Under Barack Obama:
Prepare For Repression, Subterfuge, & Continuing Wars
By Larry Pinkney
November 20, 2008
"…Suddenly [Rahm] Emanuel grabbed his steak knife and, as those who
were there remember it, shouted out the name of another enemy, lifted
the knife, then brought it down with full force into the table.
'Dead!' he screamed.
The group immediately joined in the cathartic release: 'Nat Landow!
Dead! Cliff Jackson! Dead! Bill Schaefer! Dead!"
This is what the New York Times article (by Elisabeth Bumiller June
15, 1997) titled, 'The Brothers Emanuel' reported about the war
mongering pro apartheid Zionist Rahm Emanuel, who is Barack Obama's
choice for White House Chief of Staff. Americans and the world should
be truly alarmed.
The fact that Barack Obama has selected Rahm Emanuel for White House
Chief of Staff is a clear signal as to Obama's actual hawkish and war
like intentions; and though this choice comes as no surprise to those
who did not drink the Obama corporate media Kool-Aid, it should serve
as an urgent wake up call to what real leftists and so called
progressives that remain in this nation. The installment of Barack
Obama as president of the U.S. Empire will mean enormous and
intensified political repression and subterfuge internally; and
ongoing wars externally.
Now that the corporate media has served in the despicable role of
ensuring that Obama is the next face of U.S. Empire, it unabashedly
is in the process of attempting to prepare the U.S. citizenry and the
world for further military build up and conflict under the Obama
regime. A recent example of this can be found in the November 16,
2008, TIME article (by Mark Thompson) titled, 'Why Obama Will
Continue Star Wars' The continuation of the Star Wars so-called
defense system is precisely what the corporate / military elite of
the U.S. Empire want, despite the fact that it is unnecessary,
ineffective, incredibly expensive and of course unduly and
deliberately provocative - particularly as relates to Russia and
other European nations.
In column after column this writer has attempted to alert readers to
who and what Barack Obama really is and what this means for this
nation and the world. In short order the 'chickens will [ultimately]
come home to roost,' meaning that hopefully many more people will
have gotten over their corporate-media induced, Barack Obama Kool-Aid
stupor. The dangers of remaining in the stupor are nothing short of
Politically conscious and justice & peace loving people have but one
viable alternative: WE MUST ORGANIZE! We must do our utmost to urge
people to be vigilant. We must constantly highlight the political
capitalist systemic contradictions and the corporate give-aways of
the Obama/Biden regime. Economic exploitation, disparity, and racism
will in fact increase. We must prepare for the inevitable increased
political repression against the people of this nation, clearly
understanding that the very subterfuge of the corporate / military
elite, and its hand maiden - the corporate media, is in fact what
brought Barack Obama to power as the face of U.S. Empire.
The times are perilous. Vigilance and organization of and between
Black, Brown, White, Red, and Yellow peoples must be the order of the
day. Have no illusions as to what is ahead in the U.S. Empire and
what is at stake.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board Member, Larry Pinkney, is a
veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior
of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the
only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political
rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights.
On Cabinet Picks, Obama Savvier than Progressive Critics
by Randy Shaw
Nov. 24‚ 2008
As Barack Obama's Cabinet fills with Clinton Administration veterans,
some are raising concerns why no "movement progressive" has been
selected. Hillary Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State
galvanized fears that Obama's cabinet is unduly "centrist," a concern
amplified by the daily parade of predominately white male Clinton
veterans in the "possible nominee" section of the New York Times.
While floating such names satisfies the media's desire to define
Obama as moving to "the center," they do not mean that our new
President is abandoning his commitment to "change." In fact, Obama's
appointments primarily show that he understands better than his
critics the underlying political dynamics involved with implementing
progressive change. Obama realizes that it is not a weakened
Republican Party that holds the greatest risk to his progressive
agenda, but rather internal Democratic opposition. This is what
killed health care and labor law reform under the last two Democratic
presidents, and could do the same in 2009. By bringing the Clinton's
and other factions of the Party inside his tent, Obama makes it
harder for Democrats to oppose his progressive plans.
After writing on November 10 that progressives should not evaluate
Barack Obama's commitment to change by his cabinet picks,
commentators on the left have done just the opposite, particularly in
the wake of Hillary Clinton's appointment. But critics make three
assumptions: (1) that progressives are being excluded from the
cabinet, (2) that this exclusion is part of Obama's shift to "the
center," and (3) that Obama is forfeiting his mantle of "change" by
relying on Clinton Administration "retreads" that are either
inaccurate and/or reflect a misunderstanding of how an Obama
Administration is most likely to succeed in implementing a progressive agenda.
