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Bush III?
Is Obama falling for it, or climbing down to it?

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
May 16, 2009

OK, at this point, Obama is seriously screwing the pooch.

The vast majority of Americans--and nearly everyone else in the world--were deliriously happy when he got elected because it was seen as an end to the hated and disgraceful Bush regime.

No more pointless and stupid occupation in Iraq. A more reasoned and intelligent approach to the quagmires of Afghanistan and Pakistan (“AfghanPak”istan these days). A restoration of America's role as a nation of laws, and respect for the rights of people, and an end to gulags, untried imprisoning, and military kangaroo courts. A strong and proactive approach to changing the direction of America's disastrous environmental policies. An end to crony capitalism and the constant suborning of the welfare of the people to the convenience of corporations. An easing, if not a cure for the pathetic class-based medical system that afflicts America.

An end to feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

And now, with approval ratings most presidents could only dream of, and big majorities in both Houses of Congress, Obama is in full retreat. He has backtracked on Iraq, and is trying to ignore Iraqi demands that American soldiers be out of Iraqi cities by the end of the month—something America had agreed to do earlier. He's launching air raids and drone attacks into civilian populations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, eliminating any hope that he could gain the trust or at least the respect of the Afghani population, and greatly weakening the authority of the government in Pakistan, the very type of secular and democratic government that America has loudly insisted it desperately needs in that part of the world.

He stood by and said nothing while the Senate Democrats caved to the banksters on limiting credit card interest rates to a level that once would have embarrassed the Mafia. Reducing the vig to a mere 17% was an unreasonable demand in the eyes of the banksters, who need that money to buy off politicians to ensure that they'll still get their hundreds of billions in bailouts and giving themselves huge bonuses? Why is Obama caving to this capitalist filth?

Having made bold steps to fight the depression, he's backtracking now, mumbling about “unsustainable deficits” and, while keeping the wasteful and pointless bank bailouts going, is pulling back from social employment and family help programs. Bush got kicked out and the Republicans are reviled because of their habit of comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. Now, however Obama seems intent on following in their footsteps. FDR was in office for four years before he made that mistake, and it damned near plunged the country back into the Great Depression. Giving the rich money to take care of their American pets doesn't work—they don't really care about their pets! That includes any pets in the Oval Office, and I'm not talking about Bo.

David Sirota noted wryly that the health care industry leaders who met with Obama last week stated they were willing to trim $200 billion a year from their revenues and still maintain a healthy profit. Nice to know they are looking after SOMEONE'S health. But $200 billion – that's about $650 a year for every American still alive – a year over and above “healthy profits” suggests an unhealthy situation. How much does that $200 billion cut into their profits, do you think? Ten percent? Twenty? Obama, who once was staunchly for single-payer health coverage, thought this was an encouraging development. It's a bit like the head of the FBI grandly announcing that he had gotten the Mafia dons to agree to steal 10% less in order to revitalize the economy. For those of us crushed by medical bills (and these days, that's most of us), it was an underwhelming stance by Obama.

After denying that American air raids in Pakistan had killed 100 civilians in a single strike last week, it came out that the raid had actually killed 140 civilians—mostly children. It comes at a time when the government in Pakistan is fighting for survival. After the vile Musharraf regime, it was a government we desperately needed in the region—one willing to sit down and parlay with India, one that would be pro-west and pro-freedom, one that could negate the power of the dangerous religious fundamentalist movement with enlightened secularism, knowledge, and a good standard of living. But Obama undermines them with the mindless attacks on the western border, bombing anything that isn't rubble and then bombing the rubble in the hopes of hitting Taliban who have already slipped away in the time honored battle tactics that have defeated dozens of empires over millennia. Thus, Pakistan, and it's nuclear weapons, are likely to fall into the hands of the Taliban, perhaps within weeks.

He promised he had put an end to the greatest disgrace that Bush inflicted on America--the torture of detainees. We all thought, “well, at least there's that.” Many foes had tried to destroy America over the years, but none had completely humiliated Americans the way the work of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld did when those first awful pictures from Abu Ghraib appeared on web beat-off sites. But now reports are appearing that the detainees at Gitmo still face the Black Shirts: who “routinely terrorize prisoners, breaking bones, gouging eyes, squeezing testicles, and 'dousing' them with chemicals.” according to Jeremy Scahill of AlterNet. This is a “thug squad” designed to repress violently the faintest sign of any resistance, even such time honored ones on the limited list of options prisoners of a lawless regime have, such as hunger strikes or chanting. Still going on. Now. The rationale is that this isn't torture, because it's the same sort of treatment “legitimate” prisoners in America get. And then he backed away on the issue of military kangaroo courts. Whilst alleviating it slightly by promising no testimony based on torture (the same guarantee Stalin offered in the 1930s) and assuring other rights that Americans once believed inviolate, it remains secret trials, sometime in the future, and a stain on Americas reputation as a country of laws. Dostoevsky would be happy to tell America what her future was, based on how she treats her prisoners. It would be a brief speech.

In the meantime, Obama has decided not to release the latest batch of torture photos, even though most of them can be found in foreign newspapers and at websites catering to sadists and other bent coins. It's part of his efforts to cover up for the Bush administrations excesses and trashing of America's reputation.

Gerald Ford had the same idea, and not only did he destroy himself politically by letting Nixon off the hook for crimes far less serious than those of Bush and Cheney, but he left America to deal with a festering wound that, 35 years later, still has not healed. It was at the moment of the pardon that America seriously began to lose faith in itself as a moral authority. The Republicans, the supposed beneficiaries, fell right into the sewer and have remained there since, little better than Nazis. Composed mostly of traitors who want to rebel against the US rather than have a black president, corporate scum who view Americans as useful pets, and religious weirdos who think America is in fealty to Jesus, Republicans are consumed in yet another of their contrived and utterly ersatz moral outrages, hammering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for knowing about “crimes” clear back in 2003. The crimes (which they dance around specifying) are the crimes the Bush admin committed in authorizing torture.

It's easy to make them shut up and go away. Just ask them to prosecute the crimes, determine the guilty and then determine if Pelosi was complicit in any way. But at this point, I'm guessing that Obama won't even work up the backbone to do that, but will let Pelosi fall to the wolves in hopes they won't come after him.

Republicans are scum, utter moral filth. Clinton thought he could work with them, and after he sold out his own base trying, this weakened him enough politically that the far right as able to damn near destroy his presidency. They aren't interested in negotiation and compromise; they just want to weaken Obama so they can destroy him.

And Obama is playing right into their hands.

The real question is whether Obama is doing this because he's badly misguided, or is he doing it because he has been bought out, too?

Posted: May 20, 2009

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