Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Will Obama’s Legacy Be?

A look back at what an Obama presidency might have been—what it might have been had the stars been in alignment and had his inspirational campaign rhetoric counted for more than political catnip—reveals a cluttered trail of disappointments, half-measures, and, dare we say, betrayals. Basically, no one on either side of the fence got what they hoped for, which given the binary nature of politics, seems almost a statistical impossibility.

While the so-called mainstream Left regarded Obama as a millennial version of a “Rockefeller Republican,” moderate to a fault and as tame as dish water, the ideological Right wasted no time in labeling this dangerous person a “socialist.”

How soon we forget. In 1971, Republican president Richard Nixon mandated wage and price freezes across the board (U.S. employers were forbidden to give employees pay raises, and manufacturers and retailers were forbidden to increase the price of merchandise), and in 2008, Republican president George W. Bush temporarily nationalized the banking system. Oops. Yet who gets labeled a “socialist”?

The list of disappointed parties is staggering, beginning with organized labor. During his campaign Obama promised to give his full support to passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a labor reform that would allow workers to fill out a card saying they want to join a union (“card check”) rather than having to submit to an arduous and management-orchestrated NLRB election.

But when the time came to step up to the plate, Obama backed away. He and his attack dog Rahm Emanuel decided that (1) pushing too hard for something like this so early in his administration would unnecessarily alienate congressional Republicans, and that (2) even without the EFCA, there were no political risks, because labor had no choice but to remain loyal to the Democrats (“If you think we’re bad, try the Republicans”).

The same was largely true of education. Obama’s choice for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, had the same basic approach to public schools as the Republicans, in that he favored funneling money to charter schools and saw the political advantages of demonizing the teachers unions.

Although Obama tried portraying Duncan (his Chicago crony) as an “innovator” and “visionary,” Diane Ravitch, the brilliant education writer, saw little difference between the philosophy of Arne Duncan and that of George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander.

Obama couldn’t even placate the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA continued to accuse this dangerous socialist of being “anti-guns,” despite Obama being the first president to repeal the prohibition against possessing firearms in a National Park. It’s true.

In a pathetically transparent attempt to extend an olive branch to the almost pathologically single-minded NRA, Obama clearly and demonstrably liberalized (rather than restricted) the country’s gun laws. But the intransigent NRA didn’t so much as flinch. The move got him nothing. Except for criticism from the gun-control lobby.

But there’s an opportunity for Obama to leave office in a blaze of glory. It can be done immaculately, resolutely and permanently, without a shred of opposition to prevent it. This is not to say it won’t create some shrieking and howling because it will. But the beauty part of it is that there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

On Obama’s last day in office he needs to issue pardons for 10,000 prisoners currently serving time for non-violent, non-threatening, “non-scary” crimes. Conservative Republican Mike Huckabee, of all people, once observed that we put too many people in prison not because we’re afraid of them, but “because we’re mad at them.”

The advantage of a full pardon (as opposed to commuting a sentence) is that all is forgiven. It’s as if you never committed the crime, which allows you to apply for a job without the prison term on your record. It’s a second chance for people who aren’t dangerous, but who simply messed up. Or as an inmate at Chino prison told me, “We’re not just the ones who messed up; we’re the ones who messed up and got caught.”

So Obama needs to have the Justice Department come up with 10,000 men and women worthy of pardons. Besides releasing thousands of people who don’t belong in steel cages, the move might even set the stage for meaningful prison reform. God knows we need it. At the very least, these blanket pardons will launch a debate.

Also, Obama needs to pardon convicted murderer Leonard Peltier. Personally, I agree with those who claim he was railroaded, but even if he’s guilty, the man is 72 years old and has served almost 40 years in prison. Are we still “mad” at him?

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail