Why Barack Obama Was Particularly Unsuited to Live up to the Ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize

Nick Lehr interviews David Bromwich about his new book, which is unsparing in his assessment of Obama’s legacy. 

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One en route to Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009.
 (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By Nick Lehr 
The Conversation

A decade ago, in October 2009, Barack Obama learned that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was uncomfortable with the prize, saying that he didn’t feel that he deserved “to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize.”

Nonetheless, he added that he would “accept this award as a call to action,” noting “the growing threat posed by climate change” and the responsibility he had “for ending a war.” But by the time Obama arrived in Oslo to accept the prize two months later, he had approved a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, dashing any hopes that the anti-war candidate would reverse the militarism of the Bush administration. By the end of his second term, Guantanamo Bay – the closing of which he had made a cornerstone of his first presidential campaign – remained open.

In his recently published book, American Breakdown,” Yale Sterling Professor of English David Bromwich is unsparing in his assessment of Obama’s legacy.

“He has spoken more words, perhaps, than any other president,” Bromwich writes, “but to an unusual extent, his words and actions float free of each other.” In some circles, criticism of Obama can be complicated by the fact that, as Bromwich wrote in 2015, Obama’s “predecessor was worse, and his successor most likely will also be worse.” To Bromwich, this has proved correct. “Trump,” he told me, “is by far more dangerous to the country, to the constitutional system of the United States, than any president we have ever had.”

But in an interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, Bromwich details how Obama – despite the figure he cut, the values he espoused and the change he symbolized – was the wrong president for the wrong time, and one particularly unprepared to live up to the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I want to start by going back to the early stages of the 2008 campaign. What did voters who supported Obama think they were getting?

In the primaries, Obama pledged to filibuster any bill that promised amnesty to the telecommunications companies for warrantless data collection on the American public. He repeatedly promised to close Guantanamo. He called it a stain on the honor of the United States.

I think more largely, he was seen as the anti-war candidate. He was going to withdraw the United States from these overextended, violent commitments abroad.

And, of course, he also promised to be the one who would help solve the financial collapse and its effects in a way that was not going to favor the big banks, the large money interests.

On all of those commitments, to one degree or another, he reneged. He never closed Guantanamo. The numbers of prisoners were decreased. But there are still scores of them, who have no prospect of release, and they’re now talking about creating an old age unit, so people captured at the age of 30 will die in Guantanamo.

What were some of the early signs that those hoping for an anti-war president would be sorely disappointed?

Well Obama held onto [Bush appointee] Robert Gates as secretary of defense. That was not a necessary move by him. It more or less ensured that the wars would go on. Gates was by no means extreme, but he’s a firm believer in American global military reach.

The appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was the largest single indication of this, though. During the campaign, Obama had disagreed strongly with Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. Then he appointed her as secretary of state.

The first Obama administration – the cabinet of 2009 to 2013, roughly speaking – was like a third Clinton administration. And I still don’t quite know why he did it. People have said that the Clintons would have formed a second pole of the Democratic Party, that they would have undermined Obama, and he needed to make friends with them.

I was never convinced by that. I think it’s just a very general tendency to placate on his part, and it had big consequences for the future of Syria, Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere.

What didn’t the Nobel committee understand about Obama – or about this particular moment in American politics – when they decided to award him the prize?

Keep in mind the Nobel Peace Prize was won by Henry Kissinger, so there have been people who are destroyers of the peace who have succeeded in winning the prize.

Obama’s way of speaking had certainly caught people’s attention – his soaring eloquence,” which must have been used to describe him a thousand times. He had already been made into a world famous figure, even beyond what previous presidents had been. So he was given the prize in the hope that he would do something to deserve it.

Barack Obama is applauded by Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
(AP/Susan Walsh)

But from the start, Obama was under concerted attack – by Dick Cheney, most of all – but also other Republicans, like Lindsey Graham. They were saying that Obama was going to be weak in his opposition to terrorism and that his promises about closing Guantanamo were a giveaway.

By May of 2009, Obama was already conceding that there were certain detainees at Guantanamo – those “who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people” – who would have to remain in a state of limbo. Why didn’t Obama stand firm?

Obama doesn’t like conflict. He has a smooth manner and an agreeable manner and a decent disposition. I think if you tell young people to look at Obama as an ideal of a president – you know, he looks like a president. He’s an admirable sort of model.

But his temperament was really better for a president in peaceful times, when there was comity between the parties. Temperamentally, you could say he most resembles Dwight Eisenhower. Obama would have been a good Democratic president in the 1950s, when everything was going all right between the two parties and the United States hadn’t made exorbitant and dangerous commitments abroad.

Because Obama had no experience with the military, I think he was probably overwhelmed by military advice, and thought he should give in to it to some extent, just to prove that he wasn’t weak. That’s unfortunate. But that was his pattern.

And yet “not looking weak” – in other words, assenting to war – is, in a lot of regards, for an American president, the easiest thing to do.

