Why Obama Failed
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 7, 2011, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: What Happened To Obama?.
...............When Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office, he stepped into a cycle of American history, best exemplified by F.D.R. and his distant cousin, Teddy. After a great technological revolution or a major economic transition, as when America changed from a nation of farmers to an urban industrial one, there is often a period of great concentration of wealth, and with it, a concentration of power in the wealthy. That’s what we saw in 1928, and that’s what we see today.
At some point that power is exercised so injudiciously, and the lives of so many become so unbearable, that a period of reform ensues — and a charismatic reformer emerges to lead that renewal. In that sense, Teddy Roosevelt started the cycle of reform his cousin picked up 30 years later, as he began efforts to bust the trusts and regulate the railroads, exercise federal power over the banks and the nation’s food supply, and protect America’s land and wildlife, creating the modern environmental movement.
Those were the shoes — that was the historic role — that Americans elected Barack Obama to fill. The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.
When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public.
IN contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century.
He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it.
But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.
This above article is very entertaining reading but I do not agree.
I think BO was elected and is maintained in office by global multi billionaires. He has already raised 83 million dollars for his next campaign. I think BO is their big deception. Someone who looks as if he is for the people but who in truth works for the interests of Big Money - appearance of caring that cloaks a lack of substance.
BO has always needed big money to fill that hole in his cigarette smoking ego. Big Money are the people he admires and that is the life to which he aspires. And he will sacrifice all values to obtain his desire. Because at the core he has no values, only desires. He truly is an empty, very expensive suit.
Thus we have BO's convoluted "solutions" to simple problems - the endless give-a-ways to Wall St -- the protection of profits and stock prices at the expense of entitlements. Somehow every BO solution puts more money in the pockets of big money. That is not an accident or the result of some psychological failure. BO is doing what he was put in office to do and what he wants to do. A one term presidency is enough. Look at the destruction he has managed in a few years with more than one left.
The oligarchy has bought our organizations, put their shills on the boards, hired the staff. The oligarchy has bought our airwaves and our print media. The oligarchy owns both the Dem and Repub party by making their politicians wealthy, comfortable for life, members of the club. The oligarchy has flooded the country with cheap labor. It is the master of deception. It has learned our language and uses it.
The oligarchy is not stupid. It is the sheep who are stupid. Those who want to be politically correct and shut their eyes to experience, deliberately choosing appearance over substance. Appearance over substance, choosing the pretty illusion, closing the heart and the instinct to pick the apple, is the original sin and the curse on men.
Nor did anyone explain what health care reform was supposed to accomplish (other than the unbelievable and even more uninspiring claim that it would “bend the cost curve”), or why “credit card reform” had led to an increase in the interest rates they were already struggling to pay. Nor did anyone explain why saving the banks was such a priority, when saving the homes the banks were foreclosing didn’t seem to be.
All Americans knew, and all they know today, is that they’re still unemployed, they’re still worried about how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of the month and their kids still can’t get a job. And now the Republicans are chipping away at unemployment insurance, [Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid] and the president is making his usual impotent verbal exhortations after bargaining it away.
What makes the “deficit debate” we just experienced seem so surreal is how divorced the conversation in Washington has been from conversations around the kitchen table everywhere else in America.
But it’s not just jobs. Americans don’t share the priorities of either party on taxes, budgets or any of the things Congress and the president have just agreed to slash — or failed to slash, like subsidies to oil companies. When it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy, Americans are united across the political spectrum, supporting a message that says, “In times like these, millionaires ought to be giving to charity, not getting it.”
Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts.
This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling. He announces in a speech on energy and climate change that we need to expand offshore oil drilling and coal production — two methods of obtaining fuels that contribute to the extreme weather Americans are now seeing. He supports a health care law that will use Medicaid to insure about 15 million more Americans and then endorses a budget plan that, through cuts to state budgets, will most likely decimate Medicaid and other essential programs for children, senior citizens and people who are vulnerable by virtue of disabilities or an economy that is getting weaker by the day.