The Obamamometer’s Toxic Legacy: National Security

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends most of her time in Asia researching a book about textile artisans. She also writes regularly about legal, political economy, and regulatory topics for various consulting clients and publications, as well as scribbles occasional travel pieces for The National.

I noticed in yesterday’s comments that some readers take issue with my use of the term Obamamometer, regarding it as mere gratuitous snark. Unless you’ve read my earlier post, Don’t Be An Obamamometer: Support Naked Capitalism and Critical Thinking, describing behaviour  for which I coined that word, you’ll not realize the term’s anything but gratuitous, and dates to the late 1980s– long before most (if not all) of you had encountered the man.

Allow me to quote a small section here:

We called him the Obamamometer or at least I did and it quickly caught on in our circle because it described his behavior so well. Near the end of class time, just in time for the last word, his arm would rise. He’d wait to be recognized. A pause— setting his audience on seat’s edge (or at least the ones who’d never heard him speak before), and then in his mellifluous voice, he’d intone, “Rain is wet”— or something equally banal, with the gravity otherwise due to a proposition from Wittgenstein.

Always the last word. Always uttered with utter conviction. And never, never–  despite sitting through two classes with him– did I ever hear him say anything even remotely interesting. The Obamamometer took the ideological temperature of the room, and then unfailingly said something with which no one could possibly disagree— but which no other person would bother to say, because it was both so vapid and blindingly obvious.

So, other than an amusing anecdote, what does this imply for the Obamamometer’s toxic legacy on national security issues? Well, I rather encourage you to read that earlier post in full. But the main takeaway for the present post is this: “So when Barack Obama was elected President, and soon put in place an economic team consisting of former Clintonites and Rubinites, I and other [Harvard Law School (HLS)] classmates weren’t all too surprised by what followed. We saw those promises of hope and change as empty banalities, rather than the transitional political program many Obama supporters had voted for.”

How does that assessment stand up?

Now, many years later, we’re all enduring endless rounds of Obamamometer legacy-gilding. The man’s still actively seeking to have the last word. My sense of what an Obamamometer does has expanded a bit, extending now beyond merely uttering banalities, to willful substitution of empty rhetoric for substance. I’d like to examine that legacy with a more jaundiced eye, on some national security issues that progressives back in 2008 had so much hope would change. But first, please allow me a bit of a digression, in a bit of a riposte to some of yesterday’s comments.

Literary Lingo

The term Obamamometer isn’t a mere riff on the man’s name, but falls within a venerable literary tradition of using someone’s name to illustrate a broader concept. So, we have the term “spoonerism”, named for the former Warden of New College, Oxford, Reverend William Archibald Spooner, famous for employing what the Greeks called metathesis– roughly, switching things around. Examples: Spooner once praised farmers as “nobel “tons of soil” when he meant to say “sons of toil”, and reprimanded a student who “hissed my mystery lecture” and also “tasted two worms”.

Another such term is malapropism, describing utterances of Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals and a name no doubt derived from the French mal à propos— loosely translated as poorly placed. A malapropism is the substitution of a word that sounds similar for another, to comic effect.  Examples:  dance a flamingo (rather than flamenco), Yogi Berra’s comment that “Texas has a lot of electrical votes (rather than electoral), and my favorite– used once by a relative of mine who would not take kindly to being outed publicly so I won’t–  to lambaste a real estate developer as “a real prefabricator ” (when she meant prevaricator). And last on the list, there’s also bowdlerize– a word I didn’t realize came from someone’s name until Lambert helpfully pointed out it that it originated with Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who published expurgated Shakespeare fit to be read by proper ladies and children (and which excised the naught bits).

My use of the term Obamamometer has broadened since I first observed the behavior at HLS. On the grander stage on which the man now plays, I now routinely extend it to apply to more toxic behaviour than mere banal, uncontroversial utterances:  rhetoric– whether soaring or banal– as a substitute for action. And now as then, always trying to have the last word.  This behavior– even if called by any other name that lacks the sense Obamamometer conveys of wary measurement– would still smell as foul.

Institutionalization vs Aberration

I’m not alone in recognizing that one of the biggest disappointments with the Obamamometer’s failure to break decisively with George W. Bush’s administration on key national security issues is to institutionalize positions that were formerly considered beyond the pale– and make them part of a twisted bipartisan consensus. This is a subject I’ve liked to reserve for a further post.  I’m going to discuss two particular issues below, the failure to close Guantanamo– despite eloquent promises in the 2008 campaign to do so, and ample supporting legal authority– and weasel words disclaiming an ability to pardon Edward Snowden, uttered in a recent interview conducted in Germany. In both cases, the Obamamometer leaves a toxic legacy for President-elect Trump to exploit– which I have little doubt that he will.


One issue on which the Obamamometer was particularly eloquent in the 2008 campaign was on closing Guantanamo. As Connie Bruck has quoted him as saying in a New Yorker article, “In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values.”

Over to Bruck, writing in August (2016):

Guantánamo, which has held as many as seven hundred and seventy-nine prisoners, now houses just seventy-six. But it remains open, at a cost of $445 million last year—an expensive reminder that the United States, contrary to the ideals of its judicial system, is willing to hold people captive, perhaps for life, without a trial. For Obama, it is also painful evidence of the difference between the campaign promises of a forty-six-year-old aspirant and the realities of governing in a bitterly polarized time. Last March, when he made an appearance in Cleveland, Ohio, a seventh grader asked what advice he would give himself if he could go back to the start of his Presidency. Obama said, “I think I would have closed Guantánamo on the first day.” But the politics had got tough, he said, and “the path of least resistance was just to leave it open.”

The path of least resistance. Not much hope and change there, now is there?  As of today, December 4, 2016, according to, 60 prisoners are still held, 21 of whom “have been recommended for release by high-level governmental review processes.”  Think about that for a moment. We have indeed compromised our most precious values, especially when we still detain men who have already been cleared for release.

And, how difficult would it be to close the place down, now, despite the political consequences? After all, what political consequences is the Obamamometer subject to now? There’s no election pending. Would Republicans hunt down released detainees and reopen the place? I don’t think so.

I should mention here that the Obamamometer claims that he can’t just close Gitmo down, because Congress won’t let him.  Does that claim stand up?

Let me quote from the work of another HLS ’91 classmate, now distinguished professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Eric Posner (son of noted legal scholar and sitting judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Richard Posner) writing in Slate in an article entitled  President Obama Can Shut Guantanamo Whenever He Wants:

[In a 2013 press conference], President Obama repeated that he wanted to shut Guantanamo Bay but blamed Congress for stopping him. “They would not let us close it,” he said. But that’s wrong. President Obama can lawfully release the detainees if he wants to. Congress has made it difficult, but not impossible. Whatever he’s saying, the president does not want to close the detention center—at least not yet.

Posner goes on to make an extended, careful argument about just how this could be achieved. But notice, three years later, this has not yet been done. Why not? Well, as Posner anticipated in that same article:

The real issue here, of course, is that Congress has given the president a convenient excuse for not doing something he doesn’t really want to do anyway. The public wants to keep Guantanamo open. Shutting it would generate a serious backlash that enraged members of Congress would whip up. It also matters that President Obama does not object to indefinite detention, but to the island prison itself. That is why he wants to move detainees to a supermax in the United States, not release them. But doing so would make clear that his campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay was an empty one. The place of indefinite detention would change; the system supporting it would not. He does better with headlines like “Congress, rules keep Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay” than with “Obama moves detainees to U.S. soil where they will remain forever.” The president will not shut Guantanamo, and the reason is politics, not law. If you don’t like this choice, blame him.

Posner’s not the only law professor to suggest that the Obamamometer could close Guantanamo immediately, if he wished to do so. As Andy Worthington has written recently  in Donald Trump and Guantánamo: What Do We Need to Know?

For NPR, Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University constitutional law professor and former Pentagon official, suggested Obama could still close Guantánamo without too much effort. “If President Obama wanted to close Guantánamo tomorrow, he could do it,” she said, explaining that he “should simply ignore the ban Congress has imposed on sending any Guantánamo detainees to the U.S. for detention or trial,” as NPR described it. In Brooks’ words, “If I were President Obama and I wanted to close Guantánamo, I would say, I regard this particular limitation as an unconstitutional infringement on my inherent powers as commander in chief. You know, thank you for your input, Congress, but I’m doin’ it.”

In another post in Slate, Legacy Time, Eric Posner concurs, resting also on the Obamamometer’s authority as commander-in-chief.

