First, there were the skewed optics. Although staged in the small setting of the Oval Office, Obama forsook his desk and chair, choosing rather to stand at a podium before two completely unnecessary, auditorium-strength microphones. Instead of exuding fireside chat intimacy, Obama's purported reassurances were those of an avuncular armchair general rallying the anxious troops. It actually sounded more like a karaoke practice session conducted in the privacy of his bathroom.
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Then there were the words themselves. Although lauded by the New York Times as being "tough, but calming," Obama did in fact try to placate his right-wing critics by resurrecting the alarming and once-abandoned "war on terrorism" jingoistic rhetoric of George W. Bush. Never once did he directly call out the fascist demagoguery of the Republican Party in general, nor the verbally dangerous Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in particular. From the Times editorial praising the speech:
Obama would have done better to urge the citizenry to shut off CNN and Fox and other corporate media outlets that have a vested financial interest in keeping the fear alive and the wars continuing.The speech signaled how worried the White House has become about the trajectory the war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, could take if a sense of widespread panic, turbocharged by election year politics, started shaping domestic and foreign policy. While he didn’t unveil new initiatives, Mr. Obama called on Americans to reject the impulse to take actions based on fear.“Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional,” he said. “Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”
He also ceded unnecessary xenophobic ground to Republicans and some Democrats who've demanded a stricter vetting process than the already draconian procedure for admitting refugees from Syria and other regions. He even falsely implied that the female shooter had entered the United States without a visa. She did, in fact, possess a fiancee visa. (The official transcript of the speech now bears that correction.)
The president did not profess any interest in peace. He just cited the need for more political cover to intensify the bellicosity. Those secret piecemeal surges by Special Ops and CIA troops under cover of darkness must really be getting him down.
Mr. Obama also issued a strong and timely challenge to Congress to approve a new legal authorization for the military campaign that was launched in August 2014. It’s time, he said, “for Congress to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed in this fight.”He needs Congress to effectuate the pretense that 320 million US citizens are "united and committed in this fight." He needs to spread the blame to voters who elect the members of Congress who then give him carte blanche for war, for whatever blowback and mayhem might ensue from the further adventures of the profiteers of the Military Industrial Complex. He needs us to overcome our "sickly inhibitions" against war and bloodshed, lest we all die at an office Christmas party someday. He's about as calm-inducing as angel dust.
Oh, and by the way, Congress should do something about domestic gun control while they're also so eagerly doing Obama's bidding in appropriating billions of dollars every year for uncontrolled international arms sales and the frenetic domestic manufacture of assault rifles, grenades, tear gas, drones and nukes.
And while he urged us not to demonize Muslims, he said nothing about the thousands of innocent Muslim lives snuffed out by his predator drones. He said nothing about the letter he recently received from four former service members, warning him that his assassination crusade is creating more terrorists than it kills. As Ed Pilkington and Ewen MacAskill wrote in the Guardian last month:
The group of servicemen have issued an impassioned plea to the Obama administration, calling for a rethink of a military tactic that they say has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay”.
In particular, they argue, the killing of innocent civilians in drone airstrikes has acted as one of the most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world”.
“We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home,” they wrote.
The joint statement – from the group who have experience of operating drones over Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones – represents a public outcry from what is understood to be the largest collection of drone whistleblowers in the history of the program. Three of the letter writers were sensor operators who controlled the powerful visual equipment on US Predator drones that guide Hellfire missiles to their targets.Needless to say, the Times and other major media outlets have ignored that open letter as well as the document, leaked to The Intercept by another whistleblower, revealing that about 90% of the Muslims killed by American drones have been innocent civilians, including women and children.
Instead, the Times grotesquely lauds Obama's war against terrorism in language couched in the civil rights movement. "Obama Says of Terrorist Threat: 'We Will Overcome It'," blared another headline from the Paper of Record. That article informed me that I am "jittery" about the people whom the president finally broke down and called "Islamic extremists," in a further cowardly attempt to placate the cacophonous media-political complex's demands for tougher talk. But you will be happy to know that the Times found his demeanor "serious, but not grim or angry."
