Thanks, Obama: You Lie

Photograph Source: Barack Obama’s speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention – Fair Use

Record-Setting Absurdity and Mendacity

The malignant fascist sociopath Donald Trump lies so voluminously and absurdly that many Americans will believe he said or Tweeted almost anything, no matter how offensive and ridiculous. Every few months for the last three years I’ve been making up off-the-wall Trump statements and sending them out on so-called social media to see if people will take them as genuine. Many readers do indeed see them as bona fide Trump comments. Here’ a recent example, a spoof I put up on Mindfuck three days ago:

“Trump is tweeting that Joe Biden ‘faked the death of Beau Biden for sympathy’ and that Beau is ‘alive and working with the Chinese to spread a new coronavirus through the radical Left Marxist organization Black Lives Antifa.’ Trump says ‘the Bull Durham Report will show the not-dead Chinese agent Beau Obiden to have been behind the Beirut explosion and the anarchist craziness in the Russian state of Belarus.’ Trump suggested also that Jill Biden was involved in 9/11, ‘had an affair with John Lewis,’ and has been ‘paying bounties to Mexican murderers for every border agent they kill.’”

Numerous folks believed that Trump wrote what I made up. Who can blame them? Trump says and Tweets stuff nearly as ridiculous as this on a regular basis. He misstates reality 16 times a day. He says and Tweets that COVID-19 will magically disappear, that Joe Biden is a tool of “the Radical Left,” that “socialist” Kamala Harris can’t legally be Vice President, that the world looks to the United States as the leader in the struggle with the coronavirus, that a “beautiful wall” is being built on the southern border (and paid for by Mexico), that children don’t get COVID-19, and…the examples are endless.

But here’s the thing about Trump’s epic mendacity: it’s transparent to most serious adults. Almost everyone knows that Trump lies and says crazy stuff. He’s the all-time Dear Leader of two plus two equals five. If Trump ever says that two plus two equals four, people check the multiplication tables to make sure it’s true.

Trump’s serial un- and anti-reality is disturbing, of course. It is a nonstop assault, aided and abetted by the corporate media (and that includes you, Joy Reid), on the citizenry’s capacity to grasp objective truth.

But also dangerous is the more elegantly stated and expertly cloaked serial deception conducted by the Inauthentic Opposition Party of Fake Resistance – the dismal Democrats. Listen, for example, to this statement on Trump from Barack Obama in his much-ballyhooed online Democratic National Convention speech last Wednesday night:

“I’m in Philadelphia, where our Constitution was drafted and signed…The one Constitutional office elected by all of the people is the presidency. So at minimum, we should expect a president to feel a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all 330 million of us — regardless of what we look like, how we worship, who we love, how much money we have — or who we voted for.

We should expect a president to be the custodian of this democracy. We should expect that regardless of ego, ambition, or political beliefs, the president will preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms and ideals that so many Americans marched for and went to jail for; fought for and died for.

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”

What Democracy?

Okay, so that’s 319 sophisticated and stylishly delivered words containing no small measure of mendacious falsehood from the silver-tonged Harvard Law graduate and former president Barack Obama. He’s not wrong on the terribleness of the tangerine Antichrist, of course. Trump does have to go, one way or another.

Still, the former constitutional law professor Obama knows damn well that the President of the United States is NOT “elected by all the people.” Thanks to the openly undemocratic Electoral College system, the winner of the national presidential popular vote has failed to win five U.S. presidential elections so far, including the last one.

And to what “democracy” is Obama referring? The United States is a corporate and financial oligarchy. This is an open secret understood very well (in private) by the onetime record corporate fundraiser Obama. Even some conservative elites like the veteran federal jurist and economist Richard Posner concede this basic reality.  As the distinguished liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched book Democracy in America? (written and researched during the highly instructive years of Obama’s Citigroup presidency):

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy.  Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout.  When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerlessThe will of majorities is often thwarted by the affluent and the well-organized, who block popular policy proposals and enact special favors for themselves…Majorities of Americans favor…programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes.  Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs] (emphasis added).”

By Gilens and Pages’ findings, based on exhaustive inquiry into hundreds of bills and policies enacted and blocked since the 1980s, the basic same rule – concentrated wealth wins, the populace loses – holds regardless of which major party or party configuration holds or distributes nominal power in in Washington.

The “hope” and “change” Obama administration, loaded with agents of high finance, was a case in point. It gave Americans a blunt object lesson on who really owns and runs the country, helping thereby to spark the Occupy Wall Street rebellion, which Obama’s Department of Homeland Security helped crush (along with hundreds of Democratic city governments from coast to coast).

Seven in the ten Americans currently support Medicare for All – a desperately needed policy that the current pretend-progressive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden suggests he would veto if it came to his desk as president!

Obama Hoped for Decency from a “Fascist”?

Obama expected Trump to develop “reverence for the [supposed] democracy that had been placed in his care”? Really? We know from the documentary film Hillary that Obama said this about Trump to the corporate imperialist presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s amazingly uninspiring and dismal centrist vice-presidential running Tim Kaine in October of 2016: “Tim, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.”

