Why Barack Obama Was a Horrible President

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Our political class does not believe that Barack Obama is a candidate for rehabilitation (“revered by liberals, moderates and even some Republicans“) despite recently pivoting to a consensus that his response to the Great Financial Crash was not all it could be. Even today, it’s almost impossible, get anybody to the left of Joe Lieberman (Obama’s mentor) to say that Obama was a bad President. d As Matt Stoller writes in The Boston Review:

Even today you cannot get a single elected left-wing politician to say that Obama was a bad president. Think about that. We cannot have an honest discussion of what it meant to use power when Democrats were in charge, so the language of dissension is polluted with incoherent nonsense. All the grand philosophical musing and Democratic Socialists of America study groups do not matter when not a single elected official outside the Republican Party can make the simple, obvious point that Obama’s policies straight up made things worse.

This was not some capitalist plot. There was a lot of dissent within the Democratic Party about whether it was a good idea to do what Obama did. I was part of a network of people who tried to fight against the foreclosure nonsense and opposed Obama’s handing Puerto Rico over to hedge funds [here]. We lost. And the people who made public explanations about these fights lied to cover up for Obama’s bad choices. They lied because some of them are frauds, but also because it was painful not to; Democratic voters and many left-wing voters were and still are deeply hostile to any criticism of Obama. He is beloved; according to Gallup polling, 95 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of him. To the extent there is skepticism, it is framed in ways that avoid admitting that his actions systemically ruined millions of lives.

Well, I’m happy to call Obama a bad President, because he was. Of the many horrors of the Obama years, I will pick three. (I am omitting not prosecuting bankers for accounting control fraud, the HAMP debacle, the mortgage settlement debacle, destroying a generation of black wealth with his housing policies, the kill list disposition matrix, whacking a US citizen with a drone strike and no due process, ObamaCare and not single payer, the ObamaCare website collapsing on launch (with nobody held accountable), not closing Gitmo, the Afghanistan surge, enabling Google’s monopoly on search, creating the conditions for Trump.) All three are chosen to show continuties with the Bush Administration, rather than differences. Again I will beg your indulgence for sketchiness, since 2021 – 2008 = 13 years ago, and I’m operating mostly from memory, despite having blogged through those years, just as I blogged through the Bush years. As with Bush, a full accounting would be book-length. Or perhaps there should be a podcast, which would take hundreds of episodes. (Hmm. Not a bad idea. The podcast would have the same title as this post.)

Legitimizing Warrantless Surveillance

You will remember Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance from the post on Bush. The battle against it was conducted under the confusing banner of “FISA Reform” (that is, the battle framed not that Bush’s actions destroyed the Fourth Amendment, but that the process of FISA authorization was not properly followed). Nonetheless, the blogosphere of that time played a big role in that battle (I was there, albeit peripherally) which Eric Boehlert describes well in his book Bloggers on the Bus. Here is a long excerpt (the legislation in the first sentence is FISA Reform). I’ve added the highlighting:

So, where was Obama on “FISA Reform”? That depends. From Politifact:

In October 2007, Obama spokesman Bill Burton issued this unequivocal statement to the liberal blog TPM Election Central: “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”

Key segments of the Democratic base — enjoying substantial influence in the run-up to the Democratic presidential primaries — were pleased. “This is the kind of leadership we need to see from the Democratic candidates,” MoveOn spokesman Adam Green said at the time.

Obama clinched the Democrat nomination on June 4, 2008. Nomination safely in hand, he changed his mind on “FISA Reform”[1] in July:

In October, Obama had vowed to help filibuster an update of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that gave telecommunication companies that had cooperated with President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program immunity from lawsuits.

The Senate voted Wednesday on the bill updating FISA — which had a provision to shield telecommunications companies that had cooperated in the surveillance. Obama joined the 68 other senators who voted to send the bill to the president’s desk.

No filibuster! Putting Fourth Amendment issues aside, if you think that granting corporations retroactive immunity for multiple felonies is a really bad idea from the standpoint of the [genuflects] rule of law, then Obama’s flip-flop — let’s just go ahead and call it a betrayal — is a bad act by a bad President. (On the bright side, Obama’s pivot looks like an inflection point: Where Democrats won the loyalty or at least the alliance of the intelligence community, which worked so for them in 2016-2020.)

Legitimizing Torture

You will also remember torture under the Bush administration, and there was plenty of it, more than merely Abu Ghaib.[1] One would think that a professor of Constitutional Law — as his supporters constantly reminded us Obama was, albeit without mentioning his non-tenure track status — would favor prosecuting war crimes, particularly war crimes committed on a political opponent’s watch, in service of a war that professor putatively opposed. No such luck. From ABC’s “The Week” on January 10, 2009 (10 days before Inauguration Day[2]). Watch the weaseling!

STEPHANOPOULOS: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On change.gov it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, “Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.”

OBAMA: We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no 9/11 commission with Independence subpoena power?

OBAMA: We have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly [nice qualifier] broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation’s going to be to move forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me just press that one more time. You’re not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence wherever it leads?

OBAMA: What I — I think my general view when it comes to my attorney general is he is the people’s lawyer. Eric Holder’s been nominated. His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interests of the American people, not to be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So, ultimately, he’s going to be making some calls, but my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed looking at what we got wrong in the past.

Stephanopolous really should have said “I’ll take that as a ‘no.'” And how is there an “other hand” to “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law”? Fast forward to the administration Obama created the conditions for, and we see the results. From the Atlantic, “Obama’s Legacy of Impunity for Torture“, on the nomination of “Bloody Gina“:

The 44th president, Barack Obama, bears a measure of responsibility for the recklessness of his successor, in particular Trump’s decision to appoint Gina Haspel, the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy director, to run the agency itself. Haspel oversaw a black site during the Bush era where at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was tortured*.

