Obama supporters have long insisted that The Man simply knows things most of us don’t. As president, he’s got access to the facts and figures. He’s looking further, playing sixth-dimensional chess while most of us can barely get our minds around checkers.
They just might be right. If there’s one thing this phony debt ceiling crisis proves, it’s that Barack Obama really is smarter than most of us – especially millions who voted him into office.
What is ‘smartness’?
Before we examine that, we’ll need a working definition of “smartness.” Let’s call it the ability to get things done your way in a complex world, a world where lots of other people would rather see them done some other way. By that yardstick, who is smarter? Who’s getting what he wants, and who’s getting left out?
Look at the current trumped-up crisis over the federal debt ceiling. Debt ceilings have been raised scores of times in recent years, 14 times under the Bush-Cheney administration alone. This time is an emergency only because Wall Street banksters, corporate media and the “good cops” of the Democratic Party along with the “bad cops” of the Republican Party agree to say it is.
The government and the economy then, will run out of money unless Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are savagely cut so that “job-creating” speculators and banksters can receive another round of tax cuts. Obama supporters whine and wring their hands in impotent fury, pointedly threatening a loss of enthusiasm for his 2012 re-election campaign. But their good cop president and his party leaders are all about pre-emptive compromise, meeting the bad cop Republicans half, three-quarters or nine-tenths of the way to a goal that moves further rightward every hour.
The president’s unwillingness to stand with the Democratic Party’s electoral base, the nation’s poor and working people, is for many Obama supporters utterly inexplicable. But what if President Barack Obama never intended to fight for jobs or justice? What if he believes the nonsense about Wall Street being “job creators” instead of economic vampires? What if Barack Obama is a Reagan Democrat in every meaningful way, right down to a fanatical belief in trickle-down economics?
What if the president counts on corporate media and his army of careerists and sycophants to shut down and cover up cracks in the Obama consensus through which reality might leak? What if Obama is not weak, or timid, or vacillating or waiting for us to “make him do it”? What if what we’ve seen is all there is, all there ever was?
The historic pattern of post-1960s Democratic candidates has been to come in on the high tide of public disgust at Republican rule, but to push the pro-corporate agenda further than would be allowable under Republicans.
Jimmy Carter followed the disastrous administrations of Nixon and Ford. Nixon killed at least a million in Vietnam and Cambodia, committed numerous crimes, and after narrowly escaping impeachment was pardoned by President Gerald Ford, who – like Barack Obama – preferred to look ahead rather than at crimes past. Carter declared Middle Eastern oil a vital U.S. interest worth going to war over, signing secret treaties beginning the building of U.S. super-bases, so-called “military cities,” which were eventually used in the first Gulf War.
Bill Clinton was swept into office in 1992 after twelve years of Reagan and Bush misrule. Like Carter before him and Obama after, he rolled up criminal investigations of Reagan-Bush figures – including Robert Gates, who would be Secretary of Defense under Bush 2 and Obama. Clinton squashed the peace dividend and rounded up enough Democratic votes to go along with a solid Republican vote that passed NAFTA – which failed to make it through the Congress three times under Bush 1.
All of these achievements of the Carter and Clinton-Gore administrations were major victories for corporate power that could not have been accomplished under Republicans without massive protest and dislocation. Only Democrats can double down on and enact Republican policies by disarming and disbanding opposition to those policies.
Still don’t believe it? When Bush 2 couldn’t even pass his own bankster bailout in September 2008, he called Obama in to round up a sufficient number of Democratic votes – including votes in the Congressional Black Caucus – to pass the Bush bailout. Upon becoming president, Obama quintupled down on the $3 trillion Bush bankster bailout with a further $16 trillion – the largest transfer of public wealth to private hands in the history of humankind.
So if you’re an Obama supporter, and you’re disappointed that your president won’t fight for you, here’s the answer. The president knows what side he’s on and you don’t. He knows that as long as he can play good cop to the Republicans’ ever worsening bad cop, the game is fixed, and not in your favor.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.