Worse Than McCain

Every four years, liberals and progressives are expected to set aside their beliefs and stand foursquare behind the Democratic Party candidate. This ritual is invariably performed in the name of party unity. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is a smooth-talking politician who’s willing to toss his Pastor of 20 years overboard for a few awkward comments, or whether he refuses to defend basic civil liberties like the 4th amendment’s right to privacy. All that matters is that there’s a big “D” following his name and that he shows he’s willing to engage in some meaningless verbal jousting with his Republican opponent.

For nearly a year now, the public has been treated to regular doses of Mr. Obama’s grandiloquent oratory and his sweeping “Follow me to Shangri-la” promises. These flourishes are usually followed by “clarifications” on the central issues which identify Obama as a center-right conservative with no intention of disrupting the status quo. Political analyst Alexander Cockburn summed it up like this in a recent article on CounterPunch:

There have plenty of articles recently with headlines such “Obama’s Lunge to the Right.” I find these odd. Never for one moment has Obama ever struck me as someone anchored, or even loosely moored to the left, or even displaying the slightest appetite for radical notions, aside from a few taglines tossed from the campaign bus. (Alexander Cockburn, “Could Anyone be Worse than Bush?”)

Cockburn is right and most people know it. They simply ignore the facts because the thought of the unstable John McCain in the Oval Office with his stubby fingers just inches from the Big Red Switch is too much to bear. So, they throw their support behind Obama and hope for the best. But Obama has done nothing to earn their vote and there’s nothing to indicate that he has any interest in restoring the republic or putting and end to US adventurism. He’s just a one-term senator with zero foreign policy experience who doesn’t want to rock the boat. That’s it. He’d rather keep his position on the issues blurry and rattle off lofty-sounding platitudes than state plainly how he feels. Unfortunately, when he’s pinned down and has to give a straight answer, he quickly swerves to the right where he feels most at home.

This concerns the Obamaniacs who worry that behind the rhetorical fanfare, Barak is just an empty gourd, a well-spoken pitch man with no moral core. Could he be another Slick Willie, they wonder; another self-promoting politico as eager to sell out his working class supporters as chase a frisky intern around the Lincoln bedroom? No one knows, because no one has figured out exactly why Obama is running. Does he really want to lift the country from the muck of eight years of Bush misrule or does he just want to gad about on Air Force 1 and make pretty speeches in the Rose Garden? What really drives Obama? It’s a mystery.

But don’t be fooled, Obama could turn out to be much worse than McCain. No one doubts that he is brighter and more charismatic than the irritating senator from Arizona. And no one underestimates his Pied Piper ability to galvanize crowds and stir up national pride. But what good is that? Obama works for the same group of venal plutocrats as Bush, a fact that was made painfully clear just last week when he voted to approve the new FISA bill that allows the president to continue spying on American citizens with impunity. Obama is a constitutional scholar; he understood what he was voting for. He was sending a message to his supporters that they don’t really matter; that what really counts is the small gaggle of powerful corporatists who run the country and believe the president is above the law. That’s what his vote really meant.

So, why vote for him? We don’t need a glamor boy to trash the Bill of Rights. Any old autocrat will do. Just pick a name from the “resident scholar” list at the American Enterprise Institute. That ought to do it.

And we don’t need another paper-mache president who tries to conceal America’s war crimes behind stuffy-sounding pronouncements about the “Islamofacism” and other terrorist mumbo-jumbo. What we need is someone with enough guts and moral fiber to shake up the political establishment, put an end to the wars and covert operations, and clean up Wall Street.

Obama has dazzled the media with his easy manner and his savoir faire, but he’s not the right man for the job. He has surrounded himself with ex-Clintonistas who will continue the global onslaught with even greater ferocity than Bush, although much more discreetly (after all, this is the empire’s A Team). And just like Clinton, who bombed the bejesus out of Belgrade for 87 days without batting an eye, Obama will keep the war machine chugging along at full-throttle while he diverts the media with his colorful bloviating and his rock star persona. No thanks.

What the world really needs is a five or ten year break from the United States; a little breather so people can unwind and take it easy for a while without worrying that their wedding party will be vaporized in blast of napalm or that their brother-in-law will be dragged off to some CIA hellhole where his eyes are gouged out and his fingernails ripped off. That’s what the world really needs, a temporary pause in the imperial violence. But there won’t be any sabbatical under Field-Marshall Obama — no way. As journalist Bill Van Auken points out in his article on the World Socialist Web Site, Obama may turn out to be the point man for reinstating the draft:

Obama has “lamented the failure of the Bush administration” to issue “a call to service” and “a call for shared sacrifice….There is no challenge greater than the defense of our nation and our values,” said Obama. We “need to ease the burden on our troops, while meeting the challenges of the 21st century,” which, according to Obama, will require an “increase in US ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.” (“Obama continues lurch to the right on Iraq war and militarism,” Bill Van Auken)

Is that why the political establishment is so enthusiastic about Obama, because they need a better recruiting sergeant than the uninspiring McCain?

