Obama Continues His Long Con at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

Former United States Barack Obama[1] gave the Sixteenth Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture[2] on July 17 before 15,000 people at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Illovo, a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg. The lecture was also streamed online. The event was sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Foundation[3].

I really ought to get out my magic markers and color-code this one (here, here), but what would that tell us that we don’t already know? So in this brief post I’ll start by quoting, for the record, some typically sycophantic press coverage, and then I’ll look at two incongruities that a reality-based community, if one exists, would notice. The first concerns “income inequality.” The second, democracy.

For top-hole Obama sycophancy we look, of course, to The New Yorker. Jelani Cobb does not disappoint:

President Obama was elegant and effortlessly charismatic in ways that recalled the finer occasions of his political tenure. He spoke fully aware of his status as the most credible living representative of American interests. But that charm and self-assuredness were also discordant amid the political alarms sounding in the background.

I’ve helpfully underlined the more highly buffed portions of Cobb’s piece. We know have a shift in tone, foreshadowed by “tenure” in the context of a “lecture,” which elevates the speech into “When they go low, we go high” territory. I’ll underline the phrases that reinforce that tone:

These are “strange and uncertain times,” Obama noted at the outset of the lecture. Some observers had speculated that he might finally strike back at the many assaults on his character that Trump has made since taking office. But he chose not to criticize Trump—at least not explicitly. (“Politicians have always lied,” Obama said, and then added, to laughter and applause from the audience, “But it used to be that if you caught them lying they’d be, like, ‘Oh, man.’ Now they just keep lying.”)[4] Instead, he dissected the forces that created the bedlam parade for which Trump serves as drum major[5].

“Bedlam parade” is, of course, an ultra-refined version of the classic liberal trope that their opponents are stupid. (Stupidity is, apparently, how conservative Republicans took 1000 seats and all three branches of government away from smart Democrats.) And one might as well scratch out “bedlam” and write in “deplorable.” “But Dissected the forces” though. Let’s see.

First, let’s look at what Obama has to say about “income inequality” (for which the less Bowderlized, and more encompassing, term would be “class warfare.” I’ll quote more than I need to, but Obama in full spate is quite something, and you may enjoy the flavor (and want to pick it all apart in comments). From the transcript:

[OBAMA:] And the result of all these trends has been an explosion in economic inequality. It’s meant that a few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. (Applause.) That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a statistic. Think about that. In many middle-income and developing countries, new wealth has just tracked the old bad deal that people got because it reinforced or even compounded existing patterns of inequality, the only difference is it created even greater opportunities for corruption on an epic scale. And for once solidly middle-class families in advanced economies like the United States, these trends have meant greater economic insecurity, especially for those who don’t have specialized skills, people who were in manufacturing, people working in factories, people working on farms.

In every country just about, the disproportionate economic clout of those at the top has provided these individuals with wildly disproportionate influence on their countries’ political life and on its media; on what policies are pursued and whose interests end up being ignored. Now, it should be noted that this new international elite, the professional class that supports them, differs in important respects from the ruling aristocracies of old. It includes many who are self-made. It includes champions of meritocracy. And although still mostly white and male, as a group they reflect a diversity of nationalities and ethnicities that would have not existed a hundred years ago. A decent percentage consider themselves liberal in their politics, modern and cosmopolitan in their outlook. Unburdened by parochialism, or nationalism, or overt racial prejudice or strong religious sentiment, they are equally comfortable in New York or London or Shanghai or Nairobi or Buenos Aires, or Johannesburg. Many are sincere and effective in their philanthropy. Some of them count Nelson Mandela among their heroes. Some even supported Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States, and by virtue of my status as a former head of state, some of them consider me as an honorary member of the club. (Laughter.) And I get invited to these fancy things, you know? (Laughter.)[6] They’ll fly me out.

“Has been.” Note the lack of agency. Why, one can only ask, would that be? “Think about that,” and then look for statistics. Let’s see what happened to income inequality during Obama’s “tenure.” From Pavlina R. Tcherneva, “Inequality Update: Who Gains When Income Grows?”, the following charts, with three datasets that all tell the same story:

(See also NC here.) That story being:

Growth in the US increasingly brings income inequality. A striking deterioration in this trend has occurred since the 80s, when economic recoveries delivered the vast majority of income growth to the wealthiest US households. … The chart illustrates that with every postwar expansion, as the economy grew, the bottom 90% of households received a smaller and smaller share of that growth. Even though their share was falling, the majority of families still captured the majority of the income growth until the 70s. Starting in the 80s, the trend reverses sharply: as the economy recovers from recessions, the lion’s share of income growth goes to the wealthiest 10% of families. Notably, the entire 2001-2007 recovery produced almost no income growth for the bottom 90% of households and, in the first years of recovery since the 2008 Great Financial Crisis, their incomes kept falling during the expansion, delivering all benefits from growth to the wealthiest 10%. A similar trend is observed when one considers the bottom 99% and top 1% percent of households

In other words, the 0.1% (the squillionaires), together with the 9.9% (the Democrat base) creamed off all the gains from the recovery, such as it was. If only we’d had a President at the time who understood such things…. “Elegant,” forsooth.

Second, let’s look at what Obama has to say about democracy. Soaring rhetoric, and so it should be. Again, I’m going to quote more of it than I probably should. I’m going to underline and letter a few of the more breathtaking passages for future use:

[OBAMA:] More and more peoples, having witnessed the horrors of totalitarianism, the repeated mass slaughters of the 20th century, began to embrace a new vision for humanity, a new idea, one based not only on the principle of national self-determination, but also on the principles of democracy and rule of law and civil rights and [a]the inherent dignity of every single individual….

Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but [b]those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.

Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain [c]inalienable rights. (Cheers and applause.)

Well, that’s quite enough though there’s a good deal more. (Obama does work in the “community organizer” part of his schtick; it’s also a pleasure to see a return to the eternal verities.) Let’s contrast Obama’s words with Obama’s actions. From an excellent article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, just today, “How to Survive America’s Kill List.” It’s a long read, and so I’ll quote in relevant part. Bilal Abdul Kareem is a U.S. citizen. After he’d converted to Islam and found himself working as a TV reporter in the Middle East:

… [T]hings began to explode around him with suspicious frequency. In the space of a few months, he survived five different attacks. … Soon after, Kareem was tipped off by a source in Turkey that he had been put on a list of targets at Incirlik Air Base, a launching pad for American drones… A few weeks later, he survived another explosion, he says, outside a Syrian artillery college that had recently fallen into rebel hands. Kareem now had no doubt he was on America’s infamous ‘Kill List.’ Most Americans don’t even know we have such a thing. We do. Officially, it goes by the ghoulish bureaucratic euphemism ‘Disposition Matrix.’

