“We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American
security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.”
Ex-President George W. Bush reprimanding President Trump
“What we can’t have is the same old politics of division…
The world counts on America having its act together.
The world is looking to us as an example.
The world asks what our values and ideals are and are we living up to our creed.”
Ex-President Barack Obama calling out President Trump
Call it the silly season filled with hypocrisy almost as scary and spooky as the cavalcade of scary, spooky costume-clad kids at Halloween. Behold two ex-presidents, who in their heydays made decisions and policies in line with those of any garden variety war criminal. On the one hand, President Bush who talked about transforming the U.S. with compassionate conservatism wound up setting the world on fire. Followed eight years later by Mr. Hope and Change with his enormously successful campaign pronouncements— the end of history and a newly reconstituted Morning in America. He one-upped his predecessor — more war, more show trials (think Chelsea Manning and other brave whistleblowers), more goodies to his best friends, the criminogenic banksters, more cuts to vital services for the nation’s needy and along the way managed to snag a Nobel “Peace” Prize. Their labors have gifted them with luxurious retirement scenarios—Bush holed up in his art studio, Obama jetting from one rich man’s paradise to another (think Richard Branson and his fellow oligarchs). But that wasn’t good enough. Removed from the glare of headlines and none too happy about it, both ex-presidents looked to grab their 15 minutes of fame (front page NY Times above the fold). In well-rehearsed narratives with remarkable consistency, they aimed their rhetorical knives at our latest sorry example of a U.S. commander in chief. Two pots calling the kettle black.
Look if you dare at the spectacle of George W. Bush, a president whose resume is stained with the blood of half a million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of others across the greater Middle East, throwing stones from his glass house. During his remarkably murderous tenure, helped by a band of neoliberal desperados (think Rumsfeld, Chaney, Wolfowitz et al), he launched the twenty-first century version of America’s endless war on terror, sent up the first assassination drones to pulverize old women collecting firewood, branded three sovereign nations, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, an “axis of evil,” tortured prisoners captured in illegal wars in global “black sites” and at Guantanamo, and lit the match for the global fire storm that his successor and partner in crime, Obama, managed to build into a towering inferno. Bush is the miscreant that created his self-described “chaos and despair of distant places” that, sixteen years later amidst an escalating global misery index, he laid at the door of the newest American war criminal, President Donald Trump. Only revisionist historians, partners in crime and a mainstream media complicit in the Bush criminal enterprise could blithely ignore the lies and subterfuge that destroyed both Iraq and Afghanistan, the mismanagement that turned a natural disaster —Katrina—into a national disgrace, the laissez-faire economic policies and massive giveaways to Bush wealthy donors that imploded in 2008 into a financial holocaust costing 10 million Americans their homes and devastating the financial prospects of millions more.
Then Obama happened. A Chicago politician in the tradition of the Daley crime family (Richard Daley Sr., mayor of Chicago presiding over the shocking carnage on the streets outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968), Obama took the helm of the ship of state and managed to make a bloody situation worse. Not that the depredations of his administration, which were many and mighty, slowed him down when it came to rebuking the present administration. Despite fashioning his complaints into a modern morality play, the chiding rings hollow against the backdrop of the myriad crimes and “lapses in judgment,” of his own administration. How about the bloody process of turning a thriving African country into a wasteland unfit for human habitation at the behest of the three screaming meemies in his administration —his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, his foreign policy advisor, Samantha Powell and the blood-thirsty queen of the triumvirate, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. It happened in 2011, the country was Libya and the devastation proceeded minus constitutional limits on Executive branch powers — “The Congress shall have Power to…. declare War… (Constitution, article 1, sec. 8) and minus the 1973 War Powers Act which allows the President to send U.S. combat troops into battle or into areas where ”imminent” hostilities are likely, for only 60 days without either a declaration of war by Congress or a specific Congressional mandate. Shortly after destroying Libya — using a Vietnam meme — in order to save it, Syria happened. Only howls of disapproval from the democratic mafia in Congress echoing their constituents back home shut the door on the renewed demands of the “divas of destruction” to reprise the Libyan hijinks in Syria. Never fear there were other countries to decimate and Obama pivoted to the war his Saudi bros were conducting in Yemen. With the help of the U.S. goliath, 80% of Yemen’s citizens are in dire physical condition “…a step away from famine.” (Human Rights Watch) or dying (World Health Organization) at a faster rate than in any other country in the world, not to mention the site of the “worst cholera outbreak in the world.” Estimates are that the war Obama breathed life into and Trump doubled down on and handed over to his equally bloodthirsty generals has now sickened one million Yemenis.