So, on the issue of Guantanamo, as of today, the Obamamometer’s legacy scores 1 for rhetoric and 0 for results– leaving the prison still open for business, with prisoners still detained– some of whom I emphasize have already been cleared for release– as President-elect Trump prepares to take office. The same Trump who’s said, as quoted in the Worthington link cited above, as saying at a campaign rally in Sparks, Nevada, “This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantánamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open … and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”

Pardoning Snowden

On the issue of pardoning Snowden,the Obamamometer also displays his core weasaly tendencies. The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have launched a campaign to pardon Edward Snowden, following in the wake of the Snowden, the successful Oliver Stone film, and IMHO, the even better documentary, Citizenfour. This is a cause dear to many progressives– but is also highly politically controversial. Indeed, in September, all members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence– 9 Democrats and 13 Republicans– sent a letter denouncing Snowden and recommending against a pardon:

We urge you not to pardon Edward Snowden, who perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history. If Mr. Snowden returns from Russia, where he fled in 2013, the U.S. government must hold him accountable for his actions.

In a press conference on August 9, 2013, you said,” l don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot.” On September 15, 2016, after an exhaustive two-year review, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence unanimously approved a final report entitled Review of Unauthorized Disclosures by Former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden. In short, we agree with you. Mr. Snowden is not a patriot. He is not a whistleblower. He is a criminal.

Now I happen to disagree with these statements, and instead believe that the Obamamometer should pardon Snowden.  But I can admit that arguments can be made on the other side.  The Obamamometer, however, doesn’t take a principled stand and make those arguments.  Instead, in a recent interview conducted by Der Spiegel in Germany– where Snowden happens to be very popular– the Obamamometer responded to the simple question “Are you going to pardon Edward Snowden?” by outright misrepresentation (while simultaneously trying to pander to progressive opinion):

I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point. I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community. If everybody took the approach that I make my own decisions about these issues, then it would be very hard to have an organized government or any kind of national security system.

At the point at which Mr. Snowden wants to present himself before the legal authorities and make his arguments or have his lawyers make his arguments, then I think those issues come into play. Until that time, what I’ve tried to suggest — both to the American people, but also to the world — is that we do have to balance this issue of privacy and security. Those who pretend that there’s no balance that has to be struck and think we can take a 100-percent absolutist approach to protecting privacy don’t recognize that governments are going to be under an enormous burden to prevent the kinds of terrorist acts that not only harm individuals, but also can distort our society and our politics in very dangerous ways.

The Obamamometer surely realizes this argument is nonsense. We sat in the same HLS constitutional law class together, were both among the many students who worked as research assistants during our time at HLS for the celebrated constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, and the Obamamometer subsequently and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

As I’ve written earlier in Pardon Power: The Obamamometer’s Options, Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution says that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Allow me to quote from that earlier post:

The President’s pardoning power is absolute. Pardoning decisions are not subject to judicial review, nor can any individual pardon be overturned by an act of Congress. The pardoning power’s also unlimited as to offenses against the United States, so in theory, at least as a matter of law, a President could pardon someone for committing any offense against the United States ( I leave to one side the question of whether such an action would be politically possible). A President could also, at least in theory, pardon him or herself– for anything except in cases of impeachment.

But the most crucial point for the sake of the Obamamometer’s false statement about his ability to pardon Snowden is as follows:

It’s not necessary for someone to be charged or convicted of a crime against of the United States for the President to pardon that person. The most famous example of a President granting a pardon in a case where no indictment had been brought is President Gerald Ford’s September 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon shortly after he resigned the office of President.

In my earlier post on pardoning, I quote extensively from Proclamation 4311– Granting Power to Richard Nixon. And I encourage interested readers to follow that link to fill out their understanding of what the Obamamometer’s evidently forgotten.

So, on the issue of pardoning Snowden, not only is the Obamamometer’s rhetoric empty, but it’s factually incorrect– leaving Snowden’s fate open as President-elect Trump prepares to assume office.  Snowden’s fate looks highly threatened, as expressed in a piece in The Intercept entitled: Obama Refuses to Pardon Edward Snowden. Trump’s New CIA Pick Wants Him Dead. And to make matters worse, some have mused that Vladimir Putin might be open to abandoning Snowden as part of a broader effort to repair relations with the United States.

Some legacy!

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  1. Dave

    Agreed that the use of the nickname “Obamamometer” here is more thoughtful than the sorts of schoolyard taunting we see so often elsewhere on the web (personally I have little time for the latter).

    However, the other examples given (malapropism, spoonerism) are terms referring to inanimate concepts, not the actual people who inspired them. While apparently “Obamamometer” can be used that way, in this essay it is used in place of “Obama” throughout (except within quotations), as if he were a character in a comic strip, and in the end it begins to sound a bit silly.

    And I’m in total agreement on Guantanano. Obama just didn’t want to spend his political capital on closing it.

      1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

        Sorry, I’ll stick w/ Obamamometer– a term I first coined in the 1980s and which suggests more than your word suggests– as I’ve elaborated on in the post linked to above,

        1. Jess

          Curious: why the extra “mo” in Obamamometer? When not just Obamameter? Much easier to say and spell. Or am I missing something?

            1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

              I’ve been baffled by people saying it’s difficult to say, b/c the way I pronounce it, it’s not. Try it this way: Obama-mama-ter. The internal rhyme makes the word both funnier and more mellifluous.

              After seeing these comments, I understand that the way I’ve chosen to spell it, the correct pronunciation isn’t clear. But pronounced Obama-mama-ter I think it actually trips rather nicely off the tongue.

        2. Quanka

          Can we get a correct pronunciation of the word documented somewhere? I trip over myself trying to say it out loud.

          1. John

            You don’t need it documented. Jerri-Lynn described how to pronounce it in the comment above, and since she coined the term she gets to pronounce it any way she wants to. Your authoritative documentation is in her comment above yours.

            1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

              To be fair to Quanka, I posted my answer above his in the thread, but almost 11 hours after the time he posted his question. Still trying to get the hang of where best to post replies in these comments threads– especially since I don’t want to keep repeating myself. (I’d already posted the same info earlier in the day as the question kept recurring– so I opted for multiple replies, since obviously many people aren’t saying the word the way I intend it to be said, no doubt due to the spelling.)

          2. Mel

            You can sing it to the tune of … well … “God Save the Queen”, shall we say? I’m sure he’d like that.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Making up names like Obamamometer is fun. Making up names is a way to counter newspeak. The first comment in the thread tended to emphasize the name calling that littered many of the election comments — and some of the names and ad hominem between commenters did indeed get out of hand. However — to me — the real heart of that initial comment was noting the increased volume of and decline in the overall quality of the comments. Too much chaff coming in and hiding the wheat.

      1. sd


        That said, I almost didn’t read this post because of the use of Obamamometer in its title. And I’m finding myself auto-skipping comments that use 0bama, etc which means I’m starting to lose out on the value of this site which is the information that’s shared in comments.

    2. Msmolly

      As I said yesterday, “Obamamometer” is childish and derogatory and mostly uncalled for, despite whatever you wrote in the earlier post. His behavior in some long-ago class is a reason to apply the taunt to the man no matter the context? Geez, that’s petty. I didn’t vote for Obama the second time, and disagree with many of his actions while in office, especially drones, his record of deportations, and his treatment of whistleblowers. But this name-calling is sneering and silly and beneath the excellence of Naked Capitalism.

      I guess I’m pleased my comment yesterday sparked a discussion, but sorry to see the slur now prominent in a post headline. Sorta shoved back in our faces, I guess. SMH.

      1. Nakatomi Plaza

        I would argue that Obamameter isn’t really derogatory, especially knowing the origin of the term and understanding how far back in his career his tendency for compromise and attention was recognized. The term is a reflection of the man’s demeanor and apparent values; it’s only his actions (or lack of) over the past eight years that have made the name Obamameter seem like a childish jab. The name seems like a fairly appropriate nickname rather than a deliberate insult. I suspect there are a lot of Americans who wish they had known that Obama had a reputation – dating back twenty years before the election! – and that he wasn’t likely to be the guy we were expecting.

        But yes, most of the namecalling is counterproductive and embarrassing.

        1. Lynne

          Well……I recall a few comments to that effect from people in 2008 about Obama’s reputation and track record. The commenters were roundly castigated as racists. Some of them probably were, but there were other sober cautionary tales out there that were caught up in the smear.

