The Why of Obama’s Failed Hope

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 brought hope and optimism to Americans and non-Americans alike. But after one and a half terms, the reality is sinking in that for all the promised change, it’s the “same old, same old.” The big question is why, writes Australian Greg Maybury.

By Greg Maybury

For folks who were fans of the late, great comedian Bill Hicks, they likely will be familiar with one of his more memorable routines wherein he is “riffing” on about a Global Power Elite that rules the world. In this routine, Hicks unveils a secret induction ritual of sorts, a rite of passage that takes place once new presidents are ensconced in the White House.

In order to keep each president properly briefed on who actually wields power in the home of the brave and beyond, and discourage any altruistic notions about changing Washington and the world for the better via the power of the Oval Office, a cabal of dark-suited people representing the Powers that Be (or PTBs) of the New World Order sit him down in the darkened, smoke-filled, windowless Situation Room in the White House bunker and show him hitherto unseen film footage of the actual JFK assassination.

President Barack Obama runs onto a stage in Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 3, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama runs onto a stage in Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 3, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In Hicks’ not-so-fevered, conspiratorial imagination, this unique piece of historical cinéma verite vividly reveals the Crime of the Century from a completely different angle than seen in the famous Zapruder footage. Only this time the fatal projectiles (plural) can be clearly identified as coming from behind the white picket fence atop a certain grassy knoll to the right and in front of the presidential motorcade, the scene replete with a rifle-packing assassin fleeing the area pronto.

After the presentation finishes, the lights turned on, and the smoke clears, the PTBs have only one thing to say to the by-now ashen-faced, freshman POTUS: “Any questions, Mr President?”

Once the look of abject fear, shock and horror subsides and the blood drains back into his face, accompanied by the sudden realization that being president isn’t going to be quite what he expected, his composure regained, his response goes something like this: “Nah shit man, Arrhhm down with that, let’s go bomb Basra!”

The cigar-chomping PTBs, who by now are all smiles and bonhomie, slap the freshly minted Prez on the back and say in unison: “That’s our boy. Great to have you on board!”

As darkly amusing as Hicks’s bit is, there can be no doubt that for many of us, the scenario may be uncomfortably close to the truth, and you don’t need to be a paid-up member of the “tin foil hat brigade” to think that.

High Hopes

With this opening in mind, it is now time to ask the following question about the incumbent POTUS. To wit: What happened, Mr. President? Like many folks, this writer had high hopes for Number 44, and vividly recalls the night of the election win in 2008 wherein Obama’s speech to the nation was as electrifying and as inspiring as anything I can remember in the annals of U.S. politics. And I’m not even American! (Did we see a tear in Colin Powell’s eye?)

Such was the nature and character of Obama’s ascendancy to the highest office in the home of the brave that it seemed even for the most jaded, nay cynical, of political observers that America had taken a turn for the better, and not just for America! Like many of my fellow Australians and doubtless many other non-Americans, it was hard not to feel excited about the prospect this Sometimes Great Nation had turned the corner.

America had woken up to the reality that it actually could be a genuine force for good in the world, and it finally had someone in the Oval Office who could bring that change about.

Such a reaction was, of course, not unexpected after the Bush years. By any measure his was the most disastrous presidential “experiment” up to that time, and we will return to George II’s reign shortly. But sadly it seems the buoyant expectations of the future ushered in by Barack Obama’s election were misplaced after all.

The big question is this: Was Obama co-opted by the PTBs after he was elected a la the Bill Hicks scenario? Or was he a Judas-Goat from the off? For those unfamiliar with the term and the intent of the metaphor, it’s enough to know that the Judas-goat was used to lead the animals up the ramps of the early slaughterhouses before they became all “assembly-lined” and mechanized. You get the drift.

This is hard to know for certain of course, and in seeking some clues all we can do is reflect on Obama’s rise to high office and his record. There are plenty of people who have done that and continue to do so, and this is not my main purpose herein. But we can at the same time look at the Office of the President, and the actual power and authority that the Oval One (to use Gore Vidal’s priceless phrase) is capable of exercising. This hopefully might give us some useful additional insights.

