Hopelessly Devoted

You’d never know it from watching television, but there are many thousands of people in the United States who take peace, justice, environmental protection, and government of the people so seriously that they don’t censor themselves whenever the president is a Democrat.

While many others are still debating whether it would be appropriate to criticize or protest President Obama after a mere three and a half years of disaster, the people I have in mind have been openly and honestly resisting the latest Wall Street war monger since before he was elected.

Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank have collected 56 essays from prior to, from early on in, and from quite recently during the Obama presidency.  The collection, just published as Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, has a consistent approach to its topic.  The authors, including Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeremy Scahill, Chris Floyd, Sibel Edmonds, Franklin Spinney, Kathy Kelly, Marjorie Cohn, Chase Madar, Michael Hudson, Medea Benjamin, Charles Davis, Ray McGovern, Dave Lindorff, Bill Quigley, Tariq Ali, Andy Worthington, Linn Washington, Jr., and many more, don’t agree on everything.  A few try to urge serious progressive plans on Obama that they would never have proposed that Bush champion, not even rhetorically, not even for laughs.  The book is not organized by topic; it’s a random, if chronological, ride through a catalog of catastrophes.  But it’s united by the theme of horrendously bad government in the age of Obama.  It ignores the mythology and treats Obama based on his actual performance.

Reducing the charges against Obama developed in detail in this book to a Declaration of Independence-like list of grievances might look something like this:

Obama has taken massive funding from Wall Street, appointed Wall Streeters to top positions, and followed their lead, to the benefit of banksters and the detriment of the rest of us.  Obama, despite promises the contrary, has put lobbyists in positions of power in his administration.  Senator Obama’s corporatist vote for the Class Action Fairness Act was in line with the rest of his performance as senator and later president. 

Obama has taken massive funding from war profiteers and worked in their interest, empowering a collection of war hawks from the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton eras, and including no opponent of militarism in any high office.

Obama abandoned the people of Gaza to their fate beneath Israeli bombs.

Obama bailed out AIG, but not you or me.

Obama delayed de-escalation in Iraq and tried every way he could to avoid complete withdrawal.

Obama has expanded secrecy, sought retribution against whistleblowers, expanded warrentless spying, protected confessed torturers, revived military commissions, and expanded the military.

Obama has made anti-environmentalist corporate tools the heads of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. 

Obama’s administration facilitated and accepted a military coup in Honduras.

Obama has continued and expanded upon aggressively inhumane immigration policies.

Obama championed corporate health coverage over Medicare for All.

Obama tripled the size of the war on Afghanistan.

Obama has championed nuclear power.

Obama has backed murderers in Colombia and put U.S. troops into that country in the interests of big oil.

Obama has dramatically escalated drone killings, developing a new type of war.

Obama has continued pointless killing in Afghanistan on the basis of false pretenses.

Obama has appointed a deeply flawed candidate to the Supreme Court.

Obama has expanded the weaponization and the use of nuclear power in space.

Obama facilitated the kind of drilling that created the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and then sought to cover up the extent of the damage.

Obama has kept tax breaks for billionaires in place, persuading his followers to continue calling them “the Bush Tax Cuts.” 

Obama has claimed the power to torture and to “rendition” prisoners and kidnap victims to other countries that torture.

Obama has promoted corporate culture and CEO heroes, while failing to promote nonprofit groups — a fantasy that contributing author Ralph Nader proposes for Obama while never having proposed it for Bush.

Obama has pushed deregulation as a solution to the problems caused by deregulation.

Obama has served Israel at the expense of human rights, peace, and democracy.

Obama has gone around Congress and courts to approve of Monsanto’s GMOs.

Obama has tortured Bradley Manning.

Obama has pushed U.S. weapons sales on foreign nations.

Obama has punished Iranians with sanctions while threatening war. 

Obama has expanded nuclear weapons spending.

Obama has worked largely against the interests of organized labor. 

Obama has sabotaged efforts to protect the earth’s climate. 

Obama has thrown Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.

Obama has extended the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act, plus secret parts we haven’t seen yet but which are somehow nonetheless “law.”

Obama has militarized police forces, expanded wiretaps, prosecuted Muslims for speech, raided activists’ homes, preemptively detained journalists, and supported the prison industrial complex and the widespread use of solitary confinement.

Obama has launched a fraudulent war on Libya as a “humanitarian” effort, while aiding human rights abuses in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. 

Obama has abandoned his effort to close Guantanamo, which was only ever — in reality — an effort to move one of the United States’ lawless concentration camps to Illinois from Cuba. 

Obama chose to pursue an insufficient economic stimulus bill, not to mention increasing economically damaging military spending each year thus far. 

Obama has continued the “war on drugs.” 

And Obama has shut down activism in this country by appearing to be what he is not and by virtue of the malady that causes millions of people to believe that self-governance consists of cheering for one team in a sporting competition.

St. Clair and Frank describe Obama as “so innately conflict-averse that even when pummeled with racist slurs he wouldn’t punch back.”  But Obama does not appear to try to minimize conflict across the board.  He avoids conflict with those on the right — and often there is little basis for, or value in, supposing that his mental state is one of surrender as opposed to agreement. 

There are two things that Obama is able to count on.  First, no matter how seriously he attacks the interests of ordinary people, major liberal groups will support him.  Second, no matter how much he supports the agenda of the right, major rightwing groups will attack him while demanding more.  These two states of affairs feed each other.  Attacks on Obama from the right are absolutely essential to generating his liberal support.  Obama is the Not-Romney candidate.  And that liberal support helps produce attacks from the right.  Hopeless could help some to break out of this cycle of guilt or innocence by association.

I’ll leave you with a slightly modified verse from Paul Simon:

Hopeless, hopeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
We are hopeless, we are hopeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake

Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?