Thursday, August 16, 2012

False Savior: Barack Obama (Part 3): Obummer's "Team of Rivals"

"I cannot recall the last time Republicans felt so positive towards a Democratic presidential figure."

-----former Bush advisor David Frum, on Barack Obama

Never forget: The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain. And after he made his major appointments, Obama's picks were openly praised by Karl Rove, Joe Lieberman, Max Boot, John McCain, and David Brooks. The next time you hear a raving reactionary accusing Obama of "socialism" ask yourself when Lenin, Marx, Mao, and Castro ever won the praise of leading reactionaries.

Obama handed out cabinet posts and other major government positions to the cream of the crop of Wall Street swindlers, who became the architects of his anemic economic "recovery." (There's nothing like hiring arsonists to run the fire department.) Reviewing the records of Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board, which met on November 7, 2008 to determine how to handle the financial crisis, Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg News concluded that "many of them should be getting subpoenas as material witnesses right about now, not places in Obama's inner circle." About half "have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both." Is it really believable, Weil asked, that "they won't mistake the nation's needs for their own corporate interests?" Weil also pointed out that Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel "was a director at Freddie Mac in 2000 and 2001 while it was committing accounting fraud." When he was in the House of Representatives, Emmanuel was described as one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress, raking in $1.5 million from the investment industry for his 2006 re-election campaign.

One of the leading members of Obama's initial economic team was Bob Rubin, a big fan of the deregulation that was a crucial factor in the economic crash of 2008. As treasury secretary, Rubin worked hard to abolish the Glass-Steagall Act, greatly benefitting Citigroup, which was facing the prospect of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary. (Glass-Steagall had required that commercial banks be kept separate from investment banks that incurred high risks.) Rubin had a personal interest in torpedoing Glass-Steagall. After leaving his position as treasury secretary, he became vice-chair of Citigroup, where he was paid $120 million over the subsequent decade. In 2001, acting on Citigroup's behalf, Rubin called his former colleague Peter Fisher at the treasury department, asking for help in preventing Enron's credit rating from being downgraded, thus allowing Ken Lay and Co. to defraud the public for a few more frantic weeks.

Rubin was replaced by Larry Summers (who Obama made Director of the White House United States National Economic Council), who presided over legislation barring federal regulation of derivatives, the "weapons of mass destruction" (Warren Buffet) that helped crash the financial markets into disaster. Summers ranks as a key villain in that drama. Economist Dean Baker, one of the few to predict of the impending crisis, says that placing financial policy in the hands of Summers and Rubin was "a bit like turning to Osama bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism." This observation had more ironic bite before the U.S. backed Al Qaeda mercenaries in a successful attempt to demolish much of Libya.

Obama selected Timothy Geithner to become Treasury Secretary, after Geithner had helped cover up massive fraud at Lehman brothers. As Treasury Secretary Geithner gave away trillions of dollars of public money to plundering banks deemed "too big to fail." None of the Wall Street looters has ever been indicted; none has returned any of the stolen money.

Obama continued with Bush's choice for Defense Secretary (Robert Gates), a man with a lengthy and disturbing history at the CIA, which has helped kill millions of civilians in dozens of interventions around the world since the end of WWII. Can anyone really be surprised that Obama has attacked one country after another since making this appointment?

Obama's picks to head up his foreign policy team were so reactionary they won GOP praise. Richard Perle confessed that he felt "relieved . . . Contrary to expectations, I don't think we would see a lot of change" from the Bush neo-con policies. Retiring senior Republican senator John Warner, former chair of the Armed Services Committee, said "the triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and (James) Jones to head Obama's national security team instills great confidence at home and abroad and further strengthens the growing respect for the president-elect's courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the best and the brightest to implement our nation's security policies."

As his special assistant on the Middle East, Obama chose Dan Kurtzer, Clinton-Bush ambassador to Egypt and Israel, respectively. Kurtzer is close to Obama adviser Dennis Ross, whose position as a negotiator for the failed Camp David negotiations was that Israel has "needs" whereas Palestinians only have "wants," the latter inherently less significant. In any event, according to Israel's leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, Kurtzer played a role in writing Obama's speech to AIPAC in 2008, the content of which was even more disgustingly obsequious than Bush had ever been. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said Obama, repeatedly stressing "everything" to make it clear Washington was willing to engage in nuclear war on Israel's behalf, and never mentioning the lack of evidence for an Iranian nuclear bomb. (Tehran insists it is producing nuclear energy only, not bombs). He also declared Jerusalem would be the permanent capital of Israel, an attitude practically guaranteed to eventuate in nuclear catastrophe.

Obama's most important staff pick was vice-president Joe Biden, a major Senate facilitator of state propaganda to invade Iraq and one of the strongest supporters of the invasion among Senate Democrats. Biden brought smiles to Wall Street faces when he supported a measure to make it harder for hard-pressed individuals to erase debt by claiming bankruptcy. And he made sure to go down on his knees before the Israel fanatics, declaring himself a dedicated "Zionist" on a visit to the country, where he was promptly insulted by his hosts. Unfazed, Biden continues to publicly adore them.

For White House Chief of Staff Obama chose Rahm Emmanuel, an "ex" Israeli soldier, long-time Washington insider, a leading sponsor of Israeli militarism and apartheid, and one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion in the House of Representatives. The leading Democratic party strategist in 2006, he purged anti-war Democrats in favor of pro-war candidates, much to the detriment of Democratic party election results that year.

Hillary Clinton was the pick for Secretary of State. She was a leading Iraq war hawk who approved a Bush plan to attack Iraq in late 2007, exulted in the capture, torture, and execution of the Libyan head of state in 2012, and aggressively pushed the Israel line on Iran.

For attorney general Obama picked Eric Holder, who explained on CNN that the U.S. can't adhere to the Geneva Conventions banning torture because we are dealing with "terrorists," the usual infinitely elastic demon category used to justify every conceivable state atrocity. Holder has justified continuing Bush's illegal program of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens on the grounds of protecting state secrets. He also helped the Senate extend the Patriot Act for another year, allowing the president to, "treat . . . . human rights advocates as criminal terrorists, and threaten . . . them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolve disputes." But Holder's crowning Orwellian triumph was going around the country explaining how President Obama has legal authority to assassinate Americans at will, so long as he designates them "terrorists" first.

Obama appointed Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary. In his first year on the job Interior put 53 million acres of offshore oil reserves up for lease, far surpassing the record of the Bush Administration. When Salazar served in the Senate, he publicly chided the Bush Administration for what he perceived as its slow pace of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps Salazar's greatest crime was in retaining the "services" of Bush appointee Chris C. Oynes as assistant director of the Minerals Management Service. Oynes had been for twelve years the director of oil and gas leasing operations for the MMS in the Gulf of Mexico. Under his watch repeat offenders in the oil industry were allowed to police themselves, writing their own environmental analyses and safety inspection and compliance reports, often thoughtfully done in pencil so all the MMS regulators had to do was trace over the letters in ink. The Interior Department's inspector general filed a scathing report that the agency under Oynes fostered a "cultural of ethical failure."

To put it mildly. Oynes is the one constant figure in the Horizon Deepwater disaster, which dumped over 200 million gallons of oil in the Gulf and contaminated hundreds of miles of coastline. The road to catastrophe was laid during Oynes's watch in the Bush Administration, and was continued by the Obama Administration - without environmental review.

Perhaps this is just more "change you can believe in"?

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