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I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn’t have done a better job than he actually did.Now I wonder whether President Obama might not be a perfect Manchurian Candidate of the Republican Party, or perhaps of some nefarious foreign entity—perhaps the China or the always-enigmatic Al Qaeda. How else to explain policies that have wreaked such destruction on the Democratic Party in Washington and on the nation at large.
Consider for a moment the history of this new president in whom so many invested so much hope and enthusiasm:
Almost immediately upon taking office President Obama announced that he was appointing Timothy Geithner, part of the Bush/Cheney financial team, to head up his Treasury Department. This is the same Timothy Geithner who, as head of the New York Federal Reserve, engineered the initial give-away of $85 billion to AIG, and the subsequent pass-through of tens of billions of dollars to a handful of the nation’s largest banks and investment banks—surely the largest theft of public assets by private billionaires in the history of mankind. Obama went on to name a whole gang of Wall Street crooks to run his economic policy, assuring that the recession would be not an opportunity to restore long neglected and undermined New Deal programs, but rather to crush workers and the middle class while shifting staggering sums to the wealthy.
This was followed by a deliberate policy of dropping the ball on health reform, which a vast majority of Americans was clamoring for, and allowing it to be turned into a giant wet kiss for the insurance industry, whose stocks have leapt up with each advance of the massive and massively corrupt health “reform” legislation in Congress. (The ball drop took the form of Obama simply leaving the whole task of “reforming” health care up to the Congress, staying on the sidelines while Congress blew the job.)
Then there is the military. Here Obama kicked things off by insuring that there would be no real change from the Bush/Cheney imperialist scheme by reappointing to the post of secretary of defense the same guy, Robert Gates, who was secretary of defense under President Bush. He put the general formerly in charge of the Iraq War, David Petraeus, in charge of overall Middle East military operations, and took another Bush-era general, Stanley McCrystal, who had run special ops in Iraq, in charge of the Afghanistan War. And since then he has proceeded to ramp up the Afghanistan War from a small-scale operation to a full-fledged war, with no prospect of ending it, and every sign pointing to an ever wider and bigger war in that region, possibly sucking in Pakistan and Iran.
And as for the biggest crisis facing mankind, climate change, this new president, who because of the collapse of the US auto industry had a unique opportunity to compel one of the industries most responsible for the looming global ecological catastrophe to start to fix it by beginning a massive conversion to development and production of electric vehicles and mass transit, instead dropped the ball and just provided a taxpayer bailout with the goal of getting the domestic auto industry back into the business of cranking out gas guzzlers. The president has provided no leadership on climate change at all, effectively sabotaging the global effort to reach a new treaty to limit and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions this December.
Think about this. If the Republicans had created and inserted into the Democratic Party a secret candidate designed to trick Democrats into electing him, so that he could then enact Republican policies of robbing from the poor to enrich the rich, expanding the military budget to a level not seen since World War II, putting the nation deeper into a global war against Islam, sabotaging efforts to combat climate change, and further deregulating the financial sector, could they have come up with anything better than Barack Obama?
If Al Qaeda had wanted to insinuate someone into the White House to further undermine American empire, already on shaky legs during the Bush/Cheney years, by getting the US to further overextend its military, further bankrupt its already creaky economy, and further demoralize its citizens by boosting unemployment and undermining its Constitution, could Bin Laden & Co. have come up with a better Manchurian Candidate than Barack Obama?
If China had wanted a candidate to destroy the American currency, bankrupt the US and its remaining industrial base and leave it helpless and begging to be bought out by Chinese interests (there is now serious talk of China buying General Motors), could the country’s Communist rulers have done better than Barack Obama?
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think for a second that Obama is a secret Republican or a secret Al Qaeda or Chinese operative, though I know that there are right-wing Tea Baggers out there who sincerely believe the latter two scenarios (often at the same time!). I think Obama is simply another slick politician with a giant ego and a shriveled sense of principle and ethics—a man that is, not unlike most of our political class, though with better diction and smile, whose interests include himself, his family, and those who bankroll him, but certainly not you, me and the country as a whole.
But it might help if we started to think of him in these terms, because objectively what we have right now in the White House is a president who is steering the nation towards disaster as surely as if it were his goal in life.
Because he is a Democrat, and because he talked a good line during the campaign last year, progressives are disoriented and don’t know how to respond to his massive betrayal of all things progressive. At this rate, by next fall, we could have a raging full-scale war going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan in a state of chaos, Iran under attack by Israel or perhaps by Israel and the US, health reform a forgotten issue, real unemployment at over 20 percent, the dollar at half the value of the British pound, and negotiations for a global climate treaty in collapse. And progressives still will not be mounting any effective protest or political action.
I’m not sure what the answer is to this crisis. Many people on the left are arguing that it is essential to abandon the Democrats and move to a third party. I think that’s a great idea. The Democratic Party has proved to be absolutely corrupt and beyond salvation–useful only as a sump pump whose purpose is to suck the life out of the progressive movement, such as it is. But I also can’t help noticing that the vast majority of the middle class seems still content enough to struggle on with the jobs they still have—the 80-85 percent of them who still have jobs—ignoring the plight of those who do not and of the poor. It was an observation made by the late John Kenneth Galbraith that the problem with modern post-industrial democracies is that the vast majority of people do well enough that they no longer care about the suffering of the minority of the population.
As long as the ruling elites are able to keep the majority at least employed and in their homes, they can tighten the screws on the rest with impunity, and that is the situation we are in today. It is hard to see a new progressive party succeeding under such circumstances.
What is undeniable is that we are witnessing the systemic and probably terminal decline of the US as an economic power, and as a military power, and that is certainly a good thing, if not for Americans, then surely for the larger world. What is remarkable is watching President Obama, who was elected by Americans who were hoping he would turn things around, again and again act to hasten that decline.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org