Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is Barack Obama the Problem?

By Robert Parry
December 22, 2010

Despite some recent victories like repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” many on the American Left are feeling a cumulative disgust toward President Barack Obama, not just for his generally timid policy choices but – even more so – for his failure to articulate and fight for progressive values.

Read on.


David Marcus said...

I partly agree, but...

It is Obama and the Democrats' own fault that they didn't do something about the filibuster two years ago. It was obvious the filibuster was going to be a big problem. The Republicans were threatening to nuke it several years ago; things would have been much better now if the Democrats had let them.

And, while the media is indeed awful, it doesn't help that Obama adopts all the right's buzz words. When Obama was elected, the Republicans moved further right while Obama has tried to stay close to them. The Republicans realized you have to stay with your base; why can't the Democrats figure this out?

Of course, the recent election wasn't an endorsement of the Republicans. Rather it was a reflection of the discontent many voters have with the administration that has done such a poor job in so many ways. Years ago, in some election (I forget which one), people said, "It's the economy, stupid!" And, they were right. The economy is poor, so the incumbents lose. It doesn't matter whether the non-incumbents are conservatives or progressives. People are just unhappy. And, you only need to convince the swing voters.

I don't see Obama admitting his mistakes. He insists his stimulus package was just right, but the voters see the unemployment numbers. If you are forced to compromise, you need to manage the spin so your opponents get blamed if things don't work out.

And, the Supreme Court letting corporations contribute unlimited amounts of money is another disaster. Why can't the Democrats operate strategically? You have to put rules in place that benefit you. It was obvious even several years that there was too much money flowing into politics. Did the Democrats try to deal with this? No.

Anonymous said...

War escalation, lack of war criminal prosecution, very lttle heat on the banksters, Guantanamo...these don't need heat, they require principles...not evident

henry said...

I am proud that Obama is President of the United States

me said...

a silver-tongued conciliator

What nonsense. When has Obama tried to conciliate me? He kisses the asses only of republicans.

given this month's compromise with right-wing Republicans

Compromise?? What did I get in return for borrowing trillions of dollars from China and giving it to billionaires here?

I'm getting damned sick of you playing with the language. Are you taking lessons from Frank Luntz? That was IN NO SENSE a compromise - it was a complete capitulation.

And for two whole years, Obama has time and again capitulated from a position of strength!! That makes absolutely no sense, unless he is a closet republican, which is my belief.

You can shove your Obama worship. I'm sick of it.

Annie said...

Repubs have taken baby steps for 30 years and have made great strides in things like controlling the media and the message. For instance a huge percentage of people including Dems think Obama raised their taxes. Its amazing he's been able to get anything done at all and as he pointed out to his "base", Social Security and other great accomplishments were done in incremental steps. He can see the big picture but unfortunately, his "base" would rather abandon us all to the tea party instead of staying in the trenches with him and fighting for more incremental change. Took the Repubs 30 years, you couldn't give Obama even four. Thanks from those of us who are gonna suffer for your shortsightedness!!

Anonymous said...

Former Obama supporters do not need drug testing simply because they think he should try to fulfill his major campaign promises.

They are not “(expletive deleted) retards” because they don’t understand how an agreement can be called bipartisan when he 1) makes it without consulting either of his own party’s MAJORITY congressional caucuses and, then, 2) tells said caucuses to “take it or leave it.”

Obama's former supporters are not “sanctimonious” because they are distressed when he panders to the bottomless greed that is destroying our country.

What are these former supporters to be called if they eagerly anticipate the much-promised repeal of his health insurance "reform" ... just to see if, at the very least, he has the integrity to veto it?

John Puma

RichardKanePA said...

Manufacturing jobs are gone, the Internet is the race for the bottom on autopilot no unions or labor laws to get in the way of the most desperate worker bidding for a job. Europe also is suffering. Obama stopped the meltdown. Obama starved off a depression for 13 months but may have offered in exchange more desperation after that date. But no matter what people are going to be mad at every decent politician as long as we and they claim they can make things better. People need to compare how Obama is doing compared to leaders of European Countries, not an imaginary return to the good life many of us once had. Check out “Can Armageddon be Stopped ie the Collapse of the West Prevented”

Hotrod said...

On the way home from work tonight I had a REVALATION! It finally all fell into place. What just happened in Washington DC was this: Don't screw with the existing economic order and we will give you some small legislative victories to keep the peasants fooled for a short while.

Obama is an economic royalist, just like all the rest, except for Bernie Sanders and a few, few others.

Alice de Tocqueville said...

A major flaw in Parry's analysis is his use of the term 'the Left'. Apparently he includes Democrats in this category. Democrats are only 'left' compared to the teapartiers. However, in any objective analysis, they are center-right.

He's right that there is no left presence at all in the mainstream media. I don't know if left-wing think tanks would help that; I think that there are world-famous Leftists that are not presented in our media because of who owns that media - corporations, mostly weapons-mongers like Westinghouse and GE, who have everything to gain from fascism and nothing to gain, or not as much, from a more democratic society. If, as Parry states (and I'd like to hear more details on this), leftward thinktanks were dismantled in favor of more grassroots organizing, that's actually a good idea, but one which hasn't been implemented by any except hardcore groups like CodePink, World Can't Wait, Courage To Resist and a few others who are lucky to be able to afford a few hundred leaflets. Certainly Moveon isn't leftwing.

