by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
This year’s State of the Union Address was a kind of swan song for Barack Obama, his last before “retiring” to three presidential libraries and tens of millions in corporate dollars. Thankfully, Obama was unable to achieve his “Grand Bargain” with the GOP, and “Social Security is fortunate to have emerged relatively intact from seven years of Obama.” But he succeeded in destroying Libya and Syria, and breaking every international law in the book.
“Obama reserves for the U.S. the right to kill as many foreigners as it sees fit, and still claim to be technically at peace.”
It was like Reagan with a case of diversity. Instead of “Morning in America,” Barack Obama summed up his presidency as an arduous climb out of the Bush abyss, a return to sanity that is now threatened by the gathering darkness of Trumpist barbarity. Obama’s fictional – and, thankfully, final – State of the Union address seems coherent only when juxtaposed with Republican counter-fictions. Together, the two interlocking narratives describe a nation and world of complete fantasy.
Under his guidance, “we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations” (by further consolidating the hegemony of the banks, pumping tens of trillions into the accounts of the Lords of Capital, and finally admitting that Wall Street was too big to jail); “reformed our health care system” (through his 2009 bait-and-switch that further embedded corporate insurers and drug monopolists and set back true “universal” single payer health care, possibly for a generation); “reinvented our energy sector” (by turning the White House into the global headquarters of fracking, destroying all prospects of halting global warming short of a catastrophic 3 degree rise, and presiding over the world’s worst oil spill, saturating the Gulf of Mexico); and “secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love” (a stance that did not “evolve” until it had gained national traction during his second term in office).
Obama brags that “we’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.” Yet, most of them are bad jobs, at low wages and no security – a surge in the long-term capitalist Race to the Bottom, which will accelerate if Obama succeeds in passing his grotesque Trans Pacific Partnership corporate trade treaty. The outgoing Corporate Servant-in-Chief admits that “these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs,” but he prescribes the usual bromide: education. As if what’s wrong with the economic system is that Americans are ill-educated, rather than globalized capital’s inability to provide good jobs at decent wages. It’s the same garbage that has been shoveled to Black Americans for generations. According to this logic, Black people must be twice as badly educated as whites, since African American unemployment has been twice as high for more than half a century.
“Obama has become the greatest privatizer of schools in history.”
To improve general educational levels and, presumably, make Blacks more employable, Obama has become the greatest privatizer of schools in history, through charters, resulting in unemployment for many tens of thousands of Black teachers.
In every State of the Union address, Obama poses as a champion of Social Security and Medicare. But, in January, 2009, before even taking the oath of office, the president-elect told the editorial boards of the Washington Post and the New York Times that “all entitlements,” including Social Security would be “on the table” for chopping during his administration. He proceeded to seek a $4 trillion “Grand Bargain” with the Republicans, the scope of which was revealed in a leaked 2011 memo described by author Bob Woodward on NBC’s Meet the Press:
“…what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, “We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses. So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”
In 2013, Obama took another stab at cutting Social Security, with an attempt to change the way benefits are calculated. Had he succeeded in his premeditated assaults, we would have watched him brag, last night, that he had “saved” the nation’s premier social safety net, trimming it down to affordable size. Social Security is fortunate to have emerged relatively intact from seven years of Obama.
“He sought a $4 trillion ‘Grand Bargain’ with the Republicans.”
Obama is in his real element when he plays the unrepentant, American exceptionalist – the role he was selected to perform to rescue U.S. imperialism from the humiliation of George Bush’s reach-too-far in Iraq. “We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined,” he declared to wild applause – as if maintaining U.S. status as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” as Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it, is something to be proud about. “No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin,” said Obama. And he’s right –the United States has no problem ruining other nations even if they represent no danger to the American homeland. Obama has deployed his obscene “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine to destroy Libya and kill a quarter million Syrians. The nation’s first Black president has redefined war, telling Congress that no war or even state of hostilities existed with Libya, despite thousands of bombing sorties against that country, because no Americans were killed. Thus, Obama reserves for the U.S. the right to kill as many foreigners as it sees fit, and still claim to be technically at peace. It is an imperial privilege that grows logically from the drone warfare that candidate Obama offered as an alternative to Bush’s “dumb war” of American boots, blood and brains on the ground. Obama could only be viewed as a “peace” candidate by a depraved society born of genocide and slavery.
The president “pivots” from provoking war with Russia, in alliance with Ukrainian NAZIs, to military confrontation in a sea named after China. He clings to his own version of international law, by which the sovereignty of nations does not exist, even as Russian intervention in Syria forces him to admit that the jihadist worm has turned against the West.
Obama maintains that the U.S. is at war only with terrorists, however, it is essentially locked in a war-against-all, since no nation has any rights that the U.S. is bound to respect.
Obama drags Dr. Martin Luther King into his dirty lair on the week of the martyr’s birthday. The president claims to be inspired and informed by the “diversity” of American “voices” – the same “voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
The truth may be unarmed, but Obama will still shoot, bomb or drone it.
Next year, same time, same channel, new villain. If it somehow turns out to be Donald Trump, few in the corporate media will call him a barbarian at the gate. “The Donald” will be described as a man of moderate wealth who built a commercial empire and grew into a global statesman, whose keen intellect is universally respected.
And that will be just as true as calling Barack Obama a progressive and searcher for peace.