Where are the "Movement Progressives"?
The real question should be: where did anyone get the idea that Obama
would appoint a "movement progressive" as Secretary of State,
Attorney General or Secretary of Treasury? John Kerry, the supposed
favorite for the former, is a movement progressive, while the latter
post was always going to be either Timothy Geithner (who got it) or
Lawrence Summers (who progressives opposed).
John Edwards was the only possible "movement progressive" for
Attorney General, and he removed himself from consideration. Eric
Holder, who becomes the first African-American Attorney General, was
the longtime frontrunner, and is expected to preside over civil
rights division dominated by progressive attorneys.
What about the other key posts? Janet Napolitano is clearly the most
progressive potential choice to direct Homeland Security. And her
appointment should allay concerns that Obama has put immigration
reform on the backburner.
Peter Orszag, selected to head the Office of Management and Budget,
is a strong health-care advocate who likely was the most progressive
option. Tom Daschle was widely backed by progressives while in the
Senate, and the response to his appointment to head Health and Human
Services has been almost universally positive.
There was little discussion about the next Commerce Secretary, but
Bill Richardson was likely the most progressive possible selection.
Where are the movement progressives? Expect to see them appointed in
the areas where progressive social movements thrive, such as labor
and the environment.
Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is considered the frontrunner to be
Interior Secretary, and environmentalists are jubilant over his
The Secretary of Labor will either be David Bonior, Linda
Chavez-Thompson, or another "movement progressive." Expect the same
in Education, Energy and Transportation, three areas where few names
have been publicly discussed.
The Hillary Question
I was initially incredulous that Obama would pick Hillary Clinton as
Secretary of State, precisely because foreign policy is where she is
But the genius of this pick has become clear.
First, it brings the entire Clinton camp into the Obama camp. This
means that Harold Ickes, Lanny Davis, James Carville and all those
Clinton allies whose media connections could have caused all kinds of
problems for Obama will now be on the President's side.
Second, Clinton gives Obama the credibility he needs to move U.S.
foreign policy to the left.
Let's be clear here: Obama has never adopted a progressive foreign
policy, so some progressives may have unrealistic expectations in
this area. But its clear that had Obama appointed a "movement
progressive" as Secretary of State, his policy innovations would have
been attacked by both Clinton Democrats and Republicans.
Now he only has Republicans to be concerned about, and they have
nowhere near the credibility of Clinton Democrats. For those who
believe that Hillary will move Obama to the right, or be a fifth
column in the Obama presidency, my response is that this analysis
greatly underestimates Obama's ability to implement and harness
Moving to "The Center"
Some believe it very important that Obama be identified as a
"progressive" who will implement left-wing policies. If you are among
this group, you have misread the new President and are sure to be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you are among those who want policies long
identified with progressives to be enacted, and do not care if they
are called "centrist" or even "conservative," than Obama is still on
track to fulfill your expectations.
All this talk about Obama moving to "the center" appears designed to
make political moderates feel good about supporting policies they
long opposed. And if universal health care, a billion-dollar "green
jobs" measure, massive investment in alternative energy and
infrastructure jobs, labor law reform, and the entire list of Obama
campaign proposals is now seen as "centrist," then progressives won
more on November 4 than we realized.
Those complaining about Obama selecting people with Clinton
Administration experience should read about the Jimmy Carter years.
Carter was elected as an "outsider," and he tried to run an
administration without those with federal government experience.
The result? A disaster. Carter's administration was not only
dysfunctional, but its extreme incompetence lent credence to Ronald
Reagan's charge in the 1980 election that "government is the
problem." Obama would have been a fool to follow Carter's example,
and has instead brought in a team of people who will get things done.
Unifying the Democrats
Obama is smarter than many of us, because he understood that his main
obstacle come January would be "moderate" Democratsnot Republicans.
Such Democrats have assisted Republicans in undermining progressive
health care, environmental, and labor reforms, and could have done
the same in 2009-10.
Obama realized that implementing progressive measures requires an
unprecedented degree of Democratic unity. He is using his
appointments to achieve this, and the wisdom of this strategy will
soon be apparent.
Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the author of the newly
released, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle
for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press).
Critical Thinking Amid the Elation
by Shannon Joyce Prince
17 November 2008
"Obama is hiding imperialism, neo-liberalism, and corporatism behind
the language of progressivism."