The “Kill List” was set up by George Bush as part of the War on Terror; Obama, as with most everything Bush did, rationalized and normalized it, renaming and restructing the list as a “Disposition Matrix.” (Don’t you like that, “Disposition Matrix”? It’s so elegant, so cool, so articulate.) In this, Obama was aided by then CIA director John Brennan, now a talking head and a Hero of The #Resistance. Once of the neater features of the “Disposition Matrix,” from the standpoint of the Executive Branch, is that you can put U.S. citizens on it and whack them, without any oversight. Taibbi says the same thing in longer words:

Seemingly conceived in the Obama years, the lethal list – about which little is known outside a few leaks and court pleadings – appears to sort people into targeting for capture, interrogation, or assassination by drone. It was run by a star-chamber of two-dozen security officials and the president. According to a 2012 New York Times report, they met once a week to decide which targets around the world lived or died.

These meetings became known as “Terror Tuesdays.”

(“Terror Tuesdays.’ There’s your Obama “charm,” right there.)

We kill suspects whose names we know, and whose names we don’t; we kill the guilty and the not guilty; we kill men, but also women and children; we kill by day and by night; we fire missiles at confirmed visual targets, but also at cellphone numbers we hope belong to targets.

When he first heard he was on this list, Kareem was aghast…. How could anyone reverse the decision of a deadly bureaucracy so secret and inaccessible that even if it had an off switch, few in the civilian world would know where to find it? How could he talk his way out of this one?

As it turns out, Kareem sued — there’s that much of the Civics 101 America I learned about in grade school left — and, amazingly, was granted a hearing. Taibbi continues:

The question before [Federal Court Judge Rosemary Collyer] would challenge the most gifted legal mind. At issue is the fact that America, in the wake of 9/11, has become two countries.

One is a democracy, visible to the population and governed by the lofty laws and rules and constitutional principles we learned about in Schoolhouse Rock.

The second nation is an authoritarian state-within-a-state, governed exclusively by the executive branch. In this parallel world, all rights redound to a bureaucracy that may kill anyone it pleases at any time, restrained only by the inclinations of the executive.

Essentially, Kareem’s lawyers are appealing to the first America – Collyer’s courtroom – to force the second, secret America to hear him out.

I’ll stop there, but do read Taibbi’s article; it’s excellent. But let’s contrast Obama’s soaring rhetoric with his actual practice of whacking U.S. citizens. Recall his words above:

[a] “the inherent dignity of every single individual.” How on earth does having “intelligence community” bureaucrats putting people on a hit list with no due process comport with the dignity of the individual? Even slaves had the dignity of getting whipped personally, as opposed to being whacked by invisible drones in the sky. (And then there’s the gruesome story of the $100,000 in the plastic sack proferred to the wedding party Obama whacked, as a make-good. “Inherent dignity.” “[T]he most credible living representative of American interests” (but maybe Cobb’s right about that. Eh?)

[b] “those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm.” Since when did the Norms Fairy approve of a Star Chamber?

[c] “inalienable rights.” Let me quote the Declaration of Independence — which Lincoln thought of as constituting the Constitution — since that’s the source Obama cribbed from:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

So capital-L “Life” is “unalienable.” Unless Obama gets up in the morning one day and decides to have you whacked.[7]

So, about democracy. This anti-democratic state-within-a-state, run by the “intelligence community” — do feel free to picture an Alien chestbuster, here — was created by Bush, rationalized and normalized by Obama, handed over, by Obama, to Trump, and has now, for liberal Democrats, become the most important institution of the #Resistance, a bulwark, it would seem, against tyranny. So where, exactly, does Cobbs “Bedlam Parade” begin?

Returning to the time of the Crash — after which Obama did squat either to address income inequality or to preserve democracy — Matt Stoller took note of Obama’s jokes (of which we’ve seen two). Stoller writes:

Jokes reveal truths, which is why the best way to appreciate the real Obama, not the fabled character of hope and change, is how he tells jokes. He’s good at, no, great at telling jokes. He kills at comedic performances, and his sense of timing is magnificent. Jokes, though, show how someone really sees the world, and the joke I’m thinking of is one he made during a speech in March 2009, when the revelations of AIG’s massive retention bonuses became public. It had been less than two months since Obama’s inauguration, but the major policy framework of the administration – the bailouts – had been laid down. The AIG bonus scandal was outrageous to the public, a symbol of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars being funneled to an arrogant corporation that had helped destroy the economy.

Barack Obama had stepped up to the lectern to deliver a stern rebuke to AIG executives who had taken bonuses with taxpayer money. Obama talked of the outrage of an irresponsible company, and how his administration would do everything within its power to get the money back. But a few minutes in, he coughed, slightly, choking a bit, as his mouth was a bit dry. But after he coughed, he stopped, and reflected on the gesture with a joke. “I’m choked, choked with anger”, he said. Obama chuckled. Reporters laughed. And it was funny, really funny. Because everyone in the room knew that Obama wasn’t actually angry about the AIG bonuses, and never intended to do anything about it. No one there was angry about the bonuses, and everyone knew nothing would happen to AIG executives. The House would pass bills, which would die in the Senate. The only people angry were Americans at large, who could not believe that their government worked for Wall Street. So the joke was funny, ironic, cool. But the moment wasn’t right for it, because this was a serious time for outrage – so Obama quickly reverted to form, and the teleprompter took over.

Pundits didn’t reflect on this “joke”. No one really noted it. It was very much like George Bush’s comment to reporters that was only later highlighted by Michael Moore, when Bush was on a golf course and perfunctorily said “we must find these terrorist killers….” and then turned to swing a golf club. “Now watch this drive.” Obama had risen to that level of duplicity, not a lie in the conventional sense of saying something that wasn’t true, but an entirely constructed false persona. He had polished the tools of the Presidency – the utter banality of PR, the constipated talking points, the routine abuse of power – and taken them to a new level with a self-aware sense of irony about his own narcissistic dishonesty. His challenge was so outrageous – I dare you to call me on what a liar I am as I joke about how much I am lying to you right now – that he turned an obnoxious bluff into art.

Obama had shown this breathtaking tendency to con people as they knew they were being conned before, the most public time during the campaign being his cynical answer when he was asked about his promise to renegotiate NAFTA. He had said, when fighting for union votes with Clinton, “I will make sure we renegotiate (NAFTA).” Even as he said this, it turns out that campaign advisor Austan Goolsbee had gone to Canada to assure them this was a lie (sure enough, Obama’s trade policies are identical to Bush’s, or worse). And once the election ended, and Obama was asked about his broken promise by a reporter, he gave the following answer.

