Aletho News


“Change you can believe in” had enough?

December 16, 2009

Following President Obama’s war speeches at West Point and Oslo —- two breathtaking exercises in political cynicism that killed any hope of authentic liberal reform — I’ve got only one question: Have the liberals who worshiped at the altar of “change you can believe in” had enough?

There was already ample evidence of Obama’s feeble commitment to peace, progress and justice. Ever since he started fund-raising for his presidential campaign, it’s been clear that the principal change in the offing was skin tone and slogans. One only needed to read “The Audacity of Hope” to see how thoroughly Obama was enmeshed in the neo-liberal orthodoxies of the Robert Rubin-Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. Obama’s impeccably establishment party credentials — that is, his fealty to the Democratic leadership of Chicago and Capitol Hill — practically guaranteed that he would hew to the status quo when forced to choose.

Even before he announced his candidacy for president, Obama endorsed the Iraq hawk Joe Lieberman for re-election to the Senate; then, when Lieberman lost the primary to the antiwar Ned Lamont, Obama made sure that he was never seen with the official nominee of the Connecticut Democratic Party, a bald act of realpolitik that helped Lieberman win as an “independent.” In the U.S. Senate, meanwhile, Obama’s voting record on Iraq war funding was identical to Hillary Clinton’s.

Liberals, exhausted by President Bush and heartened by Obama’s challenge to the pro-invasion Hillary, ignored their new hero’s record and fixated on his one major anti-Iraq speech, delivered when he was a state senator. Ironically, it was Clinton who best characterized Obama’s candidacy when she said that she and John McCain would “put forth” a “lifetime of experience” while “Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002.”

Indeed, apart from extraordinary ambition, there wasn’t much more to Obama than that one speech.

So what’s left of the liberal adoration of Obama? The first major defector among the camp followers was Gary Wills, who denounced the Afghanistan escalation as a “betrayal.” As Wills astutely noted in a New York Review of Books blog, “If we had wanted Bush’s wars, and contractors, and corruption, we could have voted for John McCain. At least we would have seen our foe facing us, not felt him at our back, as now we do.”


Then there’s Tom Hayden, the former radical and author of the Students for A Democratic Society’s Port Huron Statement, who was a belligerent booster of Obama during last year’s campaign. Hayden, too, is upset about Afghanistan, but not enough to cast aside his self-delusion about Obama. Claiming to speak for “the antiwar movement,” he laments that the “costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable” and, worse, that “Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war.”

Unsustainable? Tragic? There’s no evidence that Obama and his chief of staff see any limit to their ability to print dollars, sell Treasury bonds and send working-class kids to die in distant lands. And what “progressive” agenda is Hayden talking about? So far, Obama’s big domestic goals have been compulsory, government-subsidized insurance policies that will further enrich the private health-care business, huge increases in Pentagon spending and purely symbolic regulation of Wall Street.

While Obama was speaking to the unfortunate cadets, I couldn’t help thinking of Richard Nixon and his “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War, a plan that entailed a long and pointless continuation of the fighting. Most liberals would agree that Nixon was a terrible president. Yet, for all his vicious mendacity, I think the sage of San Clemente had a bad conscience about the harm he did, about all he caused to die and be crippled.

Instead of shoring up Obama’s image of goodness, liberals really should be asking, “Does the president have a conscience?” Because if he does, he’s really no better than Nixon.

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper’s Magazine.

December 17, 2009 - Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular


  1. Just by using the worn out word “liberal” shows you are no better than Ann coultier or Beck. Please give me a definition of exactly what is a “liberal” and show me an example of one.
    Sure, a lot of people on the left were taken by Mr ZERO Change, but the left is NOT synonymous with that phantom “liberal” shills and trolls like you always talk about.
    What useless garbage.


    Comment by Plamen Petkov | December 17, 2009

  2. Plamen,

    It appears that you are the only party that is identifying liberals with the left here.

    There are a plethora of liberals out there, you can find them at Huffington Post, Alternot and Common Dreams etc… They very much are real and not “phantoms”.


