I am sad to say that all the things I predicted about the Obama presidency four years ago have come true. I was, like all goodhearted people everywhere, delighted to think of an African American winning the White House. But I became more and more suspicious during the 2008 campaign. It seemed that Obama did not really believe in peace, environmental sanity, or economic justice. One grim moment was when I heard that he had solicited advice from Henry Kissinger, whom I consider to be a Class A war criminal.
The uncritical support that Obama gained from the US media in 2008 also made me nervous. America has always been a relatively racist society, less so in the 21st century, but still undeniably so. And we have a long tradition of subjecting presidential candidates to withering scrutiny. Yet Obama, a black man with an odd name, clearly less experienced than almost any presidential candidate in history, was feted by the press in a way that almost made it seem as if they knew he had already been selected to win. As a longtime and distinctly cynical media critic, this set off alarm bells for me. Why were the right wingers pulling their punches? Was there something about Obama they secretly liked?
But the real turning point for me was when I saw him on TV. My wife and I don’t own a TV, and I monitor the American scene by reading what has been written on the internet. So it was late in the campaign, during Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2008 convention, when I first saw him speak. And, through an odd coincidence, I saw him without hearing him. I was sitting at an airport waiting to meet an arriving flight, and they showed the speech on an overhead screen with inaudible sound. I was immediately struck by things that no one would have been likely to pay attention to if distracted by the audio and its content – Obama had all of the nervous gestures, facial tics, and bizarre eye movements characteristic of someone who is consciously lying!
Don’t get me wrong. I want Obama to win the 2012 “election.” I loathe Romney and all he stands for, and am convinced that Obama is far and away the lesser of two evils. If he shows signs of being unable to carry the state I live in, I will even vote for him. I am a pacifist and an environmentalist, and have been loudly opposed to racism since coming of age in the sixties. I continue to maintain a naïve, idealistic, and outdated notion that government should function as a sort of Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. So I should be a vocal Obama supporter, right?
But I cannot ignore Obama’s record. Guantanamo is still open for business, and I am not at all convinced that torture has been ended. The war in Afghanistan has been escalated under Obama, and American troops are still in Iraq, even if that slaughter has diminished. The military is actively engaged in hostilities in Yemen and in what is euphemistically called the “drug war” in Honduras. Obama has expanded America’s military footprint into Africa and Australia, and his administration has authorized hundreds of murderous drone strikes in Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden was killed without judge, jury, defense lawyers, or due process, and Obama claims to be proud of that conspicuously un-American episode. Meanwhile Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are unindicted and no investigation of them has been proposed. The global economic collapse is ongoing, but those responsible have not been jailed, and the financial industry continues to be dangerously under-regulated. And nothing whatsoever has been done to curtail climate change, lessen environmental destruction, slow species extinction, or solve the glaring problems in the nuclear power industry.
So Obama has been a dreadful president, in my opinion, well to the right of Nixon or Eisenhower, and just as ineffective as Jimmy Carter.
My friends and family members, who are almost all soft-headed liberals, say that Obama is a brilliant man with a good heart who has been utterly stymied by political gridlock in Washington. What they don’t see is the contradiction inherent in that line of reasoning. If he was so smart and idealistic, he wouldn’t have volunteered for the job! We all knew that Bush had presided over the destruction of the economy. We all knew that any Democratic president would get savaged by the right if he or she tried to end any of Bush’s military adventures. We all knew that American industry would fight tooth and nail to preserve their (highly profitable, in the short term) race to destroy the planet’s climate. If Obama didn’t know these things, then he is an utter fool.
But he is not a fool. And he did know all of this. The only possible conclusion is that he is not goodhearted, and that he was never really interested in pursuing peace, environmental sanity, or economic justice. Thus my reluctant and depressing conclusion, which I first arrived at four years ago: Obama sold out. He agreed to preserve the rabid militarists and the climate-raping billionaires when he was offered the job. He agreed to do nothing significant to help the middle class. (Not to mention poor people, people of color, or America’s shamefully large prison population!) He agreed to let the banksters and the Class A war criminals run free. He agreed that the military industrial complex should be utterly unhindered. In short, he agreed to pose as a liberal while actively furthering the agenda of the ruling class.
What a brilliant choice he was for the billionaires who selected him! They knew perfectly well that critics would have a very hard time calling attention to Obama’s faults without appearing racist. They knew perfectly well that after a few years of an illiberal and utterly ineffectual African American Democratic president that Republicans would become more popular, and that no Democrat, let alone a black Democrat, would get elected for many, many years following the Obama debacle. What better way to neutralize the pacifists, environmentalists, and campaigners for racial, sexual, and economic justice than to select a black man who would go on to do all the wrong things? Right-wingers hate him because, in their infinite stupidity, they think he is a socialist and a foreigner and a bad economic manager. Progressives are heartbroken and dispirited because Obama has betrayed almost every single ideal we believe in. Fools of no particular political persuasion are encouraged to loathe “government” more than ever. And meanwhile the environment-destroying war machine rolls on and the rich get richer, while the country is distracted by economic distress and the electoral charade. Machiavelli would be buying champagne for everybody if he could see this.
My conclusion? Please vote for Obama. But do it with your eyes open, not shut in denial. Just because Romney is worse doesn’t make Obama a good guy. The lesser of two evils is still evil.
In my opinion, the billionaires who run this country think Obama is doing a fine job, and they intend for him to have four more years to put the icing on the cake. It is no coincidence, in my opinion, that Republicans nominated a man that most Republicans actively dislike, of a religion that most Americans distrust, and chose an utterly revolting fool as his running mate. They will be perfectly happy if Obama gets a second term. They can complete the process of transferring trillions of dollars from our bank accounts and retirement accounts to the offshore accounts of the ultra-rich, and they really don’t care about anything else. Obama will continue to serve these people, more openly in his second term. But Romney would be worse. Obama will do the billionaire’s dirty work, neatly and competently. Romney would screw it up, and would probably start a nuclear war in his bumbling, ignorant, uncomprehending way. Obama will merely make sure that the rich continue to get richer. Romney wouldn’t even be able to do that right.