Where are we going?
I’ve been reading some commentaries from other parts of the globe, mainly Robert Fisk of Britain’s Independent, Jim Lobe and Pepe Escobar at the Asia Times Online, to Paul Rosenberg and Joseph Massad at Al Jazeera English. It’s been quite a breath of fresh air and painful criticism, but gets away from the what someone has called the Idiocracy that is presently American government, politics and media.
Painful or not, I begin to think the criticism is well earned and deserved. So many of us had such great hopes that this President would finally stand up for something approaching human rights and “real democratic values” (an expression I have come to hate). Instead what we got was a man who traded away all his perceived advantages of the bully Presidential pulpit for compromises with those determined to defeat his every initiative and to business interests intent on maintaining the Bush era status quo of easy profits, financial manipulation, and the cheapest possible labor. Everything that George W. began has been continued and extended from pre-emptive war to strip searches of children and the elderly at our national airports to abuses of prisoners (hidden by document classification) to FBI entrapment of possible terrorists and targeted assassination. We are ceding our own rights as citizens of a democratic nation to the Security State for the sake of fantasy fears. We extend our mafia-like capitalist empire back into the countries we conquered, maiming and impoverishing the peoples of other nations for the benefit of our and their elites and those same fantasy fears while grasping at profits for the few that will surely keep all ordinary people at home and abroad in poverty or near poverty for decades to come as well as spreading a layer of corruption seldom seen before.
Obama can’t seem to even stand up for his own Health Care Reform or the need to raise the Debt Ceiling. He retreats from the unreasonable demands of Republicans in Congress with only a murmur about “compromise”, and allows himself to be persuaded into military surges and new conflicts without visible ends Why? It’s as if someone or some group has really leaned on him from the beginning, threatening that if you dare change anything we’ll get you.
One of the commentators, maybe Massad, called Obama the most passive president since Grover Cleveland who had fought corruption and fiscal irresponsibility, who, while personally incorruptible, allowed the profligacy that led to the Panic of 1893 – a bit unfair perhaps, though we do seem to be headed for a double dip recession, and Obama does seem to be passive indeed now that he has assumed his office. Somehow, though, I remember calling Bush the boy in the bubble as the government machinery manipulated by Cheney and Rumsfeld pulled the levers of the bureaucracy to their own disastrous advantage.
Obama does not appear to have such strategically placed lieutenants, yet there are many retained Republicans and war hawk Democrats who do not necessarily agree with his world view – or the one he outlined in his early speeches. He could have kept on railing publicly about greedy bankers, financiers, ceos and wealthy elites. He could have insisted on withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and brought Osama bin Laden to trial. He could have spoken out over and over about the damage the drone war and night raids were doing to civilians and the so-called battle for hearts and minds as well as our reputation among Muslims that our wars were not a new Crusade against their religion. Instead, some of those have been mentioned once and then never again. With so many of the Bush era bureaucrats still in place, the machinery has gone on pretty much as before and allowing the Republican to consolidate their rigid 19th century policies in the House and Senate’s refusal to cooperate on anything at all, proposing to take apart much of our safety net in the middle of a jobless rate of 9.1%.
One of the phrases that Obama repeats is “my team” in reference to any decision that needs to be made. He consults with this “team” prior to making decisions like sending the Seals to “get” bin Laden in Pakistan leaving himself open to the dangers of accepting the “Group Think” syndrome that afflicted the Bush administration with bad bad decisions. Another guy in a bubble. What a waste of talent and Intelligence! Apparently he’s not leading the team but following. What happened to the certainty expressed in 2008? Why haven’t all the bankers and financiers who caused the Great Recession been called to account? Why haven’t those who broke the law by beginning an illegal war and abused everyone’s civil rights by proposing the Patriot Act in the first place been prosecuted? Why are we still prancing around the world like Roman Centurions sure that we are the most powerful and invulnerable nation in the world with the right to tell all others how to conduct their affairs?
We out here in the ordinary workaday world are looking for spine and ideas for getting ourselves out of our mess, but all we’re getting is mush.