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Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power

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As Obama nears the middle of his first-term as president Paul Street assesses his performance against the expectations of his supporters. While mainstream journalists have noted discrepancies between Obama's original vision and reality, Paul Street uniquely measures Obama's record against the expectations of the truly progressive agenda many of his supporters expected him As Obama nears the middle of his first-term as president Paul Street assesses his performance against the expectations of his supporters. While mainstream journalists have noted discrepancies between Obama's original vision and reality, Paul Street uniquely measures Obama's record against the expectations of the truly progressive agenda many of his supporters expected him to follow. Taken together, the list of Obama's weakened policies is startling: his business-friendly measures with the economy, the lack of support for the growing mass of unemployed and poor, the dilution of his health reform agenda, the passage of a record-setting Pentagon budget, and escalation of US military violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Street's account reveals these and many other indications of how deeply beholden Obama is to existing dominant domestic and global hierarchies and doctrines.


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As Obama nears the middle of his first-term as president Paul Street assesses his performance against the expectations of his supporters. While mainstream journalists have noted discrepancies between Obama's original vision and reality, Paul Street uniquely measures Obama's record against the expectations of the truly progressive agenda many of his supporters expected him As Obama nears the middle of his first-term as president Paul Street assesses his performance against the expectations of his supporters. While mainstream journalists have noted discrepancies between Obama's original vision and reality, Paul Street uniquely measures Obama's record against the expectations of the truly progressive agenda many of his supporters expected him to follow. Taken together, the list of Obama's weakened policies is startling: his business-friendly measures with the economy, the lack of support for the growing mass of unemployed and poor, the dilution of his health reform agenda, the passage of a record-setting Pentagon budget, and escalation of US military violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Street's account reveals these and many other indications of how deeply beholden Obama is to existing dominant domestic and global hierarchies and doctrines.

36 review for Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power

  1. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    On Obama’s third day in office, he authorized his first illegal Predator drone assaults – his second strike of the day mistakenly targeted a “pro-government official, killing his entire family including three children.” Obama has kids; on day three, he kills the kids of an ally in his first war crime. No apology, no acknowledgement. In three years of Obama’s drones strikes he has killed “50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent, hardly precision.” And hardly moral. Robert On Obama’s third day in office, he authorized his first illegal Predator drone assaults – his second strike of the day mistakenly targeted a “pro-government official, killing his entire family including three children.” Obama has kids; on day three, he kills the kids of an ally in his first war crime. No apology, no acknowledgement. In three years of Obama’s drones strikes he has killed “50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent, hardly precision.” And hardly moral. Robert Scheer noted that “What is nerve-racking about Obama is that even though he campaigned against Bush’s follies he has now embraced them.” As Obama candidly told CNN, many foreign leaders told him “I don’t understand why people would call you socialist. In my country, you’d be considered a conservative.” It is a red flag that as President, Obama never told crowds that “change happens from the bottom up”, but as a candidate he did. This two-faced progressive/neoliberal behavior is explainable: Obama follows what the NYT referred to as the “violin model”- play the populace with empty progressive rhetoric while bowing in complete service to the military/corporate state. Smooth talk over no change. NYT reporter Bob Herbert writes in Obama’s last years, “More soldiers committed suicide this year than in any year for which we have complete records. But the military is now able to meet its recruitment goals because the young men and women signing up can’t find jobs in civilian life. The United States is broken – yet we are sending economically distressed young people over there by the thousands at an annual cost of a million dollars each.” To one policy analyst, the first job of a President is “to frame U.S. policy in a way that takes some of the passion out of the widespread hostility for the United States”. Obama boycotts the second international UN conference on racism, the so-called Durban II. Obama spent more money on defense than Reagan - in fact he spent more, “in real dollars, than any president has in one term of office since World War II”. Obama dared say to a Chilean reporter that the U.S. could never apologize for its role in the 1973 coup against Chile because the United States is “an enormous force for good in the world” one that prefers to “look forward’ not “backward”. Jeremy Scahill once observed that Obama “can make people think that war is peace.” Thanks to Obama, the “badly Bush-damaged ‘brand USA’ gets a dramatic and instant public relations makeover on the global stage.” The real change after Bush says Dominique Moisi, is that Obama is about style, soft power, and televised global imagery. Jack Goldsmith said the difference between Bush and Obama was packaging. A huge mistake of Obama’s was not going after Bush’s torturers – what a way to lose the moral high ground! The ACLU publically took Obama to task for not prosecuting Bush administration war crimes. From a dispatch of Barry Grey: “U.S. President Barack Obama personally issued the order for US air strikes in Yemen last Thursday which killed scores of civilians, including women and children.” Would Obama do this to his own kids? No. To someone else’s kids outside of the U.S.? Yes, repeatedly and with (so far) zero remorse. What a moral role model. “The election of a technically black president reinforces the longstanding conventional white illusion that racism has disappeared.” Soon Glenn Greenwald was writing that “much of the liberal and progressive community was falling into line behind repressive policies it would have continued to criticize under a Republican administration.” Bob Herbert wrote, “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.” When Obama is point blank asked if “there’s anything that’s happened in the past 7 ½ years that the U.S. needs to apologize for in terms of foreign policy?” Obama answers, “No, I don’t believe in the U.S. apologizing”. Wow… Chilling… One Afghani woman learned the good intentions of the Obama administration first-hand; she got a check for $400 from the U.S. Government! Yes, this thoughtful gift was for the accidental killing of her husband and six children by drone. Allah be praised; had she died too, maybe her uncle would have gotten $450! The generosity of America under Obama knows no bounds. In a speech, Obama proclaims with fascist undertones that he wants “unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” As the author points out, too bad democracy is all about “conflict and discord”. Isn’t it fun to be Obama when you personally don’t fight the wars you start and don’t even have to pay for them (your children’s generation will do that) – all the benefits and none of the costs – and no apologies for any of your own war crimes! In the end, the same things considered “intolerable” under Bush seemed oh so fine under Obama. I will never underestimate the power of packaging and PR over substance again!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Warren

