Barack, Hillary, and the Sinister Nothingness of “Change”

When politicians offer nothing, and the people demand nothing, then the powers-that-be are free to continue doing whatever they choose. The death knell of participatory politics can often be a very noisy, celebratory affair – such as we have witnessed in the call-and-response ritual of “Change!” “Hope!” and other exuberant but insubstantial campaign exercises. Finally, the most accomplished slickster in presidential history, Bill Clinton, was compelled to expose Barack Obama’s “fairy tale” anti-war history – some truth for a “change.” Black Agenda Report knows the story very well, after more than four years of observing Obama’s descent from vaguely progressive rhetoric to shameless pandering (to whites) and vapid “Change!” mantra nonsense. Only the rich can win this game.

Although ‘change’ may come, it will be at the direction of the rich.

The scam of this still-new century enthralls and envelopes the nation, a narrowly-packaged farce in which political twins Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pretend they are not joined at the hip on every public policy issue that has been allowed to enter the corporate media-vetted discourse: health care, Iraq, trade. Even these points of (non)contention disappear in the din of purely commercial marketing mantras with infinitely malleable meanings: “Change,” “Hope,” “Reform.”

When no real change is offered – when both frontrunners are wedded to a lingering presence in Iraq and to reestablishing U.S. hegemony in the world; when insurance and drug companies are left virtually untouched by duos’ tepid forays into broadening health care coverage; and when neither offers a whisper of an idea on halting the corporate-engineered global Race to the Bottom, then it is certain that, although “change” may come, it will be at the direction of the rich who have brought the nation and planet to the very brink of catastrophe.

The biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.

Ironically, it was Bill Clinton who, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, exposed the bogus nature of the stage-set battle between his wife and Barack Obama:

“It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time – not once, ‘Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn’t know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war. And you took that speech you’re now running on off your Web site in 2004. And there’s no difference in your voting record and Hillary’s ever since. Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”

When the Great Triangulator and Supreme Snake Oil Salesman tells you a scam is going on, take it from an expert, and believe.

The Real Story on Obama

Actually, Clinton got one of the dates wrong. We at Black Agenda Report know — because we have been closely scrutinizing Obama since his Illinois state senate days, and engaged him in a month-long interchange in June of 2003. Obama’s October 2002 anti-war speech first disappeared from his U.S. Senate campaign site, not in 2004, but in 2003, when public perception of the war and occupation – with the exception of Black opinion — had dramatically shifted towards war. At the time, Bruce Dixon and the core Black Agenda Report crew, including myself, were housed at

Dixon, a native Chicagoan who had worked with Obama in a massive Illinois voter registration drive in 1992, noted on June 5, 2003 that ” . . . a few weeks ago, Barack Obama’s heartfelt statement of principled opposition to lawless militarism and the rule of fear was stricken without explanation from his campaign web site, and replaced with mild expressions of ‘anxiety.'” In place of the speech that Obama’s handlers would five years later wave as proof of his resolute opposition to the war, Obama stammered and stuttered:

“But I think [people are] all astonished, I think, in many quarters, about, for example, the recent Bush budget and the prospect that, for example, veterans benefits might be cut. And so there’s discussion about that, I think, among both supporters and those who are opposed to the war. What kind of world are we building?

“And I think that’s — the anxiety is about the international prospects and how we potentially reconstruct Iraq. And the costs there, then, tie in very directly with concerns about how we’re handling our problems at home.”

What a difference a shift in public opinion on war makes. Bruce Dixon put it well: “His passion evaporated, a leading black candidate for the US Senate mouths bland generalities on war, peace and the US role in the world.”

Obama’s name turned up in one of our periodic searches of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Obama put The Speech back on the site. But there was another shock in store. During the same week, Obama’s name turned up in one of our periodic searches of the Democratic Leadership Council’s membership list. Could a man widely perceived as a rising star in the progressive Black firmament have signed on to the DLC, the corporate bagman and center of all things Republican Lite in the Democratic Party? We challenged Obama again, directly, as reported on June 19, 2003 in an article titled, “Not Corrupted by DLC, Says Obama?:

“Illinois State Senator Barack Obama rejects any ‘suggestion’ that ‘inclusion of my name’ on a Democratic Leadership Council/New Democrats membership list amounts to ‘an endorsement on my part of the DLC platform.’

“In a June 13 letter to The Black Commentator, the Black candidate for U.S. Senate defended his civil liberties, anti-war, and social welfare legislative record, and requested ‘that folks take the time to find out what my views are before they start questioning my passion for justice or the integrity of my campaign effort.’