“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign,” President Obama said during his Transition in early December, when a reporter asked him about criticisms he and now-Secretary of State Clinton had made about each other’s foreign policy views.

“They’re your quotes, sir,” said the reporter, Peter Baker of the New York Times.

“No, I understand. And you’re having fun,” Obama continued. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not faulting it.”

This is cynicism as art. It’s literally a Presidential candidate running on hope and change saying that campaign promises are a joke and a ruse.

Obama hasn’t changed, has he? Oh, and send his Foundation money. I’m sure he needs it.


[1] AP: “When Obama was a U.S. senator he had his picture taken with the newly freed Mandela. After Obama became president he sent a copy of the photo to Mandela, who kept it in his office.”

[2] I can’t find out how much tickets were. There were VIP tickets, some tickets were given to companies who then gave them to their employeers (e.g., Uber), and there was a rather opaque online application form through which people could apply; those tickets seemed to be free, but only available after the Mandela Foundation had done its own allocation. I don’t think I know how South Africa works.

[3] The inaugural “lecture,” in 2003, was given by Former United States President Bill Clinton.

[4] So the difference would be not substance, but style.

[5] Re: “Drum major.” Can the Martin Luther King, Jr. allusion possibly be intentional?

[6] Notice how Obama includes his listeners in the con, exactly as he did with his joke about lying, quoted by Cobb.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Pat

    I cannot tell you how much I want to scream when I hear how people miss Obama, adore Michelle, and how good America had it just a couple of years ago. I may not get all of them in the same conversation, I usually only get one or two, but it is still a parcel of the same nostalgic bull similar to that which allowed the utterly non realistic character of Fonzie to exist.

    I can only hope that as the drip drip of stories like America’s kill list, and people like those on Naked Capitalism point out to the Trump enraged that these are just extensions of Obama era policies (sometimes with little or no expansion) people begin to get that the charismatic black man was a con equal to or surpassing the one in office today. It may be in vain, but I still dream of the day he enjoys the reputation he deserves rather than the adoration he doesn’t.

    1. Stelios Theoharidis

      I’m looking at the charts presented here and I see the following regarding unequal income growth, removing the first chart due to the period it covers for Obama (2009-2012):

      1) Bush II was the worst offender (why isn’t 2008 included?)
      2) Reagan and Obama seem about tied w/cap gains Obama is slightly better w/out them
      3) Clinton appears in a better light (although he was responsible for deregulation which led to Bush II)

      From at least that perspective Obama appears to have inherited an economic and military disaster from Bush II, and performed about as well as Reagan “America F-Yeah”. While its middling performance of course, he seems to be in line with our last several Presidents. Basically same-old-sh*t.

      I imagine some of the visceral reaction to Obama breeds from the psychological “hopey-changey” expectations that people embraced, dashed by the ever present realities of the power asymmetries in the US and how they affect our economic and political system, foreign policy choices, etc.

      And, the 9.9% are the Democratic base. Where did you pull that statistic out of? Perhaps half of the 9.9% vote Democrat (it is 53% of the top 5% that voted for Clinton).

      None of this is stunning, its basically same-old-sh*t. Our politicians kick the can down the road, because we don’t seem to recognize we need political reform before all other reform, because the former always has consequences on the latter.

        1. Stelios Theoharidis

          Did you take one part of my comment and just ignore the rest of it? Why in any sane world would we be comparing Obama to FDR and Bush II to Hoover, rather than the last 5 administrations, which have effectively structured the landscape of domestic / international politics and economics for each other.

          Based on the economic metric that you identify (not the first graph because it only covers three years of his term) Obama’s performance is basically the same old sh*t. Its an extremely clear trend of increasing returns to capital over diminishing returns to labor enduring over Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama administrations. Its a structural trend across both Democratic and Republican administrations. Mark Blyth discusses it quite cogently.

          Personality focused politics and discussion, avoids the clear and apparent structural issues that are demonstrated in the graph. It might feel good, because lots of people felt hurt when Obama just kicked the proverbial can down the road as far as the status quo was concerned, but it doesn’t actually do anything about the root cause of a trend clearly demonstrated across multiple administrations.

          If that says anything, it says that the cause of these issues are not the dumpster fire of politicians which our media and punditry cannot stop focusing on in this horrible cult of personality we call modern political discourse, but the structure that permits all of these personalities to behave in basically the same way without consequence.

          The structural issue would clearly be the need for overarching political reform. Because regardless of whether it is a Democrat or a Republican or an Orangutan with a fidget spinner we elect into political office they are basically paid off to produce legislation supporting increasing returns to capital. Because that is how the entire political class has managed to structure incentives in order to enrich themselves to the detriment of the vast majority of people.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Your comment reminds me of the (apocryphal) story of the book reviewer who gave a book about ravens poor marks, because he would rather have read a book about penguins.

            The topic of the post was Obama and his speech. Naked Capitalism as a site gives an enormous amount of attention to “overarching political reform” and “structural issues,” and has for many years. Perhaps you are new here, and haven’t had a chance to read it. Best of luck to you in that project.

          1. Stelios Theoharidis

            Well don’t hold your breath waiting for a ‘better man’ to show up. I think it is a terrible mode of thinking, complaining online, staging imaginary internet purity contests, prescribing moral standards that no one else in the present nor the history of the world has ever followed to in order to achieve or hold onto economic or political power. All while waiting for a magical outlier to show up and fix things, most laughably a politician.

            A ‘better man’ rarely makes it into political office, because that is not how the political sorting mechanism operates, that is not how how the economic sorting system works, that is not how you achieve any kind of real power, certainly not by being a ‘better man’. You will rarely win against people who cheat if you play by the rules. Imagine that functioning on the aggregate.

            If you don’t change the sorting system which on the aggregate selects for ‘lessor men’ you are just going to get an endless string of the same results. Sure you may manage to get a statistical outlier here and there into an important office or a billionaire who wants to ‘save the world’ (probably by extracting wealth from everyone else in order to do it) but it is unlikely to change anything significantly because they will be surrounded on the aggregate by non-outliers who achieved success along the conventional route of pursuing both self-interest and nepotism favoring the socio-economic tribe that they ascribe to.

            And, although I voted for Bernie in the primary, you won’t get power by telling people in power that you are planning on taking their power away from them. Go ahead tell people that have almost infinite resources by which to stymie, isolate, dissuade, and dismantle your efforts that you want to reduce their power in the world, see how that works out.

            If you don’t create a meaningful structure to sort out the sociopaths, narcissistic self-promoters, the dunning-krugers, all the men and women who are so desperately drawn to power that they will cheat, steal, bribe, glad-hand their way into whatever position of dominance over others that they can find, you can’t expect that anyone else will find their way into the halls of power.

