The Mendacity of Hope

“Change we can believe in.”

“Yes we can!”

“Change the world.”

For hundreds of millions of people, the slogans of the Obama campaign are not the focus-group tested products of marketing gurus and professional campaign strategists. They’re not empty words printed on cheap plastic yard signs, on banners, or on the podium from which Obama speaks.

To them, these slogans and Obama’s candidacy are what the 2008 elections are all about. Somewhere around 85 percent of the country thinks things are going in the wrong direction. It’s gotten so bad that even Black Republicans are thinking of voting for Obama.

The question is: will Obama deliver?

Of course, electing a black man to the throne of the American empire would make history, given that America is the land of the free and the home of the slave. But the millions, especially in the black community, who look to Obama for change don’t simply want a black man in the White House. They want real, substantial change. Health care coverage for all. Reform of the criminal justice system and out-of-control police brutality both of which have devastated black and Hispanic communities. Debt relief for homeowners. Halting the three-decade decline in working-class living standards and the skyrocketing price of food and energy. Fixing the dysfunctional two-party system. Steps to finally overcome centuries of racism. An end to the war in Iraq.

That’s a tall order for one man to live up to. Unfortunately, I don’t think Obama has any intention of delivering on these lofty goals.

For example, take his position on Iraq. According to conventional wisdom he is the candidate who will get U.S. troops out of there, as opposed to old man McCain who is more than happy to keep them there for 100 years. But Samantha Power, one of Obama’s foreign policy advisers (who resigned after she called Hillary Clinton a “monster”), made it clear that Obama has no intention of being bound by anything he says on the campaign trail.

Obama’s criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a similar case of mendacity. Behind the scenes one of his advisers told Canadian officials “not to be worried about what Obama says about NAFTA.” Translation: don’t worry, Obama is just telling voters what they want to hear. Given the free-market ideologues he has surrounded himself with, lying about NAFTA shouldn’t be a surprise.

However, I don’t think Obama is a bad person, that his lying is some kind of personal flaw, or that it’s a compulsion that he has no control over (as it seems to be for President Bush).

Rather, it’s because Obama has made a series of political choices, the cumulative effect of which is real change we can believe in because we can see it before our very eyes. He might have set out to change the system, to change the way politics is done in this country, but it is the political system that has changed him.

The first and foremost example of this has been the way he threw his pastor of two decades under his campaign bus. The thought police . . . err, I mean the corporate media . . . focused with laser-like intensity on Reverend Wright’s suggestion that AIDS was the product of a government conspiracy to rid the country of blacks (as if AIDS only infected them). They exploited this remark to vilify Wright and distract people from the content of what he said about U.S. foreign policy. When he spoke up in his own defense, Obama severed all ties to him, proving without a doubt that Obama is indeed a conventional politician. As Wright himself put it, “politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls.”

The corporate media forced Obama to choose between his pastor and a shot at the presidency, between principles and power. After some hesitation, Obama chose the latter.

Obama faced the same choice on the issue of Israel and Palestine. He could either continue saying “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people,” or he could stop worrying about them and learn to love Israel for ensuring American dominance of the Middle East. (One Major General said Israel is worth “5 CIAs” and that it would cost $125 billion a year to maintain an American force in the region the size of Israel’s, making the $5 billion a year the U.S. gives to Israel every year an amazing bargain).

The day after clinching the Democratic Party nomination, Obama told the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel, i.e. that the Palestinians had no claim whatsoever over the Holy City. That put him to the right of Bush and the Israeli government, both of whom pay lip service to Palestinian aspirations and say that the city’s final status is subject to “future negotiations.” He said he would do “everything” in his power to defend Israel. Over time Obama chose the Israeli Goliath over the Palestinian David.

Apparently he didn’t see the irony of the first black President-to-be calling for Jerusalem to be a Jews only city and pledging to preserve Israeli apartheid by any means necessary. Malcolm X had a term for politicians like Obama. Hint: it wasn’t field negro.