Haspel also then played a role in a decision to destroy recordings of CIA detainees being tortured.

The Obama administration’s actions helped entrench a standard of accountability that stretches from beat cops to CIA officials, one in which breaking the law in the line of duty is unpunishable, but those suspected of a crime—particularly if black, Muslim, or undocumented—can be subjected to unspeakable cruelty whether or not they are ultimately guilty.

In a country where a CIA official like Haspel can destroy evidence in order to obstruct a federal investigation, and not only escape prosecution but rise to become the head of the agency, it is no wonder that the president and his allies behave as though the possibility of the law catching up to them is not merely remote, but a kind of absurdity.

So, thanks to Obama, we’ve legitimized torture, and a torturer became the head of the CIA. That was a bad act by a bad President.

Implementing Dick Cheney’s Energy Plan

President Bush, in the second week of his administration, charged his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, with heading up an Energy Task Force. Larry Schweiger describes the result in “The Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics: Overcoming the Powerful Forces that Threaten our Future“:

So we have Cheney and Obama working together to create fracking. Obama is, in fact, proud of this:

“That was me, people.” Setting the Earth on fire for money. Come to think of it, signing the Paris Accords while on the other hand making the US the world’s number one oil producer is a lot like supporting the rule of law while on the other hand “looking forward and not back” when laws are broken, and a lot like promising to filibuster a bill granting retroactive immunity to lawbreaking corporations while on the other hand not doing so.

Conclusion

We are ruled by bad people and have been for years. Madison, of course, expected this, but his system seems to have broken down Federalist 51:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

No longer is ‘the interest of the man … connected with the constitutional rights of the place” (that is, of the office). If that were true, Bloody Gina would not have headed the CIA. It’s not even clear that the government can “control itself,” or “control the governed,” except by propaganda and violence, as our continuing public health debacle shows. I don’t know what the answer to this is, but I do think it begins with the recognition that we are ruled by bad people. Simply replacing “bad people” with “good people” does not have a record of success, since the “good” quickly become “bad.”[3] How to rebuild our political economy so that we seem to be governed by angels even though we are not is a question that I cannot answer. But it is a question increasingly before us.

NOTES

[1] One of the more amusing aspects of the Bush Administration’s approach to torture was watching them devise euphemisms for it: “enhanced interrogration,” “rough treatment,” and “severe tactics.”

[2] So many happy people.

[3] For example.

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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.

99 comments

  1. njbr

    If only we were a perfect people with a perfect government with perfect elected leaders making perfect policy.

    So much room for failure–a target rich environment for writers.

    Who the eff’ would be your perfect president to suit your perfect dreams?

    Obama–not perfect but certainly better than those who came before or after.

    Could “Jesus Christ” be elected?

    Reply
      1. ChrisAtRU

        You’re in the right here, and too polite about it … ;–)

        If I didn’t know better, I’d say our not-so-esteemed OP was trying to correct the record.

        #IYKWIM

        Reply
      2. ChuckTurds

        The OP serves as a fantastic example of the Obomba apologists. The old ‘yeah but imagine if the other guy got elected’ BS. As if that ‘worse’ potential outcome absolves all the wrong doing committed by the actual president.

        Reply
    1. Alfred

      “No longer is ‘the interest of the man … connected with the constitutional rights of the place” (that is, of the office). ”

      It’s not about perfection. It’s about the complete co-option of power granted by election to liars who basically say, “Whaddya gonna do aboudit?”

      Reply
      1. Spring Texan

        It’s not about perfection, it’s about NOT DOING ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE THINGS and doing and condoning torture.

        Reply
        1. Alfred

          ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE THINGS. Yeah, it’s not about perfection, just tone it down a little, FHS. Is that the right tone now?

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            Might be so — so many of My Fellow ‘Muricans are all happy that it seems to appear that possibly it might be the case that due consideration may be given to exploring what should or could be done to put a frame around some conceptual elements of what could eventually gel into the skeleton of an approach to making some well-considered and gradual changes to the way bidness is conducted in the Empire.

            Clear enough?

            Got to keep that powder dry…

            Reply
    2. Charlotte Ritchie

      If only we had: universal health care like every single other developed country; if only we had a $15 or higher, living wage; if only we had a massive infrastructure project; if only college grads weren’t drowning in student debt; if only we were ending all of our Mideast wars; if only we had paid family and medical leave; if only we had tried to stop climate change; if only we had strong unions and excellent labor policy, etc.
      IF ONLY OBAMA had even tried to implement some of these policies! I agree with this author and others of similar views. Obama had more charm than any president, probably ever, but he was a bad president!

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        He might still have a second career (after knee-knocking with filthy-rich people) as a televangelist. Some of them are equally slick, using the same rhetorical trickery and symbol manipulation, and they sure drag in the (is it tax-free?) megabucks!

        Reply
      2. dcblogger

        Obama was the first Democratic President with commanding majorities in the House and Senate. He could have been great. He had a unique opportunity to take meaningful action on Global Warming, something he was elected to do. Instead he increased production of fossil fuels. History will NOT be kind to Obama.

        Reply
    3. urblintz

      “Jesus Christ” could never be elected.

      He’d be accused of anti-semitism…

      by “liberal” Democrats.

      Reply
    4. cocomaan

      Honestly, I’m not seeing much of a difference between GWBush and Obama, in Lambert’s post. War, extra legal killings and black sites, surveillance, bailing out finance, etc.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        The loss of life (assuming there is some USA citizenry moral concern about the deaths/injuries of non-US citizens from the USA initiated wars) and the large expenditure in resources (by some estimates 6 trillion dollars in Afghanistan/Iraq) make the damage Bush did far worse.

        The 6 trillion dollars represents a lot of hydrocarbons dug/pumped up and converted into CO2 and could have been diverted into USA infrastructure or world betterment..

        Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War

        “Population-based studies produce estimates of the number of Iraq War casualties ranging from 151,000 violent deaths as of June 2006 (per the Iraq Family Health Survey) to 1,033,000 excess deaths (per the 2007 Opinion Research Business (ORB) survey).”

        A million Iraqi deaths is about 3% of their population corresponding to about 10 million deaths in the USA’s larger population if a foreign power invaded the USA and behaved similarly.

        And the Iraq war was promoted by Bush and cohorts.

        I continue to see a LOT of difference between Bush’s actively pursued cumulative damage and Obama’s “kick the can down the road” damage.

        There is a LOT of difference in the “cumulative damage balance sheets” of Bush vs Obama.

        Neither is admirable, but the prime mover/instigator Bush was far worse.

        Reply
    5. NotTimothyGeithner

      Since you are comparing Obama to the Christian Messiah, could you offer evidence of his near perfection or is this a you have to take it on faith kind of thing?

      Reply
    6. Darius

      OK liberal. More perfect would be one who wasn’t so servile to organized money. Also, Lambert left out Obama’s “pivot” to the deficit while unemployment raged. I wanted to tear my hair out. Obama’s biggest crime was his embrace of austerity in the midst of a depression. That’s why Trump was elected.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        One reason Obama has to be defended with such ludicrous arguments is the couple of times he wasn’t praised but was actually criticized he did the less wrong thing. Look at our current President, his supporters never bring up the one good thing he did which was force Obama to take a still cowardly stand on gay marriage. They won’t credit Biden with it because shows how accountability works. Biden put Obama on the spot, and Obama was forced to react. Biden didnt offer excuses about secret negotiations. Obama’s desire for celebrity could have been used to make him a reasonable President, but his followers wanted to go to brunch.

        Reply
        1. Michael Fiorillo

          It was David Geffen and other wealthy gay Democratic donors who forced Obama’s hand on gay marriage. Not to discount what Biden did – one of the few honorable things in a very long career – but it was the money that spoke loudest.

          Reply
    7. lyman alpha blob

      Better than those who came before or after?!?! Don’t you think that’s an awfully low bar?

      I mean it’s arguably better to be executed by electric chair than being flayed alive, but I’d still choose neither.

      Reply
    8. Hyenox

      Obama was not perfect but he sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at a black church so I guess that makes everything OK but he was a convincing fraud and maybe a better salesman than Trump.

      Reply
  2. KD

    What if you had a two party system in which each party grandstands on certain issues when out of power and then when elected, did the same damn thing?

    Reply
  3. Acacia

    Thanks for this. It’s a substantial entrée for a discussion that is long overdue in many circles (I.e., why Saint Obama was never saintly). I have a question:

    No longer is ‘the interest of the man … connected with the constitutional rights of the place” (that is, of the office). If that were true, Bloody Gina would not have headed the CIA.

    If the US govt were to conform to this Madisonian vision, would the CIA even exist?

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      SOMEbody has to be the “rough men who keep us safe in our ignorant beds at night,” am I right? But there’s “always” been “state security” people who are programmed, apparently in the womb, to come out wanting to emulate Beria and Wild Bill Donovan and the Dulles brothers and Prescott Bush (who “allegedly” orchestrated attempt to remove FDR by a military coup, hoping a really respected Marine General, twice Medal of Honor recipient, would lead the coup and the new “government.” https://allthatsinteresting.com/the-business-plot I haven’t looked, but I wonder if the CIA archives have anything on the subject…

      And that General, Smedley Butler, turns out to be a Class Traitor and whistleblower, who published and lectured on the subject of “War Is A Racket:”

      War Is A Racket

      WAR is a racket. It always has been.

      It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

      A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

      In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

      How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

      Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

      And what is this bill?

      This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

      For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

      Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor…. https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

      The whole screed is worth reading and studying, including the prescription for how to rein in the looters.

      Reply
      1. km

        Keep in mind that after the War of 1812, the United States was never invaded, even though for much of its history, it had almost no standing army to speak of and a weak navy.

        Yet somehow, the United States survived the Age of Imperialism unscathed, and the fact that we lacked a CIA, an NSA or a Pentagon to tell us that Freedom is Slavery and War is Peace or that we have always been at war with Eastasia didn’t seem to bother us much.

        Reply
        1. Librarian Guy

          Not entirely accurate. Don’t forget that in March, 1916, General Pancho Villa ran a quick incursion into Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18, including 8 US soldiers. The Villa forces actually suffered worse casualties under submachine gun fire, but looted a bit, including weapons.

          The ultra-imperialst faux “progressive” Woodrow Wilson was encouraged to retaliate and, of course, did so, sending a large force under Pershing into Mexico. Obviously USA empire really expanded beyond “Manifest Destiny” indigenous killing and displacement earlier, under McKinley, and obviously the theft of half of Mexico leading to “New Mexico” did lead to blowback of this kind even a century ago.

          The Wikipedia page is pretty solid on the events. In fact, I was previously unaware of a later Mexican troop incursion into Texas in May of ’16. Sometimes the aggrieved bite back. Wiki link at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancho_Villa_Expedition

          Reply
  4. Telee

    Don’t forget that Obama tried to cut Social Security with the appointment of Erskin Bowles and Alan Cranston to the ” cat food commission,” two politicians who were opposed to social security. Then he bailed out the banks with trillions and no conditions while not helping people stay in their homes led to 9 million losing their homes and this hit blacks the hardest. Meanwhile his justice department didn’t investigate let alone indict any banker for fraud so Obama established the principle that the perpetrators of loan fraud leading to the mortgage crisis are too big to jail. Yes, that’s right, he gave perpetrators of felonies which led to the near collapse of the whole economic system legal immunity! Many of the foreclosed homes were acquired by asset managers who now rent them out.
    Yes, and his ACA did not include a public option in spite of campaign promises. The irony here is while he refused to provide a public option to private insurance, there is now a private option to public health insurance, Medicare. Under his watch, private insurance ( Medicare Advantage) has now attracted 40% of the 60 million who qualify for Medicare. So while a majority of Americans want some kind of government health insurance or Medicare for all, we’ll probably end up with the private scam, Medicare Advantage for all. That’s real progress for for profit health insurers. At the same time he promised the pharmaceutical companies that the government would not use its purchasing power to negotiate the price of medicines.
    And he promised to let workers gain union representation via a card check but didn’t do it in 8 years.
    The hope and change rhetoric amounted to nothing but another betrayal.