            And, don’t give me some sort of 1st grade idealized version of history where someone at some point achieved and used their power for the benefit of everyone else. Its magical thinking on the aggregate of human relations, which has thus far mostly been a meat grinder of the poor. Do we want to get into how the Delano’s or the Roosevelts achieved their wealth, because we certainly can, monopolies (rail), slavery (sugar), opium (China) and poor working conditions (coal). That is what brought FDR into power, go figure.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, here. I think most NC readers would disagree with a “Great Man of History” perspective. Not to say that historical persons don’t matter, even if we regard them as accidents and errors with respect to the systems that produce them. For example, take Jefferson Davis vs. Abraham Lincoln, both, we may assume, the best that the respective systems of the Slave Power and northern capitalism could produce. Did the better system produce the better man? I think it did, and I think that Lincoln was the better man, along any axis you choose to compare the two. (Politician? Lincoln. Strategist? Lincoln. Rhetorician? Lincoln. As a moral being? Lincoln.) Does that matter? I think it does. The Civil War was a more near-run thing than we see in retrospect. Imagine a lesser man at the head of the Union, one on whose watch the European powers ended up recognizing the South. In that case, the South might well have won, against the odds.

              > you won’t get power by telling people in power that you are planning on taking their power away from them.

              I think that Lenin, Mao, the Jacobins, Ho Chi Minh, and a great many others would disagree. How on earth do you mobilize and organize the 90% without telling them what your aims are?!

        2. skippy

          Useful empty suit seems a prerequisite for preznit these days, hence focus on drivers and not men methinks….

        3. Nick Weech

          Great stuff Lambert. Those who don’t get it back now , probably never will.

      1. pretzelattack

        more detailed rebuttal needed. 2008 was an outlier, no? and is your point that inequality didn’t get worse under obama. and no, clinton doesn’t look good, he inherited a world where we didn’t have to spend a quarter as much (if that) on the military, and managed to sell out american workers, and tear the bottom out of the safety net.

  2. Robert McGregor

    A con man functions at his peak power when you don’t realize he’s conning you. He builds your trust over time so you think he’s the greatest, and you trust him with your life, and money. If you know he’s a con man, then he’s not a very good con man. That’s where Trump is now. Even his still loyal supporters know they’ve been conned, at least somewhat. Obama has been conning more people longer, and with more success, because he is a much more talented con man.

    1. ProNewerDeal


      I like to say ConManD0n is an obvious 3rd grade-level con man. 0bama is graduate-degree level con man. Amazing that even now 9+ yrs after inauguration a faction of Muricans are still conned by 0bama. Is it that (and/or):

      1 they lack critical thinking skills
      2 are a propagandist/con man lackey themselves
      3 the bar is so low for Preznits that 1 speaking like a non-moron & 2 not aldutering while married is enough for their approval. I will give 0bama that, he does seem to be the 1st Pres since Carter afaict that apparently meets this (morons Reagan, Bush43, Trump; adulterers Bush41, Clinton, Trump).

      PS – I don’t care about a politicians’ personal s3x life as I see it as a personal/family matter that has no relevance to policy, which is what matters in politics to our everyday lifes. However many Muricanz do seem to care about it.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Obama promised easy answers. Its his schtick. My mother was legally blind, so my sisters and I used the city bus because Dad couldn’t ferry us all the time. The look of horror from “liberal” “forward thinking” people was appalling when they found that out. We all know what was unsaid because they already knew my mom was blind. Those people loved Obama.

        There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

        No. He offered up mindless drivel such as this all the time. We no longer need to discuss the ghettos, migrant workers, the problems faced by muslims in the post 9/11 world especially how they are treated by the Federales, or the opiod crisis and the crisis of the decline of manufacturing which isn’t new. This was the attraction: easy answers.

        The embrace of Obama was based on clearly shallow and emotionally based reasons. Looking back on Obama should simply be embarrassing. My favorite excuse is the CIA showed him the real Kennedy tape. The only response to that is “they killed Caesar,” but the Obama as described by Adolph Reed in the 90’s was the guy who was President and his rhetoric was always just stupid.

        We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

        That’s some powerful stuff….there are no problems. We have the same loyalties. Jeff Bezos and the independent book store owner are both defending the U.S. of A. Now, I don’t have to do anything. Adolph Reed warned us.

        In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

    2. Scott

      I agree completely, this is why disagree with Thomas Frank when he called Trump a con man. Obama’s far more effective. By contrast, Trump is a master of kayfabe, which is a comparison I believe Yves has made previously.

    3. DHG

      All politicians are con men/women they could not be elected otherwise. No one wants to hear the truth from the ones running their country.

    4. fajensen

      I think a good con man let his “customers” see the con, make them believe they are the chosen confidantes and insiders who get to be a part of the conning of lesser, more stupid people, only, of course to be the ones left holding the bag later.

      That’s what Obama’s jokes are about. Making his marks part of the obvious con while setting them up for the actual move.

  3. Westcoastdeplorable

    Lambert, why spend 10 seconds on this lying never-was (or has-been, however you view it)? I’ll say this for him, as long at the ‘prompter works, he does give a good speech. Too bad his words had no meaning (“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, etc.).

    1. Pat

      You know him for what he is. Lambert knows him for what he is. I know him for what he is.

      Unfortunately a huge segment of the population do not know him as the lying corrupt cynical sociopath he is. While I am quite sure there will always be at least 20% of the population who will think he is that eloquent thoughtful kind and upstanding man he is still being portrayed by our captured media, we are not there yet. Until he drops to that level it will be up to intelligent thoughtful people like Lambert to dissect and yes destroy his persona, speeches and reputation brick by brick, word by word, revelation by revelation.

      We may know he shouldn’t have to do it, but I for one am glad he does.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Lambert has a strong sense of context and memory. On the surface, much of what Obama is saying sounds great. Wealth inequality is bad. But its useful to note, the problems both predated Obama and became worse under Obama especially for actors who might be living in the prosperous islands around the country.

        Much like the problems with ICE and the border partrol. They didn’t start yesterday, and its important to note our new “saviors” from Trump were often goose stepping along to horrible policies as recently as two years ago, even if they felt bad. Samantha Powers made some really good points about Yemen a few months ago. She ignored her own role though. We simply don’t have a media that sees to these problems.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Lambert has a strong sense of context and memory

          [lambert blushes modestly].

          Though you might also say I really know how to hold a grudge!

          I do think, however, that “systems not persons” is a very good guide. Indeed, the focus by both liberals and conservatives on the personal characteristics of their respective champions is dangerously close to authoritarian followership (and I’m being nice here).

      2. jrs

        this would be easier if Trump had lost, now he just looks good in comparison no matter what.