“Specifically, State Senator Obama maintains that an October 2002 anti-war speech was removed from his campaign web site because ‘the speech was dated once the formal phase of the war was over, and my staff’s desire to continually provide fresh news clips.'”

Testing Obama

Naturally, we didn’t believe a word about either The Speech or Obama’s supposed lack of knowledge about the DLC’s claim to his person, despite his lengthy, written protestations of innocence and ignorance.

We decided it was pointless to go back and forth with Obama on whether he was technically a member of the DLC or just sympathetic to their pro-corporate policies. Instead, we challenged Obama to take a test. If he answered three questions in the affirmative, he should not be in the DLC. Otherwise, he is a bird-of-a-feather, and should continue in their corporate company. The “bright line” questions put to Obama on June 26 were:

1. Do you favor the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?

2. Do you favor the adoption of a single payer system of universal health care to extend the availability of quality health care to all persons in this country? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end?

3. Would you have voted against the October 10 congressional resolution allowing the president to use unilateral force against Iraq?

In the summer of 2003, Obama was ranked third of fourth in the field of contenders for the Illinois Democratic senate nomination. He didn’t want to alienate any constituency, and so agreed to take our test. He also agreed to ask the DLC to take his name off their list of New Democrats, albeit reluctantly.

Obama’s response to our “bright line” questions was as follows:

“My views on universal health care, the unilateral use of force in Iraq, and NAFTA are in fact what you might expect given my previous history and voting record.

“I favor universal health care for all Americans, and intend to introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end in the U.S. Senate, just as I have at the state level….

“I would have voted against the October 10th congressional resolution authorizing the President to use unilateral force against Iraq….

“And although I believe that free trade – when also fair — can benefit workers in both rich and poor nations, I think that the current NAFTA regime lacks the worker and environmental protections that are necessary for the long-term prosperity of both America and its trading partners. I would therefore favor, at minimum, a significant renegotiation of NAFTA and the terms of the President’s fast track authority.”

Clearly, Obama failed the test on repeal of NAFTA and “slicked” his way through the universal health care question. But we fudged his grades, and passed him, anyway — and have regretted doing so, ever since. A year later, Obama’s name was briefly back on the DLC list; their site manager said he assumed that Obama belonged there. Also in 2004, as Bill Clinton angrily recounted, Obama told the New York Times he doesn’t know how he would have voted on the 2002 War Powers Act if he had been in the U.S. Senate at the time. Later, the winds of war opinion changed, and Obama’s handlers celebrated the 5th anniversary of his 2002 anti-war speech as if it ranked with the Magna Carta in historical significance.

“Slick Willy” knows a scammer when he sees one, either in the mirror or opposing his wife. After more than four years of documenting Obama’s machinations, so do we.

Back to the Present

And now we are left only with the politics of “Change” — which is anything the various audiences want it to be. Through relentless pandering to white desires for an end to Black agitation and reminders of enduring institutional racism, Obama has proven his ability to amass huge white support. As a result, much of Black America may become convinced the last hurdle to putting a Black Face in the Highest Place has been overcome, and shift overwhelmingly to Hillary’s estranged Black political twin. Corporate America, never threatened by either candidate, has long been comfortable with the outcome of this race, whichever way it goes — that’s why they put their money on both Barack and Hillary.

After Obama thanked his supporters for making him a close second in New Hampshire, the sound system blared a Stevie Wonder song with the hook, “Here I am, baby, signed sealed, delivered, I’m yours.”

For whom were those lyrics meant?

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Donald Hawkins said on January 10th, 2008 at 7:19am #

    Oh there are changes on the way. Just the next ten years because of climate change the Earth, “Here I am, baby, signed sealed, delivered, I’m yours.”

  2. E. said on January 10th, 2008 at 11:00am #

    Black Agenda. What a joke. Obama is playing the game–and for the first time ever a black man has a shot at the presidency. And the Black Agenda’s agenda seems to be shooting him down.

    How come they don’t bag on Halle or Tiger or Will Smith? How come they don’t try to take down other African-Americans who’ve played the game to get where they wanted and needed to go. If African-Americans have an agenda, Black Agenda doesn’t know much about it.

    Like most hip-hopster types, they’re more interested in tooting their own horn than backing a historic, promising opportunity. It’s a real bummer.

  3. Donald Hawkins said on January 10th, 2008 at 4:05pm #

    Associated Press Thursday, January 10, 2008

    VANCOUVER, Wash. — A tornado touched down in a residential area of Vancouver and there were reports of downed power lines, uprooted trees and roofs torn off houses, the Clark County sheriff’s office, witnesses and news reports said.