Remember back seven years ago to the aftermath of September 11th when
the world was divided into the good and the axis of evil, those who
had democracy and those whose envy of it drove them to murderous
fundamentalism? Remember the charge of the extreme right - that
anybody who didn't support the War on Terror or didn't show the
appropriate level of hostility towards Islam or Middle Easterners or
paused to quibble over whether or not "enemy countries" had weapons
of mass destruction was unpatriotic and insufficiently
American? Remember how the left, the middle, and the moderate right
took issue with that kind of Manichean thinking while the war hawks
said it didn't matter if those who were leading us to war were honest
or which Middle Eastern country we bombed because we were
representing the concepts of freedom and democracy, thus the nitty
gritty about reality and truth weren't important?
I've been stunned to hear that same kind of rhetoric from the
left. Either you support President-elect Obama or you're a too cool
for school revolutionary snob, a Gloomy Gus, or someone too
idealistic, unrealistic, or cynical to be pragmatic or useful. It
doesn't matter who Obama is, what he does, says, or stands for - he
represents hope and change and that's good enough. The left is
currently doing what the right once did, conflating concepts with
reality. The right said supporting democracy and freedom and
supporting the War on Terror were one and the same. The left says
supporting hope and change and supporting Barack Obama are one and
the same -- and their elision is just as dangerous. Just as by
employing the words freedom, equality, and justice the Founding
Fathers were able to hide a white, male, propertied oligarchy in the
guise and language of democracy, Obama is hiding imperialism,
neo-liberalism, and corporatism behind the language of progressivism.
See, there's nothing wrong with hope as long as the person enjoining
you to hope isn't also demanding that you abandon your critical
thinking skills. Believe it or not, those of us who criticize Obama
are not grumps who enjoy telling children there is no Santa Claus
while merrily kicking puppies. I don't begrudge anyone their elation
at this time. When my Creole grandfather, a man who had to leave
school in the fifth grade to pick sugarcane, called me nearly in
tears that Obama had won the election I shared his joyful moment with
him. I didn't seize that moment to explain that Jason Furman was
heading up Obama's economics team, that as a senator Obama repeatedly
voted to increase funding for the war in Iraq, or tell him about the
horrible things Obama has said about black fathers such as my
wonderful grandfather. The problem, however, is that my grandfather
supports Obama because he doesn't know those things. Many of the
people that danced in the streets haven't taken the time to do any
research on Obama, so part of their euphoria is based on
ignorance. Another significantly large population - much of the
black community - supports Obama based on the belief that he is
secretly not what he has presented himself to be; that once he has
sneaked his way into office he's going to rip apart his button-down
shirt revealing a bright Superman "S" and suddenly become Martin
Luther King's ideological heir.
I've heard another significant faction of people say that it doesn't
matter what Obama does or doesn't do because now little black boys
can see a black president and know that they can grow up to be
president, too. But that's just it - those little black boys are
going to grow up. They're going to analyze and think critically (one
hopes) and be affected by Obama's rhetoric and his policies. They're
going to need substance, not a symbol. And they deserve better than Obama.
People who say Obama is dangerous, perhaps as dangerous as McCain,
aren't crazy. What we realize is that while Obama might, and that's
a big might, give in to leftist pressure and pass the kinds of
positive legislation he didn't as senator, good legislation can be
undermined by the racist ideology to which Obama subscribes. It's
one thing for masses of white people to assume that racism is 90%
over. It's another for a black man, Obama, to tell them this is
so. Fostering those kinds of illusions is fatal. I've heard it said
that Obama is obviously less racist than McCain and his rural white
sycophants because McCain uses racial slurs and Obama doesn't. That
doesn't make Obama less racist, just savvier. It reminds me of how
aristocratic slave-owners had a hypocritical disgust for poorer,
cruder slave traders, or how you read in many slave-owner narratives
that genteel slave-owners proudly called their slaves "servants"
instead of slaves. That didn't make the slaves any freer,
however. Obama might not call blacks the "n" word, but his
descriptions of blacks have depicted them as exactly
that. Conversely, Obama may never call Afghans r*gh**ds, but if he
widens the war in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians won't be any less
dead. In fact, Obama's ability to widen the war with Afghanistan
might be aided by his genteel language.
You see racists, be they black or white, aren't all as stupid as
McCain. As Nancy MacLean noted in her book, Freedom is Not Enough,
many racists have gotten hip to equality-sounding language. That's
why Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action bill was called the
California Civil Rights Initiative. That's why one racist, nativist,
anti-immigration group calls itself Vietnamese for Fair Immigration
(though it's run by a white man.) Time after time Obama has treated
blacks, Muslims, and Middle Easterners with contempt. No matter how
beautiful Obama is when he smiles, poised when he debates, or
eloquent when he speaks, he is still racist, and his racism, his
willingness to undermine minority concerns, his eagerness to appease
whites, his enthusiastic obscuring of both past and present issues of
justice and equality are perhaps as dangerous to America as anything
McCain could do.
