Friday, April 29, 2011

President Obama's Failures

From Black Agenda Report,

Top Ten Answers To Excuses For Obama's Betrayals and Failures

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Early this month, panelists on MSNBC's corporate “Black Agenda” show agreed that black dissatisfaction, disappointment and disaffection with the Obama administration was growing. The brick and mortar of the Black Wall Around Barack Obama are the plentiful and often contradictory excuses which black misleaders and ordinary people offer and accept for his administration's many failures and betrayals. These excuses are important because the illusion of nearly unanimous black support, no matter what he does or does not do remains President Obama's most vital political asset.

It's high time for black America to stop making and to stop accepting excuses for the presidency of Barack Obama.

So as a public service, we offer this list of the top ten such excuses, followed by a quick and effective answer for each. We invite our gentle readers to try these out on the Obamaphiles you meet on a daily basis, your family, friends, co-workers, classmates and others. Be respectful, not derisive, and remember that not many adults will change their minds in real time in front of you and tell you so. Be mindful of opportunities to conduct your discussions with Obamaphiles in front of one or more bystanders. You're more likely to convert them. Let us know how it works out, and use the comments section if you run into new and noteworthy excuses.

EXCUSE NUMBER 10: “You can't expect him to address issues like black unemployment, which has been double the white rate forever. He's not the president of Black America, and you can't expect him to act like it. He's the president of the United States of America...”

QUICK ANSWER: Obama wasn't drafted, he volunteered for the job, he campaigned for it, said he was “Joshua” to Dr. King's Moses, and lectured us on the Fierce Urgency of Now. He campaigned like a “civil rights leader.” His web site said “Join the Movement!” If the black president can't or won't address black mass incarceration, black unemployment, HIV-AIDS, the foreclosure crisis and other matters that disproportionately affect our communities, then why do we have any kind of collective racial obligation to support him?

EXCUSE NUMBER 9: “President Obama is doing the best he can. It took Bush and Cheney eight whole years to screw things up this thoroughly. Obama's only been in office (fill in the blank) years...”

QUICK ANSWER: This excuse supposes Barack Obama really is dedicated to undoing the horrible damage of the Bush-Cheney crime wave. There is no evidence of this. You have to look mighty long and hard to find any Bush era crime that Obama has reversed. But you can find plenty of Bush era crimes and atrocities President Obama has doubled down on.

Here are a few --- sold to Democrats early on as a “peace candidate,” by August 2008 Obama had endorsed Bush's Iraq war “surge” and promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which he did by expanding it into Pakistan. Obama refused to prosecute Bush and Cheney out of office, or any of their torturers, and has declined to go after telecom companies which intercepted the personal traffic of millions, or the banks which are going through with fraudulent foreclosures. The original Bush bailout was only passed when candidate Obama came to Washington to personally herd the Black Caucus and reluctant Democrats into passing it. Once in office, Obama increased the bailout from Bush's $3 trillion to more than $20 trillion. The Obama White House proposed not one new law, not one single regulatory change that would mitigate or prevent another catastrophe like last year's Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whatever “doing the best he can means, it does not include undoing the Bush-Cheney crime wave.

EXCUSE NUMBER 8: “President Obama can't do all the things he wants to do because he's being blocked by Democratic blue dogs. (b) racist tea party Republicans (c.) Fox News...”

QUICK ANSWER: This was a widely heard excuse during the time Democrats controlled Congress. It's really not just an excuse for the Obama administration, but for Democrats in general. But it was Obama's own chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who, in 2006 funneled vast amounts of campaign cash to right wing Democrats whenever they were challenged in primary elections by Democrats opposed to the war. Obama even declared himself a “blue dog” New Democrat once in the White House.

EXCUSE NUMBER 7: “President Obama's agenda is being obstructed by Fox News and racist tea party Republicans...”

QUICK ANSWER: In 2009 and 2010 Republicans were in the minority in both houses of Congress. They could pass nothing, subpoena nobody, investigate nothing. They only gained control of Congress at the beginning of 2011. But even without the blessing of Congress, the president and the executive branch possess vast powers to change the nation's direction. Obama could direct the US Post Office and federal agencies to purchase electric cars, trucks and buses, for example, creating countless green jobs and market incentives for improving those technologies. The vast research and manufacturing capacity of General Motors, which the White House controlled without any congressional oversight, could have been directed to manufacture high speed rail, electric vehicles or improved home building and retrofit materials that radically reduce carbon emissions and provide jobs for millions.

EXCUSE NUMBER 6: “The president doesn't have 60 votes in the Senate. Filibuster rules mean that without a super-majority he and his party can't get anything through the Senate...”

QUICK ANSWER: Like excuses 7 and 8, this one is designed to deflect blame not just from the president, but from Democrats in Congress. The president and his party passed their 2009 health care bill, which was really a bailout of health insurance companies through the Senate with a simple majority. Congressional Democrats can sweep aside the super majority rule any time they choose. They choose not to. But the excuse is too valuable to lose.

