The Odious Choice

President Barack Obama works in the Oval Office at dusk as seen from the South Lawn of the White House, Dec. 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is faced with the same odious choice many other Democrats are facing in this election.  He wants to be succeeded by a Democrat who he hopes will continue to build on his legacy – but cannot quite stomach putting an establishment hack like Hilary Clinton into the White House. Of course, if he had his druthers, he’d much prefer to let the chips fall where they may – if only he could look across the aisle and find a friendly face or two, he might even consider laying it down and allowing a Republican non-establishment moderate (his mirror image, if you will) to carry the flag.  After all, Obama is nothing if not a reasonable man, a true idealist draped in the mantle of pragmatic politics.

But alas – and to Hilary’s credit – there is no reasonable man to be found. In fact, we have what appears to be the boogie man in Donald Trump; an uber-predator who has taken the Republican primary by storm, and is now staring down his nose, jaws agape, with his sights clearly focused on his next prey.

But let’s pause that scene for a moment and backtrack a little bit.  Back in the run up to the 2008 elections, Obama represented the dark horse (no pun intended) candidate, who came out of nowhere and snatched defeat from the jaws of an all-but-certain Hilary victory.  Coming off a Bush Presidency that ended in a collapsed economy, it was all but a given that Democrats would retake not only the White House, but a significant portion of the Congress as well.  The Clintons’ seemed poised to be the dutiful recipients of this prize until Obama, jumping way ahead of the line, came out and repudiated Clinton for her support for the (by then) widely unpopular Iraq war.  Obama, by contrast, had clearly and forcefully repudiated the war as a junior Senator at a time when it was not popular to do so.  And so began the Obama candidacy.

The claws quickly came out. Bill and Hilary used all the dirty tricks in their arsenal to dissuade voters from choosing Obama – including the early suggestions that he was not born in this country (or at least could not prove it), and was therefore legally unqualified to become President. This was clearly a dog whistle intended to stoke racial animosity embedded in the Democratic electorate. Many people do not know this, but the seeds of the birther movement that often credited as having been led by Donald Trump – started with Hilary Clinton in her 2008 campaign.  Furthermore, in an effort to get former Senator Ted Kennedy to support Hilary’s campaign, Bill Clinton reportedly said about Obama, “a few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”   Clearly there is no love lost between the Clintons and President Obama, because, as they say, ‘thems fightin’ words.’  The Clintons have smarted and steamed in silence for the past eight years as Obama delighted in forcing them to carry his bags.

Fast forward again to today. Hilary now positions herself as the most able steward of the Obama legacy among the field of candidates.  After all, wasn’t she the health care advocate before there was Obamacare? Hasn’t she pushed for women’s rights, including, as first lady, pressuring China to relax its one-child policy.  Well, that might have been the Hilary of old, but the new Hillary wears much more expensive suits.  She hasn’t done any grass roots organizing in years – wouldn’t even know what a grass roots organizer’s diet of coffee and bagels even felt like anymore.   The Hillary of today is dressed in the gilded garments that $2 billion dollars (and more) worth of corporate speeches and charitable donations from sovereign wealth funds affords. Not only her clients – investment banks, wealthy foreign investors, and super-rich philanthropists like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – but her whole world has become and insular cocoon.

It became clear in the Benghazi hearings that she is completely out of touch.  The Benghazi hearings were useful politically, but not because they revealed any new information about a plot to cover up the Obama administrations’ knowledge and communication about the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and the other brave Americans who died that day, but because of what it reveals about Hillary Clinton’s modus of operation. Her style was revealed to be smug, insular and duplicitous.  Her attempt to cover her tracks by using private servers was done in an effort to undermine the very administration for which she served, and to further her own private interests using a position of public trust. Whether she actually broke any laws is not as relevant as the fact that she clearly did not act in the best interests of the American people.

This is what the American people find so odious, not just about Hillary, but the political establishment on both sides of the aisle.  The Democrats less so than the Republicans because their base has received more in the way of bread and circuses over the past few years. But Americans of both parties have started to realize that they have been duped. No matter which party is in power, the same interests seem to be permanently entrenched.  Obama’s choice, early on, not to take on the banks but to do a deal with them that actually made them wealthier and more powerful, is seen as the signature failure of his Presidency.  And it is the only reason why Bernie Sanders is still in the race. If Obama had a choice, he would likely endorse Sanders. But he is tied to the Clintons in a deal that was made on the eve of his first inauguration.

And yet the anger and frustration of the American people has continued to fester.  The Occupy Movement was outright crushed by police forces acting as jack-booed thugs employed by the Democrat politicians who had already made a deal with Wall Street.  The Tea Party, on the other side of the aisle, was co-opted by the Republican Party and used to elect representatives who were effectively quarantined when they arrived in Congress. Despite the Tea-Party driven revolution in the 2010 mid-terms, very little of the promises to tame Washington and cast out the special interests have come to fruition. Government has not grown smaller, and the economic picture for the average American has not significantly improved since the great depression.  In fact, people came back to the same jobs, only this time with less pay and benefits than they received previously.

The politicians, meanwhile, have played a dangerous game of smoke and mirrors.  Obama has repeatedly sighted signs economic improvement that the people know to be false.  Reduced unemployment has largely been factor of low labor force participation, the lowest in fact in over thirty years.  Rising coverage among the uninsured has masked rising premium costs for the rest of the paying insured population – in effect a healthy bonus given to the insurance industry for playing along. Absolutely nothing has been done to strengthen America’s trade position, and we continue to run high deficits against our major trading partners who are only too willing to supply us with enough cheap credit to hang ourselves.

And the reason why the U.S. Government and Federal Reserve decided to pursue a weak monetary policy has little to do with achieving full employment. It was because, again, it wanted to preserve asset values for the ultra-rich and well connected.  This is why the Republican establishment blocked any efforts at using a fiscal stimulus during the downturn, insisted on austerity, and even accepted cuts to military expenditures in return for cuts to social programs. This was class warfare on steroids, and the establishment wings of both parties conspired together to implement it.



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