Friday, April 29, 2016

Obama's Bruised Ego Trip

Barack Obama actually seems to be jealous of Bernie Sanders. What cool, suave president wouldn't feel a bit miffed when his rock star status is suddenly usurped by a democratic socialist senator two decades his senior?  No matter that Obama's corporate party has now apparently successfully quashed the Sanders candidacy in order for the Clinton succession to proceed apace. Barack Obama is acting like a sore winner.

It started with a New York Times magazine puff piece of a vehicle through which Obama expresses his disappointment with all the ungrateful folks out there in America who are not sufficiently appreciative of the booming economy he has wrought. And that ingratitude, he says, is not the fault of any of his craptastic policies rewarding Wall Street and punishing Main Street. He magnanimously theorizes that the ingratitude is the result of his team's insufficient bragging in the wake of each and every one of their miraculous  accomplishments. He didn't toot his own horn loudly enough. Misplaced modesty was his enemy, even with the establishment of his own in-house marketing and propaganda shop.

Presidential Style: The Legacy Tour Collection
“We were moving so fast early on that we couldn’t take victory laps. We couldn’t explain everything we were doing. I mean, one day we’re saving the banks; the next day we’re saving the auto industry; the next day we’re trying to see whether we can have some impact on the housing market," he whined to Wall Street pitchman Andrew Ross Sorkin -- who made sure to tell us in the opening paragraphs that he got a coveted ride on Air Force One and several Oval Office invites in exchange for the favorable myth-making. Even more dramatically West-Wingish was the revelation that  the Secret Service was pissed off because  the blooming Obama-Sorkin bromance was interfering with the official schedule.

Jogging Our Memories: Tales of a Lonely Lapper

Obama -- described by Sorkin as "justifiably exasperated" by the vast public ignorance of his awesomeness -- brought down the deficit, fer cryin out loud! The unemployment rate went down with the creation of millions of new low-wage, part-time, temporary service sector jobs. He appointed the Cat Food Commission to make it appear that the rich would "share the sacrifice" with the poor. He gave us nationalized Romneycare, leading to some medical coverage for a small but ethically digestible number of  previously uninsured people.

The Times piece is only the opening salvo in the endless Obama Legacy Tour. The president has been actively lobbying friendly reporters to help him put himself back on center stage, from which he has been unceremoniously nudged stage-right by the presidential horse race. Still, it will be hard for the sloppy seconds to outdo Sorkin, whose journalistic prowess is so majestic that he actually broke through the Obama blood-brain barrier like a mind-reading shunt.
 Obama is animated by a sense that, looking at the world around him, the U.S. economy is in much better shape than the public appreciates, especially when measured against the depths of the financial crisis and the possibility — now rarely even considered — that things could have been much, much worse.
So pay no attention to your own senses. If an "animated" Obama senses from afar that your life is better than you think it is, then it naturally follows that you are naught but an inconsiderate inanimate object. Or, as Obama put it to Sorkin, we are "disoriented." And since we don't know our asses from a hole in the wall, it is perhaps understandable that we fail to sufficiently appreciate his "delicate balancing act."

Obama also took the obligatory jab at Bernie Sanders, whom he accused of speaking of the economy as though it were a mere "abstraction." Although the Sanders plan has only been to break up the largest banks, which own dangerously consolidated assets larger than the GDPs of most countries, Obama falsely accused him of wanting to destroy the entire economy.
But there is no doubt that the financial system is substantially more stable,” he said. “It is true that we have not dismantled the financial system, and in that sense, Bernie Sanders’s critique is correct” — a reference to the Vermont senator and presidential aspirant who regularly calls to break up America’s biggest banks. “But one of the things that I’ve consistently tried to remind myself during the course of my presidency is that the economy is not an abstraction. It’s not something that you can just redesign and break up and put back together again without consequences.
Then again, if you admit that our "economy" has been stealthily replaced by a plutonomy serving the interests only of the very wealthiest, Obama was probably right in acknowledging that Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and the rapacious global corporate and military plunder they enable are just about all that's propping Exceptional America up these days. There would be consequences of a breakup, which after a little initial upheaval, would probably result in a more equitable democratic system. 

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to win back some of the youth vote usurped by Sanders. The most secretive administration in history, led by a president who has been described by James Risen as "the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation," suddenly reached out this week to a group of student journalists visiting the White House.

But rather than urging them to afflict the comfortable and demand accountability from government officials, he admonished them to tell their peers to simply vote for more politicians like him (and presumably, Hillary.)

Times White House correspondent Julie Hirschfeld Davis was dutifully awed by and envious of Obama's awesome engaging with mere student reporters, given that the professional press corps are so into "access" and given that they are so rarely given it.