 But as always, a little dose of history is in order. After 9/11, Bush’s Pax Americana morphed very quickly into (a) Pox Amerikana, an unprecedented, raging, out-of-control geopolitical pandemic for the zeitgeist, and again, the consequences and outcomes of which will be with us forever and a day. That is unless the next generation beyond Obama can find and administer a cure before it is too late, because it appears even six years after Bush this virulent strain of empire-mired hubris and overreach will not croak of its own accord.


Truth be known, even pre-“Dubya,” the American Empire was probably already something of a Pox Amerikana. It had, in fact, been heading in that direction at a rate of knots. This was especially since the Fall of the Wall, when it could be argued the rot of triumphalism really took hold. Bush II’s true “genius” his one lasting achievement and the one that almost certainly will define his legacy may have been bringing America’s particular and peculiar malaise out into the open for us all to see. Which is not to suggest that “all” of us are “seeing” even now, as a nod is as good as a wink to a blind nation as it were.

Now the spread, virulence and mortality rate of the Bush “Pox” may not have been foreseen at the time by most. But this is surely one case where even a little objective hindsight confers great clarity, although any such “clarity” now one both expects and fears may be of the “too little, too late” variety as distinct from “better late than never” kind. Which brings us back to the incumbent president.

Obama’s Performance

Judging by his performance thus far, it would appear that the person who might have taken such “insights” on board brought about by such “clarity” and done something with them to substantively change the status quo has in many ways, gone back to the future.

Whereas Bush under-promised and over-delivered as it were, Obama has over-promised and under-delivered, and it’s difficult to say which is the lesser of the two “evils.”. To take just one measure by which we might assess his presidential leadership (and one for which his administration can hardly put any blame to his predecessor), we only need to look at the current situation in Ukraine, and America’s aggressive and geopolitically destabilizing stance towards the Russian Federation.

Much the same can be said of Obama’s performance closer to home. His record here thus far underscores the contention that the presidency is no longer relevant in mapping out a secure, equitable future for Americans, and in articulating an achievable vision for the nation as a whole.

Exhibit A in this respect is his failure to bring the Wall Street Cowboys to heel so as to rein in upon pain of them doing serious jail time a la Bernie Madoff their most reckless impulses. And the presidency appears no longer powerful enough even with a popular mandate to re-gear the machinery of the National Security State towards something more simpatico with the spirit and letter of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Yet the next presidential candidates will tell us they can achieve the latter and more, and people will vote for either/or candidate en masse in the fervent hope that they will make good on their word. Or they won’t vote at all. Other than the names on the high-security clearance ID’s of the champions of the National Security State and the dog-tags of the front-line defenders of freedom and democracy in the U.S. military though, very little is likely change.

Rethinking the Imperium

In an informal interview with journalist and author Chris Hedges not long after the beginning of Obama’s first term, U.S. political philosopher Sheldon Wolin indicated that he did not expect much from the new Administration and that “the basic systems” [of power and influence] in the U.S. are going to “stay in place” unchallenged. But Wolin had this to say about the new president who it has to be recalled at this point got into that position promising more change than you could poke a stick at in a month of election Tuesdays:

“This [view] is shown by the [Wall Street] bailout. It [the Obama administration] does not bother with [changing] the structure at all. I don’t think he can take on the establishment we have developed. … [Obama] is probably the most intelligent president we have had in decades. I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that makes it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has any appetite for it [ideologically]. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”

With this in mind, and in view of the fact that we’re now well into his second term, with Obama then, it appears to be Pox Amerikana redux, déjà vu all over again. In short, Obama has spent little time “rethinking” the “imperium.”

If Obama promised change, then his first term tenure appeared to have underscored that hoary old platitude that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Whether he instinctively knew that before he was elected is open to debate, but it is difficult to escape the conclusion he did. This would especially be the case if he was/is that “intelligent.”