As Derrick Bell, the first African American tenured Harvard law
professor and one of America's most brilliant legal minds has pointed
out, whites tend to allow non-whites to achieve symbolic racial
landmarks only when it meets white interests more than black
interests and often by using black figureheads. As blacks place
their faith in slow but sure racial progress whites convert old
oppressions into more covert forms. Only when blacks are aware of
this strategy can they fight for meaningful victories. Interestingly
enough, those who criticize Bell tend to do so not because his work
is inaccurate but because it's "depressing." I'm sorry, but my
concern isn't being the life of the party -- it's seeking liberation
for all people. Those who castigate folks for not being
appropriately jubilant at Obama's election are insisting that blacks
content themselves, in perpetuity, with symbolism instead of real
change. All those who don't know what Obama stands for or think he
will exhibit qualities contrary to the way he has voted in the Senate
and spoken in his speeches or expect him to be loyal to issues he's
flip flopped on, are entitled to do so. However, it is irresponsible
for those of us who believe that hope is only positive when wisely
invested not to use all the research we can gather and all the
thought power we can employ to fight for the rights and happiness of
Ms. Prince can be contacted at Shannon.J.Prince@Dartmouth.EDUThis
enabled to view it
Barack Obama, honeymoon killer?
The Clintonites in his Cabinet, forgiveness for Lieberman, the
creeping signs of centrism -- progressives aren't ready to panic, yet.
By Mike Madden
Nov. 24, 2008
WASHINGTON -- One of the first things Barack Obama did after winning
the election two weeks ago was put an old-school political brawler in
charge of his White House. Next, he saved Joe Lieberman. Then, he met
with John McCain, and asked Hillary Clinton to run his State
Department. For good measure, he's also apparently weighing whether
to keep George W. Bush's Defense secretary, Robert Gates, on at the Pentagon.
This is the guy Republicans called a socialist, maybe a Marxist, and
National Journal said was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate?
McCain aides were saying on Election Night that their own polling
showed 60 percent of the country thought Obama was a liberal (and
many voted for him anyway). Barely two weeks into the transition,
that number might already be dropping fast.
In fact, in his appointments, and in what can be divined of his
foreign policy, there are loud echoes of the last Democratic
administration, and also of that lady he beat in the primaries, the
one the netroots didn't like very much. Certainly, some of Obama's
supporters are getting a little nervous about what this all presages
about an Obama White House. "The list [of disappointments] is getting
awfully long," wrote the blogger bmaz at Firedoglake. "Almost as long
as Barack Obama's arm that he used to take our money and efforts to
get himself elected. All we have seen is the short arm he has used to
punch us in the face and collect street cred with villagers for
having done so." Open Left's Chris Bowers wrote on Friday that he
felt "incredibly frustrated ... [W]hy isn't there a single member of
Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left?" Even Pat
Buchanan -- not exactly the world's most liberal guy -- apparently
thinks Obama needs to throw a bone to progressives after the start
the transition is off to.
But so far, the Obama administration is shaping up to be more or less
exactly what Obama always said he was, in between the "hope" and
"change" rhetoric: pragmatic, consensus-oriented and interested in
getting things done. That's not necessarily what a lot of Democrats
want him to be, though. Obama was bound to disappoint his supporters;
think of the transition as the road map for how it's going to happen.
And know that it won't come as a surprise to the president-elect
himself; in 2006, in "The Audacity of Hope," he wrote that people
tend to "project their own views" on him, and recognized what could
happen as a result: "As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not
all of them."
"This has been the pattern for him historically -- the left falls in
love with him because of his eloquent oratory and his, I think,
genuine sense of mission to help people who are less fortunate," said
biographer David Mendell. "But he has legislated from somewhere in
the middle, and then once he gets into a general election campaign,
he tends to squirt that direction even farther. He'll irritate people
on both sides -- except the right expects him to be a Democrat, and
the far left expects him to be one of them. And he's consistently
disappointed the far left."
