Monday, August 25, 2014

Cornel West wakes up

Lots of people are talking about Cornel West's interview in Salon. The subject, of course, is Obama:
No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.
My question is: Why were people like Cornel West unable to recognize Obama's counterfeit nature back in 2008? I could see it. It was as plain as a dog turd on a frozen lake. He was so obviously counterfeit that I don't even feel comfortable calling him a counterfeit.

Let me list just a few of the clues...

1. Obama's big lie about NAFTA and free trade agreements. In campaign literature, he claimed to be a NAFTA opponent -- but before running for the presidency, he had supported NAFTA. The record was clear to those who (like myself) had bothered to look it up. When he was caught sending a backchannel message to the Canadians ("Relax, guys: This anti-NAFTA stuff is all a ruse for the rubes!"), his followers invented a fake story claiming that it was Hillary who had sent the message. The Canadians investigated and proved that Obama, not Hillary, was the guilty party -- a fact which most of the American media, for some strange reason, refused to discuss.

Why didn't Cornel West notice any of this?

2. Obama's likely CIA background. Okay, I don't blame West for not talking about this angle. Respectable people don't like CIA stories. Such allegations are too weird, too paranoid, too Alex Jones-ish. But I believe that this one has substance.

3. Corruption. Every time Rod Blagojevich got a payoff, Obama got a smaller payoff. The amounts were never large, but the pattern was clear. The documentation (as laid out in Evelyn Pringle's stories) was substantial.

There was also the strange case of Tony Rezko, whom Obama said he "barely knew," even though evidence later emerged proving that the two men were in constant contact. That lie would have destroyed the chances of any other candidate.

4. Iraq.
Yes, Obama gave a speech against intervention in 2002, at a time when he was an unknown. That speech, which was not recorded, was delivered before a left-leaning audience that never would have tolerated any other stance. He was, in fact, the most conservative speaker on the rostrum that day.

Even though Obama's 2008 statements and campaign literature conveyed the impression that he remained a staunch and strident opponent of the war, the hard truth is that he had never voiced opposition to the invasion throughout the rest of 2002. Displaying a prudence that some would consider indistinguishable from cowardice, he made every attempt to keep silent on the subject throughout 2003 and most of 2004. When he gave that over-praised speech at the Democratic National Convention, he did not condemn the invasion -- even though John Kerry and Bill Clinton, in their own speeches, did decry Bush's great error. (A lot of people thought they heard Obama speak out against the invasion on that occasion, but the evidence of what he actually said is right there on YouTube.) In the Senate, his Iraq war funding votes were (somewhat) to the right of Hillary's, and he opposed all efforts to defund operations in Iraq.

Why didn't West notice any of this?

Seriously: Why the blinders? Is race the primary factor here?

Sure, most Dems loved the idea of voting for a black president -- and for understandable reasons. But liberals were not going to support just any black man who vied for the job. Suppose Alan Keyes had run in 2008. Would liberals have said: "Well, he's black, so we have to vote for him even though we hate his politics"?

Of course not. So why were most people unable to see Obama for what he obviously was?


Twilight said...

I'd been wondering what had happened to Cornel West - hadn't seen or heard anything from him for ages. He used to appear on Real time with Bill Maher occasionally, but not recently.

I have a post on my blog from 2011 regarding an interview with West by Chris Hedges. It throws a bit more light on West's feelings:

West:“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there."

"I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

West says the betrayal occurred on two levels.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”

Anonymous said...

A black woman whom I respect once told me while we were taking about Obama's dismal contribution to black people's situation, that even if her situation get to the point where she lives under a bridge as long as the one living in the white house is black she is happy

Anonymous said...

"At least we got an African-American elected President."

Don't discount that angle. It's really the only substantive claim left. Was it big at the time? It certainly was in the air. Identity politics cannot be separated from the modern Democratic Party. That's really what Obama faked-- that he was a progressive in the sense of being black. Like about everything else in his story, it's just half true. He's an incomplete man. Obviously a massive failure to the Democratic Party and progressives that had the mantle by the middle of last decade. Things like his CIA 'support' are just unfathomable by the identity types.