People may not want to hear it, but “change we can believe in” is a lie almost as big as Iraq’s WMD or Saddam Hussein’s connection to Al-Qaeda.

If Obama represents some kind of watershed or fundamental break with the past, why is his panel of foreign policy advisers dominated by officials from the Clinton administration? If Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the woman who said killing half a million Iraqi kids through sanctions was “worth it,” is giving Obama foreign policy advice, how many Iraqi and American lives will be “worth it” because he refuses to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq? If he represents such a dramatic break with Bush’s policies, why is he open to keeping Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Pentagon? Is it because Gates is secretly a big fan of Cindy Sheehan, or is it because Obama and Gates want to mend, not end, the occupation of Iraq and American domination of the oil-rich Middle East?

Even Obama’s call for ethanol to replace gasoline as a fuel source is disingenuous. He opposes importing Brazilian ethanol derived from sugar which is cheaper, cleaner, and produces more energy than the domestically produced ethanol derived from corn. Why? Could it be because Archer Daniels Midland and other American agribusiness corporations that produce corn ethanol have close financial and personal ties to his campaign and his advisers?

Like McCain, Hillary Clinton, and every politician on both side of the aisle, his positions on every issue are heavily conditioned by what big business is willing to tolerate. That doesn’t mean he won’t talk a good game on the campaign trail and ride the intense desire for change that’s gripped the country all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

However, it does mean that progressives (or The Left, if you prefer) need to wake up and take advantage of the rising expectations generated by Obama’s campaign. Both the hunger for real change and the elite’s determination to block it has never been greater.

Pham Binh is an activist and recent graduate of Hunter College in NYC. His articles have been published at Znet, Asia Times Online, Dissident Voice, and Monthly Review Online. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Pham, or visit Pham's website.

30 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 1st, 2008 at 5:47am #

    to me, it’s not what funny obama or even funnier mccain will do but the funny, and getting funnier by day, uncle will do.
    but since an US war presaged/heralded another war, iraqi surely bodes another.

  2. bozhidar balkas said on July 1st, 2008 at 5:48am #

    to me, it’s not what funny obama or even funnier mccain will do but the funny, and getting funnier by day, uncle will do.
    but since an US war presaged/heralded another war, iraqi surely bodes another war. sheshe

  3. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 7:11am #

    Haha, 22 paragraphs just to say Obama is a house nigga? He’s just another self-serving capitalist gaming the system.

    Obama is as “genuine” as Cindy or Dennis or Noam or any of the mendacious multitude of mouthpieces manufactured by the American “left” / progressives.

  4. Max Shields said on July 1st, 2008 at 7:35am #

    evie, and what did you have for breakfast today that made you all grumpy and irritable?

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 1st, 2008 at 7:48am #

    hi evie,
    i’l be happy for both of us while i’m here. but after i go, well, i don’t know.
    now, evie, i have some serious quest’ns for u. may be, i’m even ready to do some battling w. u.
    let’s start w. obama not being genuine. to me, he is genuine; and to be more exact, to me, he’s just a tad left of hitler.
    noam, i deduce, loves his volk . he is concerned ab possible fourth shoah of peoples of judaic faith.
    he, like i do, assert/aver that it is EU/US which uses/controls israel.
    and he fears/hates that.
    facts of the greatest import prove, do not merely show, that it had been europe later joined by US which is the master of the ashenazic volk.
    the facts i speak of r well known. it would take much time and effort to enumerate them all. thank u

  6. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 8:06am #

    Blueberries and homemade struedel and lots of coffee.

    Boz, some folks seem to think all the world’s problems boil down to Israel. Granted, they are bigtime players. It is not so much “control” as it is collusion.

    The problem boils down to profit – and Jews and white folks are not the only money makers on the world stage. Muslims, Jews, Gentiles will hold hands and stroll down the path if it’s economically beneficial to the top dogs.

    Ideology is a smokescreen, ideology is for the poor. Nearly all men/women can be bought – those that cannot are quickly done away with, usually becoming yet another profitable industry as martyrs, icons, etc., generating hope and quotes for the lower classes.

