A Hollow Bomber Jacket

obama bomber jacketLast Friday, in a column about economic policy, Paul Krugman focused on “moral collapse” at the White House — “a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction.” Meanwhile, President Obama flew to Afghanistan, where he put on a leather bomber jacket and told U.S. troops: “You’re achieving your objectives. You will succeed in your mission.”

For the Obama presidency, moral collapse has taken on the appearance of craven clockwork, establishing a concentric pattern — doing immense damage to economic security at home while ratcheting up warfare overseas.

By the end of the weekend, a deal was just about wrapped up between the president and Republican congressional leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

On the spin-cycle agenda this month is yet more reframing of the president’s foggy doubletalk about Afghanistan. Strip away the carefully crafted verbiage and the picture is stark — with plans for a huge U.S. war effort in that country for many years to come.

At the end of a year with massive U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan, parallels with the Johnson administration’s unhinged Vietnam War are hard to miss. Conjectures about an inside-the-Democratic-Party challenge to Obama’s re-nomination are now moving from shadowy whispers to open discourse.

Some critics of the Vietnam War hesitated to confront it because of President Johnson’s laudable domestic record, which included the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the founding of Medicare and the launching of other Great Society programs. In sharp contrast, what most distinguishes President Obama’s domestic record is its series of major cave-ins to corporate power and income inequality.

Ostensibly battling for economic fairness, the president is flying a white flag high over the White House.

“The Obama administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery,” former Obama supporter Cornel West pointed out during an interview on Democracy Now last month. “Look at the policies vis-à-vis Wall Street downplaying Main Street. . . . Look at the policy, the dilapidated housing. We can go right across the board. Look at the policies of the New Jim Crow system: the Prison Industrial Complex. So, we’re talking not just about individual presidents, we’re talking about a system that is tilted against poor people, against working people, disproportionately black and brown and red.”

The tilt of that system continues to become more extreme under the shifting needs for corporate profits and an “austerity” agenda that the Obama administration has embraced under the rationale of deficit reduction. The White House plan to freeze federal workers’ pay, announced in late November, is another brick in the slanted wall.

In the process, the president is implying that civil service workers are expendable. Obama drew cheers on Friday night at Bagram Air Base when he told several thousand assembled troops: “You may have noticed that during these tough budget times, I took the step of freezing pay for our federal workforce. But because of the service that you rendered, all who wear the uniform of the United States of America are exempt from that action.”

Norman SolomanAlong the way, the wealthy get to keep their humongous tax cuts, and the military-industrial complex gets to keep its warfare state going full throttle.

Evidence of the Obama administration’s “moral collapse” is profuse; the pattern is clear, the consequences already terrible. During the weeks and months ahead, progressives will need to engage in fresh strategic discussions. Public candor may be insufficient, but it is necessary.

Norman Solomon


  1. GaryH says

    We progressives and liberals should no longer accept anymore insults from Pres. Obama.
    It’s time to look forward to the Democratic Party primaries and look for new leadership.
    — Gary

    see also:
    E.J. Dionne, Jr. on Obama’s Remarks About Liberals
    “Obama Speaks Ill of His Allies” — What does President Obama think of those who fought and bled to pass his bills in Congress (in some cases losing in this year’s election for their pains) while also defending him against wild charges from the right wing? Are they among the liberals he described as “sanctimonious”?


  2. Minister Lawrence says

    You ask to ‘be nice’,’keep it clean’,’stay on topic. So what are we doing about the ‘Un-United’ state we are in ? I think sooner or later the bottom is going to fall out of this ‘dream’ as its called if things dont improve for us all who are here.

  3. fred lapides says

    Obama has though managed to get unemployment benefits extended to those without, those in dire straits. Ask them how they feel about his reaching out for a compromise.

    Bad: the extension of benefits if for a short term; for the Bush wealthy tax breaks: two years! and at the end of those two, guess what?

    Now to my major point: I can be for or against What Obama is doing or has done so far as president, but Cornel West? This is the guy who declared that O.J. Simpson was innocent, a mere victim of the white man. I am take him seriously, while he lives well on tenure at Princeton?

  4. Ryder says


    You can’t say anything bad about this president… unless of course, you’re racist! That *must* be it. Yes, the evidence is clear… you’re a racist.

  5. macdoodle says

    WHY is Senate not rallying for Senate votes
    we should have them?

    WHY ARE WE DUMPING ALL responsibility
    FOR LEGISLATIVE FAILURES on the executive branch?

    On one target who has the power of the people except he usually didn’t
    so we lost Public Option and November.
    and the power of veto.

    Word has it the first ones to appear to be the compromisers in stalemate tat has been via CONGRESS AND SENATE will see their party win in 2012.
    Im thinking that is all OBAMA can hope for as we have been divided and conquered by our own intra-party battles
    and the legislature has failed to represent USA.

    • macdoodle says

      sorry on the typos


      power of veto is all he has left
      since a large portion of the left has deserted ship
      Reps and the public-

  6. Don Duitz says

    What Obama needs is a trip to Vegas! He doesn’t know not to fold when he has a Straight flush and he doesn’t know how to bluff with 4 of a kind.
    I haven’t noticed what HE (we) got out of the negotiation over taxes. What’s wrong with the option of passing a whole new bill??

    • Annette says

      Ha, you’re assuming Obama actually wants to help us instead of the banksters and corporate backers. Obama is getting exactly what he wants. He’s a stealth Republican. He tricked us by basically, well, lying to us. Now he is willing to decimate the middle class in order to go down in history as:

      1) The first black president. A historical event!
      2) The man who gave us Universal Health Care… uh, I mean Insurance.
      3) The first black president…

      Yeah. That’s about it folks. The corporate Masters of the Universe probably bought him years ago and groomed him to fool all of us into voting for him. We got suckered big time.
      The question now is, how do we fight him? Because he really doesn’t give a d@mn about us. He will continue to steal from the middle class to pay the rich. And he will destroy the Democratic Party in the process. What do you think is going to happen in two years when the country votes this “historical president” out of office? Do you think we’ll get another Democrat? Do you think our Democrats in Congress will survive? Not likely.

      Obama has agreed to extend the Bush tax breaks for the people who wrecked our economy and put millions of us out of work. He’s not doing us any favors by pretending to trade the tax breaks for unemployment extensions. All he’s doing is increasing the deficit and bribing some people (those whose benefits are about to run out) into tolerating his betrayal. For the rest of us who are either working, or not employed but not eligible for unemployment, all we get out of this deal is a big fat bill for the next thirty years.

      And why is this Obama’s decision anyway? If we want to extend unemployment and NOT extend the Bush tax breaks for Obama’s financiers, we could do so. We OWN this government. Let’s take back control of our government and our country, starting with the man who has betrayed us for the past two years. If this were Bush doing this kind of sneaky, back-stabbing of the workers, we’d be raising hell. But Bush-lite is harder to challenge because, well because we put him there. We trusted him. Now we have to face the fact that he tricked us, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

      At some point, we need to realize we got duped and start fighting him. We need to fight as hard as we would a Republican president stealing from us, even though it’s more painful when it’s our own guy. But it’s our duty to stop him before he completely decimates our economy, our future, and our children’s future.

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