Monday, December 19, 2016

What We Need To Learn From The Obama Presidency Isn't The Kind Of Thing They Make Inspirational TV Movies About

I wasn't planning on writing about Barack Obama this morning, then I made the mistake of turning on the radio and hearing his interview on National Public Radio.   It was an odd experience, hearing him express pride in his unnecessary, entirely stupid attempts at "bi-partisanship" which pissed away, especially, the opportunities the American People had given him to make far more change than I now believe Barack Obama ever intended to attempt.   Especially surreal was hearing him warning Trump about the desirability to do things through legislation instead of by executive orders.  As if his experience as a voluntarily weak president will have any impact on a megalomaniacal, flaming racist of a fascist strongman. 

A few somewhat random thoughts on hearing the interview.

Obama's 2008 campaign promised a level of audacity and boldness that never was in the man, his declarations on that were theater, not real.  He traded in heroic imagery and language from leaders of the past for his campaigns but pulled the ultimate bait and switch when he governed from the attitude that it was his supporters' responsibility to make him do what he'd promised them either explicitly or by clear and obvious implication. Barack Obama used the imagery and language of the Black civil rights movement to gain the nomination and the presidency, I've come to think his use of that was some of the most cynical political theatrics in the history of the country.  He didn't walk away from it, though in most cases, he didn't walk anywhere, he did nothing.  And when he did, such as his "dreamers" executive order, he likely set up a lot of people as targets for the racist Trump regime.  Obama's record on unregistered immigrants is an especially bad one.  I can't imagine many who mistook his order as an opportunity aren't wondering if they were played for fools, today. 

Sometime in the first two years of his administration it became obvious that he cared far more about Republicans liking him than he did the sense of betrayal that those who voted for him felt as he caved in on even things like seriously weakening the stimulus bill WHICH COULD HAVE PASSED WITHOUT REPUBLICAN SUPPORT in order to court Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe who played him for a complete chump.  

Even within the Democratic Party, Obama refused to play any kind of hard ball with Senators and even members of the House who, similarly, damaged the legislation that should have put into effect his campaign promises.  He was only ever going to be as audacious, as prepared to push for the hopes of those who supported him as the most conservative Democrat or even the slimiest of Quislings like Joe Lieberman was going to go along with.   In very few instances did Barack Obama even make an effort to deliver on that promised hope.  About the lowest point I can think of was when, in an attempt to court the support of the early dissenting leftish blogosphere, he met with a group of, then, top bloggers and told them it was their responsibility to make him do what he had promised to do.  As if we weren't all trying our hardest to do that, already.  

From early in his time as President, I had the feeling that Barack Obama didn't have contempt for his supporters but I came to the conclusion that he both figured he was due their support and that it was his to take for granted.  What mattered to him on an emotional level was the approval of Republicans and, most of all, what would have been called the establishment in the language of the 1960s.  There was an early indication that that was how he operated in his campaign to become president of the Harvard Law Review, in which he promoted himself through conservative law students to win over a more liberal candidate.  I think that act shows that courting power and status through servicing the conservative elite is as deep as any mental attribute of Barack Obama.  

He never was a liberal, he was always, a center-right figure.  While his race was exploited by the very Republicans he was courting, he detached himself from the situation. His several attempts to use it, things like the "beer summit" his few and weak declarations about violence against Black People were too little and far, far too weak.   I long ago got the sense that one of his strongest inclinations is to deflect responsibility from himself.   I think that is a habit he learned in the training of the elite, through his prep-school-Ivy-League education, the same thing that allows Supreme Court justices and others to act as if they are not responsible for the results of their actions in public office. 

There was a bizarre detachment in his tone in describing his administration, an aloofness in which I think there is a lesson for Democrats.  Barack Obama may well be the coolest president we've ever had, he has been declared that many times during his administration.  He does the occasional stand up routine or one liner really well.   In that he reminds me of another president, Calvin Coolidge who became an unlikely icon of the 1920s.   I think there is more in common between him and Barack Obama than either of them would have liked to have anyone notice.  After Coolidge's irresponsible administration, there was a deluge.  After Obama there is likely to come an even worse one and this one could destroy American democracy and far more.  It could end up getting us all killed.   

I will have more on this later, I've got to go be sick first.   I'm especially disgusted with what he said about his having to resort to using executive orders, something which is largely a result of his failure at real leadership, especially in the first two years before he lost the Congress to Republicans.  His advice to Trump on the downside of that and the necessity of doing things through legislation comes off as just more of an excuse.   And it's entirely pointless.  Trump is a fascist dictator, the Republicans in power in Congress and, soon, to regain their stranglehold on democracy in the Supreme Court will not even bother to laugh at it.  Coming from Barack Obama it is less than a stream of hollow platitudes, it is nauseating. 

We need to make sure that no one like Barack Obama ever again gets the Democratic nomination as president.   We don't need another Bill Clinton either, but for other reasons.  Both were masters  at electoral politics, neither of them were at all skilled or talented or strong enough to master the real politics of governing.   I'm not sure I think either of them really cared much about that.   I don't have any doubt that Hillary Clinton did.  Her defeat will likely turn out to be the greatest tragedy of both Obama and Bill Clinton's presidencies.  She should have been president in 2008.  Things would have been a lot different if she had been.   One thing she pointed out in 2008 was that Lyndon Johnson, ironically, the most liberal president in our history, that he was the one who delivered the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.    She was attacked for saying that.   Her words turned out to be remarkably insightful about what was to come. 

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