To date, the president-elect's most notable difference of opinion
with his supporters is probably on the subject of Joe Lieberman. He
seems to have escaped blame for the Democratic failure to punish
Lieberman last week, though Senate Democrats would certainly have
been tougher on the Connecticut senator had Obama not intervened on
his behalf. Harry Reid, instead, is becoming the fall guy for the
slap on the wrist Lieberman received. That's either evidence of
denial on the part of many Obama fans, or a sign that, among
liberals, Obama has far more goodwill to burn than Reid has. Blogger
and author (and Salon contributor) David Sirota blames long-standing
Democratic habits and not Obama for Lieberman's escape from
punishment. "The Democratic leadership [on Capitol Hill] has decided
that the way it is going to govern, it is going to essentially
triangulate aggressively against its own party," said. "I actually
don't think Obama in his policy positions he's taken since the
election -- I don't think he's actually done that. It's possible that
congressional leaders are actually fearing that Obama will be far
more legislatively aggressive than them."
But the big sticking point for many of Obama's intra-party critics is
the strong strain of Clintonism running through appointments. They
can lay the failure to banish Lieberman at Harry Reid's feet but they
can't rewrite the résumés of people like Rahm Emanuel.
"You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton
people, it would have been fine," said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of
the American Prospect and a distinguished senior fellow at Demos, a
liberal think tank (and a longtime critic of Bill Clinton's centrist
economic policies). "But when so many of the top people are
holdovers, and he's promoting change, you have to say, wait a
minute." Republicans are hoping to exploit any disconnect between
Obama and his supporters -- the Republican National Committee has
been sending reporters e-mail blasts of background research on each
potential Cabinet pick, pointing out how many are Washington insiders
with long ties to the Clinton administration or to other parts of the
The list of Clinton alums in the transition or the administration
starts with Hillary Clinton, who is reportedly set to take over at
State, then goes to Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff,
transition co-chairman (and Clinton White House chief of staff) John
Podesta and plenty of lower-level aides. Eric Holder, whom Obama will
reportedly nominate as attorney general, was a deputy at the Justice
Department under Clinton. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is
likely to be named Commerce secretary soon, had several Clinton
administration jobs (though he endorsed Obama after dropping out of
the presidential race himself). Clinton's former Treasury secretary,
Lawrence Summers, will be a senior White House economic advisor and
nearly got his old job back -- which progressives are particularly
alarmed about. "Appointing someone who helped get us into this mess
with what he fought for is a really bad idea," said Robert Borosage,
co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. (New York Federal
Reserve branch head Tim Geithner will be named the new Treasury
secretary-designate on Monday; he's worked closely with much of the
Clinton-era economic team in the past.)
Some antiwar activists are also starting to wonder what happened to
the Obama who first rose to prominence in the Iowa caucuses because
he opposed the war. "Obama always really used to his advantage the
fact that he did not support the Iraq war in the beginning, and that
was a key argument that he used to discredit Hillary Clinton, and
something that he was able to tout to his benefit," said Kelly
Dougherty, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"People put all this hope into getting Obama elected -- the reasons
were much deeper. They didn't just want to get him elected, but they
want to see real change." Add in Clinton, at State, and Vice
President-elect Joe Biden, and Obama would be getting foreign policy
and military advice from a lot of people who supported the Iraq war.
And then there are people who are rumored to be under consideration
who worked for someone far more hated on the left than Hillary
Clinton. If Bush's secretary of defense, Robert Gates, sticks around,
how will that play with the base? How about John Brennan, who worked
at the CIA earlier in the Bush administration and whom Obama is
rumored to like for a top intelligence job (either at CIA or as
director of national intelligence)? The Brennan rumor is already
proving divisive because of his support for torture.
Still, even critics are sanguine about some of Obama's picks. Obama
doesn't have much choice except to turn to ex-Clinton aides in many
jobs; there aren't many Democrats who are ready to take relatively
senior positions who've worked in government but didn't work for Clinton.
"It hasn't surprised me that he's chosen stars from the Clinton
bench, because that's the bench we have," said Borosage, who -- aside
from the return of Summers to a national role -- mostly likes the
direction of the transition so far. "Many of the appointments strike
me as terrific, in the sense of serious people who will try to get
That does seem to be the main factor motivating what the transition
team is doing so far. Every public statement from Obama, Podesta and
Emanuel has emphasized a desire to hit the ground running on Jan. 20;
progressives may not love some of the names Obama is appointing to
these jobs, but they still like what he says he wants the appointees
to do once in office. Working in Chicago, Obama aides never spent
much time during the campaign worrying about what Democrats back in
D.C. were saying about their strategy, and so far, the transition
team seems to be taking a similar approach. Emanuel, after meeting
with Senate Republicans on Thursday, sounded more bipartisan and
magnanimous than he ever has before. "The challenges for the country
are large," he told reporters. "The problems we face are of a serious
magnitude. There is enough area and enough goodwill for ideas from
both parties to solve those challenges."