On the other hand, it may just be that Obama recognizes as Wolin has reinforced above that as president he represents, embodies and acts in the interests of forces that are larger, more powerful and much more immutable than the Office itself and the person who holds the Office. And catering to these forces is more important than any attempts to cater to the electorate at large, over whom it would appear certain that these forces take precedence.

In the intriguing 2010 book The Next Hundred Years A Forecast for the 21st Century, George Friedman underscored this premise. After noting that in the long-term at least, presidents are not especially “important or powerful” people anymore, he added the following about Obama, and by extrapolation one expects, future presidents:

“[He has to] govern within the realities and constraints that [have] defined previous presidencies, and whilst he may or may not be popular, his ability to redefine anything as massive as the United States and the global system [is] severely limited”.

Obama may even acknowledge privately that to be “successful” and “effective” he needs to recognize the above reality or not harbor any illusions about it (or any ambitions of his own at odds with these forces), even if he doesn’t always feel comfortable with such “recognition” and constraints.

That being the case, there is at present disturbingly little sign especially with the lame-duck period of his second term looming that Obama is showing any discomfort with that recognition. No doubt there are numerous folk Stateside and beyond who believed in his message of audacity combined with his shill of hope would be saying “more’s the pity.”

Interestingly, Obama has apparently received many more death threats than Bush ever did; with that in mind, it’s quite possible he realizes that demonstrating too much audacity and offering too much hope could to use the popular contemporary vernacular get his “skinny black ass capped.” Just like JFK did as one supposes in the Bill Hicks scenario, and of whom it is generally considered demonstrated a little too much audacity and propensity for change and in doing so, paid the ultimate price for it?

And when we consider the current state of play with the Secret Service, this would be neither an unreasonable concern for the President himself nor an outlandish proposition for the rest of us.

Either way, when we place all this in context, and take on the perspective doing so provides, Obama may turn out to be a bigger disappointment than his predecessor. Who’d have thought that on the night of the first Tuesday in November in 2008?

Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia.

19 comments for “The Why of Obama’s Failed Hope

  1. JWalters
    October 6, 2014 at 19:36

    Obama was elected in the 2008, the same year James Douglass’ great book was published – JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. An enormous amount of evidence has come to light since the Warren Commission’s report, and this book examines it in a thorough and rational way. Obama read this book and brought his own bodyguard into the White House.

    Holder testified that the banks were to too big to prosecute without serious risk to the economy. This is an amazing statement to put on the public record. But the top personnel at any large organization can be replaced without the organization failing. The other possibility is that the top personnel at these banks threatened to create another economic catastrophe if they were prosecuted.

    John Perkins revealed exactly how bankers threaten national leaders in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”.

    “The other thing we do, Amy, and what’s going on right now in Latin America is that as soon as one of these anti-American presidents is elected, such as Evo Morales, who you mentioned, in Bolivia, one of us goes in and says, ‘Hey, congratulations, Mr. President. Now that you’re president, I just want to tell you that I can make you very, very rich, you and your family. We have several hundred million dollars in this pocket if you play the game our way. If you decide not to, over in this pocket, I’ve got a gun with a bullet with your name on it, in case you decide to keep your campaign promises and throw us out.'”

  2. Hillary
    October 5, 2014 at 13:27

    @ F.G.Sanford

    In July 2004 Mordechai Vanunu claimed in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the State of Israel was complicit in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He claimed there were “near-certain indications” that Kennedy was assassinated in response to “pressure he exerted on Israel’s then head of government, David Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona’s nuclear reactor”.
    CIA James Angleton is suspected as the “point man” in charge