      2. annie

        obamameter isn’t a ‘slur’ or ‘name-calling,’ it’s descriptive shorthand. clever too.
        the law school behavior anticipates his presidency and, for me, jerri-lynn’s perspective helps clarify and encapsulate his nearly complete failure as leader. reminds me of cornel west’s early critique.

        1. nycTerrierist

          I agree. Jerri-Lynn has made a great case for the moniker. A witty and apt neologism needn’t be reduced to namecalling. There’s a difference.

          1. polecat

            Why don’t we just call him what he REALLY is ….. a TRAITOR to his country !

            …. along with, I might add, most of CONgress !

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          Agree — it is a very clever moniker.

          But – I also agree name-calling detracts … although it is fun!

      3. Anne

        Speaking only for myself, I hate the substitution of some oh-so-clever play on someone’s name. Clintoon, Obamamometer, Obummer, Shillary. Hate it. I don’t care where or why they originated, they just don’t add anything to anyone’s arguments.

        In my opinion, they invite dismissal of the arguments as being juvenile and sandbox-level.

        Okay, so fine: when Obama was in law school, he liked to have the last, meaningless word. While it may have been an indicator of his essential emptiness, it was years ago, and frankly, if it’s meant to describe his fondness for taking the temperature of the room, I don’t really see the point now, because it doesn’t seem to be working.

        While I take a great deal of solid, informative and incisive analysis from NC, I have no idea why people can look at who and what will be filling Trump’s administration and think there isn’t a shitstorm of pain coming America’s way. Which is not to dismiss the very real problems we all saw in Clinton, but Jesus, people, Donald Trump is not going to be good for the country, or the world.

        Anyway, I digress. If people have an argument, make it – if it’s a good one, using some juvenile nickname for someone isn’t going to make it better.

        1. Optimader

          I agree Anne, the play on words are fun in an of themselves but i never use them when (attempting) serious comment.. I’ll just work with initials, GWB, HRC, BHO…, the comment should be srlf evident enough to frame the sentiment. Just my opinion

          1. craazyboy

            I decided some time ago that all politicians are cyborgs, so I have a lot of trouble taking them seriously – except for the part that they are dangerous to your health and well being.

            Mere name calling is kinda fun, but perhaps too easy. So my approach, since I don’t have cyborg manufacturing skills, is to make “steampunk” politicians – at least in my mind.

            In O’s case, I now have an image of a Prez with one of those old fashioned rooftop rooster weather vans bolted to his cranium. This appendage is for picking up the direction of the wind in his immediate proximity. Next, there is a large easy to read rectal thermometer up his butt. This is necessary because he’s proven to be rather anal retentive about his true feelings and policy positions. So I figure if the thermometer drops below normal temperature, that means he’s lying.

            We could make his nose grow longer, but that’s been done already.

            But anyway, I now feel I’m more prepared to deal with presidential communications with the public.

        2. savedbyirony

          Gitmo stills exists and will probably continue to do so under Trump, but Obama’s temp taking kept it running.That is on him.

          This article isn’t about Trump’s forthcoming Presidency, it’s about what OBAMA could do right now to alleviate some social pain, but chooses not to and why.

          If Jerri-Lynn was a political cartoonist, she would get her big picture point across about Obama by pictorial means but she is not. Granted not all people enjoy or appreciate the place and power of political cartoons. But her dubbing of Obama as “the Obamamometer” is a wordsmith’s equivalent of the visual caricature. If it fits, and by Jerri-Lynn’s personal experience and our collective social experiences these last few years it does, it serves an important political purpose, just as the visually encapsulated criticisms, abridged arguments and witty references of political cartoons often do.

          1. Anne

            What I see in Obama is someone who’s more concerned with his legacy than pretty much anything else – I think this may be what has driven him from Day One. The mental picture I have of Obama isn’t one of thermometers or barometers or weather vanes, it is of someone constantly posing in front of the mirror, trying out his look and his tone, making sure he looks good and sounds appropriately serious – and making sure nothing he says or does is going to spoil the image he has in his head of Obama-the-Statesman.

            He is not a risk-taker, not when the risks are to his image and his legacy. For Obama, there is no loving-and-losing, there is only winning, which means he doesn’t do it, doesn’t put any energy or effort in it if he doesn’t already know he isn’t going to lose. He exemplified the frustrating Democratic strategy of never throwing beyond the first down marker – on third-and-8, Dems threw for 5, and patted themselves on the back.

            I know who he is; I don’t need a cutesie name to shorthand it.

            1. Malcolm MacLeod,MD

              Anne: In my opinion, Mr. Obama has no positive legacy to leave, and in
              that respect is similar to George Bush. Those of us who supported him
              feel cheated and disillusioned.

            2. oh

              All he cared about from day 1 was himself. He’s selfish and narcissistic and a tool of the super rich. He has no ideals or principles. I’m glad Jerri-Lynn coined the nickname for him. It doesn’t detract from anything but describes him for what he is. People who can’t take a little bit humor are prudes!

        3. Jeremy Grimm

          Sorry — I am juvenile — though too old to be truly juvenile. Some of the name calling is just too much fun. I agree very much with the thrust of this sub-thread though. Name-calling — fun or otherwise — tends to detract from the commentary. However I take exception with some of the “acronymery” Optimader likes — I’m too old and too slow and some of the acronyms just make it hard for me to follow some of the comments.

        4. Jeff W

          Speaking only for myself, I hate the substitution of some oh-so-clever play on someone’s name. Clintoon, Obamamometer, Obummer, Shillary. Hate it. I don’t care where or why they originated, they just don’t add anything to anyone’s arguments.

          In my opinion, they invite dismissal of the arguments as being juvenile and sandbox-level.

          I agree, Anne—I have the same reaction. Seeing those plays on someone’s name makes me stop at each mention and substitute the person’s actual name, so, at the very least, it’s a distraction and not a good reading experience. But the worse part about it is that it doesn’t give the reader space to assess whatever the point is on its own merits because the conclusion (or some conclusion) is embedded in each reference to the person—it feels, to me, a bit peremptory, even if, at the end, I might agree with the person entirely.

          I’d have no objection, if, on the first mention of Obama’s name, Jerri-Lynn said something like “(whom I think of as ‘the Obamameter’ because of his unfailing tendency to take the prevailing ideological temperature of a situation and feed it back to his audience in a way that is both obvious and utterly banal)” [or some such] and then let the reader decide to what extent he or she wants to use that as a way to view what is being said.

        5. RussZ

          I am no Trump fan, but we really do not know what Trump will do. We may fear we do, but that is under confirmation bias of “not Trump”. Wait and see. It may get worse; it may get better. In any case would you argue that Trump gauges the temperature of the room before speaking? Seems to me he sets the temperature, and then the next day changes the temperature, and seems to change his mind. Hillary was said to have public and private personnae. Trump seems to have only public personnae, and that is very different from Obama’s. It is possible it might turn out to be “refreshing”.

        6. Steeeve

          I agree as well, don’t mind the nicknames once, all good fun! But they quickly become an annoyance and distraction from the often otherwise insightful comments when used consistently.

      4. pretzelattack

        why is it “mostly uncalled for”? are you saying that he isn’t a vapid, empty suit who’s actions belie his words? would “warmonger” be acceptable as a description of h. clinton, or obama?

      5. Roger Smith

        His behavior in some long-ago class is a reason to apply the taunt to the man no matter the context?

        That is just it, it is a behavior he still clings to today. Always getting the last word, looking good doing it, but that last word is hollow garbage with zero to little actual meaning. I think the term is a rather great story and qualifier. It is really interesting to know that he was “that guy” in your class, even back then.

        As Anne said well above, “What I see in Obama is someone who’s more concerned with his legacy than pretty much anything else…” Bingo. Last word = Legacyl *looks at watch, raises hand*

        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          Exactly! (And when I get together w/ HLS’91 classmates– that’s what we called him then and that’s what we still call him. Using that name is one of my habits of nearly half a lifetime. Yikes.)

    3. Bittercup

      I spent a lot of time reading Ukrainian political discussions in 2013, just prior to all the shit hitting the fan there. And one of the things that stood out to me at the time was the amount of name-calling going on. It felt more prevalent than in USA, U.K., or Russia, comparatively. It was fairly light-hearted at the time, really, but it was also almost peer-enforced. Like, you had to use the derogatory nickname every time you referred to a particular person or group, else you’d be read as an outsider (or not fully committed to your opinion) regardless of the content of your comment. Lots of identity and group-signaling. These days, the name-calling isn’t so light-hearted anymore. In retrospect, I wonder how much it was a symptom of the cleaving and radicalizing going on, vs. how much it actually contributed to all that.

