Three years ago, when Barack Obama was merely a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, I began to encounter some troubling signs that he was not what he appeared to be. Several columnists whom I trust were warning, even then, that this man was a conservative in progressives' clothing and that was evident from his voting record as a senator if anyone would bother to check, and from some of the speeches he gave before the Chicago Council On Global Affairs1, speeches in which his militaristic adventurism was on full display. Many of his campaign team policy advisers were neoconservatives, most hired out of the Bush administration. It didn't look good, but when I mentioned this to my progressive friends, I was uniformly shouted down - so fervent was the desire for real change from the horror of the Bush years. So I shut up, and like them, voted for the man, however reluctantly. Then I moved to a home in a place where Internet service was not available, and my ability to research was largely cut off for several months. I was unable to do much research.
When my access to the Internet was finally restored, just days before he was inaugurated as president, I was finally able to sit down and do some serious research on this man. And what I discovered was nothing short of appalling. He had been a CIA asset fresh out of college (which is why his Columbia transcript has never been released, and professors there have been forbidden from talking about him - and why the details of his post-college employment at a CIA front company have been kept very sketchy), and he had been trained in propaganda and disinformation, which is what he practiced on that job. The Washington Post reported the very day my Internet was turned on, that he had reassured conservatives just the day before that he had every intention of "reforming" Social Security and Medicare, but had to wait until the economy was in better shape before he could do so.
So it came as no surprise to me at all when I began to see that he was indeed a Manchurian Candidate, designed to appear to be a refreshing progressive, but a man with a hidden agenda, largely implemented out of sight, that it is hard to describe as anything other than hard-core neoconservative, in some ways, even more so than his predecessor. Over time, a lot of my progressive friends have slowly come around to recognizing that what I tried to warn them of was true. But alas, it is too late. We were stuck with yet another neoconservative, this one with a winning smile, a slick, smooth manner and a whole lot of political capital to spend on nefarious projects.
So the big question now facing the progressive community is what to do about it next year. Do we vote for Obama and watch ourselves be betrayed for another four years? Do we vote for a third-party candidate and throw our votes away? And watch some Republican wingnut take the helm of the Ship of State? Our dilemma was very arrogantly summed up by Obama's sleazy chief of staff at the time, Rahm Emmanuel, who, when asked about Obama's betrayal of the progressives that put him in office, said, "So what? Where they gonna go?"
His list of betrayals is a long one. A very long one. And in each case, we can see why we, the progressives, would have actually been better off under John McCain, who would not have been able to get away with anywhere near as much as Obama has gotten away with. To wit:
If a president McCain had fired Shirley Sherrod, a loyal and effective Department of Agriculture employee, on the basis of some false, salacious accusations in a right-wing hate-blog, he'd have been condemned as having rushed to judgment. If a president McCain had gone on national television and had condemned Pfc. Bradley Manning as a criminal before he'd even been charged with a crime, thereby prejudicing his defense, we'd have been talking about his disrespect for the rule of law and the criminal justice system. Obama did both and there was more complaint from the right than there was from us.
If a president McCain had tried to permanently abolish habeas corpus2, the left would have been up in arms, and would have screamed to high heaven, and the ACLU would have been right there, filing lawsuit after lawsuit. McCain might have succeeded, but likely not. Obama, a "constitutional scholar" who certainly understood what he was doing, did it without a whisper of protest.
If a president McCain had tried to functionally replace Guantánamo with the secret prison at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan, the world would have screamed in protest. Obama did it without it even being noticed. And not being content with the inconvenience of having to send prisoners to a secret, unaccountable prison in Afghanistan, Obama is now getting legislation through congress that would prohibit the closure of Guantánamo. So he can continue to send them there.
If a president McCain had rounded up thousands of undocumented workers and sent them home without benefit of due process - on such a scale as to create labor shortages, yet failed utterly to prosecute their employers for hiring them illegally in the first place, while opposing the Dream Act and never even mentioning immigration reform, we'd have been outraged. Obama does it all the time with complete impunity.
If a president McCain had tried to start wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and instigate revolutions in Libya and Syria, foment coups in Honduras and Ecuador, start a secret CIA-run war in the Central Asian "stans," we'd have been there raising all kinds of hell about it. Obama did it all without any opposition from us that has amounted to anything other than the odd article in the Huffington Post.
If a president McCain had simply capitulated to any war crime Israel's far-right government ever wanted to commit in the Occupied Territories, and still hand Israel a blank check in terms of military aid and diplomatic cover, we'd have been expecting it and would have been all over him about it, organizing protests and demonstrations. Obama did it without any opposition from us.