    • F. G. Sanford
      October 6, 2014 at 23:56

      Yes, Hillary, I see your point. “Claimed” is the key word. Vanunu was a trusted member of the Israeli nuclear program who boasted a high school education. Having completed his “on the job training” in performing highly beneficial maintenance duties, he became intimately friendly with many of the Ph.D. nuclear physicists who appreciated his ability to make great coffee and go for donuts. Eventually, they introduced him to David Ben-Gurion. It was not long before “Dave” introduced him to James J. Angleton, or “Jeez”, as Vanunu called him. Jeez was a regular at the Dimona plant. Practically everybody knew him as a party animal who spent most of his time hanging around with Vanunu because he just couldn’t relate to those egghead nuclear types. Back then, Dimona was the place to be, and everybody who was anybody hung out there, especially CIA agents. It was kinda like being James Bond, and hanging out with Dr. No. Angleton suspected that Vanunu might defect, thereby revealing he was a double-agent for the CIA and Mossad. So, he gave him a phone number to call in Rome on the back of his personal CIA business card. It said, “For a good time, call Rachel, she speaks English, Italian and Hebrew, and she’s available”. Poor Mordechai was taken with this Mediterranean beauty, and he assumed she was fawning all over him just because he was friends with Benny, Jeez and all the eggheads. Not only that, but he fancied himself a stud. Angleton was very relieved when Rachel slipped him a mickey and flew him back to Tel Aviv in a straight jacket. The straight jacket wouldn’t have been necessary, but when he told the Guardia Finaza he was a friend of James Angleton, they insisted. Boy, was he pissed at Jeez when he got back. I understand they never spoke again.

  3. Bob Reynolds
    October 3, 2014 at 17:24

    1. A bill hicks “moment” with Clinton? As I remember it Bill Clinton
    waited during the his first inaugural parade till the very last unit passed, the
    horses and the wagon and the soldiers who would escort the body of a dead

    2. One after another we have hard to explain intrusions into the safety zone for
    the president, a picture taking felon sharing the elevator, someone over the
    fence and through the door to the White House, as two examples, and the most
    recent someone claiming to be a Congressman from New Jersey getting admitted.
    If one were planning an assassination it would hard to convince the public after
    JFK, RFK and MLK that it was not a conspiracy. But a tragic track record of
    Secret Service failures would lay the ground work for making another lone
    assassination plausible. Granted a preemptive conspiracy theory, but there
    really are conspiracies. Its worrisome. Each time I read of one, I wonder if the next
    one will get Obama.

    • Gregory Kruse
      October 4, 2014 at 13:12

      He’s not asking for it.

  4. Hillary
    October 3, 2014 at 15:22

    “For folks who were fans of the late, great comedian Bill Hicks”

    “After 9/11, Bush’s Pax Americana morphed very quickly into (a) Pox Amerikana, an unprecedented, raging, out-of-control geopolitical pandemic for the zeitgeist”.

    Said Greg Maybury today

    Yes Bill Hicks “told it like it was” and for that perhaps was more popular in the UK than in his “homeland”.

    And Gen. Wesley Clark claims America underwent a “policy coup” at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

    BTW Joe no comment on my link to you on September 28, 2014 ?
    Remember cars were found upside down streets away and the Washington Post stated that G.W. Bush wrote on 9/11 in his daily diary
    “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today…”
    You remember also how the “the Kean-Zelikow Report” got dumbed down Americans to believe that boozing, coke-snorting, lap-dancer-dating, pork-chop-relishing “radical Muslim suicide hijackers” commanded by a terminal kidney patient in a cave in Afghanistan seized planes and were able to conduct high-tech controlled demolitions of three skyscrapers.

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 3, 2014 at 17:47

      Hillary that Voltaire link was a great read. Joe Tedesky

  5. Joe Tedesky
    October 3, 2014 at 14:22

    The following are a couple of JFK quotes from his speech of 1961 to journalist. When JFK gave this speech there were many who thought JFK was referring to Commie USSR. Today there are us who hear something a little far more different….read or listen to his whole speech, then you tell me who he is talking about……..

    “Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. ”

    ” Today no war has been declared–and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.”