    Comment by aletho | December 17, 2009

  3. The right wing echo chamber likes to denigrate liberals. It’s because they are so very into the authoritarian slime that leads them around by their shit filled noses. the right wing echo chamber, dominionist scum are so delusional, they believe the shit that spews forth from Rush Limpdong and Glenn Beck, and Michelle Malkin, and Bill O’Really. They are so incredibly paranoid and delusional, they think everyone with a different ethnicity is specifically out to get them. but the true answer isn’t polarization. As much as I’d personally like to see every single right wing son and daughter of a beyotch ‘dead’, I also know that at some point we have to wake them the fuck up and bring them into the ‘us’ fold.

    kind of like asking an ‘amoeba’ to become self aware. When you’re a right wing echo chamber fuck, you have not one iota of self-awareness, all you are is a dominionist, lost soul with no clue how to pull your head out of your feckless, paranoid asshole.


    Comment by GOP scum are treasonous filth | December 17, 2009

  4. I was sick of him when he appointed Geithner and Gates!


    Comment by bosunj | December 17, 2009

  5. I’m with bosunj. I wasn’t sick of him at that point but I was highly skeptical. Then the continuation of the Bush regime’s secrecy, war mongering, shredding of the constitution, bailout for wealthy elites and finally completely ignoring his constituency’s cries for equality sunk any “hope” I had.

    So which of these issues that have finally driven me to say, “I’ve had enough” were the right wing defending? Let’s see – open government (nope Bush set the standard for that and was defended by the right wing), war mongering (nope two useless wars, poorly run by the right), shredding of the constitution (habeus corpus, secret wiretaps, torture – nope all right wing supported), bailout for the wealthy (nope – Bush and the right love that to pieces)? And of course finally Gay equality – well I guess being ignored is better then being actively opposed but that is mighty small comfort. So do you think McCain and Palin would have been better? I don’t and you would have a tough time convincing me otherwise.

    I guess its Ron Paul and/or Alan Grayson in 2012.



    Comment by Trisan | December 17, 2009

  6. Tristan,

    You may want to read the following on Grayson:

    Jewish Progressive Endorsement of Murder


    Comment by aletho | December 17, 2009

  7. Anyone one who really thought Obama was going to change anything (except maybe for the worse) is either a complete fool or has not been paying attention for the last 45 years. As if the Republicrats would ever run anyone for president who wasn’t completely bought and paid for by the rich scumbag elite.


    Comment by j r walker | December 17, 2009

  8. Aletho:




    Comment by Trisan | December 17, 2009

  9. Whether it was McCain or Obama, they’ve both got Lieberman tending them. No real change is possible without prying AIPAC’s financial death grip off our elections.


    Comment by G Street | June 5, 2010

  10. Nixon did sign the legislation that ended the compulsory military draft, the Eagleton Amendment that ending the bombing in Indochina, and reduced the US troop level in Viet Nam from over 500,000 when he replaced war criminal Lyndon Johnson, to 34,000 when he was resigned.

    More importantly, Nixon moved to ending the nuclear arms race, and five days after singing the SALT I pact with the USSR, the Watergate brake-in occurred. Nixon became a political problem, and was removed through subterfuge, covert action, and charactor assassination by the MSM.

    Seriously, Oliver Stone almost did him justice in his film ‘Nixon’ but did not make when clear that Nixon had a few drinks and left the white house to join the Student Mob Against The War taking place on the Mall, he came back shattered after debated the war with students there before being pulled away by the secret service.

    Nixon was returned to his office, perhaps for another drink, when Henry Kissinger came to get the “green light” from the president to use nuclear bombs on Vietnam.

    Kissinger later told report Seymour Hersh, that when he took one look at Nixon’s face, he knew if he had argued with him, he would be fired.

    In contrast, President Johnson, dared not out of fear of public outrage, “what I am supposed to do when a hundred-thousand angry American come over that fence and hang your president!”‘

    Johnson the big coward, and Nixon the man of conscience in the end, and I think his mother being a Quaker instilled values in him that were latent but aroused by the moral convictions of wonderful antiwar activist, unlike the toadies in the white house and congress.

    Obama is an empty suit, with a razor cut, blue suit, big ears, and hears only Zionist handlers who will not allow other access, and he does not seem to clear in the least. A consenting marionette using a teleprompter, but not a conscience.

    Obama should be impeached for suborning treason on 9/11 and gross violations of the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the US War Crimes Act of 1996 that carries the death penalty.


    Comment by Bill Mitchell | June 6, 2010

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