Additionally, in our system, there are no political leaders, except, potentially, the President. Legislators become careerists as soon as they are elected, spending most of their time, by their own admission, raising funds for their re-election. Naturally they become vague about where they stand in order to appeal to the widest possible number of donors. And in order to trade votes for whatever legislation they regard as their focus. If the President adopts this course, then no one leads, and Obama certainly fits this description.

The actions Obama has taken when he had no pressure on him, like his Cabinet and staff selections certainly telegraph loud and clear what his true intentions are, and they aren't progressive. Meanwhile, on Dec.16, 131 people, including Daniel Ellsberg, led by Veterans For Peace, deliberately got arrested AT THE WHITE HOUSE to demand an end to Obama's war escalation, and no media covered it. Americans in general refuse to apply themselves to learning anything new, so it makes it very difficult to organize them.

Anonymous said...

You have to have principles before you can lose them. This man NEVER had any to start with.
He has followed the agenda given him by his masters because that was the deal he made.
When you have a pre- destination, you already know where you're going, the exact steps or bends on the path you may not know, neither the paces nor the bends matter, just the destiny and that was pre-arranged when he started.
I am constantly amazed, that commentators and readers literally act as if this man were a spontaneous product of Democracy and electioneering.
His masters and those who run the show would have you believe so and thereby make there job easier by doing just that.
This miscreant like his predecessor are just that, pre-arranged puppets executing a given protocal.
Lets not foolishly discuss his agenda and actions as if they were spontaneous choices by a free will.

Anonymous said...

There is fundamental problem with the two-dimensional Left - Right, either-or type mentality that the article "Is Barack Obama the Problem?" is based on.

It's three-dimensional world, and the article does not address that basic fact.

The "street heat" is also hidden by lack of coverage in the U.S. corporate media (like so many things), and the article also does not address that basic fact.

The article does not address the fact that many, many people in America from many walks of life (not just those who are labeled "The Left" by far too many - simply because they dare to speak out) have been protesting against the wars, the still ongoing kidnapping and torture practices, the pandering to Wall Street, and many other things for the past decade - with many of the protests being attacked and beaten by police officers by order of local, state and federal governments, with almost zero coverage in the U.S. corporate media (quite unlike the late 1960s and early 1970s - when people like Walter Cronkite would indeed cover such things).

Over the past decade, I've seen it happen in person, we've watched the footage of it happening on public access television stations - often at around 2:00 AM in the morning in terms of seeing large chunks of raw footage, and periodically we've watched some coverage of it on a tiny handful of alternative news shows (like Democracy NOW).

I have faxed, Emailed and called those in office on an almost daily basis, including the White House - as have so many people - and I get form letters and propaganda back from the majority of politicians from both parties in office.

Over 28 million Americans - including 14 million young people who volunteered on Obama's campaign a couple years ago - did a mass abstention from voting in November of 2010, in order to send a very direct warning to the Obama administration, and to both major parties, that they will not be taken for granted, and while they won't vote for the right-wing Republicans, they will stay home and let Obama and others who betray them by continuing the same crap as before, be handed their own asses in elections.

That very real massive "thumbs down" message was and is ignored by the Obama administration, by both major parties, and by most of the U.S. corporate media.

Think about those actual realities...

Jack Lohman said...

Obama is indeed the problem because -- to get elected -- he promised to drain the swamp, and once elected stayed totally away from the swamp and in fact dipped into it himself. Thus he is not to be trusted.

Yes, there is a solution, but it is most vigorously fought against by the political elite that benefit from the existing corruption. The key problem is the way we finance elections. THAT got us here and nothing will change until we get the legal bribes (campaign contributions) out of politics.

Nothing else matters. Fix the corruption first, then we can move forward.

Nothing is going to change until we have public funding of campaigns. Politicians spend taxpayer dollars because they ARE PAID to spend taxpayer dollars, and robbing the SSI fund (as just one example) gives them the cash needed to attract campaign dollars.

Our problem is NOT government, and it is not R’s or D’s. It *IS* that government is owned by the corporate interests that want in the taxpayer’s pockets.

CEOs want short-term profits to increase their already massive salaries, and are willing to share those profits with the politicians that made it all happen. Thus NAFTA and other laws are passed that enable outsourcing to countries with wage scales one-tenth ours. And our country crashes while China and India flourish.

As a former CEO my company would not have survived if I had an employee or board of directors who took money on the side and gave away company assets in return. Our country can’t survive this corruption either.

So nothing changes. We elect a new group of politicians and the Fat Cats simply re-direct their bribes as we continue down our spiral. Only a national revolution will get our attention, but then it's too late. And all because our politicians refuse to stop the bribery they benefit from.

If politicians are going to be beholden to their funders, those funders should be the taxpayers. And at $5 per taxpayer per year it would be a bargain. Even at 100 times that. We MUST demand that our senators and representative pass the bill at:

Jack Lohman …

McMike said...

