Friday, December 18, 2009

Bill Moyers Interviews Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner

Below, my response to Bill Moyers's interview with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner on Friday, 18 December. I'll post a link to the video when it is available.

Robert Kuttner is wrong in his assessment of Obama.

1. Obama is not so intelligent, at least not in the way that the US needs. (Obama is very smart when it comes to pleasing those in power.) As Tony Judt notes in the current New York Review of Books, the principle (perhaps only) criterion of policy evaluation is economic -- will the policy serve/make money (to put it a little too simply). Obama is squarely inside this school of 'thought'. He does not consider whether a policy is morally right or wrong. He just doesn't.

2. I believe that the largest private donor to Obama's campaign is not Goldman Sachs, but Harvard University. Granted, Harvard probably doesn't donate with the single-mindedness that Goldman does, but this does point to a largely unexamined component in the current disaster -- the role of Harvard Business School (More than Chicago, these days, the center of right-wing economics) and Harvard Law School (where Obama learned his 'obedience to authority').

The role of 'leading' universities in indoctrinating people into patterns of obedience to power cannot be overstated. This is no conspiracy theory but simply an observation of social fact.

3. In May 2008, Penn professor Adolph Reed wrote of Obama (whom he knew personally in Chicago) as a "vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him." This strikes me as right on the mark. Frankly, I think Obama is ripe for Freudian analysis. His father abandoned him when he was very young. He no doubt blamed himself, as children do. Now he is stuck in a pattern of endlessly trying to please those he perceives as superiors. In this regard, he bears a striking similarity to Bill Clinton.

4. From a vaguely scientific standpoint, the question is: What explains Obama's unbroken pattern of saying one thing to the public and doing another in private, of caving to power and wealth (if it really is caving, as opposed to Obama carrying out what was always his intended program).

5. Unlike Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, I have almost no confidence that a social movement will rise up to force change. The US is a strange combination of the beaten down peasantry of 18th Century Eastern Europe and the violently jingoistic nationalism of Russia, China, Israel and (of course) the US itself. Dissent, especially public assembly, is — de facto — being criminalized in the US. Rights guaranteed us by the Constitution are being taken away by the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, by police forces and local policies across the country, by ever-growing and oppressive surveillance of our daily activity. We have a Supreme Court and a lower court structure that systematically rules in favor of power at the expense of The People.

The US is in very serious trouble. It really cannot be overstated. And this says nothing of equal or greater troubles on the environmental front, where Obama is also failing terribly.

My feeling is that the US is exiting its Age of Democracy. In the future, people will think of the US as a "Constitutional Democracy" in much the way we today speak of Britain being a Constitutional Monarchy. The US will be a democracy in a minimally legal sense, but it will be an oligarchy in practice and fact. Arguably, this is already the case.


goedel said...

My views are nicely in accord with Mr Sansom's. He is on the mark in disagreeing with the idea of a social movement's forming from an uninspired working-class, 19th century rather than 18th in its origins. There is a psychoanalysis of BO on the web: google "Ali Sina" and you will find a video that describes BO as a case of NPD (narcisstic personality disorder).

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