“Obama may do things you progressives find distasteful, but at least marvel at how thoughtful and torn up he is about it all…”

With growing domestic political difficulties – the continued fall-out from Benghazi, the IRS caught targeting political opponents, the increased invocation of the 1917 Espionage Act against troublesome journalists, to name but three issues – US President Barack Obama is probably looking forward to his short June break at Lough Erne.  In the meantime, though, take the time to read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent analysis of Obama’s recent ‘war on terror’ speech.  From Glenn Greenwald’s post

But whatever else is true, what should be beyond dispute at this point is that Obama’s speeches have very little to do with Obama’s actions, except to the extent that they often signal what he intends not to do. How many times does Obama have to deliver a speech embracing a set of values and polices, only to watch as he then proceeds to do the opposite, before one ceases to view his public proclamations as predictive of his future choices? Speeches, especially presidential ones, can be significant unto themselves in shaping public perceptions and setting the terms of the debate, so Obama’s explicit discussion of the “ultimate” ending of the war on terror can be reasonably viewed as positive.

But it signals nothing about what he actually will do. I’m genuinely amazed that there are still smart people who treat these speeches as though they do. As Esquire’s Tom Junod put it after the speech: “if the Lethal Presidency reminds us of anything, it’s that we should be a long way from judging this president on his rhetoric or his portrayal of himself as a moral actor.” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf added that Obama “has a long record of broken promises and misleading rhetoric on civil liberties, and it would be naive to assume that he’ll follow through on everything he said on Thursday.”

What Obama has specialized in from the beginning of his presidency is putting pretty packaging on ugly and discredited policies. The cosmopolitan, intellectualized flavor of his advocacy makes coastal elites and blue state progressives instinctively confident in the Goodness of whatever he’s selling, much as George W. Bush’s swaggering, evangelical cowboy routine did for red state conservatives. The CIA presciently recognized this as a valuable asset back in 2008 when they correctly predicted that Obama’s election would stem the tide of growing antiwar sentiment in western Europe by becoming the new, more attractive face of war, thereby converting hordes of his admirers from war opponents into war supporters. This dynamic has repeated itself over and over in other contexts, and has indeed been of great value to the guardians of the status quo in placating growing public discontent about their economic insecurity and increasingly unequal distribution of power and wealth. However bad things might be, we at least have a benevolent, kind-hearted and very thoughtful leader doing everything he can to fix it.

The clear purpose of Obama’s speech was to comfort progressives who are growing progressively more uncomfortable with his extreme secrecy, wars on press freedom, seemingly endless militarism and the like. For the most part, their discomfort is far more about the image being created of the politician they believed was unique and even transcendent than it is any substantive opposition to his policies. No progressive wants to believe that they placed such great trust and adoration in a political figure who is now being depicted as some sort of warped progeny of Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney. That creates internal discomfort and even shame. This speech was designed to allow progressives once again to see Barack Obama as they have always wanted to see him, his policies notwithstanding: as a deeply thoughtful, moral, complex leader who is doing his level best, despite often insurmountable obstacles, to bring about all those Good Things that progressives thought they would be getting when they empowered him.

Read the whole thing.

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  • Ruarai

    We need a new rule on this site banning copy, cut and paste posting.

    If you’ve no independent commentary to add, let alone analysis, it does a disservice the site’s brand.

    If that’s too much to ask, and “copy, cut, paste” is as good as it gets, then at least we might expect to see more than one source borrowed from.

  • Carrickmoreman

    All of those “scandals” are pretty much nothingburgers. The real “scandals” are what is legal, or stuck in a legal haze. Luckily for Obama, nobody cares about any of them except for extreme partisans.

  • tacapall

    Is Obama any different than John Kerry or even David Cameron, politician no longer rule for the people they are in the pockets of global corporations who couldn’t give two hoots about human life or integrity. The so called global war on terrorism is more about oil and gas lines and the accumulation of wealth, power and global governance.

    But anyway he is not shy when it comes to mouthing off to Britain when its people start to decide for themselves.

    “Obama warns Britain that leaving the EU would be an isolationist step”


  • pauluk

    I’ve got to be honest, I have never heard of Glenn Greenwald. But he’s absolutely right: Obama is a shameless hypocrite.

  • 6crealist


    what proportion of readers’ comments under the average Greenwald piece are deleted by the Grauniad’s censors?

  • Pete Baker

    “All of those “scandals” are pretty much nothingburgers”


    By themselves they might not be fatal blows to Obama’s presidency, but they are far from being “nothingburgers”.


    I have no idea. But then, we all have our trolls…

  • Mick Fealty


    Let me worry about the reputation of the site. If we weren’t willing to risk it from time to time, we would have no reputation for independence of mind worth talking about…

    As for your definition of blogging, perhaps you would care to apply it to my own piece on Cillian McGrattan’s piece on Eamonn’s site.


    You looking another turn on the subs bench?

  • Ruarai

    As for your definition of blogging, perhaps you would care to apply it to my own piece on Cillian McGrattan’s piece on Eamonn’s site.

    Can you send me the link?

    It’s not a hard and fast definition. Many of the best boggers around will at times post other material and simply let it breathe or trigger a conversation – but they’ve earned the right to do that by producing a steady stream of original commentary and/or analysis.

    If all we do is post favourite links, etc, then that’s just facebook-level activity.

    Regarding reputation management: with any joint effort comes joint responsibility, formal or informal, from all stakeholders so it’s fair game and fair comment to flag up threats and opportunities vis-a-vis the health of a venture.

    This one is in good health, let’s keep it so.

  • Mick Fealty


    Pete’s been blogging on Slugger for nearly 8 out its nearly 11 years. He has a terse style that winds some people up. But he’s also very effective at digging up apt and relevant information often way ahead of the press corps.

    And he’s part of the team.

  • Ruarai

    Mick, I agree with all of that.

    The soft rule I’m suggested wouldn’t negatively impact any of that activity – it might even enhance it.

    I’ll leave it at that.