      Obamamometer doesn’t bother me too much. But Obummer, Obomber, Killary, Shillary, Drumpf, Shrub, etc., do make me worry a bit sometimes.

    4. KGC

      I’m afraid I’ve come to dislike the “Obamamometer” substitution. Three reasons: (1) unlike the cited terms, it’s not catchy; in fact, it’s hard to remember (I have to sound it out every time); (2) it’s just name-calling, though more justifiable and not as bad as many others, and why sound like a Trump supporter; and (3) while it was effective and telling the first one or two times, it’s become grating and now distracts from the substance of the post.

      Possible compromise: If you don’t like someone, just use initials instead of a name: HRC, BHO, DJT, etc.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I also had trouble sounding out “Obamamometer”. The good news is — he will be leaving soon.

          1. integer

            By the same principle that a thermometer is a heat (thermo) measurement device (meter), the technically accurate term is “Obamameter”.
            Not important for this sort of thing though, imo, when it’s all just a bit of fun at the expense of a corporatist war criminal.

            1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

              UserFriendly, I think it throws you b/c the way I’ve chosen to spell it, the correct pronunciation isn’t clear. Try it this way: Obama-mama-ter. Why did I choose to add the extra syllable? B/c the internal rhyme sounds funnier than the alternative– and my intent was always to deploy humour to make a more serious point.

              In response to integer, you may be correct– that would make one Obama equal to a unit of conventional wisdom or mendacity– but I still think it’s funnier to add the extra syllable. And I should add, without that added syllable, I found the word awkward and difficult to pronounce. Wouldn’t do to have me stumbling over a word I invented, now would it?

              1. UserFriendly

                Meh. To each their own. I still like Oba-meter. It’s still a great concept and I have no problem with you using it either way.

              2. different clue

                It is not funnier. It is just clumsier. The extra syllable clumsifies it to the point where it may never catch on.

              3. Science Officer Smirnoff

                Since so much is on language in these comments, why does J-LS spell it humour? :-)

                Answer#1 (cuz she’s in India and—)

                1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

                  No, more due to being partly educated in England, married to an English husband, typically read more literature that uses British spelling, and have done the bulk of my writing in the last years for clients and publications that use British spelling, so that’s the way my defaults are set up on my computer software.

      2. KGC

        This is *not* a criticism of Jerri-Lynn, whose excellent posts I always read. I just find the use of “Obabamometer” counterproductive.

    5. integer

      Wow. Some of you are so sensitive. Personally I prefer to use “0bama” (substituting a zero for the “O”), but who really cares? He is a war criminal and a fraud, and name calling doesn’t even register on the spectrum of fitting punishments. The fact that Jerri-Lynn was forced to endure hours of listening to, and purportedly learning from, 0bama rattling off bs entitles her to call him whatever she wants imo, and it’s not like there’s no basis for calling him “the Obamamometer”.

      (This comment is not directed at Dave btw. Just wanted to put it at the end of the thread. People can make their own decisions wrt which commenters I am referring to.)

        1. cyclist

          Thin-skinned or overly earnest were my thoughts. I hope they are not trying to cope with the likes of Beppe Grillo.

      1. Waldenpond

        The demand that war criminals and corrupt frauds be treated with respect instead of well earned contempt is a little bit odd. I do vaguely wonder whether it comes from overwrought language policing or a propaganda campaign paid for by plutocrats with money to burn but don’t actually care. I prefer accurate descriptions.

        1. Anne

          Waldenpond, I don’t see anyone “demanding” anything – I see people expressing opinions about the use of too-cute-by-half nicknames. No one’s trying to be the language police, either, just making the point that a nickname is no substitute for argument, nor does it generally strengthen the argument.

          Just my own opinion, but salting a comment with derogatory nicknames makes it about the writer, not about the person one is writing about. That’s my perspective, by the way, and it’s not driven by any need to show respect to someone, anyone, I don’t actually have much, if any, respect for.

          You may prefer accurate “descriptions;” I prefer accurate arguments unencumbered by vanity “license plates.”

          Jeri-Lynn is an excellent writer with valuable insights, but I got so tired of having to consciously ignore what seemed to be an effort to get her invention of the nickname to get traction that I stopped reading it.

          1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

            To repeat a comment I made above, when I get together w/ HLS’91 classmates– that’s what we called him then and that’s what we still call him now. Using Obamamometer is one of my habits of nearly half a lifetime, and so employing it in my posts is not an effort to get traction for my coinage.

            And may I add a small addition (which is not really responsive to you, Anne, but I wanted to post this somewhere in this thread, and it might as well be here). So my apologies if this interjection seems to be in the wrong place.

            Who I am as a writer is who I am in person when I meet some of these poohbahs, too. I try not to take them too seriously– they may be elected, high status people, but I, too, have the right to speak truthfully to them and not genuflect. Not only the right, but the obligation. If more people didn’t take them so seriously– e.g. and habitually write about them in high Nick Kristof mode, whom I often find unreadable because of his earnest high-mindedness, I’m not really a natural high dudgeon type of gal— maybe said poohbahs might have a better sense of what life is like down here outside of their rarefied orbit. And then, dare I suggest it, maybe we wouldn’t be in the terrible place we are now?

            So, to share another anecdote, my Mom still has a picture proudly framed of me meeting Bill Clinton– for the first and only time– at a reception in Washington, on the grounds of the British Embassy. The context is important: this was 1993, Bill was in his first term, Stephanopoulos was running around showing off how important he was, but the reception wasn’t about their status: it was a reunion celebration for Rhodes Scholars– and each of us was attending as a Rhodes Scholar. And even though we were in the US, we were on embassy grounds, so actually standing on what’s considered to be British soil– one of the few places in the greater environs of Washington, D.C., where Bill and I shared common status.

            Anyway, I wanted to make a jocular comment that alluded to the fact that Bill and I were equals, in this place and time, both invited because we were Rhodes Scholars. So the thought that popped into my mind as Bill worked the crowd and headed in my direction was to say, “You must be Bill Clinton because you’re the only one they let into this joint without one of these silly name tags [which were indeed silly and had your name in HUGE letters, both front and back, presumably so the Secret Service could keep an eye on each of us, prominent enemies of the state that Rhodes Scholars are so notorious for being].

            I made the mistake of pre-sharing my laugh line with a person standing next to me. The situation was actually quite disorderly, as this crowd of what should have been dignified people were jostling, elbowing, shouting, shamelessly trying to catch Bill’s attention. One man held up his University College tie– the Oxford college Bill had attended– trying to get Bill to notice him and another person shouted, “12 years of Republicans were too much!” “Jesus!” I thought. “Dignity, people, dignity”– I wanted to say. “This isn’t a sample sale at Barney’s.”

            So anyway, to make the long story even longer, said swine standing next to me swiped my line, and uttered it to Bill. I was now about to meet the leader of the free world, and was in danger of doing so, speechless. And I had to think fast. Bill turned to me, who, incidentally, was then 30ish, fit, short, kinda cute, and wearing petal pink–a colour I never wear because it makes me look like a lightweight but was the only thing I could find that fit me in a mad dash taken out of my miserable, overworked existence as a law firm associate to buy something suitable for the occasion. And I saw Bill get the gleam in his eye that I recognised as the horndog look a kinda cute chick wearing petal pink sometimes gets. And I thought, sorry, mister, I don’t care if you’re the president of the United States, I don’t like the way you’re looking at me, and I’m here in the same capacity you are (more context: the Rhodes Scholarship was only opened to women in 1978, and for years, a lot of the old fogeys you met at these affairs assumed that when you turned up for one of these dos, you were there as someone’s partner– and condescended to you accordingly. Not that that’s appropriate behaviour either, but that’s what they did).

            Now, this was just after the controversy about Bill closing LAX so he could get his hair cut by a celebrity stylist who serviced him when Air Force 1 was on the tarmac and blocking other traffic in and out. So I’m afraid the joke is rather lame, but here it is. I grabbed the hand Bill now profferred, smiled coyly, he leaned in to hear what I had to say, and I purred (as only a chick in petal pink can purr), “I just love your haircut.” And I really expected him to respond in similar vein– as he does have a reputation for being quick-witted and I thought, wrongly, that he might appreciate my status point and say something in response to my straight line like: “Oh, glad you do, it cost me far too much,” or “I like yours too– where do you get it done?”