So Davis stuck with the stenographic semantic playbook of the Legacy Tour:
But it was a student who asked about how to restore Americans’ faith in democracy who provoked the most animated (h/t Andrew Ross Sorkin) response from the president, a former community organizer who campaigned on “hope and change” and has recently lamented his inability to change politics for the better.
After a long discourse on what is broken in politics — gerrymandered districts, a flood of undisclosed campaign contributions and negative advertisements — Mr. Obama cited the low turnout numbers in American elections, especially by young people.
“You can’t just complain; you’ve got to vote,” Mr. Obama said. “Don’t let people tell you that what you do doesn’t matter. Don’t give away your power.
Obama ignored the huge, record turnouts at the polls by young Bernie Sanders supporters, both at his campaign rallies and at independent-friendly caucuses and primaries. So I assume that the president's subliminal message to his audience is to resist joining the Bernie Or Bust campaign, or heaven forfend, aid a resurgence of the Occupy movement which was the fuel for the Bernie phenomenon in the first place. Obama wouldn't want to have to call out the troops again so late in his career. It took forever to purge those pepper-spraying cop pics from the Internet.

Don't complain, don't agitate, don't speak out, don't investigate. Just use all your power sparingly: vote. Preferably for Hillary Clinton. And who knows? Maybe a few of you lucky budding journalists will even get the chance to be embedded in one of her inevitable wars. 


Nasreen Iqbal said...

This is a fantastic piece with great analysis. Thank you!

Jay–Ottawa said...

Andrew Ross Sorkin. Now there's a case. One of the most up-and-coming––Wait! He's already arrived––young journalists covering (up) the shenanigans between Wall Street and the NY Times. And now even unto the White House. Obama picked the right man to glorify himself while further degrading the journalistic profession.

Matt Taibbi took a hard look at Sorkin a few years back. Here's the link.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen ...
This is a terrific post.. hope you work it in to a Times comment, or 2 or 3....relevant to so many things.

Re Obama that we must all vote, regardless---I was reminded of a 2014 Krugman blog ....same snow job to flatter the voters, keep the illusion of democracy, keep voters relatively acquiescent to the status quo money flow.

Krugman blog: Class, Oligarchy, and the Limits of Cynicism
April 21, 2014

“A recent paper Gilens and Page is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so. ...they look at a number of issues over 30+ years where polling data identifies policy preferences, which can be compared with elite and interest-group preferences. And what they find is that politicians don’t seem to care very much about what the public thinks: when elite preferences and popular preferences are different, the elite almost always wins.

This is an important insight — and it gains special force these days, when the elite’s views ... have been systematically wrong, on issues from invading Iraq to giving deficits a higher priority than jobs.

(Then comes the BUT—DON'T GO TOO FAR!!)

“But there is a danger here of going too far, and imagining that electoral politics is irrelevant. Why bother getting involved in campaigns, when the oligarchy rules whichever party is in power?”

“So it’s worth pointing out it does make a difference. Yes, Democrats pay a lot of attention to plutocrats, and even make a point of inviting Patrimonial Capitalism

But it’s quite wrong to say that the parties’ behavior in office is the same. As Floyd Norris points out, Obama has in fact significantly raised taxes on very high incomes, largely through special surcharges included in the Affordable Care Act; and what the Act does with the extra revenue is expand Medicaid and provide subsidies on the exchanges, both means-tested programs whose beneficiaries tend to be mainly lower-income adults.”


“The net effect will be significant losses for the super-elite — not crippling losses, to be sure, and hardly anything that will affect their elite status — and major gains to tens of millions of less fortunate Americans.
If you’re waiting for a revolution, or even a new New Deal, this may seem disappointing. But it matters a lot all the same.”

“You can’t just complain; you’ve got to vote,” Mr. Obama said. “Don’t let people tell you that what you do doesn’t matter. Don’t give away your power.”

(He leaves out that we are forced to vote for the nominees and platforms the elites set up for us. Our ‘power’ is choosing the lesser of 2 evils.)

Obama from the Times magazine:
“.... the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

(Well, why didn’t they communicate???)

Pearl said...

CNN is running a series about past presidents: how they got into power, what they did in office, etc. Looking back they look stupider than ever, dangerous as ever as it will be for the present choices. Though how to explain Trump will be a challenge.

They also are able to dig up more dirt several years after the fact about people like Reagan, etc. and one wonders why they did not inform us then of what they knew. The more things change the more they remain the same and the media continues to choose the pathways to ignorance. At least as long as the internet is allowed to operate now, facts may sneak out and perhaps will have an easier time for exposure after all the shenanigans we are living through.
I can dream can't I?

annenigma said...

The reason Obama didn't communicate more effectively, failed to take victory laps, and didn't toot his own horn loudly enough about all his alleged accomplishments is because he was too busy playing GOLF, picking assassination targets from the KILL LIST, strong arming Congressmen to pass ACA and fast track the TPP, and of course flying around fundrai$ing and $chmoozing with the rich and famous for his Presidential Library and Shrine to Self.

We little folks should have given ourselves the name of a sports team so we could get his attention about how we've been performing. If Obama was the manager of our sports team, he'd have been fired for incompetence or gross neglect for putting all his efforts into saving the private bank, private car company, private health insurance, and private weapons manufacturing teams, but not our public team.

Kate Flannery said...