Yes. We default to war. Take Trump’s decision in April 2017 to send those 60 Tomahawk missiles to bomb a Russian airfield in Syria. That didn’t lead to a larger war, but he was praised vastly for it by most in the liberal media, as well as the usual suspects, like Lindsey Graham. Why? Because he had used U.S. power. He had finally bombed. And it does occur to you, eventually, that for an American president, bombing is easier than thinking.

Obama is not, again, by nature, a violent, contentious sort of person. But with Libya, for example, when he was told by Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter that we needed to fight with the rebels in Libya, bomb the country and overthrow Gadhafi, he must have felt that he shouldn’t resist. And the civil war in Libya that resulted – well, it continues today.

That reminds me of the part of your book where you zero in on comments Obama made in March 2015 about his failure to close Guantanamo. Obama said, “The politics of it got tough, and people got scared by the rhetoric around it. Once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open.” How does that one phrase – “the path of least resistance” – epitomize Obama’s approach to politics?

Many people thought Obama had done quite confrontational, quite remarkable things somewhere back in his career. Maybe it happened at Harvard, maybe it happened in his time as a community organizer. But when you look closely, these occasions don’t exist.

Strength of character is established by doing something brave and original. You’ll find this idea in places like Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance – you are stronger from habit, from having once seen that you’ve been strong. That has to evolve by taking a stance of open resistance, and maybe once or twice even being alone in opposition and facing the powers that be. Well-meaning politicians like Obama, who haven’t had that particular experience, are, in a sense, unformed and unprepared to serve in positions as leaders.

[Back in 2014], when I wrote an article critical of Obama’s presidency, I received a note from a community worker involved in Chicago politics. He told me about a time when he was working to get a serious gun control measure passed in the Illinois state legislature, sometime in the late-1990s, [when Obama was a state senator]. Obama had pledged his support for the gun control bill, and he said he would come to the committee hearing. And this man wrote that when the day came, they were taking a terrible beating. A ballistics expert they had put on the stand was getting raked over by the Republicans – there was some shouting, and so on. And as this was happening, he saw State Senator Obama walk past the room, stop at the door, look in for a second – and then walk away.

The community worker confronted Obama a few days later. “We were counting on your support,” he said, “and it mattered that you weren’t there. Why didn’t you come?” And Obama said, “Well, I just looked in, and I saw a lot of angry talk and shouting, and I just thought I had a better way to spend my time.”

So that’s it. That’s the path of least resistance. That anecdote sort of crystallizes it.

Obama entered office in 2009 with a majority that Democrats today can only dream of: 59 seats in the Senate and a big majority in the House. What, in your view, was the Democrats’ biggest lost opportunity?

I still look back with some sadness on those years, especially on the score of climate change.

It wasn’t a politically valuable issue. His team took the measure of health care versus climate change in 2009, and they decided health care was more ripe for the public.

Obamacare was the triumph of his domestic policy, and it certainly was the hardest fought battle that ended in a sort of victory during his eight years of domestic policy, as the Iran Nuclear Agreement was the strongest achievement he had in foreign policy.

Still, it just seems to me too much time went into Obamacare – 15 months of his presidency were preoccupied with that. And then he was looking down the barrel of a gun, the midterm election, where he lost his majority in Congress. That mattered.

He never came back to climate change. I think one of the most disappointing and really weak utterances of his whole presidency, was when, again and again, during the 2012 campaign, he said that we could have all of the above – fracking, fossil fuels, solar and wind – we can have all of them. Well, that’s a terrible cop-out. I think Obama believed it would be reassuring to people. He couldn’t resist saying that reassuring thing.

Yes, he wasn’t prompted enough by the sense of urgency that we now have. He didn’t have the most recent United Nations climate report, which is the worst news so far. But he knew plenty.

That was a deep lost opportunity. He knew better, and knows better. I see one of his latest tweets praises Greta Thunberg.

Well, yes. But she’s not president of the United States.

Nick Lehr is arts and culture editor at The Conversation.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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52 comments for “Why Barack Obama Was Particularly Unsuited to Live up to the Ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize

  1. Harriet Katz
    October 18, 2019 at 01:21

    Finally, someone is writing about the duplicity that was inflicted on us with Obama. I had predicted it all before he was elected. I did an analysis of the man and could see the following: he was a master at deception and duplicity that was his strength, he would inevitably disappoint and prepare us for a totalitarianism, his heart connection to people was self centered, he was weak empty man and needed the approbation of the elites to function. All this from just analyzing the man. My peer group was very angry with me about my views as they bought into the image and rhetoric. But there was one thing that perplexed me throughout his presidency which was just answered above and that was when I tuned into the man I could feel he was terrified of be killed. It makes sense he knew on some level he could not enact “hope & change” he would be killed for it, that is if he ever truly believed it in the first place. He now appears to me to loose even more empty and destitute as a person perhaps he realizes what a fool he played in this drama we are now living. Vote Sanders he is the real deal.