    Reply
        1. Librarian Guy

          Like Barack and Michelle’s wonderful friend Li’l Bushy the 2nd, who they tried (half successfully) to politically rehabilitate.

          Some of TPTB will assure you that despite his clownish show as Prezinet, George the Lesser is truly kind and even, despite all appearances, “intelligent”. Evidently the Obamas feel the same way.

          Reply
    1. Sue inSoCal

      Lambert, thank you for this. I shall not argue with you! At all! Criticism of Obama is not acceptable, I have found. My description of him has always been “Bush Lite.” Does anyone recall those little whispers between W and Obama during the transition? I’ve always been skeptical about just “going forward.” Bygone crimes will be bygone crimes. Big crimes. Crimes against humanity. As for the banks, I believe that had a couple of bankers gone to jail for fraud, we may not have ended up with a Trump, because he may not have felt as untouchable.
      Finally, as Telee notes, I’m sure what we’ll get as Medicare For All will indeed be the odious Medicare Advantage. No one else has mentioned that or cares to discuss it. I’ve raised the issue on Tarbell. (Crickets.) I doubt we’ll ever rid ourselves of the blood sucking, fraudulent corporate medical complex.

      Reply
    2. James Dodson

      agree with you i became disabled again 2002 , medicare advantage was and is a fraud .never signed up FOR IT. last week or 2 weeks ago . people leaving the ( advantage plan ) going back to the real MEDICARE .

      Reply
      1. Steve Adams

        Dropping mine next go around. You basically gain nothing as hospital administrators have gone during Covid-19 to where the money is, killer intubated mechanical ventilators and ditched the highly effective Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. If this were China they would have been shot already and their organs harvested.

        Reply
  5. ambrit

    And to think that I was once taken to task for describing our “Saintly Diverse Chief Executive” of years gone bye as a glorified Lawn Ornament of disreputable Antebellum Southern extraction.
    I bring this up as a reminder of how the “times” can change.
    It is also a reminder of just how much “soft power” Obama had available to him in the beginning of his term. That he threw that all away is the real crime.
    To cut the man some slack, averse as I am to do so, I will observe that he was enmeshed from the beginning in the Clinton Triangulated Democrat Party.

    Reply
  6. Michaelmas

    Lambert S: I am omitting not prosecuting bankers for accounting control fraud, the HAMP debacle, the mortgage settlement debacle, destroying a generation of black wealth with his housing policies

    You’re wrong to omit those things and you’re too kind to Obama. What happened in 2008 was nothing less than a coup by Wall Street and the financial predator class.

    If one goes into the archives as far back as 2005-6, one can find the smarter minds on Wall Street figuring out how they weren’t going to have a replay of FDR and the New Deal when the financial collapse came this time around.

    That’s why Bernanke was installed at the Fed in February 2006, and that’s why Obama got more money for his presidential campaign from Wall Street than any previous presidential candidate in history. Wall Street knew what was coming and wanted a front man.

    The fact that Obama simultaneously came from their own class — his grandmother, who essentially raised him, was president of the Bank of Hawaii — and was half-black, so that the masses of American mopes could buy into that and any critics of the coup that he fronted for could be deflected and vilified with cries of “racist, racist,” made Obama ideal.

    It was a coup by the financial criminal class, in which they not only evaded punishment but also continued their pillaging and immiseration of the vast mass of Americans. Obama fronted for it.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      I agree this was one of the greatest failures of any president ever.
      He “unwittingly” destroyed rising black wealth by failing to act. More black misleadership.
      By turning a blind eye, he ushered in the institutionalization, from top to bottom, of residential real estate fraud as a legitimate business. The magnitude of today’s unpaid rents fall directly on the man’s shoulders.

      I could go on, like many of us, but what’s the point.

      BTW, it was VP at BOH

      Reply
    2. Kurtismayfield

      And he got paid very, very well after he left. Which was the whole point of every decision he made.. to get the post bribe.

      Reply
      1. Darius

        Obama was the consummate courtier. He’s hard-wired to court the favor of the king. Part of his problem as president was the role reversal. He didn’t know what to do with the idea that now people we’re supposed to kiss his butt, not the other way around. He sure did try though with people like Jamie Dimon and Mitch McConnell.

        Reply
    3. Telee

      Obama did a great job in exacerbating inequality in the US. The rich have more than recovered from the 2008 debacle while the bulk of the people have still not caught up to pre 2008 levels of income.

      Reply
  7. Elizabeth

    Lambert, for all the reasons mentioned in your post, and more too numerous to be mentioned here as a terrible president, his “Terror Tuesdays” was what shook me. His meeting with John Brennan on each Tuesday to decide which “terror” suspect to have droned next was something I’m not likely to ever forget. This went beyond how any civilized, decent human being would act. His statement that, “I’m really good at killing people” was probably the only truth he told.

    I never voted for Obama because I thought he was a fraud from the beginning. This country has had horrible presidents since Clinton,(I’m sure there were some before him) but I think Bush/Obama were two of the worst this country has had and have done everlasting damage to – in my lifetime. Another thing that struck me about Obama from the beginning was that he had “dead eyes” – flat, emotionless eyes..