Anonymous said...

I knew Obama was a fraud in 2004 when he gave the keynote speech and all of the corporate media talking heads started preparing us to accept him as our next president. The writing was on the wall then, regardless of whatever drama the media spun through the primary and election process (both rigged).

We have no democracy in this country.

Propertius said...

There were some other warning signs as well:

1) Saying in May 2007 that an important goal of healthcare reform should be to "give insurance companies a seat at the table"

2) Flipping on telecom immunity for participation in the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program (
after promising he would filibuster against it)

3) Flipping on public campaign financing

Two thumbs up for pointing out the corruption issue. I will never forget raising this issue with another party official during the 2008 campaign and receiving the following rejoinder:

"Yeah, the guy's obviously mobbed up, but he can win"

That's when I decided the Democratic Party had lost its soul.

Ken Hoop said...

Obama fooled the black rubes and appealed to black guilt for the balance of them ...(you're guilty if you vote third party alternative) and Bush and Romney fooled the white rubes.
The only minority that gets its political way is the Jews.
Hillary will ensure the continuance of the rube and Jew theme.

jo6pac said...

I like Cornel but he kept saying we need to vote for 0. I'm glad he woke up. This is from Lambert.

Points the way 0 was going and this his first interview for the job of potus.

Enjoy or not

Joseph Cannon said...

Ken, those "Jew" remarks were pretty damned ugly. Arguably I should not have published your comment. I let it go through -- this time -- simply to take this opportunity to issue a warning. I don't want to see remarks of that sort in the future.

I've been extremely critical of Israel, and of Israel's blinkered supporters. I have even come to believe that military intervention may be necessary to force the country into pursuing a non-racist course.

But I do not accuse Israelis of committing any sins that were not previously committed by my own ancestors. I'm half Italian, and although I remain quite proud of that half, I know that Mussolini's evil was such as to force the world to take up arms against him.

The fascist instinct bedevils all peoples, all races. It's always there, always tempting us. It's as if the entire human race is composed of potential alcoholics, and the ghost of Adolf Hitler runs an open bar, beckoning us to step forward and take that first sip.

Most Jews I've known have despised the far-right, anti-intellectual strain within American life. If Jews ran this country, George Bush would never have gotten near the presidency.

Bob Harrison said...

It's always good to see the scales fall.

arbusto205 said...

Ken it is rude of me to respond pseudo-anonymously as you have the courage to use your real name but I want to thank Joe for his 6:06 comment. Joe hates ass-kissers as he is a natural contrarian but I can't help myself as I hate islanders who say bigoted things. Ken, I believe you have great knowledge of many things, please don't squander it with prejudice. Apologies for not referencing the post in which Cornel rightly fesses up.

Michael said...

I totally agree with this:

"Q: One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like they’re going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time there’ll be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

"CW: It’d be about over then, brother. I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point it’s even too hard to contemplate."

Joseph Cannon said...

Michael, perhaps the only hope re: Hillary is that she is trying to "Putney Swope" her way into power.

The reference goes to a radical comedy directed by Robert Downey (yes, Iron Man's dad) in the late 1960s. It's about a black man who is the "token negro" within a large corporation. He plays the corporate game, always smiling, always going with the program, never offending anyone, until the day comes when he is (more or less accidentally) voted in as the CEO. At that moment, he turns into a full-on power-to-the-people radical.

In 2008, some people hoped Obama would be a Putney Swope. Others hoped that he would "pull a Putney" after he won re-election. As Bill Maher said in 2012: "Obama is half white and half black. Let's hope his next administration is the black one."

Well, we now know that Obama is never going to be that guy.

But maybe Hillary...?

I doubt it. But (as Hemingway once put it) -- isn't it pretty to think so?

Ken Hoop said...

Yeah, well when liberal Zionists like Boxer start denouncing Zionism instead of okaying genocide, I'll be sure to constrain myself to "Zionist" in all instances of criticism.
I'm sure Neturi Karta forgives me
as is.