Not Even a Peanut

But Obama’s too chicken to risk a gesture like that. What people are suddenly realizing is that with Obama there is a absolute disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. Is it cynicism? My own feeling is that Obama has spent so much of his life putting on the various acts necessary to get ahead in the world of powerful, rich white people that deception and self-deception have become innate and instinctive, several steps beyond crude manipulation. You could always tell when Bill Clinton was hamming it up. His face would redden slightly with the effort of contrived emotion.

Obama’s moralizing kitsch is a far smoother brand of cant. As Laura Flanders remarked here last week, he can say, as he did in his Afghan War speech at West Point, “Our union was founded in resistance to oppression,” then smile at his wife, descendant of oppressed slaves.
He has a picture of Muhammad Ali above his desk. On November 19 he wrote a tribute to Ali in USA Today praising “The Greatest” for “his unique ability to summon extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity, to navigate the storm and never lose his way.”

Did Obama feel any disconnect between this tribute to the most famous draft resister in US history and the fact that at the very moment he was approving his speech writer’s work on the piece for USA Today he was pondering drafts of a speech announcing he was widening the war in Afghanistan?

Dave Zirin, a fine sports writer, put it well in a piece he wrote called “Message to Obama – You Can’t Have Muhammad Ali”:

“Would that Muhammad Ali still had his voice. Would that Parkinson’s disease and dementia had not robbed us of his razor-sharp tongue. Maybe Muhammad Ali has been robbed of speech, but I think we can safely guess what the Champ would say in the face of Obama’s war. We can safely guess, because he said it perfectly four decades ago:

‘Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.’”

Every day now I meet sad and angry people in this progressive part of northern California, furious at themselves at having believed in Obama, at a time in those early primaries and fundraisers last year when he needed them to believe. They kept on believing through most of this year, even as Obama threw one pledge after another out the window. After the landmine sell-out and the 30,000 deployment they’ve got nothing to hold on to, though many of them will stay with Obama till the end, particularly the blacks, holding on to the straightforward assumption, as Kevin Alexander Gray put it here last Wednesday that “He‘s doing the best he can under the circumstances– those ‘circumstances’ being white people.”

Maybe the 95-year will slip away, also feeling that Obama is doing the best he can “under the circumstances” of the American Empire, leaving younger, less blithe spirits with the thought that the sourest truth about Obama is that he’s not doing the best he can “under the circumstances”, that in fact he’s really a sleazeball.

Any president has the power to do something decent once in a while, even if it’s declaring a marine sanctuary, which was Jimmy Carter’s last act as president. Bill Clinton finally offended Hollywood liberals by refusing to pardon Leonard Peltier, something he could have done at of the stroke of the same pen he used to sign the pardon for Marc Rich, the billionaire crook fugitive from justice. Hollywood is still with Obama. If he was shot tomorrow, someone – maybe even Oliver Stone — would rush to make a movie saying Obama was killed by the Pentagon because of his pledge to pull the troops out of Afghanistan two years from now.

Hopes die hard, but Obama has done a superlative job of assassinating them with all due dispatch.

Footnote: some would argue that Obama actually does have a peanut for the progressives and is preparing to toss it. The White House is reviewing its policy of barring presidents from sending letters of condolence to the families of members of the military who have committed suicide. The White House says that Obama cares about service members who kill themselves. If this goes through, given his deployments, he’ll be a busy man. Somehow this reminds me of Lenny Bruce’s joke about Pope John XX111, who had visited some scene of disaster and shed tears when he witnessed the destruction. “And the Pope cried,” Lenny would tell his audience in tones of wonder. “He cried!” Pause. “Why, any other Pope would have laughed himself sick.”
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