    2. Angie Neer

      WCD, please have pity on us, the conned. We are not as smart and cool as you. I need posts like this.

    3. Darius

      All politicians, including Trump, are glued to TelePrompTers. This criticism of him, as most criticisms of him from the right, we’re either head-scratching or way off the mark.

      The thing is, I don’t have the attention span to get through transcripts of his speeches. He and his writers are dense and boring. Can anyone recall any pithy phrases from his presidency? I can’t. If he’s in Bartlett’s, it’s only because the editors are 10-percenters that worship him.

      It’s all about the delivery. That’s what makes his rhetoric soar for those who find him appealing. I find him so smug, precious, and self-congratulatory that I can’t watch him for more than a minute or so, unless I’m hate-watching.

      It’s also the tone of congratulating the audience for having the good taste in recognizing his awesomeness.

    4. Daniel F.

      I think others, in several other comment sections besides this one, made the point: as long as a significant number of people view him as The Second Coming of Christ, and await salvation from him and/or Michelle, sane people need to uncover all the skeletons in the Obama closet.

  4. oh

    I can see that this snake oil salesman’s ego won’t keep him from the self aggrandisment. He must have convinced himself how great he is. I hope karma will catch up to him.

  5. coloradoblue

    You really have to wonder.

    From the end of WWII to 2018 we’ve lived under Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama and now Trump.

    For their war crimes, crimes against humanity and mass murder, murder of foreign leaders, overt and/or covert overthrowing of governments and now, with Obama’s murder of American citizens without due process…

    How many of them would have deserved to hang? How many to spend the rest of their lives making big rocks into little rocks? My answer for #1 would be nearly all of them and for #2 most of the rest. MAYBE only Carter would not end up in either category. Maybe.

    Hell of a way to run the world America.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Carter started arming the Mujadeen in 1977. Jimmy has a lot of houses to build so to speak.

      1. pretzelattack

        the us starting intervening in the middle east starting in 1918, according to this article.
        the mujahideen were afghan to start out, or the vast majority; bin ladin was saudi, and opposed the u.s. for supporting israel long before he was afghanistan–it’s why he was in afghanistan. his stated list of reasons for directing (or whatever his role was) the 911 attacks were as follows
        Osama bin Laden’s declaration of a holy war against the United States, and a 1998 fatwā signed by bin Laden and others, calling for the killing of Americans,[10] are seen by investigators as evidence of his motivation.[41] In bin Laden’s November 2002 “Letter to America”, he explicitly stated that al-Qaeda’s motives for their attacks include: (from wiki)

        U.S. support of Israel[42][43]
        support for the “attacks against Muslims” in Somalia
        support of Philippines against Muslims in the Moro conflict
        support for Israeli “aggression” against Muslims in Lebanon
        support of Russian “atrocities against Muslims” in Chechnya
        pro-American governments in the Middle East (who “act as your agents”) being against Muslim interests
        support of Indian “oppression against Muslims” in Kashmir
        the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia[44]
        the sanctions against Iraq[42]
        all of these postdate carter by some time, with the exception of pro american governments in the middle east being against muslim interests, whichs predates carter by decades.

        there is a concept called last intervening cause in determining the proximate cause of some event; there were two decades between carter’s continuing standard u.s. policy of arming a group in the middle east to advance u.s. interests, and 4 presidents, 2 of whom served 8 years, and all of whom continued flooding the middle east with arms, much of them going to israel and saudi arabia, but a vast amount going to iraq and iran to fight each other, and all of whom supported actions which greatly offended bin ladin, who, with covert saudi support from his family and others, was easily able to purchase whatever he needed short of jets or nukes. carter has his sins to atone for, but somehow being the ultimate cause of 911 is not one of them, imo.

    2. Allegorio

      Twenty million people have been murdered by the US military industrial congressional complex since WWII. Until the press is wrested from the MICC these transformative facts will never reach the people.

  6. David Carl Grimes

    I think it’s the triumph of form over substance. Bush was an amiable-good ole boy, Obama was a charming urbane guy. Trump is a disgusting narcissistic blow hard. It doesnt matter if his policies harm less people. The 9.9% will never accept him.

    1. Summer

      Never forget:

      They are united about their financial interests and divided elsewhere.

      And I recall last year, I saw Bill Mahr’s show at a friend’s place. Woody Harrellson was the guest. He told a story about going out to dinner with a Hollywood collegue, around 2004, who was meeting with Trump. The meeting involved Trump considering a run for President then…as a Democrat.

  7. savekkos

    So, how would you all have reacted if Obama had really, really tried to address the income inequality issue, during his first two years when he had a friendly congress? Remember, it was also at a time when most people thought the world economy could implode at any moment. He was tepid and over-cautious while trying to woo a GOP congressional cabal that had decided they would resist absolutely anything he did. Obama was a good figurehead, a mediocre leader and his main achievements ended up being watered down by capitulations to special interests and his non-management of the Dem political machine. I would understand the hatred if he had actively worked against financial inequality while saying the opposite, but I don’t get vilifying the guy for just not doing enough and pointing out there is still a big problem. I honestly think Obama was hamstrung from the start by racism – the 30% who would believe any outlandish lie (remember Obama is a terrorist!) AND his own desire not to mess up being the first black POTUS, which made him move away from bold moves and not play slimeball politics when required.

    1. Yves Smith

      Wowsers, “How would you all have reacted?” Are you kidding me?

      Not only were we posting back then, but we have readers who are still with us who were reading us back then too. So don’t try the bullshit of insinuating we’d have said something different than what we actually wrote, at length, during Obama’s time in office.

      What you write is again counterfactual regarding the far more consequential issue that Obama had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and the Dems controlled the House too.

      Even Krugman called for Obama to nationalize the banks. You curiously omit that Obama had campaigned on raising the minimum wage to $12 a hour.

      The country was desperate for him to do a Roosevelt 100 days and Obama lacked the guts and reformist mindset. It was crystal clear when he nominated Geithner as Treasury Secretary. See here for some one-stop shopping, but we have tons more along these lines:


      Obama deserves vilification for having presided over 9 million foreclosures, most of which could and should have been prevented. They didn’t just destroy homeowner wealth, they also hurt investors. The only winners were bank servicers as middlemen. That’s just for starters. He orchestrated a second bailout of the banks by letting them get out of jail almost free for securitization and foreclosure abuses, when those gave him all the leverage he needed to make servicers give modifications to borrowers with adequate income (as in they could still service a mortgage with an interest or reasonable principal modification).

      Oh, and why did the Dems lose that Senate 60 seat majority? Political scientist Tom Ferguson ascertained that the district-level propensity to vote for Scott Brown was highly correlated with the level of foreclosures.