            But since I’d never met him before, I didn’t realize how thin-skinned he was. And it’s at this time the picture was snapped, the picture you can now see hanging in the foyer of my Mom’s place in North Carolina: Bill, strained smile, looking like he’s going to haul off and punch me; at least one (or was it two?) Secret-Service guy on high alert, face wondering why the boss is pissed off; a gaggle of Rhodes Scholars laughing nervously– she didn’t just say that to the PRESIDENT, did she?, and me giggling now not so much at my own joke– which would be unseemly– but at the whole reaction it had provoked.

            Now, some of you may say, it’s a funny anecdote, but aha Jerri, you’re making this all about you, and that’s Anne’s point. To which I respond not so fast. I’m using an incident from my personal experience to illustrate a broader point: Bill’s a horndog with a stick up his buttski, and can’t take even gentle ribbing at his expense (which isn’t news to anyone today, but was news to many people back in 1993 when this all happened.)

            That’s what I do as a writer. I pull together lots of stuff, thoughts, experiences, personal anecdotes, links, evidence– some low, some high, some technical, some not– and I write it all down and throw it out there for people to think about. And I happen to love wordplay– not only making up monikers, but throwing in small literary echoes when I can (No one’s commented on the Shakespeare alluded to above– which I found a bit disappointing– maybe it was too pedestrian an aside on my part to merit any attention by the commentariat).

            So anyway, I appreciate the thoughtful comments this post has attracted. By far the most comments of anything I’ve written for NC so far. And let me observe, the more wonky or legalistic stuff, written in a straight style, gets far fewer comments. So some people say that they’re put off by the snark, and it distracts them, and pushes them away. But judging by some of the other comments I see, others are attracted. Much to mull here. Thanks for reading my work so carefully and sharing your thoughts.

            1. pretzelattack

              the swine that stole your line (deserves its own circle of hell, that) wound up doing a favor for you, as a writer. clinton’s ego wouldn’t have been pricked by the acknowledgement of his status, and you wouldn’t have had an early glimpse into his character.

              i don’t get the anti-snark stance; as long as the snark doesn’t overpower the substance, i feel like it can enhance it–humor can capture and convey the essence of things so quickly.

              1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

                You’re right there– and I never thought of it that way, so thanks for pointing that out. Nor would my Mom have such a great conversation piece for her foyer– one that I think she has a bit a mixed attitude to, torn between being proud of her daughter being in the same frame as the President (Mom would always capitalize that word) but reminding her of her longstanding concern that at some point some government official or other minion might come crashing through her door demanding to know my current whereabouts because of something I’ve written.

                After all, it was my Mom who first advised back in 1979, when I was a mere 18 and covering my first demonstration in Boston for The Tech, MIT’s oldest student newspaper, that I should call up the local FBI office and let them know I was there solely as a reporter, and not a demonstrator. I didn’t follow that advice. (Whereas I did cave into parental pressure a few years earlier when a student had stolen a memo from the briefcase of his father, a board of education member, detailing upcoming job cuts at my high school. I was editor of the student paper then. Mom convinced me that publishing a story wasn’t on. In my defense, I was living under my parent’s roof at the time. And using documents swiped from someone’s briefcase does raise difficult ethical issues– even if the documents were real. It would have also got my source into a whole helluva lot of trouble with his father. But when those teachers got fired, I did wonder whether I’d made the right decision.)

      2. Kurt Sperry

        I’m not a fan of the cute names. Make your point if you got one. Calling someone a name isn’t really getting that done.

        I adore the anecdote about how it came into being though.

        1. integer

          Make your point if you got one.

          I assume that this is a generic statement intended to highlight the fact that you prefer people to make their point without using “cute names”, rather than being directed at me. Not that I would particularly care if it was.

          1. Kurt Sperry

            Yes, sorry if I was misconstrued. I have friends and people I respect immensely who like to use these epithets so it’s not like it’s a big deal to me.

    6. pretzelattack

      not only did he not want to spend political capital on closing it, i don’t believe he wanted to close it at all, he just wanted to move it to the mainland.

    7. Sandy

      Agree. This would be an article I would share with non-NC types but for the repeated use of this term which does nothing but inject author bias and emotion.

    8. sandra l lawrence

      Okay, I’ll hop in here in the FWIW dept. on ‘Obamamometer.’

      For me, over-repetition causes a reduction in impact, and perhaps even in original meaning, so that it becomes trite. The unerring repetitive use serves as a distraction from the flow of your excellent commentary. I find myself stumbling over Obamamometer, looking for it, anticipating it, hearing a mental drum roll & cymbal after reading it. I find myself mentally substituting ‘Obama’ for Obamamometer to keep the stream from getting interrupted. Maybe using it in key sentences or thoughts would keep it meaningful, which it is, rather than as a perfunctory curse word? Or maybe that’s just a design flaw in my own reading skills and cognitive processes …

      Just to be clear, I perfectly understand the background, your invention of it and its application and I have argument with none of it. In fact, it was first a relief to have validation and background to the betrayal I felt as a voter, since the naming of Timmy Geithner. (The “everyone has a seat at the table” folderol preceding the blocking of key healthcare givers and wholesale giveaway of ACA to the insurance companies was the final clincher for me.) I felt less the fool for being so easily fooled by beautifully constructed, empty, lying words after reading your analysis. So, thanks!

    1. roadrider

      Or President Hope for Change in One Hand and Crap in the Other – See Which One Gets Filled Up First.

    2. pmorrisonfl

      I think that the chief part of Obama’s legacy is the election of President Trump. That might not be hope, but it is a change.

      1. nycTerrierist

        Agreed. When O came in, the Republican Party was a failed brand.
        He redeemed the Repubs, and by over-reaching, discredited Clintonesque third way Democrats.
        So there’s that.

  2. allan

    So, on the issue of pardoning Snowden, not only is the Obamamometer’s rhetoric empty, but it’s factually incorrect …

    This is in perfect alignment with the factual incorrectitude of his rhetoric
    when the Snowden revelations started coming out.

    Obama claimed that Snowden would have been protected if he had gone through official whistle blower channels.
    But that those protections, which many examples show are in practice completely worthless for Federal employees, are explicitly excluded for contractors like Snowden.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      If I were Snowden … and iff I were pardoned … I don’t think I would feel safe coming home. But I might try the move to Ecuador.

      1. Steve C

        The Nixon pardon immediately comes to mind, rendering Obama’s words specious. To what court did Nixon present himself?

      2. Steve C

        The Nixon pardon immediately comes to mind, rendering Obama’s comments specious. To what court did Nixon present himself?

  3. Eduardo Quince

    the term’s anything but gratuitous

    Moreover, it’s hardly if at all disparaging. Personally, I find it quite genteel.

  4. Edward

    After Obama’s election, when it became clear he was dragging his feet on reversing Bush’s criminal policies, Columbia law professor Scott Horton stated in an interview that many of Obama’s Justice department appointments, such as Harold Koh, used to be die-hard opponents of torture. He was at a loss to explain their inaction on this matter. What happened to those people?

    1. Synoia

      O’s legacy includes very severe actions to prevent leaks and disagreement becoming public.

      Could this be a cause of the silence?

  5. FluffytheObeseCat

    Some of the complaints in comments were not directed solely or even primarily at your use of Obamamometer. Commenters like msmolly seemed more focused on the regular use of “Hildabeest”, “Killary”, and the like by commenters. And the constant use of “0bama”, which looks just like the “NObama” seen on whiner-right bumpers across the West in 2012.

    I may have grinned at some of these terms (the first 10-20 times I saw them) but, they were too common, and read like a rushing stream of petty misogyny (or race bigotry) by the end of some over-stuffed comments threads.

    This pattern pre dates most of your articles at NC and can’t be attributed to anything you’ve posted.

  6. Rich

    Wait! What? You’re using praiseworthy words like “die-hard opponents of torture” within millimeters of the name ‘Harold Koh”?
    I mean are we talking about Harold “I’m the champion of targeting killing extrajudicial execution by predator drone assassination as personal practice of publicly fellating his boss and colleague Barack Obama for murdering a 16 year old boy U.S. citizen via the CIA” Koh?
    That Koh?

  7. grayslady

    For what it’s worth, Obama was the Obamamometer as a Senator, too. He would always wait to see how everyone else was going to vote and then announce his decision–never taking a stance on any particular issue, but always hiding his vote within whatever appeared to be the majority position. He was also a rotten Senator, for those of us who were stuck with him. If you sent an email to his office, you never received even so much as an acknowledgement response. Durbin, on the other hand, acknowledges every email from his constituents, usually with a letter outlining his position. You may disagree with Durbin’s positions, but at least he’s willing to tell you where he stands and explain why.

