Obama, One Year In

There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent.

— Tolstoy

Barack Obama is an enigma, a man capable of inspiring great faith and enthusiasm but whose record in office stands thus far incongruent with his promise. The “only been there one year” argument doesn’t hold because Obama has accomplished a great deal. The question is in what direction. While the acrimonious and often absurd debate about who or what he may be or may yet accomplish continues, more important is the quantifiable measure to which his present actions match his expressed intent for our country’s future.

The residency of his birth, the dead grandmas of the health insurance non-reform act, the many divide and rule strategies our corporate controlled media voice relentlessly are beside the point when it comes to clearing the smoke and mirrors to determine how we each come down on our present course of state. We need to keep it simple and look at the big picture with the forecast that Obama’s first year in office portends.

Economy: Despite the populist rhetoric with which Obama captured enough of the middle and working class votes to gain the presidency, in office he jettisoned his progressive economic advisors and turned to the establishment of money and power that brought on the financial debacle he inherited. Obama speaks about taking “fat cats” to task but the same run our Treasury, Federal Reserve and economic programs at his appointment. The current box score on economic policy finds Wall Street and the Big Five Banks rolling in cash while the rest of the country plummets deeper in debt with many out of work particularly in manufacturing cities like Detroit.

Health Care: During the election Obama invoked the dark reality of a two class health care system, one of haves and have-nots. But once in office he held secret meetings with big pharma and insurance whose huge cash reserves have incredible market influence. The deal made with industry and consummated by the corrupt Congressional parties eviscerated a public option through industry schill Joe Lieberman, directed by Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, establishes continuing control by the corporate machinery insuring nothing but profit for the few upon the misery of the mass.

Foreign Affairs: Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was a collection of duplex imagery. Speaking to an audience who sees Obama as a progressive hope in deterring an increasingly militaristic world force, Obama characterized his nation’s use of military power as if it were exemplary of a higher moral standard simply because our political apparatus in the person of our president says it is so. He lectured an audience, many of whom had either lived through the horror of WWII or its aftermath, on the logic of just war, a doctrine the Catholic Church perfected for its Holy Roman Empire. He wisely urged human rights and a distancing from a foreign policy without concern for international law but fundamentally his speech affirmed the use of military force as a presidential prerogative.

During his campaign Obama never presented himself as a peace candidate, more a reformer, but his cabinet and military appointments have entrenched the military hierarchy with its massive expenditure of blood and treasure which he committed to correct. In his Nobel speech Obama invoked the “terrorism justifies.. (fill in the blank)” model crafted by Cheney, Bush and their Israeli and British allies, ignoring tens of thousands more innocent civilians have perished at the hands of US military forces and its mercenaries in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan then died in the massacre of September 11th.

The foreign policy equation thus far is clear: the military corporate congressional alliance continues to rise vertically in profit and power while the American people become further impoverished supporting a war machine that brought ruin to the nation of Iraq and is driving Afghanistan and Pakistan toward the same chasm.

These major issues of the Obama presidency obscure whatever else should be gaining our attention, especially the environment, which has devolved into a meaningless debate about wealth transfer via carbon taxation rather than a genuine concern about planetary well being.

Many of Obama’s “accomplishments” contain direct or implicit contradictions, the most egregious being his claim of closing the Guantanamo prison while at the same time denying due process to many of the inmates by shipping them to a super max hell hole in Illinois for permanent incarceration under conditions that often drives prisoners to insanity with no legal means of redress.

In the cultural stewpot Obama is caught in a morass of demonization by a fundamentalist lunatic fringe who call for his death via biblically inscribed teddy bears, a marginalized white lower middle and working class who think the nonsense spoon fed by corporate wealth about health care somehow invokes patriotism, a left, right and center of reasonable people who are like deer trapped in the headlights of continuing ignorance, mixed in a cauldron of pay for play corrupt Federal governance ruled by a powerful and unyielding corporate elite.

We want to believe a king has returned after the long tortuous absence since the regicide of JFK, and why shouldn’t we carry that faith? We have a response to sovereignty woven into our DNA. However, sorting out how and if that inner compulsion is finding a true outer embodiment is the hard work of individual and collective discernment. In this present time, which is always like no other time, that work demands our most clear and critical thinking, no matter who may carry the collective mantel. Not only ours, but given the huge impact of our national footprint, the state of the world depends on our clarity.

Don Hynes is a construction manager in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at: donhynes@cnnw.net. Read other articles by Don, or visit Don's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. DavidG. said on December 17th, 2009 at 4:47pm #

    Obama, an enigma? Hardly.

    When he took over from Bush regarding Afghanistan and escalated the war, he showed us what he is made of. He too, is the Commander in Chief remember and, as we all know, Commanders in Chief wage war! It’s the American way.

    Obama uses his mouth very cleverly. He’d have made a good used-car salesman.

    It’s not what he says but what he does that gives the game away!

  2. Eric said on December 18th, 2009 at 11:15am #


    Don Hynes has written an excellent article.

    Obama is a corporate facist. Just look how he funnels the money to the corporate elite. The bailout of Wall St. “The Guaranteed Profits Act For The Health Insurance Industry” that is so called health reform. In his Nobel speech Obama arrogated war powers to himself, while only Congress has the power to declare war.

    We got here because no one during the campaign asked Obama any hard serious questions about his beliefs and policy vision. When I raised questions about Obama among the people I know they responded with hostility.

    What to do now? First admit that many bought a lemon when they thought they were buying a Cadaillac. If you can’t admit truth to others at least admit it to yourself. Raise the tough questions. Resist any way you can. Some may wish to do civil disobeidence which Obama recenlty made light of in hie Nobel speech. Follow the money. Replace your incumbent member of Congress. They have been there too long already.


