In Defense of Barack Obama

I have often expressed my bitter disappointment in Barack Obama, the promising and brilliant candidate of the People who served the 1% so much better than he served the rest of us.    I was going on about his drone program the other day, with its signature strikes (we follow patterns that suggest possible terrorist activity and kill people who fit the pattern) and the apparently new classified standard operating procedure of following up with missile number two to kill any would-be rescuers/witnesses too.  

I ranted against the new presidential power, standardized by Obama, of legally killing anyone on a secret list at his sole discretion, including outraged citizens of his own country, who the president is free to declare enemy combatants worthy of mechanized assassination.  

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, no less, arguing successfully for a program that kills a certain, undisclosed, number of innocent bystanders, sometimes kills American citizens without trial or even specific charges.  Let’s even assume Obama did these extrajudicial murders judiciously, with a strict eye on minimizing “collateral damage.”  I hate him for passing this awesome and unappealable new power of life and death on to a giant two year-old subject to tantrums.  Hard for me to rant about it without ending with “fuck him and the whores he rode in on”.

My old friend, an attorney for the earth (a precious entity that cannot speak for itself except through natural catastrophe) gave me a good workout on every issue I raised in my recent vitriolic attack on our violent, secretive, lucrative new world order of perpetual war on “Terror” (fated to be as successful as the less known perpetual war on sarcasm), with imperial-style presidential powers embraced and enhanced by Obama.  

The goal of the drone war is simple: kill every single bad guy, bad woman and bad child in the world before they can kill us, and without the public relations nightmare of thousands of Americans being killed and maimed in the process.  Quite understandable politically, as my friend pointed out.  Laudable, perhaps, or as evil as any scheme carried out by Himmler and his men.

In the end, our correspondence produced my friend’s tightly written, comprehensive paragraph, with which I could find no fault and which deserves not to end in my gmail inbox.   Hearing no objection from him when I raised the idea of posting it here— here are his warts-first capsule portraits of the presidents of our lifetime (we were four when Ike stepped down after two terms, so he doesn’t make the list).  Here he goes:

You ought to know by now that if you’d like to hear me adamantly maintain that Obama is a warmongering hypocrite all you have to do is say that he isn’t, and I’ll happily oblige you.  I don’t have a hard time seeing how he deserves those labels–I don’t think you’re delusional–I just find it impossible not to sympathize with the predicament he found himself in, and cut him some slack for dealing with it as well as he did, given all the ways that every president in my lifetime managed to leave office in some sort of disgrace.

 Kennedy, everybody’s friend because he was handsome, rich, white, Ivy League, married to a pretty, rich, white woman, with his Bay of Pigs, his obsessive adultery, his criminal father who bought him the presidency, his mobster connections, his lukewarm support of civil rights, his setting us up for Vietnam–all in three years.  Johnson, who lied us into the miserable bloody war, the template for bloody warmongers in our generation, who couldn’t even face the prospect of running for reelection he was so thoroughly despised by his own party.  Nixon–enough said.  And Ford was too unimaginative to do much during his brief inherited tenure other than to pardon his criminal predecessor and preside over horrendous inflation while becoming fodder for Mad magazine and SNL skits.  Carter, that sanctimonious smiling hypocrite, whining his way through his one term with so little inspiration that a nation horrified by the criminality of the Republican party only a few years before–the same horror that got Carter elected–was ready to embrace another Republican–one who engaged in criminal arms deals to arm fascists, stabbed the labor movement in the gut and twisted the knife, began the process of making long-term, structural economic inequality acceptable, invaded Grenada to kick some Commie ass, and left the American working and middle classes bleeding in the gutter.  Bush, the apparatchik whose Desert Storm lit the fuse that led to the entire Middle East chaos we now face, and who knows what the fuck he did as CIA chief before he was in a position to puke on the Japanese Prime Minister.  He deserves to be shunned for siring W alone.  Clinton, the man who made neoliberalism and racism and pandering to Wall Street the Democratic Party platform in his spare time, when he wasn’t too busy assaulting women.  W. and his Iraq invasion, his Afghanistan invasion, his torture policies, the Great Recession, his stupidity.  So against that backdrop, yeah, I cut a guy some slack who spent eight years restraining himself from responding in kind to being treated like shit by the entire Republican Party while he went about trying to clean up the messes left to him by his nitwit predecessor who’d been run out of town on a rail. 

Anyway, don’t think I don’t respect your willingness to insist on the highest standards of morality from our public servants.  I certainly do respect it, and expect no less from you. I don’t think if I were president I could meet them, so I have some sympathy for someone who seemed at least to try, at least some of the time.

back to me:

That there is the best defense I can imagine for our first post-racial, soon-to-be first self-made billionaire ex-president.


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