  2. GMCasey
    October 17, 2019 at 17:17

    I read an article by a man who had attended the same high school in Hawaii as Obama had. It seemed , at that time ,that Obama was focused on being. ” well liked.” Apparently Obama continued on and pursued that “well liked,” role. A sad pity that Obama never read the play, “Death of a Salesman.”

    • Demetrios Politis
      October 18, 2019 at 02:05

      Prof. Bromwich does not seem to know the reality of the military-industrial complex. the secret government. The President does not decide our foreign policy. Putin in his interview withStone was asked if he had any preferences for party in the USA. He answered, the policy of the USA is not determined by the president and the party he represents. When he is elected, two=three people walk into the oval office and explain to him what he can and cannot do. Obama wanted to close quantanamo. Did he close it? He wanted to remove the US troops from Afganistan. Did he do it?
      Seems Putin understands better than most Americans how the foreign policy is decided in our country. JFK ignored the orders and paid with his life. Same with Pres. Trump. He ordered to open the JFK files. CIA said it cannot be done. The files are still secret. He has been ordering to get the US army out of Syria. We are still there.

  3. mbob
    October 17, 2019 at 13:14

    I’m so pleased to see how many readers here “get” Obama. I had the same feelings that many here have shared. I voted for him twice and my disappointment with his Presidency is extreme.

    It is a further disappointment that so few others share this (common here) perspective on him. He still is overwhelmingly popular with Democrats and very highly regarded by them. So much so that no present candidate can risk expressing any disapproval of him or his accomplishments.

    The lesson of Obama for voters is that we must scrutinize our candidates more carefully. We can’t rely on unwarranted perceptions or on what the candidate says. We need to avoid nominating and electing any more Obamas.

    Which raises the question that really interests me: is Warren another Obama? Can she be trusted or is she out essentially for herself? There are numerous signs that she’s more like Obama than is healthy.

  4. Robert Emmett
    October 17, 2019 at 12:01

    Obama enjoyed his only lasting legacy even before he assumed office. Kinda takes the pressure off.

    He slid into the role of First Black President seamlessly, from out of nowhere. And unlike his predecessor, he could read coherently (mostly) from a teleprompter.

    Agree, he looked the part too. But then I think he’d be just as convincing as a grocery clerk who thumbs through the NYT on his break then bores his co-workers, touting language & ideas they don’t know or care about.

    Known for his speechifying, I doubt if he came up with many of the ideas or words himself. As in so many other parts of doing that “job”, they have people for that.

    That’s what a scripted “ leader” looks like. Want to see what an unscripted one looks like? Oh, wait…

  5. October 16, 2019 at 06:24

    In addition to the immense amount of violence Obama oversaw as President, he had a very strong tendency towards secrecy, and went after whistleblowers with a vengeance.

    Poor dear Chelsea Manning was imprisoned under him, an ordeal she almost didn’t survive.

    Edward Snowden was forced into exile under his watch.

    John Kiriakou went to prison under him for revealing the CIA’s use of torture.

    And it was in his time as President that Julian Assange sought asylum from Ecuador.

    The intelligence community’s massive new Utah Data Center, designed to hold unbelievable amounts of data collected from people was opened under this President.

  6. D'Esterre
    October 16, 2019 at 01:55

    I’m an observer from New Zealand of US politics: we here matter not a jot to the US, yet for many years we have been affected by US imperialism.

    When Obama was elected, I wrote to a local radio show (to which listeners contributed opinions on current affairs), expressing the views of this household. We figured that he’d be as useless a president as his predecessors (with the possible exception of JFK) during my considerable lifetime. My recollection goes back to the Eisenhower years.

    The media would be kind to him, a priori because he was a Democrat – and we’ve noticed that the US media in particular tends on balance to treat Dems more leniently than Republicans – and a fortiori because he’s black. He would fail to make any substantive changes or reforms, also on account of he’s black, because while the electorate was congratulating itself on having elected a black president, its approbation probably didn’t extend to said president doing anything to rock the Establishment boat. He’d have been well aware of that, I’m guessing. Moreover, US commentators at the time were saying that, while he was a politician, he wasn’t skilled at the political process.

    And so it proved to be. He was good at speechifying; nothing else.

    • geeyp
      October 16, 2019 at 22:24

      Spot on D’Esterre.

  7. Eddie S
    October 15, 2019 at 21:32

    Good article and even better comments. As a 70 yr old former Democratic voter who is now voting Green for POTUS (since they most represent the progressive policies that I believe in), I recall how dumbstruck I was when Obama turned 180 (seemingly at least) and collapsed in the face of PREDICTABLE Repub opposition (we KNEW they were going to be assholes, like they were with Clinton, so why the shock/surprise/collapse ??) It was like he and the Dems NEVER pushed anything, they ‘pre-bargained’ everything away (“Oh, we don’t have a veto-proof majority, so we’ll just have to forget about that bill”).

