Who Will Be There for Obusha When the Floor Drops Out?

For months now, I've been wondering
if Barack Obama would turn out to be another FDR - a bold and progressive
figure who was the right match to the crises of his time - or another
Bill Clinton - a pathetic sell-out who was the right match for little
beyond pursuing his personal eight-year joy-ride at 1600 Pennsylvania

Now I'm wondering if I haven't been
asking the wrong question altogether. Maybe the real mystery is
whether Mr. Yes We Can will be another Bill Clinton or, gulp, another
George W. Bush.

For months now, I've been wondering
if Barack Obama would turn out to be another FDR - a bold and progressive
figure who was the right match to the crises of his time - or another
Bill Clinton - a pathetic sell-out who was the right match for little
beyond pursuing his personal eight-year joy-ride at 1600 Pennsylvania

Now I'm wondering if I haven't been
asking the wrong question altogether. Maybe the real mystery is
whether Mr. Yes We Can will be another Bill Clinton or, gulp, another
George W. Bush.

It's true, Obama has already made a
few quasi-progressive decisions, such as removing some of the insanity
from American foreign aid for reproductive health and beginning the
process to close down Guantanamo.

That's well enough, and I give credit
where it's due - though I wouldn't exactly describe these as bold

I didn't have high expectations that
Obama would turn out to be Eugene Debs, come back from socialist heaven
(Stockholm?), and so I can't say that I'm surprised he's not.
But I am pretty shocked and disgusted at some of the decisions we've
seen so far, including many that Dick Cheney would have little problem
praising (in some cases, because Cheney made them originally).

That's just too much. And it's
also insulting to progressives who worked hard to put this guy in office,
believing - minimally - that he was a better choice than either
another Clinton or anything the Neanderthal Party would drag out.
I can't say that I donated a lot of my hours or cash to Obama's
campaign, and yet - just the same - I'm already feeling cheap,
dirty and used by what I'm seeing.

The cabinet is a starting place.

Like many of the terminally hopeful, I've been saying for a while
that it doesn't matter so much who goes in the cabinet, it matters
who makes the decisions. This is mostly true, with about one-and-a-half
caveats. The half-caveat is that a smart cabinet secretary can
take advantage of a president who is out to lunch, like Bush and Reagan
were. I suspect Obama won't often be accused of that during
his presidency, though I'll confess that looking at the rollout of
the economic stimulus program, and the rollout of the administration
itself, this last month, I am way less impressed with the basic competence
of these folks than I expected to be - whatever their politics.

But, the other major caveat is the symbolism
of cabinet choices. Why was it necessary to put three Republicans
in it? And, so far, not a single confirmed progressive?
Cabinet choices are usually as much emblematic as they are truly administrative.

We have to assume that real policy decisions come from the White House,
and that most fools in the cabinet will at least be able to get through
four years of making speeches without completely crashing the department,
while their deputy actually runs the show (notable exceptions noted
and excepted, of course). So presidents therefore use their cabinet
in part to make a statement, pay off some political debts, and placate
groups within their coalition. So far, so bad, 'cause the main
statement I'm getting from the picks of this yet-another-nominally-Democratic
president is "Hard to starboard, matey".

But take a look at some of Obama's
policy decisions in his first month in office, and it gets considerably
worse from there. Even today, months after the election is done
with, Mr. Obama is out on the stump saying things like, "You didn't
send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same.
You sent us there to change things."

That's a big 10-4, good buddy.
So how come, then, you keep turning to Wall Street pirates to run your
economic program? It was bad enough that you've subjected us
to Timothy Geithner to run the Treasury and lead your recovery effort.

In addition to being a tax cheat and already demonstrably in over his
head, this fool is a protege of both Henry Kissinger and Robert Rubin.
In addition to being part of the brain trust that blew the Lehman Brothers
rescue decision, he also presided over the original TARP mass looting
of the already stinking corpse of the federal treasury. That would
be a pretty impressive resume if one intended to earn his living on
his back, wearing a coat and tie. However, I thought we were talking
about a Treasury Secretary here?

More to the point, though, this guy is
the beginning of this particular ugliness, not the end. Last week,
the New York Times reported that, "Senior executives at Citigroup's
Alternative Investment division ran up hundreds of millions of dollars
in losses last year on their esoteric collection of investments, including
real estate funds and private highway construction projects -- even
as they collected seven-figure salaries and bonuses. Now the Obama
administration has turned to that Citigroup division -- twice -- for
high-level advisers." Oh boy.