EXCUSE NUMBER 5: “President Obama isn't superman and can't do everything. People like the Congressional Black Caucus and other black leaders need to stand up and take some responsibility...”

QUICK ANSWER: This gem of an excuse was offered by the president's put bull, the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC's corporate “Black Agenda” in early April. The Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed the budget proposals of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which call for a reduction in the military budget, an end to bank bailouts, along with new taxes on Wall Street speculators and the wealthy to guarantee the funding of Medicaid, Medicare and social security. That's leadership. President Obama won't touch the subject with a ten foot pole because that's not the direction in which he chooses to lead. Nobody is expecting superman, but a leader with a vision is a reasonable expectation.

EXCUSE NUMBER 4: “The Congressional Black Caucus and other black leaders and complainers in general need to shut up and sit down and support the president, or there will be nothing he can do anyway....”

QUICK ANSWER: Never a man bothered by contradiction, Rev. Al Sharpton shouted this excuse within seconds of excuse number 7, in his efforts to drown out the questions of Cornel West. Most of the visible black leadership is already supporting President Obama. The question is, aside from the symbolic value of a pretty black family in that big White House, whether the black community is receiving anything in return for its overwhelming support of the president. Even the show's host Ed Schulz remarked at its conclusion that black leaders seemed afraid to demand anything in particular from the black president. If we give support, but get nothing, isn't that a rather one-sided bargain? If we give support and actually get kicked in return (see answer 9), isn't that a kind of abusive relationship?

EXCUSE NUMBER 3: “At least he took care of health care. Millions of people who were not insured before will be insured by the bill Obama passed in 2009....”

QUICK ANSWER: Not really. When President Johnson passed Medicare back in 1965 it took eleven months to start delivering medical care to millions. The obvious political calculus of the time was that its popularity would guarantee Johnson's re-election in 1968. Presidents do still run for re-election. If Obama's health care bill really extended medical care to additional millions, why did he delay its implementation till 2014, after what he hopes is his re-election. And why is the Obama White House granting wave after wave of exemptions to its employer mandate provisions, including to high-profit, low wage employers like McDonalds? The employer mandate is already full of holes, and these are growing more numerous every week. Arguably, the single unambiguously good thing in the Obama health care bill was the extension of Medicaid to millions not covered before. But Obama's willingness to put Medicaid “on the table” in deficit reduction negotiations virtually guarantees that gains in the number of the insured may be largely erased before the bill takes effect in 2014, no matter who is president then. And as millions of American families know, being insured is no guarantee that health care will be affordable or even available.

EXCUSE NUMBER 2: “Only the most naïve souls among us believe a president can or should work for justice at home and peace abroad. Wise up. Do for self, and be content with the symbolic value of a pretty brown family in that big White House.

QUICK ANSWER: This pernicious excuse is advanced by people who imagine themselves so much more sophisticated than the rest of us. Obama's press secretary mumbled a version of it when he declared that people who wanted peace and justice should be drug tested. The president himself has echoed similar disparagements of the millions who accepted his campaign rhetoric at face value. The worldly wise who offer this excuse are attacking the people's very democratic right to dream a better world and demand it, as though this is only a privilege of children. We will only stop being children when we reject this excuse out of hand.

EXCUSE NUMBER 1: “It's our fault the Obama presidency hasn't kept its commitments. We need to 'make him do it.'”

QUICK ANSWER: This excuse is based on an apocryphal tale about a 1940s meeting between black socialist and labor leader A. Philip Randolph, the first lady and President Franklin Roosevelt. After hearing a litany of black demands, Roosevelt is supposed to have said he agreed with everything Randolph told him, but that he must compel the president to do those worthy things.

If the story is true, we absolutely know what Randolph's demands must have been at the time. They would have included an end to black exclusion from jobs in the war industries, (they still called them that in the 1940s), and end to segregation in the military, along with anti-lynching and fair housing laws. The only thing African Americans got in Roosevelt's lifetime was the limited opening of some war industry plants to blacks. Military segregation persisted until 1948, when Harry Truman felt pressed by the specter of black support for third party candidate Henry Wallace. Fair housing statutes had to wait twenty more years, and anti-lynching laws never happened at all. Federal officials in the 1960s began prosecuting white vigilantes under federal civil rights statute, achieving some of the effect of a federal anti-lynch statute.

The lesson here is that even when black demands are limited and “reasonable,” when the first lady is your advocate and the president says he wants to meet them, that the political culture of the United States is sufficiently democracy-proof and people-proof to resist black demands for a long time to come. You cannot make a US president do what he fundamentally doesn't want to. Michelle Obama is nice to look at, but she is no Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt used to publicly bask in the hatred of wealthy banksters. Barack Obama's dream is mostly not to piss off rich people.

Excuses 1 and 2 simply say the president's betrayals and failures are somehow our fault.

This is our own list of excuses. We know there are others, and other answers. Again, we invite our readers to use the comments section to offer their own, along with their most effective answers, and to share their experiences answering the cloud of excuses emanating from Barack Obama's mostly unconditional supporters.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA, where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party, and one of the principals of a technology and consulting firm.

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