Actually, I found his words utterly revolting and phony. His demeanor looked tired, gray and defeated amidst all the push me-pull you efforts to boost him up or keep him down, depending upon the corporate party persuasion of his official elite critics.
No doubt we'll miss him when he's gone, what with the looming possibility that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be glaring and blaring out at us from our TV screens to announce the latest bombing campaign, with or without the official approval of a corrupt Congress.
Since the New York Times ignored Bernie Sanders in all the war-is-peace hoopla I gave him a boost in both my published comments on this Pearl Harbor Day. The op-eds by Hillary Clinton and Paul Krugman were so eerily similar, they might as well have been written in tandem.
First, Hillary went for comedy as she (or probably one of her economists-for-hire) hilariously feigned "reining in Wall Street."
It's not just the outrageous speaking fees that Wall Street bankers paid to Mrs. Clinton, helping make her a multimillionaire. Her refusal to consider restoration of Glass-Steagall is the major tip-off that she will continue to be a loyal servant of the oligarchs.
Granted, its repeal wasn't the sole cause of the financial crisis. But her assertion that Glass-Steagall wouldn't have prevented the collapse of A.I.G. and Lehman is disingenuous at best.
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich calls it out as pure "baloney." Where do you think the funding and the lines of credit and the toxic mortgage products for these non-banks came from? From the too-big-to-fail monsters, of course. With Glass-Steagall in place, Lehman and Bear Stearns would probably still be around today, and people wouldn't have lost the good-paying jobs that have never come back.
Without another Glass-Steagall in place, it's not a matter of if the banks will fail again. It's when.
There is no expansion of Social Security in Mrs. Clinton's economic plan. It's not enough to simply "protect" our great national retirement program from Wall Street's clutches. We must make the trust fund solvent into perpetuity by scrapping the cap on FICA contributions, as well as raising the monthly benefits above the poverty level where they now stand.
Wall Street needs reins, all right. But Mrs. Clinton's plan is tying it up with a pretty little ribbon and asking us to believe it's a lasso.
Feel the Bern.
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Next, Paul Krugman (named-dropped approvingly by Hillary during the last debate, for agreeing with her on Glass-Steagall) wonders why, since the economy is "not so bad," the Fed is going to raise interest rates. As usual, he glosses right over the Democrats' willing complicity in implementing austerity.
This Panglossian refrain of "well, it could always have been worse" is getting tiresome. It's a slap in the face to the vast majority of people trying to survive in a nation with stagnating wages, record wealth inequality, and a political system where corruption has become normalized.
If we took just a tiny fraction out of the trillions we're wasting on endless war and surveillance and put it into a national jobs program and expansion of Social Security and true universal health care, the economy would recover from "not so bad" to soaring and healthy and vibrant. But there is no elite will to change things. Money rules politics, and the oligarchs have all the money.
Yes, the Republicans are pathocrats. But the purpose of the Democrats, erstwhile party of the working class and the poor, has devolved into fending off the right wing -- that is, when they're not accomodating them. It was President Obama, after all, who had the bright idea to seat the so-called Catfood Commission for "fiscal responsibility." That worked out so well that Democrats failed to go to the polls in 2010, and austerity got underway with a vengeance.
Yes, Europe didn't do stimulus and the employment situation stinks. But its countries still provide free health care and education to citizens. Their young people may not have jobs, but at least they're not drowning in student debt. Europe also don't imprison its citizens in record numbers.****
We can do better. We can fill that glass. We can elect Bernie.
The main terrorism we have to fear is the economic and ecological terrorism unleashed against the entire globe by the Neoliberal Project: governance by elected officials and unelected plutocrats with just the right ass-covering smidgen of "social responsibility."
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