    Reply
    1. Acacia

      I also felt he was a fraud from day one. The signs were there, and the alternative media did report on the boatload of donor money he received from Wall St, the health insurance lobby, et al. (I guess we could think of it as a down payment on the Martha’s Vineyard estate), but good liberals voted for him anyway.

      Regarding “Terror Tuesdays”, I wonder how many drone strikes Obama approved by phone from the ninth hole of the golf course.

      Reply
      1. LowellHighlander

        Acacia, thanks for pointing to the alternative media’s reporting on Obama’s taking a boatload of donor money from Wall Street. It was in CounterPunch – which, if I remember correctly, was another one of those media entities disparaged by the spooks at “ProporNot” – where I read an illuminating article by Ms. Pam Martens. I read this in hard copy, and I believe the edition I read was from February 2008. [And I hope you, Ms. Smith, don’t mind that I plugged a like-minded writer, but I think she should be recognized.] Ms. Martens noted how Obama took advantage of coding of industries (back then, it was the “SIC” code) to dupe the public into thinking that he was not taking Wall Street money. Worked like a charm, as Ms. Martens more-or-less predicted.

        I should also say that, as a Veteran, I was quite dismayed by many in the anti-war movement (in which I was active back then, in the Imperial Capital) who fell for Obama, instead of backing Cynthia McKinney. When Obama said he was only against “dumb wars”, I instantly interpreted that as a loophole through which a blind person could drive a Mack truck, and yet so many in the movement fell for it. It was a lonely time, to be sure.

        Reply
        1. km

          I also sensed that Obama was a fraud from the beginning, or if not a fraud, that he would prove to be weak and easily manipulated. I never voted for him, not in 2008 or in 2012.

          But people wanted to believe in the man, and for eight years, too many people made excuse after pathetic excuse for the man. Even today, the excuses continue, because people want to badly to believe.

          Reply
        2. John Wright

          Another gift to Obama was that he was able to claim he was opposed to the Iraq War.

          He wasn’t a US Senator at the time, so he did not have to vote yay/nay.

          His opposition was limited to a critical speech, which was used as evidence of his opposition of the war.

          Obama was an orders of magnitude better conman than Trump. Many in America believed that Trump was a conman, but Obama largely avoided this description.

          I know people who still believe Obama wanted and tried to do the right things but was prevented by the “evil” Republicans.

          Adolph Reed described Obama’s future behavior very early.

          from https://willshetterly.medium.com/adolph-reed-was-the-first-writer-to-see-who-obama-was-991fc1504d19

          “Adolph Reed was the first writer to see who Obama was. In 1996, Reed wrote about him in The Village Voice:”

          “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. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway. So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better.”

          Reply
  8. albrt

    If the title said “Barack Obama was a Horrible President” I would agree and the text would support the headline.

    But this post and yesterday’s post purported to tell us why we have horrible presidents. So why do we?

    Personally, I think it is because the United States is in the process of collapsing. The horribleness of our presidents both confirms that the collapse is happening and ensures that the collapse will continue until the United States no longer exists, probably less than a decade from now.

    But I would be very interested in other views on why our presidents are so horrible.

    Reply
    1. Acacia

      Our vaunted republic has been taken over by a duopoly of corporatists. They carefully vet and choose Presidents from their network of cronies, while pretending it’s the choice of the people. E.g., what else are the superdelegates for? Result: a series of horrible leaders. Trump was an exception in that he slipped around the usual process of vetting and show democracy, like a rat that entered a fancy restaurant via the service entrance, and for that he had to be annihilated.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        The exception that recently said his greatest accomplishment in office was the corporate tax cuts. Trump merely used their fraudulent ways in his own interest. He out-frauded the frauders by recognizing their game and one-upping them. Yay. As for the rest of us?

        Trump was surrounded by and gladly operated in the same morass of financial and corporate shysters and Israel-firsters that the previous administrations were inundated with.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Adding, I’d like to preempt right now any thought that this is in any way a defense of Obama, who I despise. It’s simply a reminder that Trump is an absolute con too (obviously).

          Reply
  9. Punxsutawney

    Let’s not forget Mr. TPP here, who put more energy into trying to sell the democracy destroying TPP and ISDS than he did trying to get the public option into the ACA. Not that they had any intention of doing so. Standing just a stones throw from the outsourced grave of my wife’s career and lecturing us on how wonderful it was going to be, and how we should stop complaining and take our medicine. But what do I know, I’m just an F’n retard. The administration’s term, not mine.

    And then there was austerity, the cat food commission, and no doubt his administration’s failures economically helped set the stage for Trump.

    Reply
  10. Jackman

    Personally, I think the worst thing Obama did was to rob those who suffered from his dreadful economic policies from the dignity of being able to understand why they had failed, why they suddenly had a lot less, or nothing. All his charm and eloquence was marshaled to make sure that people would never identify the true villains of their collapsing personal narratives. And the media was only too happy to comply, as Obama fluently escorted millions into self-loathing and despair, with nary a shred of hope. Of course, the absence of a single banker conviction was all part of that narrative–they didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just more complicated than you think, because, well, because you don’t have the sophistication of an investment banker to really understand, and maybe if you went to a better college, or a college at all…… It all created the carcass of civil society that Trump so effectively weaponized with resentment and anger.
    And then of course we were all forced to listen to the endless excuses of our friends and colleagues, often good people who had worked hard to elect him, and knew exactly what he had promised–after all, he’s an effective speaker, no?–and now were forced into wild and tortured tales of why he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, do all those great things he had said he believed in.
    I thought I hated Bush, but I didn’t vote for him, and knew he was a bad guy. But the Obama betrayal? That hit deep, deeper than Bush. He twisted so many of my friends and relatives into raving fools. He normalized nearly every Bush atrocity, and still walks the earth like a great man.
    I remember when Bernie first hit the campaign trail in 2015 and began to point very directly to the 1%. You could feel the electricity surge through the population like a lightning bolt, hitting places that had lain dormant for decades. The power of narrative is everything. Obama was the worst, an absolutely abominable President.