Obama's "left" cheerleaders and the right-wing transition
22 November 2008
by Bill Van Auken
The increasingly right-wing character of the transition being
organized in preparation for President-Elect Barack Obama's
inauguration in January has elicited expressions of concern from the
middle-class "left." This milieu, whose views are reflected in
publications like the Nation magazine, played a significant role
during the election campaign in promoting Obama's candidacy and the
Democratic Party as vehicles for fundamental political and social change.
The past ten days have served to expose the real content of Obama's
"change you can believe in." First came the appointment of Rahm
Emanuel, the right-wing Democratic congressman and millionaire
investment banker, as chief of staff. No sooner was he tapped for the
post than Emanuel pledged to the Wall Street Journal that the Obama
White House would "stand up to" the strengthened Democratic
majorities in Congress.
Then came news that the transition teams at the Pentagon and CIA were
headed, respectively, by supporters of the Iraq war and CIA veterans
who were complicit in policies of torture and extraordinary rendition
as well as in fabricating the phony intelligence used to promote the
war against Iraq.
On Friday, persistent reports that Obama has tapped Senator Hillary
Clinton whom he pilloried on the campaign trail for her vote in favor
of the Iraq invasion, for his secretary of state, and that he intends
to retain Robert Gates, the champion of the "surge" in Iraq, as
defense secretary, were joined by reports that he will shortly
announce his choice of New York Federal Reserve President Timothy
Geithner for treasury secretary. The news that one of the key
architects of the government bailout of the banks will head Obama's
Treasury Department sent stock prices on Wall Street soaring.
These developments, combined with the coterie of bankers and
Washington insiders that is heading Obama's transition, and the army
of ex-Clinton-officials-turned-corporate-lobbyists who are trooping
back into official Washington, are providing a preview of the
administration that will take office just two months from now.
What is taking shape is a government that represents continuity with
the last eight years far more than change. Its personnel and the
policies with which they are identified spell a continuation of wars
of aggression abroad and domestic policies that defend the interests
of America's financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of
The conditions are being created in which illusions fostered by
Obama's rhetoric about "hope" and "change" will be dashed and a
period of tumultuous struggles, driven by the economic crisis, will
Of course, there are illusions and there are illusions. Millions of
American working people went to the polls November 4 and voted for
Obama with the aim of putting an end to two criminal wars and to
express their anger over policies at home that have led to
unprecedented social inequality and the deepest economic crisis since
the Great Depression.
Then there are those who make a political profession out of deluding
themselves and fostering illusions among others in order to support
the Democratic Party and the profit system which it defends. This is
the political specialty of the Nation, which has long been a central
organ of left liberalism in America.
Its columnists are finding the job of peddling illusions in Obama
more difficult in light of the appointments and statements
surrounding the transition, and are expressing concern. At the heart
of their worries is the fact that Obama is moving sharply and openly
to the right even as the crisis gripping American capitalism is
creating conditions for a sharp turn to the left among American
working people, students and youth.
Nation columnist Tom Engelhardt makes the observation in a piece
published Wednesday that, given the appointments thus far, "you might
be forgiven for concluding that Hillary Clinton had been elected
president in 2008." He cites a Politico.com article reporting that
"thirty one of the 47 people thus far named to transition or staff
posts have ties to the Clinton administration, including all but one
of the members of his [Obama's] Transition Advisory Board."
Nonetheless, Engelhardt goes on to describe Obama himself as "nothing
short of a breath of fresh air" and voices the "hope that, as the
good times roll (or even in bad times) for Democrats, he keeps his
equilibrium amid the usual Washington consensual pressures."
Similarly, Robert Scheer, the former Los Angeles Times columnist who
writes for the Nation, voices concerns over the role of Obama advisor
Zbigniew Brzezinski in setting policies pointing toward escalating
confrontation with Russia. "It is disquieting in the extreme that
some of his [Obama's] closest advisers are inveterate hawks with a
history of needlessly provoking tension with the Russians during the
Cold War days," writes Scheer. He goes on to express anxiety over the
reported offer to keep Gates, a former Brzezinski aide who has
supported a hard line against Russia, as Pentagon chief.
"I know, Obama is not yet in office," writes Scheer. "I voted for him
with enthusiasm in part because he does seem to have transcended the
preoccupations of the cold war. But as a buyer, I have to beware of
those unrepentant Democratic hawks now hovering."
The essential conception expressed in both columns is the same: that
in the aftermath of the election, the "progressive" Obama is in
danger of falling under the sway of right-wing aides and advisers,
shifting him off the path of "change."
