Thursday, December 18, 2008

THE OBAMA CON

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.

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PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

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Your editor has been a musician for many decades. He started the first band his Quaker school ever had and played drums with bands up until 1980 when he switched to stride piano. He had his own band until the mid-1990s and has played with the New Sunshine Jazz Band, Hill City Jazz Band, Not So Modern Jazz Band and the Phoenix Jazz Band.

NOTES ON THE MUSIC

Here are a few tracks:

SAM SMITH'S DECOLAND BAND

'SHINE' 

JELLY ROLL

PHOENIX JAZZ BAND

APEX BLUES   Sam playing with the Phoenix Jazz Band at the Central Ohio Jazz festival in 1990. Joining the band is George James on sax. James, then 84, had been a member of the Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller orchestras and hadappeared on some 60 records. More notes on James

WISER MAN  Sam piano & vocal

OH MAMA  Sam piano & vocal