    Reply
    1. Big Tap

      Also Obama opened up the Arctic to oil exploration, full assault on the press by threatening to use the Espionage Act, campaigning to end wars but created around 3-4 new conflicts (bombing of Libya, Syria, and Yemen), and used more armed drones than George W. Bush did.

      Reply
    2. Lee Too

      “Obama fluently escorted millions into self-loathing and despair”.

      This is beautifully said.

      I am very late to this discussion, but would like to add that I think of Obama as an example of the Dunning-Krueger effect. That is, he was/is an intellectual flyweight — and not so much “educated” as “groomed” — and this ENABLED him to be so satisfied with himself.

      Reply
  11. Brunches with Cats

    The article and comments provide sufficient evidence that Obama was well beyond your (Rose) garden-variety fraud. The clarifying moment for me was his speech in Hiroshima, delivered with heart-rending sincerity and conviction (I was getting choked up even though I could never stand the sound of his voice), all while putting the finishing touches on his $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization plan. An article in The Diplomat called it irony, “a missed opportunity.” I call it the epitome of cold, calculating evil.
    https://thediplomat.com/2016/05/obamas-hiroshima-speech-a-missed-opportunity/

    P.S. “President” shouldn’t be capitalized (especially not this one), unless it’s used as a title directly before the executive person’s name.

    Reply
  12. everydayjoe

    No sitting US President or ex President deserves the Nobel peace price. That says a lot..having said that, Obama’s book also shows the inner workings of his world view…he was conflicted too many a times.

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      He paid lip service to his conscience.
      He resolved all of his conflicts in the same way, in the service of money.
      No violence to the social order allowed.
      Violence to all the people being screwed by the social order?
      …well that’s ok, they need to learn to get in line…

      Reply
      1. WobblyTelomeres

        He paid lip service to his conscience that which a sociopath thinks people with consciences have.

        FIFY!

        Reply
  13. The Rev Kev

    Back in 2008 I thought that America had finally caught a break in having Obama come into office as by that stage, George Bush was getting to be downright clownish with his Presidency. The first warning though was just after he had been elected when it came out that his campaign had gotten two advertising awards. It was at that point I remembered the articles trying to warn people that Obama was not who people though he was which I had just assumed at the time were Republican screeds. It did not take long after that for him to show his true colours. The number of crimes that he did, the looting that he allowed are mentioned here in some detail but I thought to take a 10,000 foot view of his Presidency.

    When Bill Clinton was President, he really allowed neoliberalism to take over America by having the media and defence corporations to consolidate, removing laws that had been in place since the days of FDR, etc. and it took Wall Street less than a decade to steer America into a ditch because of all this. But during the time following you had George Bush as President who let loose the dogs of the neocons in an attempt to secure American hegemony for the rest of the 21st century but which actually revealed America’s limitations of power and which taught other nations how to fight back against America. Between the destruction of the middle class, the disruption in the world as America caused chaos in one country after another, the militarization of the police, etc. all set rifts into motion at home. So in 2008 the stage was set.

    What was critically needed was a reformist President who would bring back law and order to America and the rest of the world. Who would reverse course on the destruction of the world through climate change. Who could develop mature relations with such countries like Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, etc and come to some sort of diplomatic accommodation. One who could take advantage of public feeling and tame Wall Street and put the bankers back in their box. America desperately needed a change of direction before it steered right into the coming iceberg fields. Instead you got Obama who doubled down on the worse of America and put his foot down on the pedal with every fiber of his exceptional soul. The rifts in American now became chasms which resulted in Trump being elected followed by Biden who is now doubling down on everything in an attempt to make America great again.

    The one best chance for America to get back on course and reform itself and you had Obama come in and help betray Americans instead to the worse of their own kind – and all for his own personal wealth and aggrandizement. History will judge him harshly.

    Reply
    1. fresno dan

      The Rev Kev
      April 27, 2021 at 5:39 am
      https://www.quorum.us/data-driven-insights/under-obama-democrats-suffer-largest-loss-in-power-since-eisenhower/
      President Obama entered the White House with his party touting a 60 seat majority in the Senate and 257 seat majority in the House. Democrats now hold a 48* seat minority in the Senate and 194 seat minority in the House — a net loss of 12 and 64 seats respectively.
      In 2009, President Obama’s party controlled both chambers of 27 state legislatures. Eight years later, Democrats control both chambers in only 13 states.
      =====================================
      Inadvertent…or intended? At best, startling incompetency.

      Reply
      1. Dwight

        And now we hear so many complaints about the electoral college, but nothing about how much further Obama put us from the 2/3 of state legislatures necessary to change it. Assuming we even want or need to to do that – I think Democrats need to make their case in every state, and Obama purposefully undermined that by rejecting the 50-state strategy.

        Reply
    2. miningcityguy

      Adolph Reed saw Obama for what he was early in Obama’s career. In 1996 Reed wrote in the Village Voice: ” 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 policies, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundations and development worlds.”

      Reply
    3. Michael Fiorillo

      “… you had Obama come in and help betray Americans…”

      Because that’s what he was hired to do.

      A quick glimpse at his political career in Chicago, to say nothing of Adolph Reed’s prescient assessment in 1996 (!), should have revealed his duplicity and narcissism. Then, taking Lieberman as his mentor upon entering the Senate should have also told us everything we needed to know.

      On a personal level, I can’t bear the sound of his voice, or the banality of his “soaring” rhetoric.

      Reply
  14. jackiebass63

    Presidents are elected on their message to voters. For Obama it was hope and change. Trump won on make America great again. These are great slogans because they say nothing. It is left up to the voter to interpret what it means. I’m a life long registered Democrat.I didn’t vote for Obama either time. This was because I observed Obama during his time in the senate. Obama wasn’t my idea of a real democrat. He was a Wall Street democrat. They are really what used to be called moderate Republicans. As long as monkey trumps everything, we won’t have a government that represents the people.

