[Marxism] The latest from Obama's sharpest critic

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 18 09:34:42 MDT 2011

     Symptoms of the Bush-Obama Presidency
     The Saved and the Sacked
     By David Bromwich

     Is it too soon to speak of the Bush-Obama presidency?

     The record shows impressive continuities between the two 
administrations, and nowhere more than in the policy of “force 
projection” in the Arab world. With one war half-ended in Iraq, 
but another doubled in size and stretching across borders in 
Afghanistan; with an expanded program of drone killings and 
black-ops assassinations, the latter glorified in special 
ceremonies of thanksgiving (as they never were under Bush); with 
the number of prisoners at Guantanamo having decreased, but some 
now slated for permanent detention; with the repeated invocation 
of “state secrets” to protect the government from charges of war 
crimes; with the Patriot Act renewed and its most dubious 
provisions left intact -- the Bush-Obama presidency has sufficient 
self-coherence to be considered a historical entity with a life of 
its own.

     The significance of this development has been veiled in 
recent mainstream coverage of the national security state and our 
larger and smaller wars. Back in 2005-2006, when the Iraqi 
insurgency refused to die down and what had been presented as 
“sectarian feuding” began to look like a war of national 
liberation against an occupying power, the American press 
exhibited an uncommon critical acuteness. But Washington’s embrace 
of “the surge” in Iraq in 2007 took that war off the front page, 
and it -- along with the Afghan War -- has returned only 
occasionally in the four years since.

     This disappearance suited the purposes of the long 
double-presidency. Keep the wars going but normalize them; make 
them normal by not talking about them much; by not talking about 
them imply that, while “victory” is not in sight, there is 
something else, an achievement more realistic and perhaps more 
grown-up, still available to the United States in the Greater 
Middle East. This other thing is never defined but has lately been 
given a name. They call it “success.”

     Meanwhile, back at home...

     The usual turn from unsatisfying wars abroad to happier 
domestic conditions, however, no longer seems tenable. In these 
August days, Americans are rubbing their eyes, still wondering 
what has befallen us with the president’s “debt deal” -- a 
shifting of tectonic plates beneath the economy of a sort Dick 
Cheney might have dreamed of, but which Barack Obama and the House 
Republicans together brought to fruition. A redistribution of 
wealth and power more than three decades in the making has now 
been carved into the system and given the stamp of permanence.

     Only a Democratic president, and only one associated in the 
public mind (however wrongly) with the fortunes of the poor, could 
have accomplished such a reversal with such sickening completeness.

     One of the last good times that President Obama enjoyed 
before the frenzy of debt negotiations began was a chuckle he 
shared with Jeff Immelt, former CEO of General Electric and now 
head of the president’s outside panel of economic advisers.  At a 
June 13th meeting of the president’s Council on Jobs and 
Competitiveness, a questioner said he assumed that President Obama 
knew about the difficulties caused by the drawn-out process of 
securing permits for construction jobs. Obama leaned into the 
microphone and offered a breezy ad-lib: “Shovel ready wasn’t as, 
uh, shovel-ready as we expected” -- and Immelt got off a hearty 
laugh. An unguarded moment: the president of “hope and change” 
signifying his solidarity with the big managers whose worldly 
irony he had adopted.


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