    JFK 1961 speech to journalist

  6. Bill Bodden
    October 3, 2014 at 12:26

    No one should be surprised at Obama continuing business as usual if they paid attention to Obama’s speech before the AIPAC convention in 2008 when he (like Hillary and McCain) pledged fealty to Israel. Add to that his support (while still a senator and president-elect) for giving Wall Street carte blanche at the Treasury to make sure that bankers would not be in possession of failed property

  7. Joe Tedesky
    October 3, 2014 at 10:44

    Imagine receiving death threats. Picture your wife and kids trying to deal with that. Now, on your way out the door to the office, what might you say to your fearful family. “Oh, don’t worry dear, I won’t do any stupid stuff”. Do you think you could lose your focus?

    What if you were CEO of a very huge corporation? Do you really think you could change that monster company with one sweep? Every management chain has its ego freaks. Big may also hide that less than 1% who hate you…these guys are the crazy ones with the guns.

    The Kennedy’s were going after everything and everybody. This is what a president should do, right? I mean seriously, JFK & RFK went after the CIA, the Mob, the Fed, until finally there was NSAM 263…the departure plan for Vietnam. I didn’t include Israel’s nuclear ambitions…but hell, JFK was a Catholic who admitted to eating meat on Friday!

    Here is a link to a good book descripting that shadowy hidden government.
    ‘Sins of the Vicar: How Alexander Haig Murdered John F Kennedy’ by Tegan Mathis

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 3, 2014 at 13:35
    • Vivek Jain
      October 4, 2014 at 20:16

      But Joe, you’ve fundamentally mis-understood who Obama is and why the ruling class picked him.

      The best source on Obama is the journalist and author Paul Street.
      Take a look:
      The Pretender

      • Joe Tedesky
        October 4, 2014 at 21:23

        Vivek Jain, thanks so much for the Paul Street link. I am not through reading it, but I am agreeing what Mr Street is saying. Thanks again.
        Joe Tedesky

        • F. G. Sanford
          October 4, 2014 at 23:30

          Joe, If you’re still following this thread, the Paul Street article provides a much clearer picture of who the “deep state” really is. Obama was definitely on vetted by the “Ziocons”, as some keep insisting, and Israel began its nuclear weapons program in 1957. They successfully hid it from the IAEA, so any notion that they had anything to do with the Kennedy snuff is just patently preposterous – doesn’t fit the timeline. If the Israelis were doing the “vetting”, they wouldn’t have needed a low-life creep like Jonathan Pollard to steal intelligence documents.

      • F. G. Sanford
        October 4, 2014 at 23:32

        That should say “definitely not vetted” by the Israelis.

      • Joe Tedesky
        October 6, 2014 at 00:48

        F.G. Thanks for your input. Since I have come to this site you have been a real help to enlightening me to many things…this thread is so stretched out I am sure we will continue the JFK conversation etc so stay in touch…you are needed here. Joe Tedesky

      • Joe Tedesky
        October 6, 2014 at 01:34

        F.G. I don’t think LBJ & Co. would have wanted a foreign country involved. JFK’s death was an inside job…I mean inside the US. Control means everything for something of the nature such as knocking off the highest office of the land Joe Tedesky

    • Vivek Jain
      October 4, 2014 at 20:24

      The elections are run by the same guys who sell toothpaste. They show you an image of a sports hero, or a sexy model, or a car going up a sheer cliff or something, which has nothing to do with the commodity, but it’s intended to delude you into picking this one rather than another one. Same when they run elections. But they’re assigned that task in order to marginalize the public, and furthermore, people are pretty well aware of it.”
      – Chomsky

      “Those captive to images cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with a carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton used to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.”
      – Chris Hedges in Empire of Illusion

      ” Obama is the trademark name of a network of confidence people. They are a well-organized gang of prominent political operative, money raisers, mass media hustlers, real estate moguls and academic pimps. They are joined and abetted by the elected officials and hacks of the Democratic Party. Like the virtuoso performer, Obama projected the image and followed the script. But the funding and the entire ‘populist’ show was constructed by the hard-nosed, hard-line free marketeers, Jewish and Gentile ‘Israel Firsters’, Washington war mongers and a host of multi-millionaire ‘trade union’ bureaucrats. ”
      – James Petras in 2008 (

      “Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.”
      – Chris Hedges in 2009

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