This is nonsense. Obama's entire candidacy was crafted by these
"advisers" as a means of effecting tactical changes in the pursuit of
US imperialist interests while masking the right-wing character of
the political agenda that they now intend to foist upon the American people.
To anyone who paid serious attention to what Obama was saying and
doing in the course of the election campaignhis vote to expand
domestic spying and grant immunity to the telecoms, his statements
threatening war against Iran and Pakistan and vowing undying fealty
to Israel, his admission that his Iraq withdrawal plan would leave a
"residual force" of tens of thousands of troops in the country, while
its pace would be set by commanders on the ground, and his support
for the $700 billion Wall Street bailoutthe character of the
transition should hardly come as a surprise.
The thrust of the political campaign being waged by the likes of the
Nation is to subordinate any emerging struggles by American working
people to the incoming Obama presidency.
This is spelled out by another long-time Nation columnist, Frances
Fox Piven, in a November 13 article entitled, "Obama Needs a Protest
Movement." While hailing Obama's victory at the polls as a "rightful
cause for jubilation," Piven takes a somewhat more clear-eyed
approach to the president-elect's character.
"Let's face it: Barack Obama is not a visionary or even a movement
leader," she writes. Rather, she describes him as a "skillful
politician" who "has to conciliate ... in realms dominated by
big-money contributors from Wall Street, powerful business lobbyists
and a Congress that includes conservative Blue Dog and Wall
Street-oriented Democrats." It's not Obama's fault, she adds, "It's
simply the way it is."
One could not ask for a clearer statement of the prostration of these
not-so-left liberal circles before the corporate-controlled two-party system.
Piven suggests that, Obama's limitations notwithstanding, popular
expectations of change upon his taking office can create conditions
for "authentic bottom-up reform."
She goes on to draw a parallel between Obama's election and that of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, making the point that FDR took
office based upon a conventional, conservative Democratic Party
program. Referring to the mass strike movements and social struggles
of the 1930s, however, she argues that "the rise of protest movements
forced the new president and the Democratic Congress to become bold
reformers." Protest, she suggests, can produce similar results from Obama.
There are two obvious problems with this argument. The first is that
the objective position of American capitalism is far weaker than it
was in the 1930s, when Washington remained a creditor nation,
enjoying trade surpluses, while US manufacturing dominated the global
markets. It was from this position of relative strength that
Roosevelt was able to grant limited reforms in the face of such mass,
and at times semi-insurrectionary struggles as the Toledo Autolite
strike, the Minneapolis general strike and the San Francisco general
strike in 1934 and the subsequent sit-down strikes in the auto industry.
The present crisis is the outcome of the protracted decline of
American capitalism, which is massively indebted, has seen a
decades-long decimation of its manufacturing base and whose financial
system has become the destructive engine of a deepening worldwide
slump. There is no modern New Deal forthcoming from an Obama administration.
Moreover, the one implemented by Roosevelt more than 70 years ago
failed to overcome the Depression. That was achieved only through a
second world war that annihilated millions of people. With the
political assistance of the trade union bureaucracy and the Stalinist
Communist Party, however, the Roosevelt administration did succeed in
staving off the threat of socialist revolution.
That period holds stark lessons for the coming struggles of the
American and international working class. Unless working people are
able to advance their own, socialist alternative to capitalism, the
"solution" to the present crisis will be found along similar lines of
a re-division of the world market through mass slaughter.
This is what makes the politics of the Nation and similar political
tendencies so pernicious. The struggle against war and deepening
attacks on social conditions can be advanced only through a decisive
break with the Democratic Party and the political illusions promoted
by tendencies such as the Nation.
Not by mere protest and pressure, but only by building its own
political party, armed with a socialist program aimed at uniting
workers in a common international struggle against capitalism, can
the working class advance its own progressive solution to the
catastrophe that the unfolding capitalist crisis threatens to unleash
Honeymoon: Left cuts Obama slack
By RYAN GRIM & GLENN THRUSH
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama boasted of opposing the
Iraq War from the start.
But as president-elect, he has come to the rescue of surge supporter
Joe Lieberman and flirted with the idea of keeping on Bush
administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates and now he seems
poised to nominate war-authorizing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to
serve as his secretary of state.
The sound from the left: not silence, but no howls of betrayal, either.
"Anybody who has reacted after two weeks is not a serious person,"
said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Members of Obama's loyal liberal base from the Netroots to campus
liberals to Hill Democrats are watching closely as the candidate's
vague incantations of hope coalesce into cold, concrete presidential
decision making. It's not a seamless transition, but so far the left
seems to be cutting Obama some favorite-son slack. Then again, he's
been president-elect for only two weeks even milk bought on the day
he was elected hasn't had time to go sour.