    Reply
  15. Jason

    Obama in Flint epitomizes the man. Flint needed Federal aid to help clean their drinking water. Giving these deplorables money they don’t deserve is against elite priorities and would set a bad precedent. Cue Obama, who gladly goes and puts on not one – but two – separate performances where he delights in faking taking a sip of water. He has the audacity to say “This is not a stunt” as he’s in the middle of performing his show for the people of Flint. He then repeated his performance backstage for a smaller media audience. All of this was done eagerly, without a hint of remorse or conscience.

    I’ve actually gotten a few Obamaphiles to at least stop and think for a moment upon viewing his disgusting display in Flint.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘Obama in Flint epitomizes the man’
      Yeah, I think that you have it there. He actually showed what was in his soul in Flint.

      Reply
  16. Steve Ruis

    I made a similar list to this one, but mine was much longer, when Mr. Obama left office. One disaster you left off, understandable because of your economic and political focus, was, well, Arne Duncan. After writing my first draft, I found I had added the former Secretary of Education’s name to the list three times. The failure of the Obama administration to defend and support public education is a lasting smear on our society.

    And his lack of effort to directly help Black people, for fear of seeming to have a bias was also unsupportable. What President doesn’t have a bias or two or twenty?

    Reply
      1. Librarian Guy

        I love Welsh’s site, and yes, Hugh is very big on US “humanitarian” interventions. Those swarthy complexioned people living abroad don’t know what’s good for them, but Hugh is very confident that the empire does, despite the historical record.

        Reply
  17. michael hudson

    Well, I always refer to the Obama Depression, from 2008 onward, and we are still in it. There was no recovery. All the GDP growth since 2008 has accrued to only 5% of the population. (Pavlina Tscherneva’s charts)
    But we need to go beyond Obama. The problem is the Democratic Party itself. THEY produced him, and Joe Lieberman tutored him on just whom to serve. And he locked in the DNC’s right-wing control (while dismantling local Democratic politics in red states).
    In that sense he really was a Republican. But it’s necessary to trace how he wrecked the Democrats.

    Reply
    1. Darius

      Obama was embarrassed by economic stimulus. His was supposed to be the presidency that established centrist neoliberal austerity and show everyone how great it is. Everyone who mattered, that is. It wasn’t supposed to be cleaning up after a depression. So he had to be dragged into action and almost immediately “pivoted” to the deficit. That eventually gave us Trump.

      Reply
    2. Noone from Nowheresville

      Obama was an inspiring 1 percenter. If I recall, the Kennedys were early promoters as well.

      Republican / Democrat? Seriously why do we care these days? If Lambert wrote this article from the perspective of the top 5% of the global elite looking at the executive, legislature, and judiciary successes and failings at the federal / state / international levels, how dramatically different would this article be? What would the score cards for Democrat v. Republican look like? How would they overlap and compliment one another?

      I suspect Clinton, Bush and Obama would be considered highly excellent executives / politicians if one’s grading standards use the top 5%’s objectives and goals as the guidelines.

      We like to say special interests and bribes are the “reason.” If only there were “good” politicians… There are extremely good politicians. Look at all the changes that have happened to our society in the last few decades and how they are accelerating with only minor bumps in the road to said changes.

      Until we accept that the political class is part and parcel of the top 5% and treat them as true adversaries, societal changes at a global level will continue on its death cult course.

      Just think… if we were to lose half of the global population how that would rise the standard of living. It would certainly solve a lot of global problems even if it created others. Yeah, I really do believe that there are people in positions of power thinking that way.

      Reply
  18. John Hacker

    Good morning,
    I remember before his 100 days were up, he dismantled the grassroots coalition that gave him the Presidency. He is alive, his family are alive. I do not know what i would do. America is a scary place. Sun’s nice in Miami.
    Pusillanimously,
    John

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      His personal ambition was to become America’s first billionaire ex-president.

      His ambition for his daughters is to elevate them up into the Bush Class. . . . . the High High High global gentry. Martin Luther King’s dream, no doubt.

      And Black America , in its millions, is beside itself with worshipful humble servile pride in their Obama.

      Reply
  19. Donald

    Add Yemen to the list. There was zero excuse for this. Yes, they wanted to reassure the Saudi “ regime” ( we never call our scumbag allied governments “ regimes”) after the Iranian agreement ( which was one good thing Obama did). But obviously the war would be be long massive crime and that was true from the start. I once saw a YouTube link where John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, was explaining to a Russian reporter that Saudi bombing of civilians was due to an imprecision in the targeting process, while Russian bombing in Syria was a crime. I never get over how amazingly hypocritical people are on this. Of course, our own bombing of Fallujah, Mosul, and Raqqa was every bit as destructive as anything the Russians did in Aleppo.

    I found that most liberals I spoke to online and in real life in 2016 didn’t know about Yemen and when I told them, with one or two exceptions they brushed it off or assumed there was some good reasons for it or even used the “ placate the Saudis” justification. Everything has to be run through a partisan filter before judging it as right or wrong. And if Obama was responsible, it couldn’t be that bad.

    Reply
  20. Michael Carano

    Let us not forget foreign policy: Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Honduras. Even though his Cuba and Iran policy were hits in between the second base and center field, he still only batted below 150 and continually left runners on base.