  7. joed said on July 1st, 2008 at 9:35am #

    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

    ~ T.S. Eliot ~
    (The Four Quartets)

  8. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 9:53am #

    I said to myself, be still, and wait for my comment
    Being moderated.
    They will get to it ASAP;)

  9. Garrett said on July 1st, 2008 at 10:48am #

    “Fixing the dysfunctional two-party system.”

    To be fair, I don’t think that was ever one of Obama’s “lofty goals.”

    And the only “fix” would be the elimination of said two-party system.

  10. I.P Freely said on July 1st, 2008 at 10:56am #

    Mr. Binh’s article is extremely one sided and inaccurate. The first false assumption is that he professes to know what Senator Obama is thinking. Profound! How did you come across that scoop? In reality, you, nor most others do not truly know .
    With regards to Rev. Wright, here is the perfect example of an individual not being able to handle their 15 minutes, and their extreme ego taking control. Is that Obama’s belief’s, doing ,or fault? i think not.
    The nafta comments have already been debunct months ago. Senior Canadian bureaucrats have a long history of not telling the truth. They have secure jobs, regardless of who is in power. And, just for the record, the current Canadian government is Conservative, leaning towards the Republican agenda. Perhaps a conflict or bias? As far as ending the war in Iraq, how about judging him based on whether he delivers or not? Thats an easy one to assess after 4 years, either they are out or they are not.
    I can understand skepticism and cynicism of many in the u.s., after all look at all the lies, rigged elections, and of course a war based on a false pretense, you have endured.
    However, this may be the time to look at what the rest of the World suggests you do. Much like the rest of the planet strongly endorsed Gore over Bush in 2000, and Kerry over Bush in 2004, they are resoundingly telling the u.s. people to take a chance on what very well could be real change in 2008, and vote for Obama.

  11. hp said on July 1st, 2008 at 11:04am #

    What two party system?

  12. john wilkinson said on July 1st, 2008 at 11:15am #

    “facts of the greatest import prove, do not merely show, that it had been europe later joined by US which is the master of the ashenazic volk.
    the facts i speak of r well known. it would take much time and effort to enumerate them all.”

    I say you’re a little biased. you’re not doing your “volk” any favors by being biased and refusing to see the truth. yes, the first sentence WAS true — a million years ago. they’re pulling israel’s strings, now? what proof hath thou? israel’s candidates are coming to europe and america paying fealty to both instead of to israel? they’re speaking before 5th column organizations in their country? they come to fight in our wars? they wink when we bomb their ships?

    the facts that are “well known” are not known by me, so please elucidate me, that’s what this forum is about. if they’re so well known and obvious, then it shouldn’t take so much effort, like you claim; would take less effort than what took to write that paragraph of yours.

  13. john wilkinson said on July 1st, 2008 at 11:21am #

    “as “genuine” as Cindy or Dennis or Noam or any of the mendacious multitude of mouthpieces manufactured by the American “left” / progressives.”

    i second that. though peanut gallery protesteth.

  14. Garrett said on July 1st, 2008 at 11:35am #

    hp wrote: “What two party system?”

    Two parties in name only, of course.

    And I just read an AP article that talks about Obama’s desire to expand Bush’s faith-based programs. Sweet Jesus.

  15. Arch Stanton said on July 1st, 2008 at 12:18pm #

    1) The Obama candidacy is like a lottery ticket: people know its a scam and a long shot, but they’re so deranged and desperate that they’re willing to try anything.

    2) Okay, I’ll bite. How is Chomsky a “manufactured mendacious mouthpiece” or whatever of the American left? Assuming that there is such a thing as the “American left” of course.

    3) I’m not sure what this “intense desire for change” is supposed to be. In a country where most people would rather go hungry than cut off their cable, change seems more like a wistful fantasy than an intense desire. Or are Americans ready to drop simulacrum politics and get back out on the street?

    4) My contribution to T.S. Eliot Tuesday.

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow

    (The Hollow Men)

  16. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 12:23pm #

    You wanna take that question John? (#2, Arch).