  8. Dosamuno
    October 15, 2019 at 14:58

    What absolute nonsense!

    “Neither Obama nor his party are spineless betrayers—they’re
    partisans of capital who sometimes have to pretend otherwise for
    electoral reasons. But that won’t stop loyalists from scratching
    their heads and wondering why the Dems are the way they are—only to
    stop and reassure you that the Republicans are much worse.”

    —Doug Henwood

  9. Saad Nemeh
    October 15, 2019 at 14:19

    Obama proved in his actions in Libya, yamen, and Syria that he is as established war criminal as W and president Clinton.

  10. October 15, 2019 at 13:51

    Obama was oddly the best recommendation for an Alfred Nobel, dynamite inventor, who made millions selling dynamite to both sides of ANY WAR prize! The Alfred Nobel Death Prize belongs to “Drone tuesday” obama

  11. October 15, 2019 at 12:59

    I can’t believe how many people are still fooled by the boyish smile and baritone voice.

    This man killed people for eight solid years.

    He bombed somewhere every day of his two terms.

    And he holds the distinction of having created an industrial-scale extrajudicial killing system, incinerating people far away who were never legally charged or tried about anything.

    He turned a well-run country like Libya into hell.

    Ditto for Syria.

    He signed off on a coup against an elected government in Ukraine.

    He once joked with words to the effect, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at this killing stuff.’

    He pressured the elected government of Venezuela.

    And he was remarkably arrogant often. you can see it in his posture and finger-pointing in many photos.

    This truly was a monster, just one with a deceptively pleasant face.

    • DC_rez
      October 16, 2019 at 12:44

      You left out the coup in Honduras…

  12. October 15, 2019 at 12:14

    Obama was a huge demagogue.And I am afraid of the similarities he shares with the mexican President Lopez Obrador.I think they talk the talk;but don`t walk,the walk.And yes Obama is no better than the Clintons.First black President….big deal.

  13. JR
    October 15, 2019 at 11:24

    Obama administration may well go down in history as the probably first administration weaponizing the intelligence services against a political opponent. The poisonous parting gift was the destruction of the relation with Russia.

  14. October 15, 2019 at 08:42

    Obama was what Frantz Fanon talked about in “Black Skin, White Masks”, brought up to date for the electronic age. Apparently he really wasn’t the community organizer he claimed, it was a Chicago woman who was the mover there. Obama, as someone stated, was groomed to fool people. I count him as the best reason never to believe a politician’s words. And he couldn’t speak without “uh” every other sentence, either–hardly a Martin Luther King! He laughs now as a wealthy charlatan. Just read Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report on Obama! About time truth is told.

  15. Adv Kingston Magaya
    October 15, 2019 at 07:40

    He became POTUS after all. Served two full terms, and just like any other President who came before him and those who shall take after him, he left the American Foreign Policy intact: Global military adventure. That will endure, of course with little variations,until another global military and economic behemoth is born to wean America from incessant “military domination breast feeding”

    In as much it is not even about Obama, it is also not about America….it is about a system. Positivist and Real Politik thinkers will continue to drool for Obama’s temperament…he at least struck a good balance- a modicum of a world in harmony through his adumbrations at global fora and of course, the everyday dog-eat-dog charater of statecraft both at home and abroad- (lest he would stand swallowed by a cruel politocal lebensrum).

    Long live Obama the man and the symbolism!

  16. joe
    October 15, 2019 at 05:17

    Trump,” he told me, “is by far more dangerous to the country, to the constitutional system of the United States, than any president we have ever had”.

    Pundits keep repeating this line, but they never elaborate as to why Trump is a threat to the constitution of the US or what he has done or will do to destroy the constitution. I don’t like Trump and the majority of his policies, but such bombastic rhetoric is just nonsense.

  17. Ammo Alamo
    October 15, 2019 at 02:24

    I was disappointed that the Hope and Change turned out to be just empty words. With 59 Senators and a huge House majority, Obama still chose to deep-six the single-payer option for healthcare – despite having an excellent view of single-payer with Medicare. All the failures laid out in this article bothered me, too. But when Obama sent a drone to kill the 15-year-old relative of a certain bad actor I realized the hope and change were, and always had been, empty words. A President who lets his military kill almost without any constraints had forever lost my respect. I realized he not only had no sense of military history but also would never have the backbone to direct the course of the Joint Chiefs; instead, they directed him. Following eight years of young Bush, with thousands of dead, injured and displaced Iraqis, dead and maimed Americans, and an Afghanistan boiling like it was another death march of 1800s Brits, we should have changed course. But what happened was as near a military coup as has ever occurred in American history. Add to that six years of Republican obstructionism, and the US took two giant steps backward. Since he and his cronies all refused to truly stand up to the opposition, all of the Bush era crimes went unpunished. Then he appointed Hilary as Sec’y of State, a job which she bungled bad enough to allow Trump to slip into the presidency. We can blame Trump directly on Obama’s choice of Hilary. The damage from the Obama presidency continues. Yet Americans can only choose between the candidates on offer – worse and worser are the best choices we get.