      1. XiaoPongTze

        Thank You. So many people didn’t want to see it. So many have conveniently forgotten it. A great man would have used that position to really improve things. Sadly, we didn’t get a great man, we got Obama.

        1. KLG

          By March 2009 it was clear that Barack Obama was never going to engage in a political fight of any consequence whatsoever that he might lose. The rest is just filling in the regrettable details. But, yes, I was fooled the first time…

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > was never going to engage in a political fight of any consequence whatsoever that he might lose.

            It’s even worse. Obama never involved himself in a fight were he might end up looking bad (all part of the public relations fetish).

      2. KYrocky

        Not to mention that criticism of Obama was mostly greeted with a visceral attack and outright dismissal, even on this site.

        Also, let’s not overlook the Fed’s role with its trillions in purchases of the toxic instruments that fueled the crash. It wasn’t just the bonuses at AIG, it wasn’t just letting mortgage fraud criminals keep the money and walk away free, it was that Obama saw to it that the entire corrupt system was shielded from accountability and that the individuals responsible were given, in effect, immunity from prosecution. And they got to keep the money, of course.

        To anyone paying attention Obama’s actions revealed his embrace of our two-tiered system of justice: one for the investor class, one for the schmucks that get screwed by the investor class.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > not play slimeball politics

      You don’t regard “foaming the runway” for the banks with HAMP money meant for foreclosed homeowners as slimeball politics? Seems odd. In fact, there’s a whole litany of broken promises — remember the one about putting on his “comfortable shoes” to walk the picket line — and the breaking of them seems pretty slimeball to me.

      1. RMO

        I was one of the people who actually had hope when Obama was first elected, and kept cutting him slack over and over again figuring that well, not everything I would like to see happen was going to happen. Month by month, year by year I eventually was forced to conclude that he had no real desire to enact any progressive policies and he and the party were using “pragmatism” “practicality” “bipartisanship” and Republican opposition as an excuse to not do things they didn’t want to do in the first place. I would have respected Obama as a president if he had tried and failed to do the progressive things he promised to do – and which the U.S. and the rest of the world need and which the majority favor – but he didn’t even try. Hell, he can’t even seem to manage what Eisenhower did and point out what’s wrong with the system and warn of the dangers in store once he’s safely out of office presumably because he fears derailing his own personal gravy train.

    3. Glen

      He had complete authority to remove all the CEOs of the bailed out banks, just like he did to GM. That alone would have broken the political power of the banks. And if he had thrown just one CEO in jail, almost all of the Wall St fraud and corruption would have disappeared over night.

      Obama used to talk about “not giving the Republicans the keys to the car after they drove the car into the ditch.” But he gave the banksters that wrecked the world economy a new car bought by the American people, and they are driving that car into the ditch again except this time they are going to roll the car and make an even bigger mess.

      Obama blew it big time.

      1. nonsense factory

        Basically Obama pulled a Hoover.

        Meanwhile, the RFC was derided by populist critics as “bank relief” and “a millionaire’s dole”—criticisms echoed today by all those who see George W. Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program and Obama’s own Public-Private Investment Program as outrageous giveaways. And, as Kennedy points out, once Hoover had set in motion the great bank bailout of 1931, he “had given up the ground of high principle” and “implicitly legitimated the claims of other sectors for federal assistance.” Critics raised the same criticisms they would raise about Obama’s bailout plans seventy-eight years later. If the banks get a bailout, why not everyone else? Were bailouts only for the rich?


        I think a good political cartoon characterizing Obama would be one of a sweating slave hauling a cart full of fat-cat billionaires up a hill, with Warren Buffett, Lloyd Blankstein & James Dimon being among the cartees.

    4. Darius

      The fact that he took budget reconciliation off the table except as a last resort to pass ObamaCare shows he was fraud without a real agenda. The whole obsession with bipartisanship was an excuse for inaction.

  8. JerryDenim

    I thought the WH Correspondence Dinner joke about “earning some Tubman’s” at Goldman Sachs was pretty classic Obama. Perhaps an even more brazen joke than his AIG humor.

    What comes through with the AIG joke is his annoyance that he is expected to feign anger as part of his job. He really thinks it’s beneath him and should be excused from acting like he cares about regular Americans, laws and justice. I think Obama finds it pathetic that anyone in the public would believe he was sincere and is lampooning the gullible Obama-worshipping public with his “choked with anger” wisecrack.

    His post-Presidency is shaping up just like his Presidency. ‘Hey look over there America – there’s some inequality and injustice. This is just terrible! (Beautiful words, words, more words, soaring rhetoric) There must be some Republicans around here somewhere? Right? Ok, now worship me some more.’

  9. Summer

    All the killing isn’t a problem for the alleged “champions of meritocracy.”
    Just as they believe a few should enjoy outsized gains in boom times, they believe any body that gets killed by them merits getting killed.
    So they don’t see the contradiction. It’s only contradictory if you think they are anything but the sum total of the vileness of their true beliefs.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I didn’t draw that implication out enough because I hadn’t thought it through but the logic goes something like

      1) Intelligence community meritocrats set up unaccountable “disposition matrix” system to whack people, arbitrarily

      2) Political and media class meritocrats glorify the intelligence community meritocrats as Heroes of the Resistance

      3) All meritocrats believe that any popular uprising can and should be put by force (Occupy; Black Lives Matter; Keystone)

      4) Meritocrats can use the disposition matrix to whack people domestically

      5) …..

      Not a pretty thought.

  10. funemployed

    I literally just read “I believe in a vision shared by Ghandi and King” as “I believe in a vision shared by Genghis Khan.” Maybe the current hysteria is more contagious than I thought.

    1. BridgetownBeast

      Probably your brain correcting to edit out the double-think that the Dems dish out. Appropriation of the legacy of King and Gandhi has reached a fever pitch, probably because the elites are becoming increasingly fearful of violent disruptive action in our society.
      Both King and Gandhi stood against everything that the modern incarnation of the Democratic party has come to represent – servile kowtowing to capital at the expense of the general welfare of the people, using the apparatus of the state to police and suppress dissent, appealing for peace and order while sowing mayhem anywhere they think the news cameras aren’t running. Did you know that Obama cracked down harder on whistle blowers than any other U.S. President, including Bush? The left has got to start calling liars like Obama out on the appropriation to deny them the veneer of legitimacy.

  11. Scott1

    Mostly I have come to believe that they teach the chosen to be elites, and as part of the elites to do all things the elites want done for their continued power to do simply anything. Are they ignorant or venal. “Is it real or is it Revlon?”

    How come I have read “Killing the Host” and Barack Obama hasn’t?

    Yes I embrace it all now. I’m 65 and I know what my choices are. For women the Clinton Unit II loss is a big deal. Vatican capture of US Domestic policy is nearly complete. The open call for Theocracy happens daily.