    Obama’s senatorial aides were also politically clueless. They usually didn’t know the nature of the bill you were calling about, and they certainly didn’t seem to know Obama’s thinking on bills that should have been known as hot issues. He had the kind of staff you’d expect of a Representative, unsure whether s/he would last beyond two years. For those of us who knew him in Illinois, everything he has done, or not done, since assuming office has been totally predictable.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Howard Zinn reported similar comments made about Jack Kennedy. He told how one fellow Senator commented [shortly after publication of Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage”] — Jack Kennedy shows great profile as a Senator … but very little courage.

      1. Cry Shop

        “Profiles in Courage” was a very undemocratic book. just like Joe Sr and his spawn.

        “I followed my own conscience.” “I did what I thought was right.” How many madmen have said it and meant it? How many murderers? Klaus Fuchs said it, and the men who committed the Mountain Meadows Massacre said it, and Alfred Rosenberg said it. And, as we are rotely and rather presumptuously reminded by those who would say it now, Jesus said it. Maybe we have all said it, and maybe we have been wrong. Except on that most primitive level — our loyalties to those we love — what could be more arrogant than to claim the primacy of personal conscience?

        As to Obama, while he was busy taking the temperature of the room, even this wasn’t some attempt to be democratic. It was never with the idea of helping move forward on consensus, but with deceiving. His moves were the moves of an in-control psychopath.

  8. oh

    Now that we’ve re-established relations with Cuba, Guantánamo may be a great place for vacations. Facilities already exist and we could send W and his gang including C, R and the other torturers for an all expense paid one way trip there.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Be careful what you comment or you could enjoy an extended vacation at Guantánamo. The attacks on this website as a Russian propaganda machine should be a warning. We have other sites worldwide where W, C, R and others might provide long-term entertainments like those they introduced. I imagine there a suitable refinements to their previous inventions which could deliver new and improved entertainments for their hosts.

      I think Cuba could become a destination for people seeking reasonably priced medical care — true CARE — now that our Medical Industrial Complex seems unleashed under the Trump.

  9. LA Mike


    But the worst “Obamamometer” of all was how he campaigned for single payer. It was practically immediate, upon delving into health care as president, that he pulled a complete 180, “Well, uh, we really don’t have to do single payer.”


    (Just curious… why isn’t it, “Obamameter” instead of “Obamamometer”? Does ‘mo’ stand for more? Am I missing something?)

    I’ve said it many times. Obama has damaged the left and the progressive cause worse than any Republican ever could.

    But interestingly enough, the media helped a lot in getting him the presidency. They slaughtered Hillary in ’08. But in ’16, the narrative is that the media worked in Hillary’s interests, but to no avail.

      1. optimader

        Anal barometer..after a street vendor 2am fish burrito …
        take that where ever your imagination goes

      2. LA Mike

        Ah, I get it now, thanks.

        Still, that extra syllable really makes it an awkward mouthful. How about “Bomometer”, stressing the first syllable as with thermometer?

  10. Paul Art

    Awesome Jerri! Went and read that older post and it was super. It beautifully captures who the man is. An empty suit but with a first class nose to smell the direction of the wind and a gifted brain to wordsmith soaring prose or at least a ear to know soaring prose – assuming he has most of his speeches written for him.
    I for one would think that most of NC’s commentariat are already familiar with
    which more or less tore back the screen on Obama.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Oh, he’ll certainly walk that back if he decides to do so– or at the very least rely on no one pointing out the inconsistency. And if anyone does call him on it, so what? He doesn’t have to be consistent. IIRC someone’s already called him out on the point publicly re Snowden– but I can’t remember where I read that, so please don’t rely on what may be a faulty memory.

  11. Tinky

    Thanks for the explanation, Jerri-Lynn, but I am inclined to side with those who are critical of the use of the word.

    My primary objection is that such words (or expressions) have the tendency to trivialize the behavior that they are meant to highlight. We are living in the texting and Twitter age, after all, and an increasingly large percentage of people taking part in public discourse choose to express themselves in abbreviated fashion.

    Labels such as the one in question, no matter how accurate or pithy, are typically used to paint (or smear) with a broad brush, and often without serious foundation. Your posts are serious, which, in my view, renders such shortcuts superfluous at best.

    As the use of the term in question adds nothing of real value to otherwise serious, and relatively deep, critical posts on Obama, it should be understandable how some might perceive it as something of an unnecessary and immature taunt.

    1. Donald

      I agree. I read the original post and think the term is clever, but it can be a stumbling block for people who see it as namecalling ( which it is) and can’t get past that. There are also the people who argue in bad faith and will use any excuse to dismiss a substantive criticism.

      1. Dilettante

        Agreed. The original article explaining the term was great. But wouldn’t want to go Thomas Friedman – world is flat for the next 20 articles.

  12. John

    Remind me again, what is the name of that black dude who completed W Bush’s 3rd and 4th term? Was it Kumbaya or something like that?

  13. bmeisen

    Even people who didn’t go to HLS were not surprised. To his credit, beyond the thrill of anticipation triggered by his “change” rhetoric and his Guantanamo promise, he did not promise much, surely not enough for people like me who considered his (lack of) platform to think that he was the progressive that the country needed and still needs. First Geithner etal, then the storybook farewell to the Bushes, then the fumbling of Guantanamo – his term had barely begun and our decisions not to vote for him had been vindicated.

    I would not attribute his success alone to rhetorical talent, egotism and liberal vapidity. The pseudo-meritocratic, liberal elite establishment enabled him.

  14. different clue

    I have a suggestion. ( Just a suggestion).

    Obamamometer is very hard to say. Obobble-ometer is a little bit easier to say. If it conveys the same meaning, might it catch on more through being easier to say?

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      It’s not difficult to say if you pronounce it the way I intended: try Obama-mama-ter. The internal rhyme sounds funnier– or at least it does to me.

  15. different clue

    I was going back through a prior thread and saw where someone had combined the names Bush and Obama in an easiest-to-pronounce-ever way. The name is Obusha. I wish I had thought of that.


    Now . . . how to get Clinton in there and keep it easy to say? How about Clintobusha?

    Clintobusha. Or . . . ClintObusha to make the point more obvious in print.

    Clintobusha . . . if anyone wants it. It could name this whole series of Presidents . . . from Clinton to Bush to Obama. The Clintobusha Presidents.

    1. TK421

      Clintobushton, if we want to include the spectacular failure who ran to carry on their policies this year. But that might be overdoing it.

  16. Altandmain

    Obama has been a total failure.

    Worse, he deliberately lied to the people who supported him in 2008, like all politicians do. He knew exactly what people wanted. You can tell by the way that he ran his campaign.

    His legacy will have been to have left the world a more dangerous place and to have continued the ill advised policies of his predecessor.

    1. different clue

      Actually, he’s been a near-total success. He successfully immunized and impunified the FIRE sector perpetrators. He successfully immunized and impunified the Cheney/bush Administration war criminals and other violators. He successfully made the Bush Tax Cuts permanent. Why only “near” totally successful?
      Well, Obamacare may end up not being the bailout for Big Insura that he intended. ( But the Trump team can still save that by stripping Obamacare down to its innermost essence, which is Heritagecare. And he did succeed in getting the Forced Mandate upheld as Constitutional. That’s a handy precedent for future use and abuse.) And he didn’t get Social Security set up for privatization the way he and the Clintons all want.

      But still . . . his success was near-total if you accept the facts about what his real agenda always was.

  17. witters

    I don’t care about the fate of the world, the bombings, the lies, the torture, the crimes. I want politeness!

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I might reorder your priorities — but I too would like politeness in the discussion. And consideration and respect for others and their opinions — with or without agreement.

  18. Elizabeth

    Great post, Jerri-Lynn. I think Obamamometer is quite benign a description of him and his presidency. He’s always used the excuse that Congress just wouldn’t go along with what he really wanted – and unfortunately, way too many people believe that. He was feckless from the start and leaves a legacy of a miserable economy, more endless wars, imprisoned whistleblowers, and further destruction of the constitution. (Bush started it). He’s certainly been the lucky recipient of a fawning press to burnish his image.

    I’ve always wondered why he was considered a constitutional scholar – just because he taught it in law school? What a joke.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I’ll send Obama my two-cents for his library — as soon as he sends me a postage-paid envelope. I might even add a nickel.

