Thursday, December 18, 2008


Sam Smith

Barack Obama is one of the best con artists I've seen in a half century of covering politics. He's not quite the Bernie Madoff of liberalism, but there are some striking similarities, such as taking large sums of money from unsuspecting persons, using it for purposes quite contrary to those implied and leaving them, at the end of day, with little to show for their investment.

Admittedly, Obama really didn't deny his agenda; he merely concealed it behind clouds of platitudes, ambiguities and vague promises. But this is true of any good con; if the victims had just been a little more attentive and cautious they might not find themselves in a mess.

And there were plenty of clues. Almost a year ago, Obama said: "I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating."

As Matt Stoller of Open Left said at the time, "Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement. . . . It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power."

Then there was the fact that Obama made it from obscure state senator to presidential nominee in four years. That simply doesn't happen unless an individual does something extraordinary - and Obama did nothing - or if the candidate is seen as the right face and the right brand for something that others want to do.

To get a sense of how substantial the deception was, liberals should ask themselves this question: would you - on principle and not personality - have voted for someone who promised to appoint as secretary of agriculture an ethanol booster and ally of Monsanto, an education secretary who would continue the war on public education, an energy secretary who is pro nuke and pro Yucca Mountain, a defense secretary who has been part of the Iraq disaster, a budget director who favors cutting Social Security for those under 59, an attorney general who helped increase the prison time served by young blacks on minor drug offenses, a secretary of state involved in numerous scandals, a transportation secretary who is an extreme conservative and knows little about the field, a staff stuffed with a team of revivals form the Clinton years, and an inaugural preacher who treats gays and women as lesser beings much as others once did to blacks?

That is not change we can believe in. That's a lot of problems.

In short, Obama is not what he pretended to be nor what his most enthusiastic fans believed him to be. The sooner progressives and liberals face up to this the better off we all will be. The mere fact that so many are urging patience towards Obama suggests at least a nascent appreciation of the problem, but many, many more have to let him know that they feel let down or deceived. It doesn't have to mean total alienation; it does mean challenging his post-partisan hustle and his palling around with the very sorts that have brought America down. Just call his con and start treating him as what he really is: another politician who is only as good as the pressure he feels.


At December 18, 2008 3:00 PM, Anonymous monsanto is the Devil (ask Viet Nam) said...

Unless you want to eat Monsanto's poison, you'll read the evidence and sign the petition to reject Vilsack's confirmation as ag. sec.

At December 18, 2008 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Obama con. Well said.

At December 18, 2008 5:09 PM, Blogger xilii said...

Obama's recent appointments are another good reason reporters or other citizens should pester candidates about their potential staff choices during the course of a campaign. I doubt Mr. Obama started thinking of his cabinet list only after November 4.

At December 18, 2008 5:21 PM, Anonymous Mairead said...

But "should pester" implies that the pesterers have access to the candidate and want to know the answers. I'd argue that those who have the access don't want to know, and vice versa.

At December 19, 2008 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The parallel with Mr. Madoff is exactly right.

And we're all so shocked with him that nobody suspected a thing was amiss. Like the hustler is duty bound to tip us off or something?

Am scraping the damned Obama-Biden sticker off my long suffering bumper . Jeesh , there it was in plain sight ... the word " Biden " , fairly screaming a big fat warning to the wise.

- another sucker in Detroit, John A. Joslin ( IBEW Local #58 )

At December 19, 2008 2:29 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

Wow, the guy hasn't even taken office yet and already you and everyone else here are demonizing him. Thanks a lot for giving him the chance to prove or disprove your thesis. Don't forget that his appointees are going to be taking direction from him; at the very least, give him the chance to do so before writing him off. If things get as bleak as you paint them in a year or two, then I'll buy your argument.

At December 19, 2008 5:55 PM, Blogger benji said...

Wow, he must be a really great con man to make people take leave of even basic logic. If Obama is appointing conservatives and corrupt politicians, then the reason can not be because they will pursue conservative and corrupt policies - it can only be he appointed them because they would be the people most likely to accept promoting liberal and clean policies!... Sheesh!

Hey if all one needs to implement a liberal agenda are conservative and corrupt politicos, it really goes to show how useless it is even to be a progressive.

It seems the branding of Hopey has been so good the evidence of our very eyes is not to be believed anymore. As Nike IS sport and Obama IS progressive, not because of anything he does or the people he surrounds himself with, but because that's what his branding makes one think of.

At December 19, 2008 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric Holder seems pretty good for the most part. He opposes the Death Penalty and opposes the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay. He also opposed the Supreme Court decision on the D.C. Gun ban. Obama's first choice for U.S. trade representative Xavier Becerra was prety good and Obama's Labor Secretary seems great.

At December 23, 2008 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's appointments, including four retired four-star generals in top security posts, keeping the heads of the DOD and CIA in place, begs the question of who has appointed whom. Do not expect anything from one who is apparently a hood ornament. Ditto for our rubber-stamp Congress. Try to realize how far down the fascist road we are, folks. Did you vote for the detention camps that a Haliburton subsidiary is building around the country? Did you vote for American infantry divisions to be trained for crowd control and counter-insurgency within the USA? Wake up and consider that the hell that we have wreaked around the world for the last sixty years may be coming home.
Tony Vodvarka

At December 27, 2008 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Naomi Wolf's new book,"The End Of America--Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot" a few weeks ago and thought maybe Obama's election would stop,or at least slow down, America's march toward facism. Now after seeing his Cabinet appointments etc., I not so sure.It appears that corporate control of America may be much deeper than progressives ever believed.

At December 29, 2008 10:17 PM, Blogger robert beal said...

Excellent, right-on rip.

I love the line about how his appointees will be taking direction from him.

Our form of government is corporate statism. The bubble-based financial sector runs government, not the other way around.

At December 30, 2008 8:42 AM, Blogger Elderlady said...


I'm slow -- but not that slow.

I hit the "unsubscribe" link on the last e-mail solicitation for a donation for the inauguration --- right after Rick Warren was invited to deliver the American People's Prayer on Inauguration Day.

The reason I gave was: Rick Warren, Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, Vilsack, Robert Gates, et al.

This is not change I can, or do believe in.

At January 4, 2009 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Obama is a diversity figurehead. In my youth, all of the actors in commercials were white. Gradually, the corporations realized this was putting a bad face of pure racism on their machiantions, so they hired mostly lighter-skinned actors to flog their ToasteeKakes. People liked that they have their Toasteekakes and can also be proud of their alleged non-racism at the same time , so here is Obama.
2. Politicians and other elite authoritarians have been using the "change" con since we got out of the caves. Unless it points to actual "change," stop using the fascist marketing term, Sam. What could possibly "change" this supersystem?


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