    But more is on the way. What would have moved more slowly had Clinton been given the office? “The good news is no immediate war with Russia, the bad news is Putin takes over.”

    The fact is that even the remnants of Democracy & the protection & exercise of a Free Press are what stands between us and famine.
    Modern Dictatorships mean starvation for great great swaths of populations.
    I’m doing all I can to get McFaul to mouth those words, for these are the words making a sentence in defense of Democracy & a Free Press basic enough for people to really grasp.

    I have just finished former US Ambassador to the Russian Federation’s book “From Cold War to Hot Peace”.

    The Putin campaign to discredit Obama and all that as mythic figure in our world he and his wife stand for from what they have said, gives the sadist Putin pride, hubris and an unconcealed delight.

    Michael McFaul is Obama’s man. It is already late in the Trump Putin assault on McFaul. Where is Obama for his man?

    What is wrong with Obama that he has not stepped onto the podium and said he knows Putin & Trump are really out to get him?

    Michael McFaul is left out to hang in the wind, and it is a measure of Obama that we have not heard him step forward to do battle.
    For a brief moment the US had world wide Unitary power. The UN was created to handle the war in Ukraine & Syria and the threats of Kim Jong un. The UN doesn’t have any real army. It can be ignored. John C. Mearsheimer says over and over there is no Government of Governments and therefore all nations owe it to themselves to get nukes.
    (The Tragedy of Great Power Politics)

    (-As it is now with Trump he has a war to trigger at any time in his back pocket.)

    Maybe even Putin did not start out the complete madman he looks to have become. But now he is. I saw a sadist last I saw him on TV.

    Machiavelli has never been wrong and is the father of political science. Michael McFaul has a Phd. in Political Science. What they teach in clean classrooms where they are all “Important”, but looking down ever from an Ivory tower where it is a surprise to have a real enemy, someone that would delight in your murder, is missing urgency.
    “Reward your friends and Crush your enemies.”
    There is the “Imperative of Passionless Violence” The scenes we are seeing now of constant forever war show us something uncivilized overtaking us in the extreme. All the killings now are getting really personal.
    I’m wrong. They always have been. We just thought civilization would last longer, somehow.

    P.S. By the way, the US is so far food secure. Eastern Russia & Eastern China are not. I am thinking of food & its role in foreign relations a lot these days. As Dictatorships arise, think famine. As neoliberalism rises, think Haiti.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      McFaul is mixed up in a signaling issue between Russia and the US, nothing more:

      THE BLOB: Send us your 12 GRU apparatchiks! [knowing this will never happen*]

      RUSSIA: Only if you send us your Ambassador! [(a) Hell no, and (b) confirming the US’s actual desires for nothing to happen, as opposed to its expressed ones.)

      * * *

      Unfortunately, although Russia is capable of sending such a message, it’s not clear the Administration is capable of receiving it, partly because of its own incompetence** and partly because of the enormous quantity of chaff and noise emitted by the #russiarussiarussia crowd.

      NOTE * Because otherwise Mueller would actually have to make a case.

      NOTE ** It’s also hard for the administration to hire good people, here partly because of ideology, but also because the 9.9% is asserting its class power by punishing those who do.

  12. McWatt

    Matt’s article is incredibly well written and important. What I can’t believe are the comments in the Rolling Stone comment section. I am so glad the posts here are for the most part are well reasoned and well said.

  13. perpetualWAR

    I literally want to scream at Obama “19 MILLION FORECLOSURES, DUDE!”

    The. End.

    1. johnnygl

      Those brave men and women dutifully gave up their homes to make TBTF balance sheets great again! They did what they had to do (after all, the locks were changed) and we should honor their sacrifice.

      Obama made society pay the price for banks to preserve their business model almost exactly as it was before the crisis.

  14. Carolinian

    Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo has a new column out saying that Trump is the first president in a long time who acts and reacts like a real person. I don’t know about that, but Trump’s artlessness–some would call it his stupidity–is a change from a succession of presidents who are just acting a part and even, in the case of Reagan, really are actors. Perhaps the naked id is better than the hidden id even if it is nakedly vain and crass and egotistical.

    Obama was always just a slick front man and I’d say he fooled those who wanted to be fooled (out of desperation for a change). The obsession with personalities–Trump being the latest, and how–merely reveals the shallowness of our politics. Obama could get away with betraying his campaign promises because he knew nobody from his party would object very much. And they didn’t.

  15. The Rev Kev

    It’s hard these days to hear Obama talk as through NC and other sources I learned exactly what Obama was all about. The smugness gets old really fast. I was recalling the years leading to his election when people were sick and tired of Bush and his frat-boy policies and wanted change. Hmm a change election – now where have I heard that before? Anyway, America was heading off into some choppy waters and there was time for a course correction, a big one as nothing else would do, that would steer America away from the rocks. And then Obama came in who put his own personal interests first and foremost above that of his country and sold out Americans and America’s future but hard.
    I’m glad that he is now enjoying being able to mix with all those elites as he mentioned in his speech. Now are the years of payoff for selling out the American people so that he could have a lifestyle beyond his wildest dreams. With this speech it seems that he also cares about his “legacy” as he does not want his brand besmirched. I think that he still has a need to be loved which is why he puts in an appearance from time to time. He even calls on the spirits of Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln as part of his nobility. If there is an afterlife, I would like to think that when Obama passes that he will meet them in the great beyond and find Ghandi with a set of knuckle-dusters, King with a bike-chain and Abraham Lincoln with an axe handle waiting for him.

    1. Synoia

      Nelson Mandela was also great. He could have triggered a bloodbath in ZA, but he presided over a peaceful transition in a manner more honest than every other leader I’ve lived through.

      Except perhaps for Liz.

      1. Allegorio

        A “peaceful” transition that has left most South Africans landless and in poverty and the wealth still in the hands of the white elites. Nelson Mandela was truly the model for Barack Obama. Notice the only ‘revolutionaries’ that are sanctified are the ones that leave the assets of the rich in place.

  16. clarky90

    “…. to sort people into targeting for capture, interrogation, or assassination by drone. It was run by a star-chamber of two-dozen security officials and the president.”

