FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama: Words and Deeds

by RALPH NADER

A friend asked me what I was thinking while listening to President Obama’s inaugural address. Here were my reactions:

Obama: “They [the Patriots of 1776] gave to us a republic, a government of and by and for the people.”

The flood of money-shaping elections and politics has given us a corporate government of the Exxons, by the General Motors, for the DuPonts.

Obama: “Together we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”

In his first term Obama was indifferent to the more than 300,000 preventable fatalities a year in this country from hospital infections and malpractice, adverse drug effects, and occupational disease/trauma, in addition to coming perils of viral epidemics from abroad.

Obama: “…our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

He reneged and kept silent on his repeated 2008 campaign promise to push for a $9.50 minimum wage by 2011 and for a card-check system to facilitate the growth of unions. In his first term he discouraged Democrats from championing these measures in Congress even though thirty million workers are making wages less than workers made in 1968, adjusted for inflation (see timeforaraise.org). He also opposed a Wall Street financial transaction tax and declined to reduce gigantic corporate welfare programs (that conservatives call “crony capitalism”) that beg for repeal.

Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Obama and the emissaries he sends to international climate change conferences have brought up the rear among nations, infuriating our allies who looked to the U.S.A. for leadership. He never pressed for a carbon tax that even Exxon and leading conservatives, such as Gregory Mankiw, support (Mankiw was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush). I also believe that Obama will approve the Keystone XL Pipeline that will carry 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil through the U.S. every day. A decision that Jim Hansen of NASA said would be catastrophic.

Obama: “[E]nduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war….We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and the rule of law.”

Hello! This coming from the ex-Constitutional law teacher who has turned his imperial presidency into an institutionalized violator of the Constitution, federal statutes and international treaties. He has personally ordered many unlawful military incursions and slayings in countries that are not at war with the U.S. against people who do not constitute “imminent threats.” (See the new documentary Dirty Wars http://dirtywars.org/.)

The week of his inauguration President Obama sent drones to destroy “suspects” and whoever may be with or near them, including children, without the rule of law being observed. He is the law – the secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner for such attacks that have taken many civilian lives and produced increased hatred toward the U.S. from Pakistan to Yemen. The alleged “secret law” in Justice Department memos that he relies on is designed to strip the Congress and the courts of their Constitutional roles, as well as to keep the American people in the dark about drone attack decisions he makes on what his aides called “Terror Tuesdays.”

Obama: “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East….”

What about attending to our deteriorating democratic protections and civil liberties in our country? Washington, D.C. is corporate occupied territory in all three branches of government. Never in the past half century have the people and concern for their necessities been more shut out of their government. It continues to be “pay to play” time in the nation’s capital.

Obama: “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time…”

Well, then how about working to shift more power away from the few and toward the many? How about campaign finance reform and federal ballot access reform so voters can have more choices from third parties whose candidates, by the way, he should have been gracious enough to invite to his January 21, 2013 gala.

Granted, inaugural addresses are meant to be general and inspirational, not programmatic and revelatory. In a few days, Mr. Obama will have a chance to present his program in his more lengthy State of the Union address before the Congress. But inaugurations set tones as did the dominant militaristic displays and the managed adulation of the “imperial presidency.”

Tom Sherwood, a local commentator, watching the Inaugural parades up Pennsylvania Avenue from the sixth-floor balcony of the Newseum decried “the extraordinary expense – financial and psychological – of turning America’s Main Street into an armed camp where democracy is suspended for several days…. Protest groups are ‘assigned’ demonstration areas, and required to pay fees and adhere to strict assembly instructions…. This being the week of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, it makes you wonder what success would have been achieved if civil rights workers had acceded to police demands not to march here or there, or to pay to get detailed permits first.”

Sherwood adds: “but why not a parade that showcases the social services, arts and industries, and sciences along with our military services.” He then gives examples for his refreshing proposal. (You can follow him on Twitter @tomsherwood.)

Writing in The New York Times, David Brooks had qualms in an otherwise laudatory column on Obama’s speech, concluding that “we have no party that is comfortable with civil society, no party that understands the ways government and the market can both crush and nurture community, no party with new ideas about how these things might blend together.”

Good point, Mr. Brooks, but not true for some third parties and their candidates who were the Obama parade’s uninvited ones.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail