One thing leads to another. I got a movie on Netflix, South of the Border, thinking it was about Hugo Chávez. It was about a lot more than Hugo Chávez, and featured interviews with not just Chávez, but also with Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirchner and his wife Christina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Raúl Castro of Cuba, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. It’s a powerful film about the growth of self-determination and a hopeful new political vision in South America. I’ve watched it three times so far. It’s unapologetically one-sided, and for Americans that shouldn’t matter much. We get the other side, and pretty much only the other side, from our news media.
I noticed that the screenplay was co-written by Tariq Ali, and that led me to his book Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, which I’ve bought but haven’t yet read. The reason I haven’t read it is that while I was looking for it on Amazon, I came across another book of his — The Obama Syndrome: Surrender At Home, War Abroad. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover, which shows Barack Obama’s mask crumbling away to reveal G.W. Bush beneath.
This is a small and slender volume. The main text ends on page 117, and the appendices on page 147. You might be able to read it in one sitting, but I couldn’t; it took me several days. For one thing, it’s packed with a great deal of information. Tariq Ali doesn’t spend a lot of time on rhetoric; he hits you so hard with facts, figures, and references that it’s a little overwhelming, despite his very readable writing style. Sometimes I needed a break to chase down a reference; for instance, Chase Madar’s “How Liberal Law Professors Kill” on CounterPunch. Sometimes I just needed a break from the unabated horror of what I was reading in this damning indictment of Obama’s presidency. There was much I already knew, but also much I didn’t, and having it all brought together in this compact book was devastating — even to me, and I thought I had no illusions about Obama.
I wish every American could read this book, and especially those who think that by voting for the Democrats they are at least averting the greater evil of the Republicans. I believe the politics of the lesser of two evils is toxic, but this book makes it clear that it’s not even true. The one thing Ali brings home to the reader over and over is the almost seamless continuity of the Obama administration with the G.W. Bush administration. A supporting theme is that, like it or not, we’re living in Reagan’s America. Ali mentions, though he doesn’t document it in such excruciating detail, that this political continuity goes all the way back through Clinton and George H.W. Bush to Ronald Reagan. Obama, for all his oratory skill and his political sleight of hand, is truly — and for the country and world, tragically — carrying on business as usual.
One passage (on page 76) sums up the Obama modus operandi:
Unable and unwilling to deliver any serious reforms, Obama has become the master of the sympathetic gesture, the understanding smile, the pained but friendly expression that always appeared to say, “Really, I agree and wish we could, but we can’t. We really can’t and it’s not my fault.” The implication is always that the Washington system prevents any change that he could believe in. But the ring of truth is absent. Whether seriously considering escalating an unwinnable war, bailing out Wall Street, getting the insurance company lobbyists to write the new “health care” bill or suggest nominations to his cabinet and the Supreme Court, the mechanism he has deployed is always the same. A better option is put on the table for show, but not taken seriously. A worse option is rapidly binned. And a supposed compromise emerges. This creates the impression among party loyalists that the prez is doing his best, that a team of serious thinkers is hard at work considering every possibility, but that the better alternative simply isn’t feasible. This is followed by the spin doctors coming down hard to defend some shoddy compromise or other.
There’s an anecdote on the following page that I really want to share, but I’ll let you discover it for yourself. It’s a dramatic example of just how unpleasant “the ugly side” of Obama can really be. It’s drawn from Illinois State Senator Rickey Hendon’s book Black Enough/White Enough: The Obama Dilemma, and it’s enough to move that book onto my list of must-reads.
Unfortunately, neither Ali’s books nor Hendon’s is available on Kindle, so I’ve had to buy more hardbacks even as I’m trying to unload books. But it’s worth it. Read The Obama Syndrome; I don’t think you’ll regret it.