    More rhyming history;

    NKVD Letter № 00794/B


    Central Committee, VKP(b)

    “A large quantity of former officials of the Polish Army, employees of the Polish Police and intelligence services, members of the Polish Nationalistic Party, counter-revolutionaries, discovered members pertaining to insurgent groups of counter-revolutionaries, fugitive and others, all of them sworn enemies of the Soviet régime, who hate the Soviet system, are at the moment in prisoners of war field camps of the NKVD OF THE USSR and in prisons of Ukraine and Byelorussia……

    …..,On the basis of the fact that they all are declared enemy of the Soviet régime, the NKVD OF THE USSR considers it necessary:

    I To authorize the NKVD OF THE USSR:

    1) in the matters about the prisoners of war in field camps of 14,700 people of former Polish officials, landowners, policemen, civil employees of government, intelligence officials, gendarmes, colonizers of the border regions and prison guards

    2) and also the matter about those arrested and located in prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Byelorussia in a quantity of 11,000 people, insurgents, spies and saboteurs, former landowners, factory owners, former Polish police officials, fugitive civil employees of government, the highest method of punishment due to apply to them – execution.….

    ….III the cases will have to be examined and the verdicts pronounced by a court of three consistent members of the comrades Merkulov, Kobulov and Bashtakov (chief of the 1st special section NKVD OF THE USSR)

    Of the Union OF SSR

    (signature) L. Beria

    [On the 1st page in a bold hand across the entire text are the signatures (following the word “za”, i.e. “for [the proposal]”) of Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov and Mikoyan made with colored pencils. A handwritten note says “com[rade] Kalinin – for [the proposal] / com[rade] Kaganovich for [the proposal]””

    (The Katyn massacre– a series of mass executions of Polish intelligentsia carried out by the NKVD)

  17. a. bona, m.d.

    they are mass murdering farmers in s. Africa. no mention of this genocide by Obama. all smiles.
    sophistry, legerdermain, prestidigitation. par for the course for Obama.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      And the “lecture” was given in a wealthy suburb. I think a venue in Soweto would have sent a powerful message, although Wanderers sends a powerful message too, in its way.

  18. flora

    Thanks for this.
    Obama’s whole cool speech thing is getting people to *feel good* rather than think or question how well he’s working for their interests; it’s about the emotional high and not about policies or details. Obama’s famed speechifying routine combined with his real actions reminds me of TV commercials for some new prescription drug; the person in the commercial taking the drug is shown experiencing new happiness, sunshine, uplifting music, *feeling good* ; while tiny print or fast talking warnings about the many possible very bad side affects of the drug are hurriedly tacked on in a ‘pay no attention to these important details’ way. But, it must be a good drug because the commercial makes the viewer *feel good*. (Just ignore those bad side effects.)

  19. jackiebass

    I watched most of the Obama speech on BBC. I concluded that how Obama acted as president was different from what he was saying. I understand that he started out as president under very difficult conditions. Unfortunately during his 8 years in office Obama was mostly silent about social issues.

  20. nonsense factory

    When people trot out Obama as the hero figure, it’s always good to ask them “How would FDR have handed the 2008 economic collapse?”

    (1) FDR would have taken over those 9 million mortgages facing foreclosure by creating a national bank (Homeowner’s Bank, he might have called it), converting the ARMs to fixed-rate low-interest loans, with a holiday period before payments were required (similiar in some ways to the Obama-Bush bailout of Wall Street, but with the bailout going to the homeowners). The investmentbanks holding securitized mortgage instruments, the CDOs and pyramids and whatnot, would have lost their entire investment – they’d have taken the haircut. People would have stayed in their homes.

    (2) This approach only works if the jobs aspect is also dealt with – unemployed people can’t pay off mortgages. Here FDR would have done what China did in response to the 2008 economic crash – created a massive domestic infrastructure program. Not only is it needed, it keeps people working and generates a stream of revenue – this is not a long-term solution, of course, as debt is incurred (and MMT only gets you so far down the road), but it keeps people working until the economy recovers.

    (3) Then, FDR would have made the long-term structural changes that would allow for economic recovery and prevent a replay of 2008 – reinstate Glass-Steagall laws that locked investment gamblers out of the commercial loan market, raise the top tax rate on corporate and personal income and capital gains back to c. 1960 levels, control international capital transfers to prevent the offshoring schemes used by corporations and billionaires for tax evasion – basically repudiate and dismantle the whole neoliberal globalist model implemented by the likes of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. Admit it was a failure and start over.

    Around this time the Obama supporter’s head explodes. . . As does the Bush Republican’s. Sanders supporters tend to understand and support the argument, I wonder what the Rust Belt Trump voters would think about it?

    1. flora

      So… I think the question is over the constitutionality of assassinating US citizens without a trial and without due process – to face their accusers in court. A star chamber plus AI algorithms seems a poor substitute for constitutional rights. (But AI! It’s distruptive! It overrides settled law if it involves computers and AI! Yes, let’s Uber-ize the Constitution and the bill of rights… See, the only reason Jefferson wrote in the Declaration that “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights” was because he was writing with a nib pen on parchment. If he’d been writing with a keyboard in a word processing program his thought would have been totally different. ….)

  21. Phil in KC

    For me, Obama’s legacy is meh. I was impressed with his campaign, but yes, from the git-go, with the appointment of a bankster to the Treasury, my hopes faded away. I knew he was a fraud when he admitted that it was just too hard to prove in court financial fraud committed by Wall Street, banks, credit-rating agencies, etc. Really? FDR figured out how to do it.

    I eventually figured out that BHO was working for Wall Street, not me and my kind. In exchange for protecting the big shots from the torch and pitchfork crowd, they in turn funded him and allowed him to fiddle around with health care, just as long as he didn’t mess with insurance company profits. And fiddle he did. Not much leadership from BHO, and he let Lieberman kill the public option!

    Not that his opponents were any better, though.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      We all had our moments when we knew Obama was a fraud.

      Mine came in July 2008, when Obama voted to give retroactive immunity to the telcos for Bush’s warrantless surveillance under FISA reform, after promising, in January, to filibuster such a bill if it ever came to the floor.

      This after the blogosphere of that time had developed a strong critique that the destruction of the Fourth Amendment enabled tyranny, as Madison in the Federalist Papers would have understood the term.

      1. Futility

        Same here. I could not believe it as it happened. It gave me pause. It was such a blatant repudiation of his campaign promise. From that moment on, I only paid attention to what he did and not to what he said.
        The appeal of Trump to his supporters is that he actually does (some) things he promised before, even though most of it is nonsense and counter-productive. But they still love him for it.
        Imagine what Obama could have done! The country wanted change. He could have seized the opportunity and transformed the country, as described by ‘nonsense factory’ above. But he decided to just perpetuate the status quo and betray his base. This is the biggest disappointment: that he forwent the greatest opportunity to change America for the better. An opportunity which will not come again for a long time.

  22. Bittercup

    Usually it’s not wise to read too much into these things, but this is remarkable: the primary video of Obama’s speech as of right now, at 13M viewers, has 27k upvotes… and a staggering 106k downvotes. There is a judgment of a kind being passed on Obama’s legacy, here, by the Youtube public, such as it is.

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