Read that again: “you’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.” That was an all-too accurate characterization of Donald Trump. Obama is a lot of nasty things, but stupid and ill-informed is not one of them. He had read enough history and political science, and had also personally experienced enough vicious racist, Birtherist, and nativist targeting by Trump, to know very well that the next president and most of his allies and backers had no respect for the rule of law, democracy, and the common good. Speaking to New Yorker editor David Remnick on a campaign trip to North Carolina four days before the election, Obama said “We’ve seen this coming. Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the [authoritarian and racist] rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years…we’ve seen it for eight years, even with reasonable people like John Boehner, who, when push came to shove, wouldn’t push back against these currents.”

But that was the private and candid Obama, someone rather different from public and dissembling Obama. The public Obama would never and can still not speak the truth that Trump is a fascist arch-authoritarian in line with far-right currents developing well before his ascendency to the world’s most powerful office. Here’s some of what Obama told the American people the day after Trump was collegiately selected:

“Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs—a sense of unity; a sense of inclusion; a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law; and a respect for each other. I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition, and I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin.…A lot of our fellow Americans are exultant today. A lot of Americans are less so. But that’s the nature of campaigns. That’s the nature of democracy.”

“America[ns] First!”

Again, what democracy, Obama?

Trump Doesn’t Take the Presidency Seriously?

Is the problem with Trump really that he doesn’t take the presidency seriously? The Trump presidency, in line with Obama’s unspoken presentiment of it as “fascist,” has been as serious as a heart attack. Trump and his shift cast of henchmen., including authoritarian white supremacists like the (newly indicted) Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Attorney General William Barr have waged an unrelenting top-down blitzkrieg-like assault on social justice, environmental sanity, the rule of law, civilized norms, human decency, constitutional principles, and what’s left of “democracy” in the United States.

Trump and his team have taken the “awesome power” of the imperial U.S. presidency quite seriously indeed, as one would expect arch-authoritarian white nationalists to do. Just watch how expertly these vicious bastards use the presidency to attack the normal operation of the bourgeois electoral process this late summer and fall. And Trump’s “[un]reality television show” is part of the far-right operation.

No Empathy Joe

Which brings me to, well, yes, sleepy (not everything Trump says is wrong or a lie) Joe Biden, whose worrisome presence on the center stage of history in this precarious moment is owed to Obama no less than Sarah Palin owed her Trump-anticipating moment to John McCain. Last Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Obama tried to sell the fading, cognitively challenged 77-year old man he would like to make the nation’s oldest newly elected president as a shining model of human “empathy” with “the ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better.

Less than two years ago, Mr. Empathy, corporate “blue collar” Joe Biden said that he had “no empathy” for Millennials’ struggle to get by in the savagely unequal and insecure precariat economy he helped create over his many years of abject service to the Lords of Capital. “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are—give me a break,” said Biden, while speaking to Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times two years ago. “No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break.”

Read that a second time: “No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break.” So what if Millennials face a significant diminution of opportunity, wealth, income and security compared to the Baby Boomers with whom Biden identifies? Who cares if “lunch bucket Joe” helped shrink the American Dream for young people with the neoliberal policies and politics he advanced as a long time pro-corporate center-right imperialist U.S. Senator and Vice President?

The Man to Lead Us Out of the Darkness?

Obama is not being truthful when he says he thinks Biden is the man for the world’s most powerful job in its current moment of true crisis. A recent POLITICO report is titled “‘The President Was Not Encouraging’: What Obama Really Thought About Biden.” It shows that President Obama and his top operatives viewed his doddering vice president as a slow-witted relic who was less-than-ready for prime time when the time came to choose his successor in 2015 and 2016 (and yes, we know how the Hillary pick worked out). Biden’s long-winded, generally off-point interjections and stories were tolerated but not taken seriously by Obama and his top administration players.

“The Reason I’m Here”

Not everything Trump says is complete horseshit. “The reason I’m here,” Trump opines, “is because of President Obama.” That’s true on different levels. Obama’s technically Black identity predictably helped spark an ugly white-supremacist reaction – a racist backlash that was ironic given Obama’s nasty habit of blaming Black folks for their disproportionate poverty and incarceration and Obama’s failure to undertake any specific federal programs to tackle the nation’s stark racial disparities.

At the same time, Obama’s service to wealthy elites during his militantly neoliberal class-rule presidency helped feed mass cynicism about the effectiveness of voting and America’s supposed grand electoral “democracy.” It combined with the complimentary neoliberal awfulness of Hillary to help de-mobilize the Democratic Party’s majority progressive base so that Trump was able to squeak by with help from racist and partisan voter suppression and the ridiculous, democracy-flunking, right-leaning Electoral College. Trump didn’t win the 2016 election. The neoliberal Goldman Sachs and Pentagon Dems lost it.

Thanks Obama.

Ironically intensified by the awfulness of the Trumpenstein the Obama helped hatch, ObamaLust is a deadly and dysfunctional virus that works against popular resistance. Luckily the antidote is now available over-the-CounterPunch: Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).