  17. Erroll said on July 1st, 2008 at 12:40pm #

    I share Arch Stanton’s perplexity. How is Noam Chomsky supposed to be a “manufactured mendacious mouthpiece” when the American mainstream media will not allow Chomsky anywhere near the corporate airwaves? That claim is totally bereft of any logic whatsoever. Mendacious? I submit that this country can do far worse than to actually be allowed to see and hear the views of Noam Chomsky. But the chances of the network executives allowing Chomsky to appear on television, whose views are considered so radical by the establishment, are extremely slim.

  18. Sam said on July 1st, 2008 at 12:53pm #

    As some have implied, Obama’s phony “hope and change” rhetoric is just wishful-thinking and false hope pabulum for the mindless Dem sheep who can only think in terms of voting for some pro-war, pro-corporate Republicrat with a D behind his/her name. These people seem incapable of learning from the past (because they are blinded by that D).

    If this crowd who has bought Obama’s BS truly wanted legitimate positive change, they would not be swooning over pro-war, pro-corporate Obama, instead they would be supporting Nader/Gonzalez or Cynthia McKinney who are true/real progressives. But these Obama sheep are not about to do that, because Nader and McKinney don’t have a D behind their name. And that’s what it’s all about. That D (which translates to an R in reality).

    The problem getting people to see the political reality—as opposed to their wishful-thinking and false hope—is that most people are so blinded by that partisan “D” which they want so hard to believe in it at all costs regardless of the political reality. The partisan D (and R) has been programmed in most people from early on so it’s very difficult to deprogramme. Most people can’t do it or don’t want to do it. So they will vote for the status quo (Obama or McCain), and then wonder why nothing changes for the positive afterwards.

    Obama is moving farther and farther to the “right.” Anyone surprised? One most recent example:

    Obama to expand Bush’s faith based programs

    Some of Obama’s gullible followers are disappointed and surprised by his move farther to the “right” while others give him unconditional, blind support. Typical.

  19. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 6:20pm #

    “American mainstream media will not allow Chomsky anywhere near the corporate airwaves.”

    For decades he’s been on PBS and BookTV, and other places, but I suppose you mean he’s not on CNN or Fox or CBS? His tapes and videos have been on sale for years. His books have been #1 a few times on the NYT list. For years he has traveled everywhere to lecture.

    I don’t think there has ever been a lack of access to anyone who wanted to hear Chomsky. Just recently the Chomsky book Chavez held up a the UN sent sales through the roof, from a 2 second sound byte.

    He’s mendacious – spouting anti-US policy rhetoric and about profit hungry corporations but never mentions a global overclass that pulls the strings. He pooh-poohs theories from JFK to 9/11 – they happened the way you’re told they happened.

    His solution to world problems? World government under something like the UN (that global ruling class he never mentions).

    Chomsky is to the left what William Buckley was to the right – an iconic bloviator.

  20. Tennessee-Socialist said on July 1st, 2008 at 9:27pm #



    Thank you so much for your involvement in the My.BarackObama online community. Your voice is valued here; however, we have had to remove your recent comment on the HQ Blog. We strive to maintain a welcoming community where all people can engage in positive discourse. Please join us in moving beyond the divisive politics of the past.

    This is your first warning. I would encourage you to review our Terms of Service:

    Thanks for your understanding and cooperation!
    Obama for America

  21. Tennessee-Socialist said on July 1st, 2008 at 9:32pm #

    evie: you like most americans twist things, where did Noam Chomsky said that the solution for world problems is UN?


  22. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 10:19pm #

    I said “…World government under something like the UN.”

    It may be a bit twisted like you said as I drew the conclusion from listening to Noam drone on for 40 years about the evils of US policy and his optimism for organic anarchy. Also I think it was Justin Raimondo over at Antiwar a few years back who wrote of Chomsky stating the US should cede authority to a world body to conduct an investigation, I believe into 9/11. A step in my opinion to having a “world body” govern the world.

    But still, Noam is a gnome, manufacturing dissent.

