Holding the Obama Administration Accountable
Part 1 of a Series: Why, How, and Enabling the Struggle
by Bruce Dixon / November 12th, 2008
While the orgy of American hagiography and self-congratulation over having elected the First Black President shows no sign of peaking a week after the election, greedy Wall Street bankers, the permanent war industry of military contractors and mercenary companies, the predatory lenders, the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies have the new administration’s public and private ear, its wallet and dominate its inner circle. Their voices are everywhere in the mainstream media, on the lips of White House aides and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warning that an Obama administration will have to “govern from the center”, and “tamp down the expectations” of the Democratic base who imagined they were voting in something like “Change”.
“Tamping Down Expectations” Since 2004
It is not an exaggeration to say that Barack Obama’s career since 2004 has been all about soaring promises to capture ardent voters followed by lowering standards to please his biggest financial contributors. An early foe of the Iraq war and Patriot Act during his US Senate campaign, Obama voted to continue one and pass the other once in office. Obama’s pledge to withdraw from Iraq has more loopholes by now than Swiss cheese. His promise to filibuster warrantless eavesdropping and immunity for telecom lawbreakers morphed into a vote for both, and his campaign trail promise to pursue Dr. King’s unfinished quest for economic justice flipped into lobbying the congress in support of the multi-trillion dollar no-strings-attached Wall Street bailout.
The first appointments of the new regime are truly disturbing. Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff is a certifiable Democratic neocon who helped strong-arm NAFTA, welfare reform and the Telecom Act of 1996 though congress for Bill Clinton. He served on the board of Freddie Mac while it was busy inflating the housing bubble, and was an early and unrepentant advocate of invading Iraq and bombing Iran. As head of the DCCC, responsible for recruiting and funding 2006 Democratic congressional candidates, Emanuel used corporate contributions to try to knock more than a twenty antiwar Democrats out of primary races in favor of pro-war Democrats. Confronted with choices between pro-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans, voters rejected most of Emanuel’s picks, costing Democrats as many as ten Congressional seats.
Larry Summers, early front-runner to succeed Bush Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, was happy to be Enron’s eyes and ears at Treasury, according to a handwritten note to his pal Ken Lay you can find at OpenLeft.com. Summers famously remarked that third world countries were “underpolluted”. His solution to this “problem” is encouraging them to sell their share of “rights” to poison the planet’s oceans and air to wealthy western corporations through a system like the present futures and commodities exchanges. Both the outgoing Bush and the incoming Obama administrations are enthusiastic advocates of this “market-based” approach. So much for a Change We Can Breathe In.
Wild-eyed but unrealistic optimists insist that hacks like Summers and Emanuel are just the smartest guys around, and their policies are not Obama’s anyhow. But that fails the laugh test. There are plenty of smart political operators, and many equally brilliant economists who have called the mess right all along and would relish the chance to begin setting it right. Economists like Paul Krugman, Michael Hudson, or Paul Stiglitz, for instance. You don’t hire smart people for the new administration to do the opposite of what they built their careers doing. It defies common sense to expect anything else. Larry Summers will be looking out for his old friends and colleagues. Rahm Emanuel will be kneecapping advocates of single payer health care, opponents of the war, teachers, union members and anyone left of that rightward moving target they call “the center”.
In a note titled “How To Treat A President-Elect,” David Swanson put his finger on why the worst thing we can do now is sit back and pray for president-elect Obama, to leave him alone and wait to see what he does. It’s time to remind him in no uncertain terms why he was elected.
“There is no such thing as giving a democratic president a chance by leaving him alone. Precisely the way you give him a chance is by lobbying him to do what you want to see done. Anything else is an insult to him and to ourselves.
During the past eight years, we could have built the most powerful citizens’ movements ever seen and never influenced our government’s policy in the slightest. A powerful movement for peace and justice was simply ignored. Now suddenly we have a government that might listen, and now is the moment in which we should go silent? What sort of an awful antidemocratic sense of timing is that?
The best elected official in a democracy is one who listens to the changing opinion of constituents. The worst is the principled superior creature who scorns polls and prefers not to be called or faxed or Emailed or visited because he knows better than you what’s good for you, and he can get more done if you leave him alone. We have to decide which kind of president we want to have come January.
The campaign to elect the president is over. The campaign to make the president DO what he was elected FOR is underway.
more at link --