When I read the article in the NY Times, I thought my head would explode. There's only so much outrage and disgust I can handle sometimes. But thanks to Karen, I'm able to get through it and not feel so alone in my frustration. You always put into words - with such perfect eloquence and incisiveness - the heart (or lack thereof as the case may be), the hypocrisy, the audacity, the mendacity - of our political moment and our so-called "leaders." Thank you for your writing. My husband and I take our poison with the Times and other MSM sources and then the antidote here.

Of additional, or complementary note - since the despicable WHCD thing is tonight, the Times and some others have written pieces on our hysterical president. I read a thing on the Atlantic - where the journalist had an opportunity some time in the past to remark to the great Obama what amazing comic timing he has - Obama's response was "I know." Someone save me. The man's deluded self-regard reaches the stratosphere.

Cirze said...


I could say more about your brilliance.

And will from time to time as it's always in evidence here.

But you are the Queen of Understatement, baby.

No one comes close in the literary or political commentary world.

Rock on!

He gave us nationalized Romneycare, leading to some medical coverage for a small but ethically digestible number of previously uninsured people.

Ste-vo said...

Well, based on the New York Times assessment of his performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner, he does not have a bruised ego! Stellar performance, just Stellar. I had it on in the background, but was not paying attention. There was an article in yesterday's edition about the man writing the jokes, which I am unable to find. I did not read it. I did pay more attention to Larry Witmore's evisceration of all things and he was not popular. I loved it. Two takes:

IMHO, Witmore deserves an Oscar, or Emmy or Pulitzer or whatever the fuck they give. I may even stay up late some night to watch him on real TV!

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thanks for the links to the WHCD. The general impression is that Obama was the funiest guy in the room, THE comedian, a natural. Too bad, when he was young, he got sidetracked into politics, which he's not so good at, and missed his true calling.

Jay–Ottawa said...

A local politician in Seattle is begging Bernie Sanders to continue running for president through November, but as a third party candidate, maybe for the Greens who are already on the ballot in just about all of the fifty states. Such an outside-the-beltway party may not win in this election cycle but it will raise a flag around which many anti-establishment voters, left as well as right, may gravitate, during campaigns and between campaigns, eventually building into a majority, or at least a victorious plurality.

Really, what does Bernie have to lose at this point by going third party? He's entered his golden years and is ready to bow out, has a history free of scandal and has earned enough credits to become the father figure for the latest iteration of a new New Left. After November he can turn over his following to a younger dynamo from the left, hopefully someone with a sound domestic policy and a non-criminal foreign policy. To repeat, what's he got to lose? According to the calculations of that socialist city councilor in Seattle, Bernie stands a good chance of winning over several millions of disaffected voters who will become the core of something much bigger.

This call from the True Left may prove to be a test of Bernie's sincerity, in case you had any doubts. If he remains deaf to it, people will have every right to suspect that, despite all appearances, he was, is, and forever will be content as a tool in the hands of the Democratic establishment.

So, here's an honorable out, Senator Sanders, if you're interested: Yes, yes, Go Bernie, please do.

Anonymous said...

California Democratic caucuses for national convention delegates were held in all 53 districts yesterday. Sanders and Clinton caucuses were held at the same time but in different locations. One woman voter at my caucus went from candidate to candidate asking the same question: "If Bernie doesn't get the nomination, who will you vote for?" When I said "Never Hillary", she dramatically scratched my name off her ballot and said "There isn't ONE female here that I can vote for!"

Voters had the option of casting their ballots and leaving, or waiting for the speeches an hour and a half after the site opened. Candidates had 30 seconds to speak. During my half minute, same woman interrupted me as soon as I said I was "Bernie or Bust" to ask "Can you explain what you mean by Bernie or Bust?" I had no time to explain and, of course, she already knew what it meant -- she was so disgustingly smug and pleased with herself.

Some of the candidates were unabashedly "Bernie or Bust". Others were more cautious, having heard that the Democratic Party was going to weed out "Bernie or Bust" people.

-- Reluctant Democrat

falken751 said...

Nuclear War Risks

"In such a climate of heightening tensions, the law of averages tells us that if something can go amiss it will, and there is presently too little shared trust to ensure that faulty launch warnings or some similar technical or human errors will not lead to irrevocable counter-responses, ending civilization on Earth as we know it.

Statesmanship and common sense dictate that the United States and Russia seek ways to engage with one another in permanent rather than episodic manner, and that we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and mutual respect.

That is the essence of foreign policy “realism” – the judicious use of American power – which has been injected into the ongoing presidential campaign as a guiding principle by Republican candidate Donald Trump. He has no proprietary rights over it, and it would be a good thing if congressional candidates gave it a test drive as well because it is the only approach to international affairs that can save us from needless confrontation and risk of nuclear war, which is where we find ourselves today.

Only when this critical threat has been resolved can we move on to the unquestionable benefits of constructive programs of cooperation between Russia and the United States in peace-keeping and support for political processes in the world’s hot spots, in investment and trade, in culture and education, in sports, in science and technology, and in the many other forms of interaction at the level of ordinary citizens which characterized these relations in happier times."