  18. geeyp
    October 15, 2019 at 00:51

    How sweet, a love letter to the last president. “I’m good at killing people” says the peace award winner.

  19. Abby
    October 14, 2019 at 23:52

    I wouldn’t compare Obama to Eisenhower. He was more like Hoover. He sat back and watched as 9 million people lost their homes while the banks continued to commit fraud and he just kept bailing them out. What did he do to help people stay in their homes? The ridiculous harp Fund that banks ran circles around. What did he do for us? The hideously flawed ACA that left millions off health insurance. Millions!

    He let the republicans roll all over him is what people say. But did he? Or was his job to keep any progressive legislation from being passed? I think if Obama played strip poker with the republicans he’d have shown up with his shirt off and pants undone. The weakest president ever!

    His biggest legacy though is slavery in Libya. The first black American president brought slavery back to Libya! His other legacy though is Donald f’cking Trump! If Obama had been a decent president then there is no way Trump would have won. He was just a continuation of Clinton’s and Bush’s presidencies. He will always be known as the president that could have been.

  20. Ed
    October 14, 2019 at 23:38

    What I find remarkable is the number of Democrats who regard Obama as a good president. I attribute thier attribution largely to the media. His only achievement was the Iranian agreement; the rest a sorry series of failure and bad precedent. Consider his legacy: continuing war in Afghanistan, attempted negotiations to remain in Iraq, the coup in Ukraine without regard to the bothersome consequences of threatening Russia and the support of fascists and oligarchs, the destruction of Libya, the use of “moderate” rebels such as ISIS to overthrow the Syrian government, the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Honduras and support for anti democratic drug traffickers as his successors, the use of drones resulting in the death of many innocent people, the killing of US citizens without due process, the support of the banks as against the homeowners, the selling out of the unions,ie, the UAW, and no legislation in support the check-list for unions, and of course, Obama care , a sellout to the health care industry while controlling both houses of Congress and over a 70 percent approval rating.

    • Ash
      October 15, 2019 at 13:25

      Iran agreeing to curtail their non-existent nuclear weapons program was smoke and mirrors too.

  21. ML
    October 14, 2019 at 21:03

    Obama is, and probably always will be for me, the biggest disappointment I have ever experienced in my voting lifetime. As a healthcare provider, I experienced first hand what he did with Obamacare. Thirty million still uninsured? That’s not a healthcare system that is functional and fair. I had people coming into my office daily, who after years of no healthcare at all, finally had some “insurance” with such a high premium and an additional screaming-high deductible, that they couldn’t even get the care they actually needed, with the exception of being able to finally fill their needed medications they’d been without for years! And the required-by-Obamacare electronic health records (EHR) that were rolling out, were disastrous for several years- “Epic” being the worst of all. Clunky, clicky, and a catastrophe to nearly every provider’s well-being, they slowed us down, stressed us out, and caused so many early retirements, that my own community was losing primary care providers at the fastest clip ever, exactly the opposite of what was needed. The huge company I worked for began punishing us for lack of productivity caused by the rollout of the EHR by docking our pay. And don’t even get me started on the opioid crisis. I was never one to over-prescribe opioids, but many of my colleagues gave them out like jelly beans, just so they could hurry through a visit, clicking away on their glorified billing platform (EHR) and racking up their daily quotas. I finally quit in disgust and utter exhaustion. Obama, YOU failed. You should be ashamed, but by the look on your smug face every time I see you sailing on some rich a$$hole’s yacht, you seem oblivious to the wreckage you left us all. Oh, and thanks a bundle for your legacy- Trump.

  22. Chet Roman
    October 14, 2019 at 19:45

    I’d like to put Bromwich’s comments on Obama in context of the whole East Coast liberal mindset epitomized by his view of Trump. While I don’t think it is off topic or abusive (unless you are woke) it may be censured.

    Bromwich said:

    “Trump,” he told me, “is by far more dangerous to the country, to the constitutional system of the United States, than any president we have ever had.”

    Matt Taibbi has made a better response to Yale English Professor Bromwich regarding danger to our constitutional system than I ever could in the article: “We’re in a permanent coup.”

  23. Alan Ross
    October 14, 2019 at 18:00

    Other than Sanders, what candidate of either party is anything more than a self-seeking servant of the very rich? Since FDR our Presidents have all been either too weak (Carter) or media creations (the rest), and with one exception (JFK), nothing more than fakes, mass murderers, hollow or sexual predators, with some being all of these (e.g. Clinton). The root of our bad fortune has always been a media that was owned and run by the rich, and an educational system (except some colleges) that perpetuated the myths of the profit system and American exceptionalism.