If a president McCain had torpedoed the National Labor Relations Board, making it more difficult for labor unions to organize, and had completely ignored the campaign promises he had made about the environment, we'd be angry as hell and writing letters to our congressman. Obama does it with no protest from us.
If a president McCain had openly toadied to Wall Street, letting them write their own regulations, choose their own regulators, kill investigations of them, and then handing them billions in low or zero-interest loans with which to gamble - without them even asking for it, there'd be outrage everywhere. But not if Obama does it - which he did.
If a president McCain had increased by an order of magnitude the rate at which government documents were being classified, we'd be outraged and there would be letters to the editor about the secrecy and lack of transparency in this government. But Obama has done that. When Bush started obstructing Freedom of Information requests, everyone was outraged. But when Obama even increased the level of obstruction, did you notice?
If a president McCain had pushed a law through Congress that required your internet service provider to spy on you, recording the URL for every single web site you visit and keep records of that spying for a year, every blogger on the left would be screaming to high heavens. Obama is doing it without a whisper of protest from us. That bill has just passed the House and is going to the Senate as I write this. It is as good as passed, because of the lack of opposition to it.
If a president McCain had gotten billions of dollars to build a mega-spy center in the Utah desert, so vast it could only be located there, to analyze, without a warrant, every single email every American sends or receives, and listen in on every single phone call every American makes, civil libertarians would never let him get away with it, and there would be court challenges, left and right. Obama managed to do it without even being questioned on the need for it.
When Bush was putting millions of dissidents and pacifists on the No Fly List, disrupting their lives, everyone was enraged. When Obama continued to add names of dissidents and his own political enemies to that same list, no one was outraged. When Bush persecuted his political enemies, the ACLU was right there. When Obama sent out the FBI to start rounding them up, as has been happening lately, no one complained - indeed, no one even seemed to notice.
To suggest that "we should support Obama because we are under attack from the right" as the Democratic Party is contending in mailings going out to us recently is ludicrous beyond belief when the right winger from which we are under the most serious attack happens to be sitting in the Oval Office with a "DEM" on his nameplate - and we badly need to get rid of him, for all the violence he is doing to the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, and the respect we enjoy in the rest of the world. Far more than either George W. Bush ever did or McCain could ever have done.
Supporting Obama has proven to be an exercise in self-flagellation for those of us who fought against the abuses of the last Republican administration. We progressives need to get over our kneejerk support of anyone with a "Dem" after their name and accept - and act on - the cold, hard, harsh reality that not all Democrats are our friends. And that begins with the neoconservative who is occupying the White House. So our only hope is a primary challenge to Obama. Not that that's likely to succeed. There's nothing democratic about the way the Democratic Party is run - and that's by design, of course.
And so, Mr. Emmanuel, when you ask where I am going to go, I'll tell you. The Costa Rican beaches on the Pacific side will be absolutely lovely on the first Tuesday in November of next year, warm and pleasant in the tropical trade winds rustling the fronds of the coconut palms as we sip on our Mai-tais. And I would also like to suggest to my fellow progressives that sipping a deliciously ironic margarita in the pleasantly warm breezes on the beaches of Margarita Island in that hated Chavez's Venezuelan Caribbean would also be a fine place to be. Not to mention sipping a "Nica libre" on the truly lovely beach known for its tropical sunsets at San Juan Sur on the Pacific coast of the "evil" Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua. Sure beats the hell out of standing in a long line out in the cold, rain and wind waiting to vote in an over-crowded, voter-caged U.S. polling station, only to be betrayed. Sure, we might get a right-winger as a result - a neocon wacko that would inevitably be a bit better supervised than Obama has been.
Oh, the audacity of hope!
* Source: Bidstrup
- The MP3 recording of Obama's speech at the Chicago Council On Global Affairs has been has been removed from their website(!). The recording was miserably poor quality, but the content was gripping. I listened to it about six months ago and streamed it off their web site. But I see most of their multimedia has been taken down - what is there is but a small fraction of what used to be. It may still be possible to find a podcast of it in iTunes, but I don't have an account to look. Anyway, the PR release about the speech is still on their website which is linked above.
- Reference to "permanently abolish habeas corpus" - This was a one-liner from Obama's first State of the Union address. I was STUNNED when I heard it. I knew we'd been had. No one commented on it, nor did WaPo mention it in their reporting.