What a shock, then, that even while Obama
was pretending to show a wee flash of anger at corporate predators partying
on the public nickel the other week, his administration was busy eviscerating
the pathetic limitations on compensation it was barely applying in the
first place. By the time you get through reading all the caveats,
you realize that the $500,000 salary limitation applies to almost no
one, and means almost nothing when it comes to those it does apply to.

But that's only the third best part of this charade, however.
The second best is that even these absolutely paper-thin sanctions on
the compensation of executives of failed corporations now sucking the
federal teat first have to be approved by a vote of shareholders in
order to apply. But - and this is my very favorite part -
did I mention that the vote is non-binding?

It actually gets even worse, yet.
Now the AP is reporting that, in the wake of Congress' stimulus legislation
(and you know what bloody socialists those folks are!), the Obama team
is looking to play extra-super-double-sweet nicey-nice with the pirates
from Corporate Wonderland: "Facing a stricter approach to limiting
executive bonuses than it had favored, the Obama administration wants
to revise that part of the stimulus package even after it becomes law,
White House officials said Sunday". Obama doesn't want compensation
restrictions to apply to all banks on the government dole. Rather,
CEOs who crashed those companies and are now living off the taxpayers
they spent decades deriding from the vaunted perch of the free market
ideological soapbox can still take all they want, thank you very much,
unless they are among the unlucky infinitesimally few getting "exceptional
assistance" from Barack, Inc.

Apparently, there is some concern that
Obama will take Congress' bill and just do whatever he wants with
it. You know, kinda like what's-his-name just got done doing
for eight years. Never fear, though. Barney "The Enforcer"
Frank, and his posse of Democrats led by Sheriff Nancy are on the job.

Congressman Frank told CBS the other day: "This is not an option.
This is not, frankly, the Bush administration, where they're going
to issue a signing statement and refuse to enforce it." Given that,
seemingly by his own admission, Democrats in Congress will do nothing
to reign in imperial presidents, Congressman Frank neglected to mention
exactly what would prevent Obama from doing just what Bad Barney had
been allowing Belligerent Bush to do for eight years. Call me
cynical, but something tells me that a congressman from Massachusetts
saying "This is not an option" isn't going to make the White House
tremble in fear, even if they are Democrats there (and only some of
them are), and have pretty much long ago gone pro with the whole trembling

Meanwhile, apparently it was young Master
Geithner who led the successful battle within the administration not
to take away potential third and fourth yachts from the nice men on
Wall Street who have caused a global economic holocaust, now reportedly
already responsible for 50 million (no, that is not a typo) job losses
worldwide. He does make a good point, of course. If you
don't pay these people well, how can you attract such fine talent?
Imagine how bad this global depression would be if the average S&P
500 CEO compensation in 2007 had been, say, a mere $12 million, instead
of the $14.2 million it actually was! Boy, we'd really have
a bad economy now! And don't you just feel great that Obama
is listening to as sharp a mind as Geithner? This is a cat who
- in addition to apparently being an arrogant and capricious manager
of his staff - opened his mouth for five minutes the other day and
caused the stock market's value to shrink by 4.6 percent. Let's
see here... Arrogance, gross incompetence, flack for the overclass...?

Golly, could there actually be four Republicans in the cabinet?
Do we actually know for sure that this Geithner guy is a Democrat?
Would it matter if he was?

As bad as all this is, I wish I could
say that my problem with Obama is just that he is yet another president
of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. Unfortunately,
there's more. There was ol' Joe Biden, for example, off to
Munich for a big security conference, talking about how the Obama administration
will continue Ronald Reagan's dream of missile defense, the ultimate
defense industry boondoggle. Never mind that, even if it ever
worked, and at astronomical costs which wrecked the lives of tens of
millions who didn't get education or healthcare instead, any terrorist
smart enough to build a nuke or determined enough to buy one would also
be clever enough to put the thing on a boat and sail it up the Potomac.
This is a trillion dollar gift of public funds to the arms industry
that just can't seem to get buried. I think Reagan knew that.

But why doesn't Obama? Or - far worse - likely he does.

Then there's the undoing of Bush's
faith-based initiative, one of the greatest examples of Constitution
shredding out there, from a guy who was the acknowledged master.
Obama has now issued new executive rules regarding the relationship
between church activities and state money, but declined to actually
revoke Bush's rule, which allows religious organizations to make hiring
decisions based on religion, for jobs funded by you and me. I'm
not okay with that, and neither is the Constitution. It's grim
enough that we have to endure these assaults when we merely have a reactionary
executive and a feeble Congress, especially when the latter is controlled
by the alleged opposition party. But must we really put up with
more such crimes after sweeping the 'liberals' into office?