No one has followed Obama’s rightward drift with greater interest and bemusement than the editors of the Wall Street Journal. They have faithfully chronicled all the vacillating, obfuscating and backpedaling and they’ve made up their minds: Obama is marching straight towards the welcoming arms of the Republican Party. That’s right. He’s gradually embracing the conservative platform and abandoning any pretense of liberalism. Two weeks ago the WSJ ran an editorial that summarized Obama’s metamorphosis in an article titled “Bush’s Third Term”:

We’re beginning to understand why Barack Obama keeps protesting so vigorously against the prospect of ‘George Bush’s third term.’ Maybe he’s worried that someone will notice that he’s the candidate who’s running for it.

Most Presidential candidates adapt their message after they win their party nomination, but Mr. Obama isn’t merely ‘running to the center.’ He’s fleeing from many of his primary positions so markedly and so rapidly that he’s embracing a sizable chunk of President Bush’s policy. Who would have thought that a Democrat would rehabilitate the much-maligned Bush agenda?

That’s fair enough. Obama has changed his position on his “support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” He has wormed his way out of a definite commitment on withdrawing the troops from Iraq (which was a real lesson in Clintonian triangulation). He’s backed off on his promise to rewrite the NAFTA free trade agreement. He’s thrown his support behind Bush’s “faith-based” social programs which provide state money for religious organizations. He’s even sided with the far-right loonies on the Supreme Court on gun rights and whether to ban the death penalty for rape (truly outrageous!). How can anyone support a candidate who is on the same ideological side of legal issues as Antonin Scalia?

In the past few weeks, Senator Switcheroo has blasted Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while, at the same time, heaping praise on our “good friend” Israel. Obama even has a two paragraph commentary on his campaign web site lauding Israel’s devastating attack on Lebanon a year ago which killed 1,500 civilians and reduced much of the country’s vital infrastructure to rubble.

Still think the “peace candidate” does not have the warmongering bone fides to do the empire’s dirty work?

Many of us who have criticized Obama are being dismissed as cynics, but that’s nonsense. The truth is that the Obama supporters have projected their own values onto their candidate and are trying to make him out to be something that he is not. They put words in his mouth so they can continue to hold on to the crazy notion that the system really isn’t broken and that it can be fixed by simply pulling a lever on Election Day. This is just the lazy man’s way of ignoring the real work that needs to be done to restore American democracy: the organizing of groups and networks, the building of labor unions and working coalitions, the focused determination to root out corruption and entrenched corporate power. The system has to be rebuilt from the bottom-up not the top-down. It’ll take a revolution in thinking and lots of hard work. There’s no quick fix. Freedom isn’t free anymore — deal with it! Voting for Obama and keeping one’s fingers crossed, is not a sign of hope. It’s a sign of self-delusion.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com. Read other articles by Mike.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rich Griffin said on July 14th, 2008 at 9:45am #

    To understand why Barack Obama is running for President simply look at back issues of Ebony magazine. I believe what he cares about is ACHIEVEMENT, personal achievement, and that is his only real motivation. It’s in his words: books, speeches, interviews. I was struck in particular by his articulation of a belief that things really aren’t that bad – compared to hundreds of years ago. But we are here now and we are suffering now. Obama apologists make me sick to my stomach.

  2. Don said on July 14th, 2008 at 9:54am #

    Obamas turning point was kissing the shoe of AIPAC.
    The two party system has morphed into one in the same.
    It’s time to give all Dems and Reps the boot!!!
    Think “Constitution Party”!!!

  3. Erroll said on July 14th, 2008 at 10:29am #

    An example of Obama’s rightward drift, as Mike Whitney accurately describes it, would be the the July 6 cover story of Parade, “What is Patriotism” , where Obama seems determined to wave the flag just as fiercely as that alleged war hero, John McCain. In the article, Obama declares that “Those who have signed up to fight for our country in distant lands inspire me…” Later in the article, the [alleged] agent of hope and change praises “The greatness of our country” and as an example of that greatness cites “its victories in war”. Perhaps if the junior senator were to talk to an Iraq or Afghani, he would discover that the citizens of those countries have been inspired by their love of their country to never stop fighting in order to ensure that the United States is not victorious in war. Or Obama might wish to ask a Vietnamese peasant how victorious America was when the Vietnamese were inspired to drive the U.S. military from their soil.

    Amazingly, this super patriotic rhetoric is coming from from the lips of the [alleged] peace candidate. It is almost as if Barack Obama is trying to emulate the Ministry of Propaganda in Orwell’s novel 1984.

  4. bozhidar balkas said on July 14th, 2008 at 10:37am #

    i’l just tie self up in notes; and i’l feel lot better.
    i’m not in agreement w. people who personalize events; or propagate cult of the personality.
    a prez to me is just one person. a person who for much of his/her life was raised by uncle sam. such a person is loyal to the uncle.
    cult of personality is/was propagated by the funni uncle.
    it was/is done to impress amers how great/powerful the leader is/was. another purpose for cultivation of a cult was to hide the invisible hand that rules ‘rica.
    thank u

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 14th, 2008 at 10:39am #

    correction, “i’l tie self up in knots; and i’l feel lot better”

  6. Dave Silver said on July 14th, 2008 at 11:28am #

    So let’s support Cynthia McKine, the Green Party candidate thyat wants
    to build andalternative independent Movement. Not Nader who
    does not.
    Dave Silver

  7. Timber said on July 14th, 2008 at 11:48am #

    As long as they have Fox News and other right-wing neofascist groups criticizing Obama (or his wife) over some trivial non-issue, Democrats and mainstream liberals will be able to pretend that critics from the left are just being “unrealistic.”