    Well researched and cited. A superb, damning expose of how the actions of Obama as a newly minted POTUS completely contradicted the effusive, progressive rhetoric that made him famous and got him elected.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex Birnel

    In "The Empire's New Clothes" Paul Street launches a data/factoid rich polemic on prolific Barack Obama from a left of liberal position, opening his thoroughly researched argument with a frank section on getting duped, used and abused by a game changing public relations strategy. Kicking things off for the reader, Street muses on the whirlwind infatuation that carried the 44th president to the Oval office from his short lived state politics hang out. Largely thanks to the hypnotic effect of "Oba In "The Empire's New Clothes" Paul Street launches a data/factoid rich polemic on prolific Barack Obama from a left of liberal position, opening his thoroughly researched argument with a frank section on getting duped, used and abused by a game changing public relations strategy. Kicking things off for the reader, Street muses on the whirlwind infatuation that carried the 44th president to the Oval office from his short lived state politics hang out. Largely thanks to the hypnotic effect of "Obama, the brand", a phrase Street borrows from noteworthy left writer Chris Hedges, the oncoming newly elected head of state had many of us expectant (very dizzily) of magnificent and radical changes in the country, an intoxication so effective that his campaign was awarded the Association of National Advertiser's (ANA) compliment of "Marketer of the Year" in 2008, beating out powerhouses Apple and Zappos. After establishing the potency of Obama's charm, Street treats you to a no holds barred look into the deception lurking within the progressive rhetoric used by Obama in the arenas of domestic policy and US action abroad, sparing no ugly sobering fact from exposure. Whether it's the insulting recycling of Wall Street minions to staff executive cabinet positions, a pathetically butchered health care reform bill featuring a desiccated public option, fake community and home love for Chicago preached in front of the International Olympic Committee, while indifferently remaining silent after Darrion Albert was murdered in front of a CPS high school just a week earlier, to blocking prosecutions of Bush Era War Crimes...Street's analysis is tireless. This barely skims the breadth of the book. If you're wondering what the administration has done in relation to the middle east and less covered regions (Latin America, Russia, China) it's also there. It's formatted like a Chomsky digest is. Heading bold with short passages on individual topics. They are NUMEROUS. You'll be satisfied with the range. You'll understand why Obama is more right wing than revolutionary, how his class status supersedes his pigmentation, that post racial is a Barack myth , and many other things etc. My only complaint is pointed at Paul Street's prose, which can exasperate at times, guilty of that cliche leftist diction sprinkled with all that polysyllabic jargon straight from the script for anyone who floats in these circles. Although it's accurate, it leaves me sometimes feeling like it's critics, that we've sophisticated rants and formalized whining. The hint of fraternity back-patting is slightly annoying. All in all, the book is far and wide more good than bad. I'll take the data and insight where it is, and be peevish on my own time. Read it!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marian

    Paul Street is from Chicago. "Ground zero." Paul Street is from Chicago. "Ground zero."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Williams

  6. 5 out of 5

    George Brown

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Welch

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Jain

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jon-robert

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sean Mulligan

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Buccola

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grace O'Keeffe

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  16. 4 out of 5

    celia a harrison

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Grandpre

  18. 4 out of 5

    Clay

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ayman Fadel

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jason Gordon

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miquixote

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jivey

  26. 4 out of 5

    Enrique

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

  28. 5 out of 5

    JWG

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Florence

  31. 4 out of 5

    William Haywood Carey

  32. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Russell

  33. 4 out of 5

    Desmond

  34. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  35. 4 out of 5

    Lavender Blume

  36. 5 out of 5

    Victor Cosby

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