Still, perhaps the most galling example
of Obushism occurred last week in a San Francisco courtroom, where a
lawyer from the new (or is it?) Justice Department was asked by the
presiding judge whether the government's position might have changed
for any particular reason (wink, wink, nod, nod) since the last time
the court was last convened to take up this particular case on the question
of extraordinary rendition. Bush's Justice Department had argued
that the state secrets doctrine required the court to dismiss the case
without even hearing evidence, effectively giving the president the
right to do anything to anybody, without judicial protection or remedy
of any sort. You know - kinda like the script for a Dick Cheney
porno film. Since candidate Obama had severely criticized such
patently and fundamentally unconstitutional concepts, the judges on
the Ninth Circuit had good reason to expect that President Obama might
reverse the government's position in this case. They even asked
the government's lawyer a second time, in semi-astonishment, to be
sure they were hearing him right. All to no avail. The position
of the Obama administration is identical to that of Bush, Cheney, Gonzales
and Yoo. The president can order you to be captured, stripped
down to diapers, bagged up, tossed on a CIA plane, delivered to Egypt,
Bulgaria or Tajikstan, tortured and maybe even killed. All without
any scrutiny by anyone.

Maybe it's just my weak vision, but
when I pulled out my copy of the Constitution and pored over it carefully
once again, I couldn't find any language of that sort anywhere.
In fact, it almost seemed like that document, and the Declaration of
Independence, were written by a bunch of angry patriots pissed off at
exactly such behaviors on the part of the British crown. Could
President Obama, the former constitutional law professor, really be
espousing the same civil liberties policies - hardly exceeded in egregiousness
- as those of George III and Bush II? I guess I better re-read
those documents yet once more.

Especially since another New York Times
article, under the happy title of "Obama's War on Terror May Resemble
Bush's in Some Areas", just noted that, "In little-noticed confirmation
testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.'s
program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights,
and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if
they were arrested far from a war zone". And, just in case the
sum of the above still hasn't depressed you enough, the piece goes
on to remind us of how the new administration recently offered its thanks
to the British government when a UK court deferred to American pressure
in refusing to release information about the torture of a detainee held
by the US. Wow.

If this was just another president doing
what presidents do, these developments would merely be disappointing.
In fact, they are nearly devastating when considered in context.

This is the president who follows the one sure to be known as The Great
Trampler, and this is the president who heartily criticized his predecessor's
constitutional calamities just months ago on the campaign trail, and
this is the president only weeks in office, finally revealing his policies,
not just his promises. If you care about equality, justice and
freedom, there is good reason here, one month into the Obama reign,
to be heartbroken already.

Look, I don't expect any president
to be one hundred percent in agreement with my positions, brilliant
as they universally are on all issues. And least of all did I
expect that Barack Obama would be a full-blown lefty, though I still
think events might push him in that direction, as they did Franklin
Roosevelt. But here's the thing I'm wondering right now, strictly
from the perspective of Obama's own self-interest: Who's gonna
be there for him when the floor drops out, as it inevitably will at
some point? Just who does he think will rally to his support if,
for example, a year from now unemployment is up to 15 percent and he
has shown no sign of abating this devastating depression?

Will it be the centrist middle class?

At some point, they may run well out of patience, their jobs gone, their
homes foreclosed upon, their health deteriorating, their hope sagging,
and right-wing freaks incessantly screaming in their ears the pounding
drumbeat of failed 'liberal' policies.

Does he think it will be those very regressives,
who one might have expected to be somewhat chastened by their trouncing
in two consecutive election cycles? Because when I look at how
John McCain and Lindsay Graham and Rush Limbaugh are reacting to the
bipartisan olive branch that Obama extended to them, I kinda don't
think so. When I see how many Republicans (three) in both houses
of the entire Congress voted for his stimulus bill, I kinda don't
think so.

Does he think it will be progressives?
Well, I can only speak for myself, but one month in and I'm already
feeling burned by this guy. If he continues to cater to the predatory
rich in this country, leaving the rest of us holding the bag, and if
he continues to shred the Constitution as if he were George Bush's
kid brother, and if he is nearly as militaristic as the Strangeloves
he just ejected from office, then I really won't care a bit if he
gets smashed halfway through his first term. In fact, I might
even be happy to see it happen.

So, if it ain't the right and it ain't
the center and it ain't the left, just who does Obama think
will be there standing with him should his presidency hits the rocks?

When you take away all those folks, just
who does he think will have his back in tough times?

The Aryan Nation?

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