    Utility officials say power to 1,200 customers was out.

    Witnesses told radio and television stations a tornado touched down in the Vancouver neighborhood Hazel Dell.

    There were no reports of injuries. The extent of damage was unclear.

    Tornadoes in Washington state? There have been tornadoes in Washington before. There was one on April 5, 1972 that was an F3. However, the highest record number in one year was four in 1989, until 1997 there were 15 tornadoes, breaking all previous records.

    How about a tornado in January in Washington State. The Southeast and mid part of this country today probably the worst outbreak of tornados seen. Now what could be causing this? The most CO 2 in 650,000 years and soon one million years. It’s not to late to turn this around total focus.

  4. Lloyd Rowsey said on January 10th, 2008 at 5:18pm #

    “My argument as an at-least temporarily pro-Paul radical is that: (1) his continued presence in the Republican race will shake out for us the extent and depth of anti-Iraq-war sentiment, knowledge about which is truly crucial to radicals; and, (2) he simply cannot win, anyway, whether he is forced out, drops out, or is assassinated.”

    From the last post to Ron Jacobs’ musings about Ron Paul’s enigmatic “support” from the left…because he is anti-Iraq-war.

    Lloyd Rowsey

  5. Donald Hawkins said on January 10th, 2008 at 7:11pm #

    Yes I thought for a change I would take a chance and tell the truth and Lloyd you have me thinking about the truth. What really is the truth. The most CO 2 in 650,000 years and soon one million years known fact. It’s like 2 plus 2 equals four unless you work on Wall Street and it could be six or seven and we all see how well that is working out. I see where Ben is going to lower interest rates, Hurray we are all saved. Not exactly I am sure Mike will have a few words on that soon. We are going into Iraq because of WMD’s and I am doing this for the American people. Come on I could keep writting for hours on the truth.

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on January 10th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    Thanks, DH. Do whatever you have to to keep writing the truth. Glen’s clear onto the DimRepubs but like most realists has himself set for another nothing. I think we ought to give…oops…I almost said, give, peace a chance. We ought not to rule peace out, since both the Iraq War and the Mexican War, and health care and environmentalism, not to mention so many other things, will simply not happen while this country carries on in Asia.

  7. Lloyd Rowsey said on January 10th, 2008 at 7:47pm #

    Excuse the poorly written last sentence.

  8. Donald Hawkins said on January 10th, 2008 at 8:19pm #

    Isn’t it wonderful what is going on now day’s in the name of progress. Coal and maybe we can get lucky and find more oil 10000000000000 billion barrels, yes progress moving forward I can’t believe how smart and great we are just look at the things we can do isn’t it wonderful how this all works. All this talk of change why fix it if it isn’t broken. The war in Iraq progress soon a McDonalds on every corner. Oh the wonder of it all. I see kids in this country just in the town I live in many not doing well for a number of reasons. Can you imagine the state of mind of those kids in Iraq but we are making progress I just watched the Republicans debating on Fox. What minds we have in this country and we thought all the great minds were gone. Now I don’t know about you but people we are in big trouble.

  9. Myles Hoenig said on January 11th, 2008 at 4:00am #

    As Ed Boyd, former Green Party candidate for Governor (MD), said of Obama, ” He’s the Great White Hope.”

    Ed Boyd was the first African-American to lead a party’s ticket in a general election in Maryland.

    Excellent article. Great debate on DN the other day, too.

  10. Brandy Baker said on January 11th, 2008 at 8:12am #

    Eddie also said that Obama was “Joe Lieberman with a tan.”

  11. Deadbeat said on January 12th, 2008 at 12:31pm #

    The Green Party has a debate this weekend among their Presidential Candidates moderated by Cindy Sheehan. I hope their broadcast or tape the event. It’ll be very refreshing to listen to real progressives.

  12. Tom Yager said on January 12th, 2008 at 6:05pm #

    “The Green Party has a debate this weekend among their Presidential Candidates moderated by Cindy Sheehan. I hope their broadcast or tape the event. It’ll be very refreshing to listen to real progressives.”

    They probably will tape it. There will be more Green presidential debates in DC and Harrisburg on February 2nd. DC, at 10:00 AM, and Harrisburg, at 6:00 PM.

  13. Mike McNiven said on January 18th, 2008 at 6:32pm #

    Anyone who says “republicans, democrats, independents come together, is using Mussolini’s fascist formula for change!