    • Dao Gen
      October 15, 2019 at 23:10

      Surely Tulsi Gabbard is also very close to being the real thing. And she is even more authentic than Bernie when it comes to foreign policy. That’s why the MSM constantly smear her and lie about her and keep her under a cone of silence. When you get flak, you know you’re over the target. But yes, compared to Bernie and Tulsi, Warren is clearly a virtual reality artist like Obama, who, if elected, would become a master of eloquent excuses and graceful policy half-pirouettes.

  24. Truth first
    October 14, 2019 at 17:53

    Not supporting whistle-blowers is what I remember most.

  25. Lois Gagnon
    October 14, 2019 at 17:39

    I agree with all the comments so far. I think Obama is a spineless careerist who prefers the status quo to the radical change we need precisely because he knew if he played ball with the elites he would be handsomely rewarded after leaving office which he has been.

    As a Green it’s hard for me to have to admit that our days of voting for political change are most likely behind us. The system is so rigged in favor of those who profit from the corruption that nothing short of a national strike is going to turn things in our favor. It’s sad we’ve allowed things to deteriorate to this point, but here we are.

  26. Moi
    October 14, 2019 at 16:44

    Reposting an entirely apposite comment by a persona named “Dove” from 2016:

    Obama failed to properly implement the healthcare plan that was to be his legacy and he failed to fully wind down the wars he promised to. He also failed to reign in gun control (although some might see that as a good thing).

    But on the plus side he: furthered the destabilisation of Syria, funded, developed and trained new rebel armies in the middle east; held record arms sales to the people that need them the most- the middle eastern dictators; helped rid Egypt of that pesky democracy thing and put the military back in charge; came-saw-killed in Libya; rattled the sabre at China with ‘the pivot’; managed to finally pry Ukraine away from Russia; helped start a new war in Yemen after the natives ousted their previous dictator; killed Bin Laden but lost his body; ensured economic recovery by letting everyone escape prosecution; kept Gitmo open for people cleared for release but still held; pioneered the new drone technology; took domestic spying to a new level; Cuba; Iran; the list goes on.

    Obama was just another American President. He might as well have been a republican because it doesn’t matter. This record is indistinguishable from Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan or Clinton. Only the rhetoric changes and that will truly be his legacy. Barak Obama was, with help of more than a few great writers, one of the best set-piece, prepared, formal speech makers in half a century. Even though “No, he didn’t”, “Yes, we can”

    • Fuzzy
      October 16, 2019 at 12:18

      He was a useful tool!

    October 14, 2019 at 16:20

    I mock the entire seriousness (of which I TOTALLY agree and would only be redundant), by simply claiming from the start to have ”saved Obamas’ life by not voting for him because if he was what we wanted him to be he would have been assassinated, ala JFK.”

    The fact is I voted Green because of the spectacle of Obama & Hillary competing over toe-sucking/ass-kissing Zionist Israel. And aside from his beauty and good manners, Obama is just another damn politician.
    A pity.

  28. Pablo Diablo
    October 14, 2019 at 16:10

    Also, he refused to prosecute Bush/Cheney for lying the USA into an illegal War. I read that at a party with friends, someone asked him why he hadn’t lived up to his campaign promises, he said,”John Kennedy” and changed the subject. The hypocrisy, corruption, lying, cheating did not start with Obama. It has become the norm. Vote Progressive and take back “our” government.

  29. mbob
    October 14, 2019 at 15:52

    The paragraph

    “Strength of character is established by doing something brave and original. You’ll find this idea in places like Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” – you are stronger from habit, from having once seen that you’ve been strong. That has to evolve by taking a stance of open resistance, and maybe once or twice even being alone in opposition and facing the powers that be. Well-meaning politicians like Obama, who haven’t had that particular experience, are, in a sense, unformed and unprepared to serve in positions as leaders.”

    is precisely why Warren will be another Obama. It’s why Sanders is a far better choice. Sanders has stood alone countless times. I’m not sure Warren ever has or ever will.

  30. October 14, 2019 at 15:31

    Obama was a complete fraud from start to finish. He knew full well that his job was to serve the elites and pretend he was a “liberal.” That’s why he was chosen. He knowingly duped his supporters and continues duping them today.

    In the end, his legacy will be that of a war criminal; and it was his selling out of the American people that let to Donald Trump being President today.

  31. Jeff G.
    October 14, 2019 at 15:28

    To put it simply, we elected an Uncle Tom for president. We just didn’t realize it until it was too late. It’s not too harsh. He was the main reason we now have Trump. He was no Martin Luther King, Jr. We just thought he might be.

  32. Peter Hill
    October 14, 2019 at 15:24

    This is a very good article that clarifies the disappointment that many feel about Obama.

  33. Antiwar7
    October 14, 2019 at 15:20

    I disagree that Obama was “well-meaning”. I think he was a self-serving hypocrite, a sociopath who felt no one’s pain. (Just like Bill Clinton.)

