A reality check for the Obama faithful
By Christopher Hardiman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 12, 2007, 01:35

It was only a matter of time before presidential hopeful Barak Obama began taking his lumps. Once he formally declared his candidacy we learned that he�s made some questionable investments, has associations with shady political insiders and attracts corporate money like a rabid Republican.

The Left suspects a wolf in sheep�s clothing while the Right fears that Obama lacks the stomach for bombing defenseless nations into rubble. The nation�s largest political party, millions of cynical non-voters, are beginning to wonder if he can keep them from staging their traditional Election Day boycott. In Chicago, some were dismayed that he endorsed an allegedly corrupt mayor for re-election. The term �allegedly� is laughable when referring to the rampant cronyism of the Daley administration, but as long as the Feds continue to look the other way, Obama�s endorsement of a crooked politician is of little relevance.

Obama�s support of the status quo in Chicago, along with his biracial background and Hawaiian upbringing, suggested to some that he wasn�t black enough. Questioning Obama�s �blackness� was a lazy attempt at mudslinging but the phony controversy allowed the corporate media to ignore real news.

His lack of experience in Washington has provided a predictable target for his detractors. This should remind the young upstart from Illinois that criminal enterprises are always wary of new faces. Although more creative plans to tarnish Obama�s image are surely brewing, there is an overwhelming feeling among his admirers that he represents a fresh break from the divisive tone of presidential politics. Supporters predict Obama will provide a dose of common sense idealism that will push the nation in a new direction. He even managed to charm an endorsement from Oprah without her usual self-congratulatory antics. This is a talented man. Despite an ever-widening circle of critics, Obama has convinced a growing number of potential voters that his election would signal a fundamental change in how the nation is governed. History suggests otherwise.

A president runs an inherently deceptive enterprise. Truman lied about why he dropped the bomb on Japan. Eisenhower lied about US involvement in a coup that toppled a democratically elected government in Guatemala. Kennedy deceived the nation about invasion plans for Cuba. Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to a senseless war in Vietnam. Nixon lied about bombing Cambodia and tried to cover-up the Watergate break-in. Carter suppressed his role in allowing genocide in East Timor. Reagan lied about selling arms to Iran and his illegal support of the Contras. Elder Bush lied about why the US invaded Panama. Clinton faked genuine concern for African-Americans while enacting policies that ensured record numbers of blacks populated prison cells and filled death row. Our current president lied about his motives for invading Iraq and has shown little regard for the truth since taking office. Presidents routinely con the public in order to further the goals of the powerful interests they represent. The implication for Obama and those who believe that he symbolizes change is clear.

If the junior senator from Illinois wins the White House, he will deceive the nation because the office of the presidency demands it. The fraud perpetrated upon the American people is systematic and premeditated. Maintaining the appearance of a functioning democracy while presiding over the unequal distribution of wealth to corporations and rich investors requires an elaborate system of smoke and mirrors.

As president, Obama would have to appear to serve the people while primarily accommodating powerful sectors in the financial, oil and defense industries. With the aid of the corporate media trumpeting their message, these institutions define and dictate our nation�s policy. Enforcing these policies both globally and domestically requires harsh measures when stealth and secrecy alone aren�t sufficient. Providing obscene tax cuts for the rich, invading nations under false pretenses and ignoring genocide for political reasons all ring familiar bells. If Obama wins the presidency, he will have to answer to a powerful corporate and social hierarchy with an agenda that frequently conflicts with the needs of the general public. This nexus of power determines who is allowed to make a serious run for president and what their policy options will be.

This is not to suggest that whoever occupies the White House is irrelevant. It�s safe to assume that Obama would have responded to a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina with more competence and compassion than Bush exhibited. But the chronic poverty exposed by Katrina will continue under the present system regardless of who is president. Likewise America�s abysmal image abroad can surely be improved by a coalition builder such as Obama. But the poverty stricken nations that have been systematically exploited by America�s brand of predatory capitalism will continue to be drained of their wealth and resources. The United States might regain favor with the people of Western Europe without the arrogant unilateral philosophy of the Bush Administration, but the Middle East, Africa and Latin America will still be the grumpy recipients of American imperialism. The growing wealth and income gap at home might be moderated by a president more sympathetic towards middle-class workers and the poor. But the corporate version of globalization that sends well-paying jobs and technological know-how overseas will continue. Meanwhile the phony wars on drugs and terror will continue to provide an elaborate cover for fattening corporate profits and maintaining social control.

Assuming that the Bush administration can avoid another huge blunder, which is a dicey proposition at best, the biggest challenge Obama would inherit as president is the criminal catastrophe in Iraq. Unfortunately the incompetent and illegal attempt by Bush to conquer New Babylon only revealed uniquely bad methods, not a break from overall US policy. Controlling access to Iraq�s oil, securing a permanent military presence nearby and assuring Israel�s dominance in the region will be a US policy objective regardless of who is president. Obama might implement a different plan with more competence but the basic initiative will remain. Nations possessing valuable resources or strategic significance are expected to fall in line and submit to US interests. Dissent brings severe consequences. A president will direct military might or economic coercion wherever US corporate dominance or its global model is threatened. Electing Obama won�t change this. He has already put Iran and Pakistan on notice.

Domestically, Obama will face immense pressure to appease the corporate establishment when tackling problems concerning healthcare, Social Security, school funding and stagnating salaries. Practical solutions, which involve a more equitable distribution of wealth or the elimination of regressive tax policies, are largely out of the question. Pointing out the obvious economic discrepancies that favor the rich and powerful is risky for anyone seeking high office. Actually doing something about it is political suicide. As a result presidents that betray powerful special interests in order to �serve the people� are about as common as Michael Moore groupies on the set of Fox News. Given the chance, Obama will probably parrot the usual line about privatizing, at least partially, the deliberately underfunded public sector rather than redirecting the billions of tax dollars that subsidize corporate revenue. Workers facing increasing job insecurity and smaller paychecks will continue to take a backseat to obscene corporate profits and short-sighted monetary policy. Whether Obama, Clinton or some Republican equivalent holds the reigns, economic decisions will favor the very rich. Without sustained pressure from the working class or an economic collapse this scenario isn�t likely to change.

As long as powerful capitalist interests define overall policy, no president, regardless of his or her ideals, can directly challenge the status quo without meeting a quick demise, electoral or otherwise. Of course Obama is keenly aware of this reality, which is reason enough to doubt any sincere motivation he might have to challenge the established order.

While a supremely courageous and talented individual intent on serving the people might somehow slip through the electoral gauntlet to attain high office, any substantial change in domestic or foreign policy must come from the efforts of an active citizenry. If Obama is the open-minded and compassionate candidate his supporters believe he is, then an informed and assertive public provides the only means by which he can gain the political leverage to enact sane policies. Otherwise the limited power of the presidency alone, which has become increasingly subordinate to financial interests and fringe ideological movements, isn�t enough.

The presidency no longer belongs to the people and it�s doubtful that it ever did. In crafting a very limited form of democracy, the Framers were very careful to protect the upper echelons of government from the direct will of the people. The loyalty of our highest representatives, always in question, is now undeniably compromised. While some presidents are certainly better than others, the office itself, along with much of our political infrastructure, is rotten to the core. If Obama�s supporters want a people�s president, then it must be the people who secure it for him.

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