June 10, 2013
THE DARK SIDE OF OBAMA'S GOVERNMENT
President Obama has always dreaded the surveillance controversy. From the moment he became president, he knew that it would fall on him. The only question was how hard.
For in order to be president, he had to make his peace with the powers-that-be in American politics. I imagine it as something like this.
Let’s go back to the last months of the George W. Bush’s first term, when the second term was assured (and how could it not be, with a clumsy candidate like John Kerry?), and the War on Terror was transforming the country, and the early 9-11 Truthers were just starting to murmur dark things about “controlled demolition,” and public security agencies were mushrooming at a rate of some twenty new ones a year and putting billions into the pockets of private security firms, and the surveillance state was being lavishly funded and permanently erected, and the housing bubble was just a rumor. Ah, those were the days for the Masters of the Universe.
Bush being headed for re-election, the Masters began to look around for their next president. They did not much like what they saw. Any Republican could be counted on to carry on the revolution, but among Republicans, real contenders for the White House were few. Besides, after the Herculean effort to get the puerile W. into office, they weren’t looking forward to another such battle. So, being pragmatic folks, the Masters of the Universe looked around on the Democratic side. After all, they breezed over their martinis, why get a Republican to do your dirty work when you can get a Democrat to do it for half the price? All they’d had to do was dangle a scandal or two in front of Bill Clinton’s startled face, and financial deregulation was done.
They discussed Hillary, but Hillary came with baggage and, more to the point, a solid political base. She would have the clout to tone down much of the Bush revolution, especially the surveillance-cum-security state, and would probably do so as the fear from 9-11 faded. (Not even the Masters expected it to last ten years.)
Their questing collective eye eventually fell on a personable young state senator in Illinois. Yes, here was their man: intelligent, articulate, ambitious, effortlessly photogenic, clean of scandal, great on the stump, married to the brightest smile in Chicago and father of two cute daughters – rock-of-the-family types who could be counted on to play soccer and pipe down on cue.
So the Masters of the Universe chose the more politically palatable among themselves – guys who know how the world works but like to make sure that everyone has at least a PopTart to eat every day – and they sat down to dinner with the young senator. After the T-bones had been eaten and the cigars lit and the elegant back room in the restaurant filled with smoke – just for that touch of realism – they said to Obama, “Senator, how would you like to be president? We can make it happen.”
And Obama, who is no fool, said, “Sounds great – but there’s always a catch to these things. What is it?”
The Masters replied – and you’ve got to admire their candor – “The catch is this: the financial, military and security policy is ours. To put it bluntly, the whole thrust of Bush-era policy stays intact. Bases continue to multiply abroad, Israel is number one, the surveillance state moves ahead.”
“But I’m already on record against Iraq.”
“Well, you’ll have to finesse it: Iraq stays. As does Afghanistan – and even after the war ends, we keep a dozen or so big bases there.”
“I don’t know….”
“Tell you what, Senator: you can run against Iraq in the campaign. But end of the day, the army stays.”
“Well, all right – that’s politics. Can I do a health-care thing?”
“No problem – as long as it stays within the confines of health and insurance corporations.”
“What about a campaign organization, funding….?”
“Money, staffers, strategists – we got all that worked out,” added another Master.
And Barack Obama saw himself walking through the door of the Oval Office, and he grinned and said, “Great. Let’s go!”
Well, so much for my theory on the election of Mr. Obama.
The point is that Barack Obama signed on the dotted line with the Masters of the Universe and has since then hoped desperately that nothing too Bush-like would blow up in his face. And you have to hand it to him. He handled the Iraq thing masterfully, calling the Iraqi government’s defenestration of America the fulfilment of a campaign pledge. And he has said that American bases will stay in Afghanistan after the 2011 deadline – or was that 2014? – without adding a new wrinkle to the presidential brow.
But now the surveillance matter has finally exploded in his face, and if Obama is miffed that the hue and cry has started now, with a few press revelations, you can hardly blame him. Everybody has known since midway through W’s administration that those hard-eyed security boys were looking at and listening to whomever they pleased. Or what does everyone think that new, two-billion-dollar super-computer center out in Salt Lake City is really doing – calculating a formula for world peace?
Despite everything, I like Barack Obama. He is the most decent, urbane, articulate man since JFK to occupy the White House. And I cannot believe that he would give rein to the security state and a lot of military excesses unless he were having his arm twisted up very hard and high behind his back. There is simply no connection between the man who taught constitutional law and protested the Iraq War, and the man who now sounds like Richard Nixon trying to defend the Department of Justice looking at reporters’ phone records.
Clearly, there is a dark side to the Obama presidency. He is compelled to do things he does not like, and the people in the shadows doing the compelling have a very clear military and security agenda. There is simply no other explanation for Obama’s policy.