    Reply
  21. Susan the other

    It seems like an eternity since Obama took office. Hope and change. I’m forever amazed at how much we learn and change as a community in such short periods of time. We should have a tab, like the Top Ten ideas of the year. Since Obama’s pathetic debacle the country has changed so much it’s hard to even make a list. We are no longer naive politically, we are no longer naive economically, we are watching the military like doves; we are not in denial about our unexceptionalism, we are serious about our overconsumption and the environment, and we don’t seem to even care about political promises; we are now demanding the things we need – we know everything went to hell. So maybe it’s hopelessness and change. Because if you have hope you just keep hanging on to the same old crap. When Obama proved to be ineffective, when he wept during his SOTU and asked the electorate to “demonstrate” more for social equality, when he caved to the banks and ruined every spark of hope in America, America did indeed change. Powerful voices came through the fog (think NC here) and there’s no going back.

    Reply
  22. Phil in KC

    He lost me when he appointed Geitner for Treasury. I shouldn’t say “lost me” so much as “showed me his true character.”

    He was so arrogant that he thought his charm and brilliance would win over rank and file Republicans in the House and Senate. Failed.

    He did that one big thing–the ACA–but let Congress mangle and distort the thing so badly. He could have lowered the age of eligibility for Medicare to 55 but for Joe Lieberman, who decided against it.

    In retrospect, a Romney win would have been a better outcome in 2012. As we know, Romney is not the “strict conservative” he presented to the Tea Party in order to gain their favor. He would have governed as a New England liberal Republican, ala Rockefeller, perhaps. Instead, we got four more years of neo-liberal mush.

    But most damning: “No one is above the law, but on the other hand . . .”

    Reply
  23. LawnDart

    Obama’s words were not simply empty of meaning, their misuse created a vacuum that drew in angst, hopelessness and rage.

    I don’t know whom to hold more in contempt, the man or those who enabled him.

    Reply
    1. LawnDart

      And I’ll note that directing his DOJ to work hand-in-glove with private equity to shut down the OCCUPY movement appears nowhere on this list.

      In light of the recent J6 “coup,” what’s the alternative should peaceful protest no longer be possible?

      Reply
  24. Sound of the Suburbs

    I used to live on the surface.
    I didn’t really have time to analyse anything in detail, and I got my information from the mainstream media.
    Bill Clinton was a good President, and the Republicans were behaving terribly trying to remove him from office.
    New Labour were really going to change things in the UK, I thought this was just what the UK needed.
    The Iraq war seemed sensible enough; Saddam Hussein was a terrible leader and needed to be removed.

    Then I had more time to look at things in more detail.
    The more you scratch away at the surface and look underneath, the worse it gets.
    The image of Bill Clinton that I had received from the mainstream media gave no indication of some of the awful legislation he passed.
    I was firmly behind New Labour when they were in office, but I am now pretty sure they were not who I thought they were.
    I was still pretty near the surface when Barack Obama came into office and things did look very hopeful.
    I won’t be surprised by any revelations now.

    Reply
  25. Anthony K Wikrent

    During Obama’s Presidency, I used to argue that Obama’s terrible policies were not the result of his being malicious or evil, but because he was thoroughly trained and indoctrinated in neo-liberalism. This explains Obama’s awful economic policies, but it does not explain, to my satisfaction, the first two examples Lambert uses – surveillance, and torture.

    As I have sought for a solution to the problems USA and the world faces, I have since come to also realize that elites are trained — not just in USA but all over the world — to be ruthless and vindictive. That is how they rise to the top of any organization they are in. I think part of this is captured by Ian Welsh’s argument that managers are taught to make all decisions using cost-benefit analysis to some degree. I think a very large part of it is captured by Thorstein Veblen’s analysis of the ruling Leisure Class. Marxist analysis, I have concluded does not offer much in the way of understanding the psychology of sociopathy that characterizes elites. Veblen offers many insights on this, Marx does not. This is why Marxists cannot explain why actual socialism or communism failed to change human nature, but Veblen can. All other analysts of elites psychopathology since Veblen, including Wolin and Hedges, basically restate what Veblen already wrote a century and a quarter ago.

    Another conclusion I have reached from all this searching, inquiring, and pondering, is that the principles of civic republicanism offer workable solutions out of this accelerating vortex of catastrophe. First, civic republicanism demands that the rights and needs of community be given equal, and sometimes greater, weight, than individual liberty, while at the same time demanding the creation and maintenance of institutions devoted to preserving individual liberty. In essence, civil republicanism recognizes and accepts that there are some really bad parts of human nature, and that governments must be instituted to guard against the effects of these. Socialists and communists are just plain wrong in their belief that changing or eliminating property relations and who owns the means of production will result in a better human nature.

    Second, civic republicanism demands an active promotion of “the good.” Now, of course, you can debate what “the good is” at any given moment, or for any given society, but this is exactly why public education grounded in classics such as Plato, Euripides, Plutarch, Milton, Shakespeare, is indispensable to self-government and the maintenance of liberty. But to see what I mean about an active promotion of “the good” just look at the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin, especially the various voluntary, charitable, and political institutions he helped establish and create.

    Looking at Obama, I think that is the key element that was missing: the personal determination, which was never inculcated in him through his thorough education in neoliberalism, to do good. Cost benefit analysis was drilled into him, but not a wide-ranging examination and understanding of doing good.

    In the end, how a society behaves will be determined by what the members of that society believe. In USA, we have discarded civic republicanism — aided and abetted by a wrong-headed leftist insistence that racism and empire were baked into the USA from the beginning — and replaced it with the neoliberal insistence that only markets are the true and just arbiter of human affairs, not humans themselves.

    Reply
  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    The reason you dare not condemn Obama in public is because his worshipful millions of black worshippers will call you racist and will Wokemail and Wokestort you to ” take your racist racism against Obama back, you racist.”

    Don’t believe it? Try it and see.

    I remember reading about how the black racist comedian Trevor Noah played the racist card against people noting Obama’s corruption. I can’t find the referrence now on my search prevention engines.
    So I will just send along this other link about the racist comedian Trevor Noah’s documented racism in another context.
    https://thebrag.com/trevor-noah-controversial-remarks-indigenous-women/

    Reply

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