    • Dianne Foster
      October 15, 2019 at 03:55

      I agree with all these comments, but also would like to point out that the 50’s was a time of massive regime change operations by the CIA, which included the U.S. taking the place of the French colonialists in Vietnam after Dien Bien Phu, the violent overthrow of left populist Patrice Lumumba in the formerly Belgian Congo ’60, overthrow of democratically elected president of Iran and placement of the shah in ’53, Guatemala ’54, Chile, Argentina, the list goes on. Most recently, Honduras ’09, Ukraine 2014, lead by the Biden/McCain/Nuland cabal that established hegemony of neo-Nazi parties (Right Sector and Svoboda). There has been no change in those policies through any president, with the possible exception of JFK, who began to question that direction, and was subsequently assassinated. I always thought the Nobel committee was hoping Obama would provide leadership in the future, but thought it was misdirected.

    • October 15, 2019 at 07:09


    • Skip Scott
      October 15, 2019 at 10:41

      I agree. It is hard to think of him as anything other than conniving when you realize that his 2008 cabinet was chosen for him by CitiGroup. That was not just weakness, it was contrived deception, and 180 degrees from his campaign rhetoric.

    • Ash
      October 15, 2019 at 13:20

      Thank you. He wasn’t a good guy that was too soft for the job, he was a sellout from moment one.

      And Obamacare is a steaming pile, not a “triumph”… unless you’re an insurance company.

  34. Litchfield
    October 14, 2019 at 15:18

    Barack Obama was a man on the make.
    He had no particular qualifications to be the president of the United States. He was a image.
    A created image.
    He was groomed, heavily funded from early on, and shoved in front of the American and international public at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. He and his handlers had joined a vicious behind-the-scenes battle over who would deliver the keynote speech and Obama’s team won. There is nothing secret about this.

    “That April, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill began listing possible candidates to be the 2004 Democratic National Convention’s keynote speaker—including Jennifer Granholm, Janet Napolitano, Tom Vilsack, Mark Warner, and Bill Richardson—searching for speakers who would generate a significant buzz in the media.[4][5] Others involved in the process included convention manager Jack Corrigan and Kerry media advisor Robert Shrum.[5] Corrigan’s friend, Lisa Hay, knew Obama from their time together working on the Harvard Law Review and strongly recommended him.[6] Cahill had previously seen Obama in a photo in TIME and began asking for opinions from people who knew and had worked with him. Although there were some internal worries about his style of speaking, lack of experience with a teleprompter, opposition to the Iraq War that Kerry initially supported, and the fact that he was only a state senator, they eventually chose Obama over the other finalist, Jennifer Granholm, in part because polls showed Kerry with less support among African-Americans than Democrats normally enjoyed and because he was running for an important Senate seat.[4][5] During the process, the Obama senate campaign provided the Kerry camp with **an eight-minute audition video***,[4] and several Obama advisors lobbied on his behalf with members of the Kerry staff.[5]”

    Trump and Bush may both be worse than Obama on a number of levels as presidents, but neither one of them was/is the empty suit that is Barack Obama. And if you don’t like Trump, understand the basic point: Obama and the enormous void, the sense of betrayal, that this empty suit left, or created in our polity on hindsight made the Trump presidency inevitable. A result that maybe scared him enough to motivate him to conspire with various others to sink candidate Trump and then to hogtie President Trump. The Russians had nothing to do with Trump’s win. .

    Trump is decried for being a narcissist and egomaniac, but he has nothing on Barack Obama, the master of smug. self-involved conceit.

    • vinnieoh
      October 14, 2019 at 17:54

      The event you referenced, the 2004 address – I remember watching it. I don’t remember at all what Obama said, but I remember distinctly what happened immediately afterward. There were reporters and cameras backstage and as he retired there he was asking the press “How did I do” How did I look?” No reinforcement of his lofty words or things to fight for. It was a big eye-opener for me. As you say, I saw an empty suit.

      But I am aware not to make hasty decisions. I sought out and read several of his White Papers that were in circulation during his campaign in 2008. Yes, I actually waded through them. Neoliberalism through and through; a perfect fit for the establishment pols, not so much for us. What helped Obama more than anything else was the known fact that McCain was a militarist first and foremost, and the widely shared suspicion that he might not be sane. Though I voted for Obama twice, I expected little from him, and got even less.

      But, from the mundane to the absurd – the constant screaming from the GOP’ers that “Obama’s a socialist!” as he did everything they wanted much more smoothly than they ever could. Surreal.

      Re-wind even further to the staged putsch that happened in Florida in 2000. Hired goons threatening violence unless the vote counting was stopped and the corrupt judiciary feigning fear of a national civil uprising if they didn’t act to decide the outcome. When we review our actual history 2016 just looks like more of the same Lucy and Charlie and the football. Make no mistake, the Electoral College functioned exactly in 2016 as it was intended to function by those who embedded it in the constitution. Had Clinton won, US political rancor would be no less than today, so-called “US world leadership ” would be as equally disastrous as it has been for decades, and the great majority of us would still be just flotsam and jetsam sinking under the waves around the ship of state.