  3. eileen fleming said on December 19th, 2009 at 8:33am #

    “How can you kill people, when it is written in God’s commandment: ‘Thou shall not murder’?”– Leo Tolstoy

    On December 10, 2009, in Oslo, President Obama espoused the first heresy of Christianity in his Nobel speech when he cited the concept of a “just war” furthering the fallacy “that war is justified.”

    The first and greatest heresy in the Christian faith occurred in the third century when Augustine penned the “Just War Theory” which gave the church’s OK to violence perpetuated by the empire and “our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”-Dorothy Day

    Clement, Tertillian, Polycarp and every other early Church Father taught that violence was a contradiction of what Christ was about, but as Gandhi commented, “Everyone but Christians understands that Jesus was nonviolent.”

    Christians were not a part of the military until the third century, when Emperor Constantine instituted Christianity as the State’s religion and church and state became entwined.

    In Oslo, President Obama was mindful of Martin Luther King’s Nobel speech, but he made no mention of what his peer stated regarding Vietnam:

    “The true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, is when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

    In Oslo, Obama opined, “As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is… that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings.”

    War is never necessary, but is an expression of the violence within an individual’s heart that inhabits a body with a mind that has failed to evolve and is thus blind to The Divine that indwells all beings and is within all of creation.

    In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” King noted:

    “Too long has The Peace Process been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue…Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. We must come to see that justice too long delayed is justice denied.

    “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever and if repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

    In Oslo, Obama recalled President Kennedy’s call to “focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

    Institutions are often governed by those with hearts without compassion. Power renders many deaf, dumb and blind to the cries of the innocent caught in the crossfire of violence and to the many denied equal human rights and freedom due to war.

    Two weeks before Christmas, President Obama attempted to justify war by rationalizing state sponsored terrorism. However, he concluded:

    “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice…we can build a just and lasting peace…how similar we are… we all basically want the same things… we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

    “The purpose of faith — for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

    “Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature… The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King… the love that they preached — their faith in human progress — must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

    “For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naive, if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.”

    On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon all Member countries to disseminate, display, and expound them.

    We are in the last three weeks of the United Nations Decade of Creating a Culture of Nonviolence for All the Children of the World. America is on the record in the UN as abstaining because to support such an initiative would make it “too hard for us to go to war.”

    Hundreds of children have been killed by unmanned drones since Obama became president. America is connected to 35 wars being fought today and we have a nuclear arsenal of over 10,000 weapons with nearly 2,000 on hair-trigger alert. America has 150 – 240 tactical nuclear weapons based in 5 NATO countries and is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil. America is the only nation to have targeted, terrorized and murdered innocent people by deploying WMD.

    As FOX News bemoans a war on Christmas, let us recall that what we know for certain about Jesus was that he was born, lived and died under a brutal military occupation but practiced active, public, creative non-violence.

    Jesus taught that following him requires one must love all people, to be compassionate, nonjudgmental, to seek justice and to forgive in order to be forgiven.

    Jesus’ last words to his followers as the Roman occupying forces dragged him away were, ‘Put down the sword’.

    And that is when his followers and friends abandoned him and ran away; they realized he was deadly serious about non-violence.

    The only way to stop violence is to stop inflicting it. Violence cannot reap peace, but only lead to more of its own kind. No one, no state, no nation is justified in killing. Those who live by the sword, the gun, bomb, the nuclear weapon, will die by the sword, gun, bomb and nuclear weapon. War will never end terrorism because war is terrorism.

    And so, this is almost Christmas, and isn’t it time we all evolve or an eye for an eye will blind us all.

  4. kalidas said on December 19th, 2009 at 11:34am #

    Some people, Tolstoy included, believe animals also belong in the category of “thou shall not kill.”

    “If a man’s aspirations towards a righteous life are serious.. .if he earnestly and sincerely seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food, because, not to mention the excitement of the passions produced by such food, it is plainly immoral, as it requires an act contrary to moral feeling, i. e., killing – and is called forth only by greed.”

  5. beverly said on December 20th, 2009 at 1:17pm #

    Enigma? No way. From short on specifics/long on rhetoric campaign speeches, to a campaign team/advisors and cabinet comprised of neolibs, neocons, labor haters, free trade cheerleaders, Wall Street water carriers, and warmongers – Obama made it plainly clear which way he was swinging long ago. Any pundit or advocate who knows what’s going on behind closed doors can’t feign disappointment or surprise at Obama now. The writing was on the wall from day one.

  6. Don Hynes said on December 20th, 2009 at 1:33pm #

    Thanks Beverly and all. I’m not surprised by Obama though I am disappointed, as I am with the many betrayals and corruptions of our corporate controlled political system. I never was a true Obama believer although I appreciated the hope and sense of movement he inspired. There are many good people in the progressive movement who were and are devoted to Obama and his presidency. My essay aims to point out the many incongruities of Obama without rubbing their noses in the betrayal and loss which is replacing the “hope”.

    I believe the writing was on the wall early on as you indicate. My way is to hopefully put a little something in with the pill to help the bitterness digest and keep some resolution for continuing forward progress alive.

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. Max Shields said on December 20th, 2009 at 2:03pm #

    I think the issue is that some people have seen the likes of “Obama” before and found nothing to be particularly hopeful about. In fact, it was apparent for many that he was the perfect pretext for the continuation of corporate empire. The folks at Black Agenda saw this a year into his Senate race. They weren’t fooled. But then they pay attention and know the distinction between fake hope and authenticity.

    Facing reality is not nose rubbing. My god these Obamaites were shameless (and many still are) in their naivete. And they carried what was apparent to many faux “change agent” into office like some kind of final in a sports event.

    The West and their mimics have a shallow streak that makes facing reality a hard core problem…