"People continue to be excited," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a
Democrat who represents an Oregon district he described as one of the
five most progressive in the nation. "They're still going to
websites. There are campaigns they can be involved with. They're
still networking and raising ideas and moving forward."
Anti-war voters are used to being disappointed. Some were
flabbergasted when George W. Bush won a second term in the midst of
the war in 2004; others were disillusioned when the Democrats didn't
do more to stop the war after capturing majorities of the House and
the Senate in 2006.
And for some, that "here we go again" feeling came rushing back
recently when Obama urged his soon-to-be-former Democratic Senate
colleagues not to hold "grudges" against Lieberman, who infuriated
liberals with his support for Iraq then picked at the scab by
supporting John McCain and opposing Obama during the presidential race.
But in a sign that the left is willing to cut the president-elect
some slack, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rather than
Obama has taken the lion's share of the grief for this week's
decision to let Lieberman hang onto his chairmanship at the Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In a blog post, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas said the Lieberman
deal was proof that Senate Democrats are "tone deaf" to the views of
"the American electorate that voted in overwhelming numbers for
change from the discredited Bush/McCain/Lieberman policies." Said
Moulitsas: "I'm done with Reid as Senate leader."
Moulitsas' criticism of Obama's role in the Lieberman proceedings was
more muted. But there are signs that the benefit of the doubt won't
last forever. The list of potential flashpoints between Obama and the
left wing of his party is growing, an inevitable development given
the sky-high expectations and his need to recruit experienced
lieutenants to deal with immense domestic and military problems.
Little that Obama has done has prompted as much anxiety as his
flirtation with Gates, a proponent of continued ground operations in
Iraq and longtime opponent of a date-certain withdrawal.
"Kind of makes you think that Democrats believe Republicans are
better at managing both national security," scoffed Chris Bowers at
OpenLeft.com, a progressive blog.
Obama has also drawn considerable flak for enlisting so many
battle-scarred Clinton White House veterans led by chief of staff
Rahm Emanuel, who helped engineer the passage of the now-unpopular
North American Free Trade Agreement for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
Obama has also taken some heat for considering former Harvard
President Larry Summers for Treasury secretary, while drawing milder
rebukes for passing over outgoing DNC Chairman Howard Dean for
secretary of Health and Human Services. The job, according to
reports, is going to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
And while opinion about Hillary Clinton's fitness to serve as
secretary of state is divided, many lefty bloggers haven't forgotten
Clinton's authorizing President Bush to use military force in Iraq in
October 2002 or what they believe was her mishandling of health care
reform 15 years ago.
"Sen. Clinton has been at the helm in two big undertakings had two
big executive leadership tasks," wrote Josh Marshall, the influential
founder of Talking Points Memo. "One was health care in 1994, and the
other was her presidential bid in 2007-08. Each was something of a
train wreck from an executive-level management perspective."
Watching Obama stack his transition team and senior staff with
Clinton-era operatives and maybe an actual Clinton has agitated
many liberal lions who otherwise admire Obama.
"It tells me I'm going to have to be Frederick Douglas to his Abraham
Lincoln," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr.
(D-Mich.), referring to Obama's fascination with all things Lincoln.
In some corners of the left, there's been downright dejection, but
people there mostly were skeptical of him all along. Ali Abuminah, a
Palestinian-rights activist in Chicago, says he's seen Obama move to
the right on Israel, is troubled by the possible selection of Hillary
Clinton as secretary of state and finds himself especially bothered
by Emanuel's pro-Israel views.
"The emerging direction of Obama's Middle East policy is not going to
do anything to unblock the peace process," he said, calling Emanuel
"to the right of George Bush in many respects."
For the moment, though, such critics appear to be in the minority.
"At this point, a lot of people have a lot of confidence in him,"
said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is a
"His behavior is concurrent with how he ran his campaign," said Rep.
Mike Honda, one of the more progressive members of California
Democratic delegation. "Fingers crossed; this might work."
When Obama has faced opposition from his left flank, he's responded quickly.
In August, the Nation, the country's oldest progressive magazine,
published an editorial warning of "troubling signs" that Obama was
reverting to a "more cautious, centrist stance," citing his vote in
favor of allowing telecom companies immunity in warrantless wiretap lawsuits.
Obama responded with an open letter to readers. I won't always agree
with you, he told the lefty magazine, but I will always listen.
John Aravosis, founder of the left-of-center AMERICAblog, says most
liberals implicitly trust Obama more than any Democrat in recent
memory and they understand that not every compromise he makes is a sellout.