Obama may be right about one thing: The world [may have been] asking what our values and ideals are and are we living up to our creed.” What he got wrong is that since his administration most of the world considers that question asked and answered.
Are we agreed that neither ex-President is standing on a high enough mountain of morality to have standing to criticize the newest entry into the crappiest president of the twenty-first century sweepstakes? To be sure Obama’s lofty pronouncements on the 45th president ring more hollow than the equally banal porridge Bush is dishing out. Based on the majority of Americans’ lack of expectations for the Trump administration (as of this writing, only 35% think his administration is doing a bang-up job) Obama’s pettifogging critique is like the sound of one hand clapping.
Although we’ve trolled through the swampy underbelly of the “accomplishments” of the Obama administration in previous articles, progressives may need another dose of reality to keep them from catching the democratic nostalgia flu in this grimmest of times. Obama’s slick marketing campaign in 2008 (which won Advertising Age’s marketer of the year award) was the defining moment of his initial march to the White Hose. Once there, he started creating jobs, he assured us, 11 million in eight years, he boasted. The fly in the ointment? 95% of them, according to two world-renowned economists, were minimum wage, temporary, part-time, “gig” or contractual minus pensions, health benefits, sick leave and vacation time. Obama’s economic “recovery” had one set of beneficiaries —financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Citibank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo — whose economic prospects brightened as the peoples’ soured. These too-big-to-fail institutions were transformed into multi-billion dollar behemoths, larger and more powerful than before they tanked the economy. Obama said it best when addressing the CEOs of the major banks “I’m the only thing that stands between you and the pitchforks” and proceeded to prove it by shelling out over ten trillion dollars from the U.S. treasury to his golfing buddies. They, in return, contributed more to Obama’s 2012 campaign than to the customary recipient of their largesse, the Republican candidate (in this case Romney). To put a little more gravy on their grits, Obama extended George W’s munificent tax cuts for another ten years. What did working and middle class taxpayers get? Eleven million of them wound up “under water,” their homes worth less than their mortgages. To pay for all the goodies handed out to the 1%, more Americans went to bed hungry every night (billions in cuts to the Food Stamp program in the interest of bipartisanship) and millions of poor Americans died or got sicker as their Medicaid coverage went from skimpy to skimpier.
In the legacy-killing department, let us not forget the Obama deportation machine that caught over 2½ million people in its jaws — more than the combined total of all twentieth century presidents. Or his Department of Justice’s wild and wooly use of the 1917 Espionage Act to charge seven whistleblowers with espionage. Considering that only ten people have ever been charged with espionage since 1917, Obama will be front and center on the presidential wall of shame in that department. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His crowning achievement, a gift that will keep on giving, was the mostly overlooked piece of legislation he shepherded through Congress. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, contained a provision (section 1021) providing for indefinite military detention without charge or trial for those who piss off the man in charge. No proof required. Presidents come and go, but laws are immutable, until they’re repealed. Sections 1021 is now at the behest of President Trump. What was the almighty Obama thinking?
Unfortunately, neither Obama nor Bush has varied much from the script used by virtually all past U.S. presidents upon leaving the White House. An outpouring of the usual empire-glorifying truisms accompanied by a staccato of chest-beating helped along by a mainstream media desperate to keep profits up by relying on Americans’ habit of reimagining history not as it was but as they wish it to be. What emerges is an edifice built on delusion and make believe. President Bush past avatar of everything wrong with America, a failing foreign policy, an unraveling economic system, negligible responses to Americans in dire need of assistance is resurrected into the persona of wise old statesman trying to set America on the path of righteousness. Obama, the canny youngish symbol of a now thoroughly debunked “hope and change” administration takes time out from his busy schedule of $400,000 speeches to the financial institutions he saved with taxpayer dollars to deliver one of his oratorical gems full of “sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Bush and Obama sitting astride a country where make-believe is the smartest thing to believe in, where $1,000 I-phones hide dreary realities, and sound bites replace sound recipes for the way forward. The axis of hypocrisy has only two living members but there’s no shortage of new candidates. Soon it will be standing room only.
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