Hopeless: Barack Obama & the Politics of Illusion

Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, editors. Oakland CA: AK Press 2012

Most of the right-wing anti-Obama drivel is of the nature of “secret Muslim”, “undercover Marxist” variety. Nothing for which attention is deserved. But if one wishes for an honest substantive critique of the hopester-in-chief the best there is of recent publication is “Hopeless”. The editors St. Clair and Frank are both connected with Counterpunch, a muckraking newsletter with a radical ‘tude.

The consistent theme of Hopeless shares nothing with the Obama-is-a-Leftie rant but quite the opposite. The contributors are inclined to view Obama as the consummate politician beholden to Wall Street not Marx.

If your liberal friends want to know why you won’t vote for Obama this book will provide ready answers:

— “Yet by and large, the mainstream environmental movement muzzled itself while the Obama administration stocked the Interior Department with corporate lawyers, extraction-minded bureaucrats and Clinton-era retreads.” p.59

— “President Obama may lack the nerve to stare down Liz Cheney or Bibi Netanyahu but no one can deny that our commander in chief had the guts to take on a child soldier. In October of 2010 a military commission in Guantanamo convicted Omar Khadr a Canadian captured outside Kabul in 2002 when he was just 15 years old.” The subsequent guilty verdict was based on Omar’s confession under torture. He is serving his sentence in solitary confinement. pp. 119-125

— “Yet Obama has only done what politicians do: He has delivered up his constituency to his campaign backers __ the same Wall Street donors who back the Republicans. What’s the point of having a constituency, after all, if you can’t sell it?” p. 141

— Realizing that Obama is a libertarian explains a great deal: why, for instance, in the debate over Obamacare, the public option was dispensable window dressing while the private option was never in question. It explains Obama’s readiness to let Wall Street call the shots and his attacks on business regulations. It explains why Obama is so eager to get the most shameless corporate types into his administration, and why, on matters of war and trade and other issues of immediate concern to capitalists, he can’t do enough for them ___ to the detriment of his core constituencies.” p. 167

—“Meanwhile, the Obama administration has decided to make Manning’s pre-trial existence as torturous as possible, holding him in solitary confinement 23 hours a day since his arrest. . .” treatment described by the Psychologists for Social Responsibility as cruel and unusual and a violation of the law. p. 174

—“As firemen and cops are being fired across America, as teachers are being told they must accept austerity measures ___ the country is broke, after all ___ as public radio and television . . . lay on the chopping block, as  more homeless sprawl and tent cities spring up . . . the US has entered another costly war . . .” No Congressional resolution, no UN sanction, no public discussion and the Tomahawk missiles were launched. p. 177

—“Obama has achieved what Bush could not. . . . Obama is literally saving the nuclear weapons complex” p. 210

—“As far as organized labor is concerned, Obama has been a washout.” p. 217

—“On May 27, 2011, President Obama, over widespread bipartisan objections, approved a Congressional 4-year extension of the controversial parts of the PATRIOT ACT that were set to expire.” Thus allowing warrantless searches, secret surveillance and unsupervised wiretapping. p. 243

Is Obama a liberal? If George W Bush was, yes. Is Obama a peacemaker? If Dick Cheney was, yes. Is Obama pro-labor? If Scott Walker is, yes. Barack Obama is at best a 21st century Grover Cleveland whose only claim to our votes is that he may be less crazy, and less honest, than the other guys.


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