  19. Fearless alwaleeder

    Who’s this prig MsMolly clutching her pearls over slurs? Let’s not be coy. Obama is a dimbulb. He could barely hack Occidental and he was mercifully invisible at Columbia. He got into HLS only because Khalid al-Mansour greased him in (Remember? Dem party apparatchiks beat the shit out of Percy Sutton for saying so.) al-Mansour shoehorned him in ahead of 10,000 qualified applicants because he was a CIA brat who looked the part of a presidential puppet ruler. Obama had zero qualifications for office when the Wurlitzer impelled his meteoric rise. Of course he’s a mawkish, vapid crock of shit. He’s the Uncle Ben of pink mist.

  20. Propertius

    Or, as the Obamamometer described himself:

    “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

    No principles, no political philosophy, just a shallow reflection supported by pure self-interest. It still amazes me that anyone could have voted for him.

    1. oho

      ‘It still amazes me that anyone could have voted for him.’

      2007/8 Obama said everything a lot of folks wanted to hear. Ironically many of the same exact folks voted Trump in November to rollback Obama’s legacy.

      Isn’t there a saying/aphorism—if you’re gonna to lie, a big lie is easier to believe than a small lie.

    2. different clue

      Well, I voted for him to keep McCain out of the White House in order to spare myself two terms of President Palin after McCain.

  21. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Educational researchers have found ‘upside-down lefties’ — and Barak Obama is not only left-handed, but crooks his left hand sharply down when he writes — have a very unique and unusual neurology related to sound. (Sorry, I don’t have the citation and a quick search didn’t turn it up. Anyone interested can track it down.)

    IMVHO, for Barak Obama, words are – literally – music.
    His cadences, his rhetorical flourishes, his pacing are all very ‘musical’.

    Lincoln’s language was also very ‘musical’, and it was Lincoln’s stepmother (Nancy Hanks), who brought the language of Shakespeare into that young boy’s life, adding on to the Biblical language in which his earliest years would have been steeped. There has been speculation that Lincoln was left-handed, but I’m not sure whether it is accurately known.

    I’ve always found it intriguing that Barak Obama’s mother’s family (Dunhams) came from the same general region of Kentucky that Lincoln’s family hailed from; both men have similar, rather large, ears. I’ve never heard of any linkages between Dunhams and Lincolns, but perhaps some historian or geneticist will track down the possibilities.

    I noted this because some of the males in my own family, who hail from Kentucky and were steeped in both moonshine and Old Testament language, have similar ears. They are a pack of genial, sometimes outrageous, raconteurs. Several are exceptionally musical.

    I’m not sure whether Obama is making policy, or simply making music.
    In recent years, I’ve inclined toward the latter hypothesis.

  22. auskalo

    I take my hat off, Jerri-Lynn. But, once president, I also like very much the term “spichifier” by Robert Fisk.

    1. integer

      I thought that read “sphincter” on my initial pass, which would also be a highly appropriate nickname for 0bama, imo.
      Ok, I think I have had my fill of 0bama jokes.
      For now.

  23. robnume

    I support Jerri Lynn’s right to call ’em as she sees ’em; after all, she’s uniquely qualified to do so in this case since she knows him personally and attended school with him. I got kicked off NC a while back for twisting the name of a public official who “represents – ha!” the state in which I live, but I came back and I’m not bitter about it.
    In a comment I made earlier in the year about Obama being a former Constitutional law professor, “Who better to dismantle the constitution for TPTB than a former Constitutional law professor?” I still believe that to be the case. I also think the name of Obama’s book should have comprised just two words: “The Audacity.” Altogether, Barry’s presidency has been a sore disappointment for me.

  24. robnume

    Sorry, I digress; see above. I meant to comment solely to support Jerri Lynn, thank her and welcome her to NC as a valuable and critical part of the NC family. I wish I could give NC financial support but I am very poorly off, financially. I hope that my verbal support via comments and word-of-mouth promotion of this site to other folks who I know personally is of some little assistance. So many thanks to Yes, Lambert and Jerri Lynn.

  25. Cry Shop

    I like the use of meter at the end, as meter is also used to describe the beat/rhythm of poetry/prose. Obama’s meter often struck me as false, as if there was an emotional disconnect between what he was saying and what he was (really?) thinking. This is most notable in his use of “folksy” language to show his street cred (as if at any time in his upper class life he ever had to live close to the street). Ya’ll, folks, you all, gotta, etc; they all ring false coming out of his mouth because he’s still using his upper crusts beat/rhythm, and inserting/shoehorns these words into his otherwise law-speak way of lecturing. Two other examples are his famous/infamous speech on race where he outed his grandmother as a “racists” (but did not share his own racist thoughts) and his hectoring/lecturing of naughty voters about Democracy in Germany (with Merkle at his side, it was notable that even she seemed to pick up that he was not speaking truth to power, but trying to grind out something about a subject he little understood himself).

    BTW, those 21 who should be released are still suffering forms of torture, as they are still force feed, hosed down, or otherwise mistreated when they protested their continued detention or otherwise fail to completely toe the line with their jailers, who still hurl insults and physical abuse at them, if for no other reason than force of bad habit.

    1. Cry Shop

      BTW, how about Obie-barometer? pronounced Ob-ee-bar-oh-mee-ter. IPA /ˈəʊbəʊ/bærə/ˈmiːtə/ or

      maybe Barakometer… some way to keep the barometric emphasis readily apparent. He is constantly flowing away from high to low pressure sort of fellow. as well as a bringer of false sunshine rapidly followed by dark sky, typhoons, and other destructive forces to any area he approaches. Any Libyan, Syrian, Yemeni, Iraqi, Afgan, or Egyptian for confirmation of the later.

  26. YY

    While the disappointments were predictable after the first few months, there is one very odd item that bothers me to no end. I would have expected just for simple sense of history and memory that he should have visited Fideo Castro on his visit to Cuba. Politically it would have been insignificant given the larger context. It would have been far more interesting to have had the meeting than to have ignored the person who embodies history. Everything else, because of low expectations and the politics, I can see, but this just strikes as foolish missed opportunity.

    1. Cry Shop

      That assumes Castro would have been willing to meet Obama, and without something given on Guantanamo Treaty or other equally big concession on admitting US is Evil, I doubt Castro would have agreed. It would have also undermined Raul Castro’s authority, which I don’t thing Fidel wanted considering he was very well aware at that time of his mortality.

      1. YY

        I’ve read/heard reported that Fidel was unwilling, but it also sounds as Obama did not even try.
        This is a man basically on his death bed and probably would have conceded a meeting. A greeting to a dying man would not have caused huge political ripples anywhere. Obama, the fool, just missed material for a paragraph in his next book.

  27. bob

    What’s the pronunciation? Obama-mo-meter?

    It seems very clumsy. I’ve done a double or triple take a very times reading it.

    No objections to it, but always wondered if I were saying it wrong, because it can’t be that easy to say. It’s tough to read. I must be missing something.

    The man is smooth. It’s not smooth enough for for him. Obummer is still my go to.which might also fit with your back story.

    “With great fan fare, he grabs the mic to say something of great import-

    ” *eh*.”

  28. Raj

    My only concern with using Obamamometer is Jerri Lynn’s articles won’t be taken seriously by those who need to read them the most…i.e., people who don’t frequent often.

    1. integer

      People who are too serious to have a joke and a laugh are usually intellectually compromised in one way or another anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Worrying about what other people think is a slippery slope that leads to intellectual paralysis.

      1. Anne

        Or…perhaps there’s just nothing funny about someone who avoids risk and confrontation and keeps trying to pretend that’s statesmanship.

        Or…perhaps there’s nothing remotely funny about the substance of Jerri-Lynn’s post, and so whatever humor one attaches to this or any other nickname just seems “off.”

        But, really, to judge someone as being intellectually compromised because he or she doesn’t share your sense of humor? Wow. So, I guess if someone objected to a rape “joke” or a “just kidding” gay slur, or a misogynist “joke,” that would be a mark of being intellectually compromised?

        Maybe if you weren’t so bent on objecting to what appear to me to be well-thought out and rational opinions about the use of nicknames, you’d have been able to see that your logic was going to take you down a path you cannot defend.

        But what would I know? I’m just intellectually compromised because I find the nicknames gratuitous and distracting from serious issues.

        1. integer

          “Maybe if you weren’t so bent on objecting to what appear to me to be well-thought out and rational opinions about the use of nicknames, you’d have been able to see that your logic was going to take you down a path you cannot defend.”

