The video above, with its news accounts dating back to the election of 2008, is kind of amazing to watch. What high hopes people had!
It was widely assumed that the first black American president would have empathy with the working class, that rule by wealthy oligarchs would be more or less curtailed, or that at least, if nothing else, the wars would come to an end. A new America of equality and freedom, of “hope and change,” seemed at hand.
But it didn’t work out that way. “Hope” diminished, and the only “change” that came about was change for the worse.
Earlier this week Obama pardoned whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Yet his administration also prosecuted whistle-blowers, a good many of them. Some say the number in fact is higher than under all previous presidents combined. But at least Manning got a pardon. And oh yes, lest we forget, a couple of days before Christmas, Obama abstained on a vote at the UN Security Council criticizing Israel for its illegal settlements. So yes–pardoning Manning and abstaining on the UN vote–these are a couple of “good things” the president managed to accomplish.
But it seems we had to wait until his final month in office to see them.
Moreover, there aren’t that many other “good things” over the past eight years we can point to. In fact, you could just about count them on one hand. By contrast, if we wanted to list all the “bad things” Obama did it would probably be quite lengthy.
For instance, the president never prosecuted a single member of the Bush administration for war crimes. Was it because he planned to commit war crimes himself? We don’t know. The only explanation we ever got was the platitude, “We need to look forward, not back”–which of course creates a culture of impunity for war criminals.
The celebrating crowds in that video above were obviously certain that Obama was going to end America’s wars abroad. But instead of ending the wars, he expanded them–most notably into Libya and Syria. The war in Libya was justified on the grounds that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was a “brutal dictator” who had to be removed because he was “killing his own people”–this accusation, of course, made against a national leader whose country had achieved the highest living standard and the lowest infant mortality rate in Africa, and which offered free health care and free education through college to all its citizens.
Yes. A man like that surely had to be removed.
The war in Syria was also a “bad thing,” although the word “bad” is not in any way a sufficient adjective in this case, and I’m not sure there are any adjectives in the English language broad and deep enough to describe the national nightmare Obama inflicted upon the Syrian people.
As in the case with Gaddafi, the war in Syria also was justified on the grounds that Bashar Assad was a “brutal dictator,” but added into the mix were claims that the Syrian effort was a necessary component of the “war on terror.” The Zionist media and the neocon think tanks told us that Assad was a “magnet” for terrorists, and what did Obama do? He shrugged his shoulders and went along with it. Moreover, the phony war on terror was just that–phony. And while Obama pretended to be fighting terrorism, he was in reality supporting terrorists who were trying to overthrow the secular government in Syria–a government which had protected Christians and all other minorities.
Of course, the Zionist media and the neocon think tanks told us that the terrorists America was supporting were actually “moderate rebels,” not terrorists per se. Hardly anyone believed this other than the most willfully naive, but again Obama shrugged his shoulders and went along with it. Why? Well, the neocons as well as the Likud government in Israel were adamant they wanted a regime change in Syria, apparently regardless of the cost in terms of blood and treasure (blood of the Syrian people and treasure of the US), and Obama seemed pleased to give it to them.
In fact, about the only thing that headed off a full scale US carpet bombing of Damascus was the intervention of Vladimir Putin, who worked out a deal wherein Syria would agree to destroy its chemical weapons under the supervision of a UN-affiliated agency. This took place in 2013, and it could probably be counted as another one of the “good things” Obama accomplished. After Putin proposed the deal, and the Syrian government agreed to it, Obama shrugged his shoulders and went along with it, even though it opened him up to howls of abuse from the Zionist media and the neocon think tanks, who accused him of failing to enforce a mythological “red line” that was not supposed to have been crossed.
By arranging the deal he did, Putin gave Obama a way out, the excuse the president needed to avoid launching a full-scale war in Syria. Obama returned the favor by launching a full-scale cold war against Russia. This is not surprising, however. In addition to shrugging his shoulders and going along with a lot of what the neocons were calling for in the Middle East, Obama also had neocons within his own administration causing him problems elsewhere. One of these was Victoria Nuland, who played an integral role in overthrowing the legitimately elected government in Ukraine and who has seemed intent on provoking a conflict with Russia.
On the domestic front, the Obama years also gave us the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be known as “Obamacare,” but the law seems to have been designed more with the objective of keeping private health insurance providers in business than with administering health care to Americans. A single-payer, or “universal health care” system would have provided health care to all, but it would have substantially put the health insurance industry out of business, so instead of doing that, Obama chose instead to walk a tightrope essentially–in which he tried to draft a law that would be acceptable to both sides (i.e. the insurance industry as well as health care advocates), apparently in the process forgetting the old adage that “you can’t please everyone.” The result was “Obamacare.”
The median income of African-Americans has traditionally been among the lowest of all ethnic groups, and quite naturally it was thought the plight of poor and working-class Americans would begin to improve with the coming to office of the first black president. But today wealth disparity is greater than it has ever been at least since the 1920s. Not only did Obama fail to improve the living standards of America’s poorest citizens, but his Justice Department never made prosecuting Wall Street criminals a high priority. Perhaps there’s a reason for that, though. Turns out the biggest donors in his 2008 campaign were financial industry PACs.
To Obama’s credit, the nation did see a raise in the minimum wage shortly after he took office in 2009. In July of that year, the rate went up from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. There has been no minimum wage increase since then.
At the $7.25 per hour rate, a full-time minimum wage employee makes $15,080 per year. To put that into perspective, the federal poverty threshold for a family of four is $24,300.
Whether you believe Obama is to blame for the way things turned out depends on how much of a say you think the president of the United States has in running the country. Is the president the “chief executive,” as it were, or does he take orders from above?
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to that, though my own personal view is that had Obama forged a different course–let’s say, for instance, he had raised the minimum wage to a genuine “living wage” level. And let’s say also he had ended the wars, told AIPAC to take a hike, called for a cut-off of funding to Israel unless it stopped building settlements–and suppose as well he had made peace with Russia and dismantled NATO. What do you think would have happened? My guess is Obama would not have remained in office until the end of his term. The Zionist mainstream media would have manufactured fake news story after fake news story accusing him of this or that crime or misdeed until he was either impeached or assassinated.
That’s just a theory, of course. We’ll never really know for sure.
But in the reality in which we currently find ourselves, it is a scenario not at all hard to imagine.
And so the Obama years come to an end. Some people are sad to see him go. Others are breathing a sigh of relief. Some are optimistic at what the Trump presidency may bring, others filled with doubt and uncertainty; some who feel Obama was the worst president ever; still others who feel the worst is yet to come.
One thing we might keep in mind, though, is that while time may often shatter things, it also holds the potential to rectify them.