While everything you say has a grain of truth, you went the entire piece without mentioning corporate contributions to democrats, the revolving door, or the DLC.

In the end, you are correct, the left is going to have to learn how to organize again. But, first they must fully comprehend that they have been abandoned by "their" party. An awareness that is now creeping in. Many of the people who scoffed and raged at Nader and Green voters in 2000 and 2004 have started to soften their complaints about the defection.

The left needs to create its own party again, and see then maybe if some of the Dems might return.

As always for the left, the change does not come from inside the system, the change comes despite the system (FDR was an exception, but then, what he recognized, like Lincoln, was that they needed to "do the right thing" in order to protect the system).

What the left must recognize is they have been abandoned not just by their party, but by the media, and by every major institution including many putatively liberal large non profit institutions.

Then they must start from scratch. Look not to 1933 for a model. Look to 1968.

Scott A. Weir said...

As more than one comment and the article itself note, the corporate media control most of the information that most Americans take in, and strangely enough very little information that does not support the existing social, political, and economic order gets through.

I would be interested to see documentation of Mr. Parry's claim that "the left" was ahead in media and think tanks in the late 1970s and somehow made a conscious choice to abandon this strength in favor of local organizing. It is true that the experiences of the Carter, Nixon, and Johnson administrations (after 1965) soured some of us on the possibilities for representative government, or even for meaningful public discourse. But to the extent that is true, it is because the mass media were controlled, then and always, by the "malefactors of great wealth." This fact underlies much of Jerry Mander's 1977 book, Four Arguments For the Elimination of Television, especially Argument Two.

Mr. Parry's credentials are impeccable, and he has even moved from such heart-of-the-beast venues as AP to the relatively open environment of internet blogs. But I think he gives short shrift to the extent to which the MSM were controlled by big monied interests in the late 1970s, to the level and diversity of resistance since that time, and also to less-visible successes of the right in suppressing dissent in the 70s and 80s, such as the purge of heterodox economists from American universities over that period.

Despite that setback, and despite the fact that we still do not have the president's ear, or decent introductory textbooks, economists who question the dominant paradigm and who present alternatives are once again sprinkled throughout the educational system and are rapidly increasing in number. This trend is even stronger outside the U.S. Google "heterodox economics" for MUCH more information.

micheline said...

Barack Obama is definitely the problem.

He has control of the bully pulpit and chooses not to use it. If he used it -- effectively, i.e. pushing the ideas he campaigned on -- the media would report it.

Mr. Parry, yes, the media is a part of the problem, but when the head of state is a corporate tool, the corporate media reports accordingly.

You should really pull your head out -- stop blaming the media for Obama's failures and deceptions.

ElvisFan said...

The Republicans in power know that when people perceive situations as real they are real in their consequences. When people don't see things the way Republicans in power see them, then we have to put out our own perceptions. Obviously, not enough of us have done that. I do a lot of writing and get quite a few views. We need millions more to put out their perceptions. If we also advocated for critical thinking, we might change the massive buy-ins that now exist in relation to Republican's views of reality.

I, too, am disillusioned by President Obama. At least he could have held the line for the sake of the millions of people who have lost their jobs. He could have insisted on stricter regulations of banks. He had a lot of people backing him. Not all of us sat on the sidelines.

Michael said...

You have essentially just instructed the left to "vote with your dollars". Well, guess what? The rich are the ones with the dollars and not coincidentally, are also the most conservative. In any dollar based voting, the poor and middle class WILL BE (AND HAVE BEEN) BURIED! You've just added nothing significant to the political dialog.

Case 2 for why your post is full of shite: as soon as the president was voted into office he picked a bunch of wall street guys to advise him. He had his pick of the litter and he chose the same criminals that legalized the crimes.

Either the president is a coward a liar or a conservative.

Excuse me for the redundancy.

selise said...

"Meyerson noted, too, that Carter and Clinton had larger Democratic majorities than Obama had and did not face endless GOP filibusters. “In fairness to Obama, he, unlike his predecessors, had to overcome filibusters on virtually every bill,” Meyerson wrote."

pure myth. what filibusters?

a filibuster is not when senate majority files for cloture. although the D party elite would like us to think so. there is no reason for citizen activists to fall for this propaganda -- there is enough info online (senate rules, precedents and the congressional record) to debunk the myth ourselves.

buying the myth distracts us from real issues and it provides a convenient excuse for the dem party elite's betrayal of the common person in order to cater to the demands of their corporate masters.

i cop to my part re the lack of massive street movements. when are progressive reporters going to cop to buying -- and repeating as if true -- the dem party propaganda?

M Lucky Gold said...


Can the left sustain a Democratic presidency by showing loyalty?

Because that is what it is going to take.

I fear, though, that to some members of the left, Obama is not worth loyalty because he is not the perfect, political savior they expected. Better to crucify him ourselves, is that it?


Because that uncool, old-school characteristic of our human power, that strengthening thread through the noosphere, that magic glue that gives the right its Forward March!, is just what many progressives seem unwilling to give. Just when we need to give it the most.

Organize to support Obama now or watch how the Tea Party decides to use Blackwater against the people later.