama defenders will be sad about this, but Obama won’t be. These are goals he’s pursued relentlessly through his entire administration, though the R’s will surely throw in a more egregious proposal or two, like the block grant, so D’s still have someone to feel less evil than.

  33. tongorad

    Big Successes

    1. Obamacare.

    Didn’t need to read any further than that. These people are worse than the Republicans.

  34. ewmayer

    Late to this, but the immediate tip-off for me in this faux-balanced piece of Obama fluffery was the laughably false and expectations-lowering premise “Obviously, he’s been better on most issues than a Republican would have been”, in which the author conflates mere emissions of rhetoric with deeds. For the first few years of O’s presidency one might still be excused for making this mistake, but still doing 7 years in indicates either journalistic incompetence or blatant shill-dom. From there we immediately proceed to five quite-the-opposites-of-“successes” which commenter OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL did a nice job of obliterating, one by one.

    @Steven D: “Obama has said he aspires to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps.” Now, if we look at who simply literally followed in Lincoln’s footsteps as president, I think we get rather closer to the massively disappointing reality of the Obama presidency.

    Rosenfeld should be ashamed of himself for promulgating this rubbish, but the subspecies of faux-journalistic PR flacks to which he belongs seems to lack whatever combination of nature and nurture enable humans to experience a sense of shame.

  35. geoff

    I am with @TedWa, Obama has played out (CT notwithstanding) as a real Manchurian Candidate, crushing the political aspirations of Millennials, the largest voting bloc in American history. Why the hell would they bother to get excited again? I got my meet the new boss, same as the old boss enlightenment under (Bill) Clinton, but I guess every generation has to learn these lessons for themselves.

    Think I’ve made this point here before, but I really feel like Obama has crushed the political aspirations of a whole hell of a lot of young people. And consequently done a lot of damage to the “progressive” cause, not to mention the country. Frankly, I’m surprised you published this, particularly given how critical you (NC) have been of the ACA, TPP, and on and on.

    1. Steven D.

      Read the introduction. Yves didn’t republish it because she agreed with it but to provide an example of a liberal enabler of the Obama con.

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