Friday, July 30, 2010

Obama: the Better Nightmare

Paul Krugman's July 30, 2010, op-ed on Obama is spot on, as usual. Krugman has consistently positioned Obama further to the right than his supporters would like to see him. Krugman supported Clinton during the campaign because, among other reasons, Obama's campaign proposals for healthcare didn't go far enough. Krugman saw then that Obama was not the liberal many hoped he'd be--the liberal he otherwise promised to be in the campaign. See my TBR post "Obama No Liberal" for more on this.

Krugman is also right that Obama is not showing enough support for Elizabeth Warren to lead a new consumer protection agency. Though Krugman doesn't make it clear, he knows that Obama won't support Warren because Goldman and the like don't want her as a regulator because she is smart, capable, and she knows that the banks make a lot on credit cards and other forms of predatory lending. Obama doesn't support Warren because he knows she could change all this. In other words, Banks make a lot of money on types of irresponsible borrowing that really hurt our economy, and Warren understands this. As long as politicians are bought by the banks, as Obama is, this unsustainable consumer borrowing will be encouraged. Banks buy up politicians so they, the banks, can continue to suck the economic life out of our country, and this massive sucking sound gets rationalized as "fiscal conservatism" by Democrats and Republicans alike. The banks, of course, get rich from said life sucking.

If you doubt that Obama is bought by the banks, I suggest you read this HuffPost article by Bob Osterstag: "four out of [Obama's] top five [campaign] contributors were employees of financial industry giants, with Goldman Sachs at the top of the list." Moreover, "Goldman Sachs gave Obama four times more than they gave McCain."

So it becomes clear why the administration is blocking a Warren nomination: the administration, like so many in congress, is bought up by the banks, just like they are bought up by other business interests, and what is good for the country (Warren and checks on bad lending) is bad for business.

Krugman is also right to slam Mort Zuckerman for his claim that Obama is anti-business, an obviously absurd position. Here's something from the Harper's index that supports the claim that Obama is not just bought up by Big Finance but also by other status quo powers that be. The number is significantly smaller, but it does explain why Obama adopted a "drill baby drill" position right before the worst oil spill ever:

Total campaign contributions Barack Obama received from BP between 2004 and 2009: $77,051.
Number of politicians who accepted more in donations from BP during that period: 0.


People on the left have deluded themselves about Obama because he is smart, good looking, and seemed ethical-- and because the possibility of having a black president was extremely appealing. Obama has sold himself to business, and that is why he seems a lot like a Bush-redux.

Liberals have been fooled. It is not that surprising that we have been fooled. Obama said some very enticing things during the campaign, like what he said about the public option, a big issue for me: "any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [this] new public plan." He would later show us the real Obama: while making deals with big pharma and insurance companies before the healthcare fight really got going: "I didn't campaign on the public option."

So, like most politicians, Obama lies for political expediency, and these lies support the status quo of certain industries sucking the life out of our country in order to become rich. Bill Clinton fooled us too (campaign as liberal, lead from the right), but Obama has fooled us even more so.

What Krugman hasn't gotten right, hasn't come right out and said, is that Obama's pandering to the right, pandering to the true power of our country, goes beyond lying for political/big-business expediency. There are lots of laws being broken. Lots of crimes being committed and covered up. Certainly Goldman's government-supported illegalities would pile up if anyone did a really thorough investigation of all the secret twists and turns of the bailout, especially the particulars of the AIG-Goldman-Obama connection Osterstag makes clear.

But Obama is the top cop, and congress won't check or balance the administration's complicity in Goldman crimes because Goldman has bought congress too, GOP and Dems alike.

We don't even have to look hard for crimes that are not being investigated. As Krugman notes, torture is another area where Obama seriously let down progressives--where Obama is not just like Bush, but is protecting Bush. Since the Bush torture policy was obviously a war crime, the way Obama has let down liberals goes way beyond politics as usual, or Obama being forced to the right in order to "get things done in DC."

Like most liberal pundits, Krugman mentions "torture," but he doesn't take the obvious steps from torture to war crimes to the crime of not prosecuting a war crime to impeachment: the torture in question were war crimes, and the Bush administration should have been prosecuted, should have been impeached (at least), and avoiding this prosecution is itself a crime, an impeachable offense. As David Lindorff explains, Bush's torture policy was "in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which as a signed set of treaties, are part of the law of the United States. Under those treaties, failure on the part of those up the chain of command to halt or to punish those who commit torture are themselves guilty of the crime of torture." Even the generally conservative U.S. News and World Report gets it:

First, waterboarding is torture. Second, torture is a war crime. Third, the United States is obligated to prosecute war crimes. The failure to prosecute war crimes committed by your own government is an offense of the same order as the original war crime.


Glen Greenwald sees this tendency to protect the Bush administration from being held accountable for some of its most extreme actions as a "growing part of the Obama legacy," but not even Greenwald seems to make the connection between this protection and an impeachable offense for Obama--though he does ask liberals why they aren't talking impeachment when Obama argues that a war-time president has the right to assassinate Americans without due process.

Even people I know, people close to me, people I know to be as left as me, seem to shudder if I make this connection, and treat what I see as a basic, simple, just and responsible position as something potentially crackpot, something that could only come from the right. It seems to me to be the big idea we liberals aren't supposed to talk about. We can't burst the bubble that Obama is basically a good guy, and our country, especially its liberal side, is not hyper-deluded. Only right-wing fanatics could whisper impeachment and Obama in the same breath.

This topic of Obama's crime of not prosecuting Bush remains unspeakable in liberal circles, despite how obvious the connection between war crimes and impeachment was for liberals when thinking about the Bush administration, and how obvious it is that not prosecuting a war crime is a crime if you are constitutionally entrusted as the top cop--that is, if you are president. David Lindorff is one liberal, who made a very thorough case for Bush's impeachment, agrees with me that Obama should also be impeached. Lindorff is the author of the book, The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing George W. Bush from Office. In an April, 2010, Counterpunch article, Lindorff writes the following:

Sadly, it is time to say, just 14 months into the current term of this new president, that yes, this president, and some of his subordinates, are also guilty of impeachable crimes--including many of the same ones committed by Bush and Cheney.


Obama may be a HUGE disappointment to liberals and lefties like me, but this president--who is quite willing to lie and commit crimes for political expediency (the crime of sweeping Bush's crimes under the rug is just one example of many)--is a whole lot better than the nightmarish alternative criminals he will be running against in 2012. So choose your liar, choose your criminal. Which nightmare do you prefer? Or maybe we could wake up and start seeing the reality of the crimes of our two business parties. Maybe we could wake up and start applying the law to presidents and the Goldmans and AIGs and Wellpoints and BPs of our world. If not, we are left asleep choosing between nightmares. Obama is the better nightmare, for sure, but a nightmare nonetheless.

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