    After the election results of 2006 proved the Democratic leadership to be worthless at best and complicit liars from my perspective when it came to impeachment, Iraq withdrawal, and election reform, their supporters resorted to absurd excuses to explain it all away. They couldn’t wait for the horserace of the presidential election to take issues back off the table.

    Obama will legitimize much of what Bush has been criticized for over the past several years, just as the Democrats’ refusal to initiate impeachment proceedings have. After all, they’ve said along that it’s only Bush’s means that they disagree with, not his crimes.

  8. Max Shields said on July 14th, 2008 at 12:57pm #

    Timber you’ve nailed it.

    He is the shield for Empire. The corporatists couldn’t have found a better front man.

    The right Repugs are right there with Obama. He is the worst nightmare for minorities and progressives.

  9. Don said on July 14th, 2008 at 2:04pm #

    Lets face it. Democrat and Republican candidates both ascribe to the agendas of the monsters at NWO, Tri-Lateral, CFR, AIPAC, NAU to satisfy their own political aspirations. The aforementioned groups select the candidates from both parties and have MSM marginalize the others. They stack the deck! They win no matter which Dem or Rep is elected! We no longer have a government for “We the People”.
    Last night, on the world stage, Miss USA fell and gracefully sprang to her feet and moved on. What an inspiration! Our elected officials fall on the world stage daily and don’t even seem to know it!
    We must think outside the (ballot) box. It’s time to elect a third party and break the stranglehold cast upon us. Time is running out. This election may very well be the last opportunity to get the ship of state back on course.

  10. Deadbeat said on July 14th, 2008 at 2:48pm #

    And what does the “left” have to offer? The “left” is very much responsible for the void that led to the emergence to Barack Obama.

  11. Rich Griffin said on July 14th, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    Did anybody listen to Cynthia McKinney’s acceptance speech?? She DOES offer (as does Nader) a real alternative; I agree with her 100% on all issues; she is a true progressive. Stop worrying about “viability” & start building real movements by voting outside the two party (sic) system in all elections, not just Presidential, but all elections.

  12. Max Shields said on July 14th, 2008 at 5:19pm #

    Anybody notice how Obama never talks about re-framing the “war on terror”, something even Kerry said needed to be done?

    Obama is not the problem it’s thost Progressives for Obama that are the problem. Obama is a militarist who is willing to do whatever it takes to defend Israel, to invade Pakistan and increase military force in Afghanistan and to keep for an undetermined time the occuption of Iraq.

    Obama says he’ll end the “war” in Iraq. There is NO war in Iraq. The US has been occupying Iraq while an insurgency has continued to go on.

    Want to get a good sense of the Obama sheep – just listen to the MSNBC Obama shill Rachel Maddow- who seems to find nothing wrong with Obama’s pledge to increase the military and put more boots on the in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact she actually sees Obama’s militarist position “visionary”!!

    Obama has faux racism on his left-flank, corporate MSM pushing his brand, some on the right seeing that there is no difference between McCain and Obama.

    With Obama we are actually moving backwards. Where the discussion has changed from: “why are we fighting a “war on terror” to “it’s the right war just the wrong country”.

    McKinney just needs 5% and you don’t have to vote for these warmongers. If we all just voted Nader or McKinney we’d be shoving it to this propaganda machine.

  13. Edwin Pell said on July 14th, 2008 at 8:22pm #

    Obama is the happy face on corporatism.

  14. Martha said on July 15th, 2008 at 7:48am #

    Max, exactly right about Rachel Maddow. John Walsh has articles here from time to time and he did one on Air America Radio when it wasn’t all that old. If you remember, Maddow was against withdrawal from Iraq over and over. She is not left or liberal or progressive. She’s a centerist war hawk.

  15. bozhidar balkas said on July 15th, 2008 at 9:34am #

    who/what’s Left in US? one person ( i don’t remember who) tells us that the Left had left nader.
    a Leftist to me is a socialist. a socialist is against accumulation of wealth by individuals or individual owenership of media. a Leftist is for free higher education, medicare.
    these r the pillars of socialism. i always thought that more than 90% of amers r against socialism.
    that’s why nader is polling ab 6% of votes. thank u

  16. hp said on July 15th, 2008 at 1:57pm #

    ‘Republican’ McCain: “If I see you walking down the road, I’ll run you over.”
    (then he runs you over)

    ‘Democrat’ Obama” “If I see you walking down the road, I won’t run you over.”
    (then he runs you over)

  17. bozhidar balkas said on July 16th, 2008 at 11:05am #

    good analyses/nalogy. thank u