  35. Vera Gottlieb
    October 14, 2019 at 15:00

    I still am of the opinion that Obama did not deserve the Nobel prize and that he should return it – including the money.

  36. October 14, 2019 at 14:48

    Obama is a wuss. How anyone could have expected an honest politician to emerge from the Chicago Democratic machine is beyond my ken.

    That he wasn’t a fighter was public knowledge early in his first administration when he began the healthcare negotiation by abandoning the single payer option, on the excuse that his vision of politics involved only the “art of the possible.” He couldn’t even summon the courage to use his bully pulpit to pound Big Pharmacy for their insistence that the government not be allowed to negotiate medication prices. And if led at all in the Healthcare negotiations, it was from the rear. He was not visible until others had worked out a compromise bill. Then he suddenly bobbed up to take credit.

    I rank Obama near the bottom of all U.S. presidents in history. He will be remembered as the first black president, a stunning accomplishment, and not for much else.

  37. worldblee
    October 14, 2019 at 14:48

    There are some good points in this interview, but in total I find it too soft. If Obama only wanted to avoid confrontation, why did he eagerly take on the role of choosing who should die from US drones? Why did he push war so hard and not just keep up current occupations but expand to new and bloody wars like the destruction of Libya and the attempted destruction of Syria?

    • ML
      October 14, 2019 at 20:36

      Yes, and he stated that “Libya was the greatest mistake” of his presidency. And we made a mistake voting for him. At least, I know I did. And now we have the tangerine tyrant, a petulant, puerile little man-hands as the “leader of the free world.” What an awful joke on all of us. Thanks, Barack.

    • AnneR
      October 15, 2019 at 08:26

      I quite agree. This interview – and the responses – are much too forgiving. And interestingly ignore (don’t know about the full interview) any attempt at an explanation as to why Obama let the banksters get away with their criminal behaviors which cost the US taxpayers (which don’t include, of course not, those who he let off scot free) much money and large numbers of innocent people to lose their homes. These swindled people *didn’t* get any bail out. Instead they had to pay for the banksters’ bail out *and* their huge end of year bonuses.

      As for Obama’s not being confrontational therefore he went along (with warmongering, destroying the lives and countries of those other peoples) to get along – frankly, bunkum. He did draw up weekly kill lists for his video warriors drone flights. He did increase the numbers of military personnel in our perpetual invasion-occupation slaughter of Afghanistan (and didn’t take us out of Iraq). He initiated the Ukraine coup, the Libya destruction, the war on Syria and the anti-China “pivot to Asia” as well as stoking the anti-Russia temper of DC.

      Moreover I don’t think we can say that poor little Mr Obama chose the cabinet/admin that he did because, well, he was simply too nice, non-confrontational, desirous of getting on with everyone. He chose HRC, Samantha Power, Geitner, Duncan, Rahm and on and on…

      Like every other president certainly of recent times he made sure to chummy up to those members of the ruling elites, the corporate-capitalist-imperialists who have most certainly ensured that he has benefited very nicely thank you from being prez.

  38. Jeff Harrison
    October 14, 2019 at 14:07

    Obama was a community organizer, not a leader. To lead you must have a vision of where you want to go and then take whatever steps you need to get there. Unfortunately, he lacked the tenacity to work for it and, in all honesty, the Republicans have no interest in the American republic. The Republicans are only interested in an authoritarian oligarchy and they have made American politics toxic since Slick Willie had the audacity to defeat George I. It used to be that the government attempted to solve problems that the US had, attempted to use the government to get for the American people what they wanted. What actually is happening is that we are seeing ideology simply being applied to all things American, weather or not it makes any sense, weather the American people want it or not. The Democrats don’t really have an ideology, they’re (allegedly) just not as bad as the Republicans an assertion that I seriously question. But the American republic is broken and I doubt it will ever be put back together. I’m 70 and I’ve watched the country being destroyed step by step. Each step along the way, we’ve tried to get some other organization that will force the US to play by the rules but there is no other organization other than We the People. The Supreme Court isn’t going to do it. The executive isn’t going to do it as the executive always wants more power and the legislature won’t do it because they don’t want the responsibility.

    • Sam F
      October 14, 2019 at 20:45

      Indeed, the political parties select followers of oligarchy to pose as leaders.
      They are all created by, and exist so long as they attract, campaign bribes.
      The executive and legislative branches are 100% bought by economic power.
      They select the judicial branch as solicitors and servants of that oligarchy.
      Neither Dems or Reps have ideology beyond cash, only propaganda.
      Very true that “the American republic is broken” and cannot be repaired.
      It would need to have all branches and MSM isolated from economic power.
      But those are the tools of change, no longer available to restore democracy.
      It must be recycled, an agonizing process of centuries, unless it is destroyed.

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