When Obama first campaigned for president in ‘08, he promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” But he didn’t. Sarah Palin’s derision of Obama’s “hopey-changey stuff” is accurate. The staunch activist academic Noam Chomsky agrees. He told Democracy Now! that Palin “was right. There was nothing there.”
There are so many ways that the Audacity of Hope author reinforced the hopelessness of America’s political system. I am going to summarize some of the most striking.
Advisors and Cabinet Appointments
Running against Hillary Clinton in ’08, Obama released an ad that stated, “She’ll say anything and change nothing. It’s time to turn the page.”
As president, Obama chose Clinton as secretary of state and named Rahm Emanuel, Bill Clinton’s former advisor, chief of staff.
Then Larry Summers, who helped Bill block derivative regulation, became one of Obama’s top economic advisors.
Then Timothy Geithner, who worked under Summers and was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York while all of the banks binged on derivatives, subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, became treasury secretary.
So much for turning the page on the Clintons.
With America in a Great Depression-like crisis, Obama’s first big piece of legislation was a stimulus package. Convinced that he could preemptively get bipartisan consensus, Obama negotiated with himself and composed a package replete with tax breaks that Republicans were supposed to support. They didn’t. Not one Republican voted for the ’09 stimulus package worth an estimated $819 billion.
According to economists like Paul Krugman, only a stimulus package of $1.2 trillion or more would have an immediate impact. When one of Obama’s economic advisors suggested a trillion-dollar plan, Emanuel replied, “What are you smoking?”
As for prosecuting Wall Street, Obama became their friend. He told the bankers, “I’m not out there to go after you, I’m protecting you.” Like the politicians he wasn’t supposed to be, Obama took the side of banks.
While running against Clinton and John Edwards in ‘08, Obama was against forcing people to buy health insurance. He didn’t want to force people to buy something that they couldn’t afford and then fine them when they didn’t buy it. Obama wanted to minimize the super-size cost of healthcare by doing things like ending very expensive and unhelpful tests and treatments.
As president, Obama passed health care reform centered on health insurance. He raised health care premiums and forced everyone to buy insurance and fine them if they didn’t. Like numberless other politicians, Obama became a flip-flopper.
The War on Terror
Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay. He didn’t. He also promised to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He did. He then ended the War on Terror. But America continues to bomb Iraq, Afghanistan, and almost every country in the Middle East. It also sells bombs to other countries (countries that support terrorism ) so that they can bomb funerals and wedding parties in the Middle East.
As for drones, Obama has ordered over 500 strikes. George W. Bush only did 50. The Obama administration makes it seems like drones only bring death to the terrorists they’re not supposed to be at war with, but that’s not true.
Newt Gingrich accused Obama of “waging war” against Israel. President-elect Donald Trump claims Obama gives Israel “total disdain and disrespect.” But for decades, American presidents have allowed U.N. resolutions condemning Israel. While Ronald Reagan was president, 21 such resolutions were passed. Under Nixon, there was 15. With Obama: 1. According to Palestinian activist Yousef Munayyer, “There has been no president that’s done more to protect Israel before the international community than Barack Obama.” In September, Obama’s administration agreed to give Israel’s military 38 billions dollars over the next ten years. That’s the most military assistance America has given any country ever.
Anxious that America’s first black president would come across as too favorable towards black people, Obama curbed the much-needed aid that George W. Bush allotted for Africa. In America, he gave black communities what white politicians gave them for years: personal-responsibility lectures. When protests erupted because police kill black people with impunity, Obama delivered a trite speech about “the rule of law.”
As for immigration, Obama deported more people than any president ever: 2.5 million. Families seeking asylum are sent to detention centers. In certain instances, they sleep eight to a room and their children get sick because they receive no nourishment.
Obama’s embrace of status-quo politics left an opening for someone else to play the role of radical outsider who would bulldoze all that was wrong with Washington. For Democrats, that person was Bernie Sanders. For Republicans, it was Donald Trump.
When Democrats sabotaged Sanders, they ruined their best presidential candidate. Trump could vilify Clinton in ways that would not have applied to Sanders. With Clinton as his opponent, Trump got to be the outsider. Now, he gets to be president.