  23. bozhidar balkas said on July 2nd, 2008 at 6:09am #

    john wilkinson et al,
    u asked me to posit salient facts that prove- and not only show- that EU or League of Nations was in control of zionists.
    L of N was comprised mostly of christian lands and empires.
    as such, only it cd promise ashkenazim parts of palestine.
    UN today wd have, i deduce, not permitted europeans controled by europeans a beach head in asia.
    in ’46 the arms used by mostly illegal immigrants was obtained from communist czhechoslovakia.
    another communist country, yugoslavia, allowed the shipment of arms to be transported from montenegro to palestine.
    1n ’48, UN still composed largely of christian lands and empires (communist and capitalist) reward ashkenazic crimes by recognition.
    as an aside, what wd have happened to the new state if from ’49 US had turned against israel instead against pals?
    however, US, france, UK, et al kept supplying the new state w. best arms money cd buy
    christians have made israel the strongest military power in the region.
    ashkenazic diaspora was also helping the new state wage new wars. it was allowed to help the terrorist state. if muslims wanted or tried to help pals to defend selves, any help wd have been considered helping terrorists.
    but we can’t rerun history to find out what US wd have done to muslims sending money from US to pals.
    israel had invaded leb 3 times; it still occupies parts of it. israel left to own devices coulds not have waged these wars w.o. US armaments.
    so who controls whom? tiny, impoverished, rocky; sans minerals, water, smelters, etcetc, israel or world plutos?
    does israel posses iron, copper, nickel, uranium? i’m asking because i do not know. i’m guessing when i say israel is a poor land.
    it could not have manufactured fighter jets, tanks, etc., if doesn’t have such ores.
    now this is a conclusion: Israel is 51 US state. rhode island is also a state in control of US. to some extent, yes. so does israel.
    i do not think i need to go on to prove who controls whom and when/where/how.
    certainly, prior to ’46 west in toto controled zionists. thank u

  24. John Wilkinson said on July 2nd, 2008 at 6:11am #

    …except i have to backpedal on my earlier statement, i don’t see why sheehan is in that list. presumably, she’s not in it for money or fame. she’s mendacious because she’s screaming to high heaven about the corruption in your sacred military and the govt? anyone who’s doing that and not a professional “leader” or “politician” is A-OK in my book.

  25. evie said on July 2nd, 2008 at 6:28am #

    My problem with Sheehan stems from early on in her “career” when I saw her in 2 interviews aprx. 6 months apart, where she changed some of her story, basically to make herself appear more struggling blue collar than a California suburbanite. I think Lila Lipscomb was more suitable as a peace mom – but perhaps not as malleable as Sheehan.

  26. Tennessee-Socialist said on July 2nd, 2008 at 10:46am #

    evie: Beware of most right-wing, white-nationalist conspiracy-theory websites. Justin Raimundo is not even a leftist, he is a capitalist, in favor of free markets. the same system that increases poverty and doesn’t work. The only solution to world problems is socialism, there is no other way, there is no third way and no libertarian solution either

  27. Arch Stanton said on July 2nd, 2008 at 11:37am #

    Noam is a gnome? WTF?

  28. evie said on July 2nd, 2008 at 2:05pm #

    Haha – that’s Gnoam.

  29. evie said on July 2nd, 2008 at 2:29pm #

    I don’t think socialism is the answer – you still end up with State bosses running the show. We need a new “ism” or clean up what we have.

    We need congressional term limits.

    We need big business regulations.

    We need to ban PACs and lobbyists.

    We need an educated populace.

    We need to stop taxing household incomes less than 6 figures – folks pay plenty of tax on everything they buy, eat, drink, wear, register, drive, etc.

    We need to stop making “heroes” out of political and celebrity assholes and find a hero in our own family.

    We need to turn off televisions and plant something.

    We need to stop pretending and call a spade a spade and keep it real, no whutam sayin’.

  30. Arthur O. Linskey said on July 26th, 2008 at 6:43am #

    I’ve read Mr. Obama’s two books and continue to trust him.