Obama’s Fake of the Union Address

By Michael D. Rectenwald
The Rec Report

Few doubt that Barack Obama is a masterful speaker. But too often his speaking ability is considered a national asset, especially as it is supposed to inspire the American public, persuade his political opponents, and favorably represent the national interests to the world. Yet Obama’s rhetorical mastery is the most dangerous weapon that his financial masters have used against the majority of late. Rather than persuading Congress or the American public to support policies and politics that benefit the majority, Obama has used his oratorical gifts to delude the people, representing his allegiance to the corporate oligarchy as a boon to the American public.

The State of the Union Address was an occasion for Obama to reboot his presidency by reinstalling and rerunning his campaign rhetoric. At the same time, he would have to reconcile the same with a yearlong record of betrayals. Thus, his support and enactment of massive corporate bailouts, his health care cuts crafted behind closed doors and presented as “reform,” his extension of imperialist wars, his proposed cuts in social spending, his proposed deepened tax cuts and incentives for business (as opposed to direct spending on millions losing their homes and jobs)-were all presented as a gift to a singular “American people.”

Despite a Democratic majority in both houses and a presidency with a massive mandate for “change,” the abject failures of his first year were blamed on his political “opponents.” Obama blamed the Republicans for the failure to enact health care reform. The proffered bill promises to penalize workers by taxing “Cadillac” plans and levying fines or imprisonment on those who fail to buy “coverage” from corporate insurers. Thanks to their defeat of the Democrat in the special senatorial election in Massachusetts, the Republicans are now expected to filibuster the unpopular health care bill. The choice of a Republican over Obama’s proxy in an overwhelmingly Democratic state indicates the extent to which Obama’s policies are generally opposed. Yet the Republicans were the whipping boys of the night. If the Republicans didn’t exist, one isn’t far off in saying, the Democrats would be sure to invent them. So great is the Democrats’ need for an alibi.

One of Obama’s most remarkable talents is his ability to feign righteous indignation. The grimaces of Supreme Court members tongue-lashed by the candidate of record Wall Street bundled funding were discomfiting to all but the most hypocritical Democratic sympathizers. Meanwhile, the ruling gives the green light to Obama’s paymasters to reward his party for its faithful service.

While acknowledging an election won on the basis of antiwar sentiment, the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan barely merited mention. Obama promised the removal of troops from Iraq, but said nothing about the fact that the time-table was set during his predecessor’s tenure, or that his military and intelligence policies mirror his predecessor’s to the letter. These policies include the Patriot Act, the secret renditions, the funding of renegade mercenaries, the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. He said nothing of the record number of troops killed in Afghanistan in 2009. And of course no mention was made of unmanned drones that repeatedly bomb and kill civilians in Pakistan. And Obama slid seamlessly over the fact that the gargantuan military budget will grow unchecked.

These facts do not accord well with the rhetoric of “change you can believe in.” Rather, given the Obama effect of silencing the so-called antiwar “left,” they speak volumes about the Democratic antiwar belief you can change.

Watching the speech and its reportage from the “left-right” angles of the U.S. corporate media, one might be led to believe that the divisions between the rival parties are real and deep. The grudge-match is treated like an epic battle between bitter enemies. Coverage, replete with pre- and postgame analysis, closely resembles that of a sporting event. Each party has its own network of fan-reporters. These function to obscure the fact that the real opponents are not even on the field of play.

The real battle is fought off-screen. The opponents are the corporate oligarchy and their political managers in Washington, lined up against a public faced with job losses, housing foreclosures, runaway debt, and extortion. Obama, the front man, was commissioned precisely because his allegiance to the corporate oligarchy seemed unlikely. He posed as a plausible candidate of change because his identity and oratorical style fit the bill for many. But after only a year, the majority has been disabused of this fiction. Most see him for the fraud that he is. His most valuable asset is fast becoming recognized as the face of deceit.

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