          I can defend it. Not worth it though when your argument is full of straw men such as:

          “So, I guess if someone objected to a rape “joke” or a “just kidding” gay slur, or a misogynist “joke,” that would be a mark of being intellectually compromised?”

        2. Outis Philalithopoulos

          Reviewing how this sparring started:

          • integer made a statement about people not being able to take a joke being intellectually compromised. This rather broad statement may or may not have been meant itself as a joke.

          • Anne did not take it as a joke and in an effort to refute the general idea, used a number of examples that were fairly likely to escalate the situation.

          • integer just responded defensively, and with an additional comment that isn’t going to make it out of moderation.

          At this point, you can either (1) calm down and disagree with each other without personalizing things, or (2) chalk it up as a moment of bad temper and forget about it. Any further comments escalating matters will get spiked.

          1. integer

            and with an additional comment that isn’t going to make it out of moderation.

            That’s fair and I’ll give that theme a miss from now on.

            1. integer

              Also, to Anne, this gets to my rationale for not holding back on ridiculing “elite” public figures. Their vanity makes them vulnerable and it is not like most of them don’t go out of their way to exploit the public. I’m happy to agree to disagree though and sorry if my comment offended you.

  29. H. Alexander Ivey

    Ms. Scofield

    I wholeheartedly concur with the spirit of your ‘Obamamometer’ term. But the term may lack enough definition to keep it from being widely adopted, a fate I hate to see happen. May I humbly submit the following:

    Obamamometer (or its possible alternatives, see below) has two, not one, aspects that must be met. 1. the person speaks (or writes) something that is, to the listener (or reader), blindingly obvious or is the most non-offensive (but technically correct) statement to be made; 2. and the reason for this speech or writing is to: a) draw attention to the speaker as a paragon of virtue and therefore a leader of what is to be done; b) hijack the possible or proposed solutions to the one the speaker (or writer) wants; and c) to prevent any possible changes to the status quo.

    The term really must hit both points—be blindingly obvious and non-threatening, yet draw attention and power to the speaker who has no intention of changing anything.

    Your anecdote about Obama in HLS emphases the first aspect. But you didn’t tell why Obama waited until the end of the class to make his pronouncement. I suspect his timing shows the second, equally critical, aspect of your term, ‘Obamamometer’.

    Other considerations:

    The suffix, ‘-meter’, to review for those of us who forgot, comes from the Latin meaning ‘measure’, hence its being part of words like ‘thermometer’ and craazyman’s ‘anemometer’. But neither your definition or my, hopefully helpful, addition is really about measuring. To me, it feels more like a -ism, a doctrine of. May I humbly suggest ‘Obamarism’ or ‘Obamaism’. Personally I favorite the former, as I think it would be easier to know how to pronounce it, a problem I have noticed several of us have with ‘Obamamometer’. [Sidebar: where the hell is Safire when you need him?]

    For those who argue the term is trivial, my reply is your postings on this subject shows that it is not trivial, but a real meme of our times.

    And for those who argue that it is unfair to single out Obama or to use his name in such a manner is, frankly, wrong. As you quite correctly noted in your posting, there is plenty of precedence for this, and if the shoe fits (i.e. if Obama does this kind of action), then he has to wear it. If those who feel obliged to cut Obama some slack, they can not capitalize it—’obamamometer’, instead of ‘Obamamometer’.

  30. PlutoniumKun

    I always look forward to Jerri-Lynns articles on Obama , although I see from the comments here how the use of ‘Obamamameter’ is distracting from the meat of the piece. While I enjoy the name and appreciate its cleverness, I fear it will result in people not giving articles like this the serious consideration they deserve.

    It constantly frustrates me how so many people I know who should know better still hugely admire Obama. I confess it took me several years after it should have been obvious to see what a lightweight he really is. I have no doubt that over time reputable historians will slowly pick apart his 8 years and recognise what a huge failure it has been – a gigantic lost opportunity. The only question is how long this will take – I suspect it will be several decades. But the more articles like this one are read and disseminated the quicker that process will be. Its important people recognise how they were taken for a ride to make it less likely it happens again.

    1. Cry Shop

      1st para: maybe everyone here is already so aware of Obama being both feckless and a liar that they already understood that Obama had no desire to pardon Snowden, and free the hounds of hell that would surely come for him once bureaucrats all over the system could see a clear precedence being set.

      Hellary may have been running her own financial game in the State Dept, but the projected outcomes were all ones Obama desired. He only held back those where he was not so sure of his (client’s) success, but like a barrister, he certainly approved his solicitor’s brief before hand. Snowden didn’t just embarrass Clinton (and other Obama appointees) he cried out the emperor has no clothes as well. Obie-barometer naturally is not going to admit the real reasons he hates Snowden, what politician would.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama before he was revealed as the “Obamamometer” was such an obvious but poor imitation of Robert Redford’s character, Bill McKay, that for people to go, “hey, why isn’t Obama, the great, doing a better job?,” they run into their own failures as citizens. People elected a television President, not someone merely telegenic but the President fit for a movie such as the “The Avengers” where he has to thank superheroes and promise to rebuild New York with bland appeals to American freedom.

      Charles Dickens wrote that mankind had two great sins greed, the Marley brothers, and ignorance, a much more seductive sin, which was Scrooge’s problem who didn’t grasp Marley was a greedy pig. Everyone committed the same sin of willful ignorance. An informed citizenry is necessary for a Republic to function, and too many people who know better failed. Now we have Trump.

  31. Toni Gilpin

    I may be a bit late weighing in here, but for those interested in Obama and Guantanamo I’d like to put in a plug for this book – Obama’s Guantanamo: Stories from an Enduring Prison – and in particular the essay written by my husband, Gary Isaac: “The Wrong Person: How Barack Obama Abandoned Habeas Corpus.” (Much of that essay can be found here, but it’s really worth reading the whole thing, as at least then you will know where the title comes from.)

    Gary was one of the original Gitmo lawyers, as he filed briefs in the Rasul and Boumediene cases and has also played an active role in organizing the legislative efforts on behalf of the detainees. He worked closely with then-Senator Obama on such legislation and on that basis also worked hard for his presidential campaign in ‘08 (that story can be found in another book) so I can say that the story of Obama’s “evolution” on this issue is a complex one. There is no group of people in this country more disillusioned than the Guantanamo lawyers (no lectures, please, about how they shouldn’t have been “illusioned” in the first place. I have profound respect for these attorneys and the often thankless and uncompensated work they’ve done, and continue to do, for their clients and on behalf of the Constitution, so I am glad they continue to cling to those ideals).

    And for the record, I don’t cotton to the cutesy name-calling, unless your intended audience is only those you are confident already agree with you. But on the issue of Guantanamo, for instance, many (maybe most) progressives of whatever definition think that prison isn’t yet closed because of all those bad Republicans. It’s important to try to make them understand that isn’t so, but I don’t think you get there with pejoratives. I’ve had a lot of these conversations with people who are generally supportive of Obama, and getting them to understand Obama and the Democratic Party’s responsibility for what happened with Gitmo can be eye-opening for them. But I never would have gotten them there if I’d started by insulting Obama at the get-go.

  32. tb

    What about the infamous pardon which Bill Clinton gave the international fugitive & accused felon Marc Rich? Mr. Rich (nomen omen) certainly never went before a court and presented himself (though Eric Holder did a pretty good job of presenting him to the Clinton White House). As usual, it’s tough here to suss the % of lies and ignorance in Big O’s statement, but this appears a high-octane lie.

  33. Robj

    Given the lame duck, you might want to slowly redirect your analysis on the Obamameter.
    Just a thought.
    But that makes me a “neo-con,” to be sure.
    Just a mild suggestion for relevance.

  34. Robj

    After reading the comments, I’m becoming convinced that whatever Trump does on Guantanamo–which I gather was the ostensible reason for the article–is and will be completely irrelevant.
    Because. . . . Obama!
    Flynn makes me entirely confident that Guantanamo is . . . . . . . well, let’s just say that the Repugs found it very useful and will continue to do so.
    But I can be proved wrong on this, I’m sure.
    By the way, there was an election that happened, so all you anti-neo-cons can breathlessly await the closure of Guantanomo by Trump and Flynn.

  35. Robj

    I’m sure that under the wise advisance of Flynn and the GOP, Trump will close down Guantanamo immediately, since the Repugs had nothing to do with it.

    Them’s the breaks–but we sure showed up the Obamameter, amirite!
    To be sure, the GOP is listening to Naked Capitalism in chastisement over Guantanamo.

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