It was all about Hope
and Change We Can Believe In and we
bought it.
My goodness, how many presidential candidates have thrown
those lines out there? But we elected the man and danced in the streets after a
previous eight years of fear-based lies. It was a huge relief to those who felt
America had been hustled by the outgoing administration. The system would right
itself. Thank God, the system would finally right itself, with this smart,
savvy constitutional lawyer at the helm. If he happened to be a black man as
well, it was simply another page turned in the American history we all believed
was inevitable.
”Barack
Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as
the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax
plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into
John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers
“at the expense of hardworking Americans.” Obama may not have run to
the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it’s not like you saw him on
the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What
inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a
genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were
being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term,
changing.”[1]
He swung into the saddle on a horse that had been economically
shot-out at the knees, but we knew he was the right man to lead. His final
rallying cry was to go after Wall Street and the Investment Banks that had
blown the vaults and run off with the pretty school ma’am. Young, tough and
straight-shooter, we watched him buckle his gun-belt. But it was the elected Obama we watched with
anticipation, rather than the candidate.
He selected a posse to chase the bad guys, almost entirely made up from among
the old robber gang.
New York Fed chief, Timothy Geithner, a man who smoothed the
Wall Street path to all the TARP banking bailouts, was the first to hit the
saddle alongside Obama, as Secretary of the Treasury. Next to grab a horse from
a bystander was Larry Summers, to head the National Economic Council, the key
group that coordinates all economic
policymaking
within the White House. Sporting a spiffy new white Stetson, Summers
was fresh-faced and ruddy from his millions made as a managing partner at the
hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co. and his popular speechifying at major financial
institutions, happily including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup,
Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers.
What
is it they say? It takes a thief to catch a thief. Long story short, Wall
Street and the banks are now twice to-big-to-fail and Obama’s Attorney General
now says they’re too-big-to-prosecute as well. Confused and in a state of
wonderment, as JPMorgan Chase reserved $23 billion to fight criminal prosecution
and Bank of America stashed $40 billion to keep its leaders out of jail, we re-elected
Barack Obama in 2012. But it hadn’t the soul of four years earlier. He had a
lot of help from Mitt Romney’s self-immolation. 
Six months into Obama’s second term, all hell broke loose in
the spying community and this Man of Hope
and Change
is hip-deep, these four months later, in a web of lies that only
become more tangled by the day. As candidate and President, Obama promised
transparency in his administration. On Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well
as at well scripted public appearances, he continues to make that claim, all in
an attempt to give lip-service to transparency, or at least the appearance
thereof. In the early days of the Snowden revelations, he said publicly that he
was eager to have a dialogue with the
American people on the subject
. Simultaneously and without the least irony,
he demonized and hunted the man who forced that throw-away line of ‘eagerness
for dialogue.’
These are the times of monologue on both sides of the
political spectrum. In reality; 
  • Edward Snowden has become a man without a
    country for his NSA spying revelations, sought by Obama and his administration
    as a ‘terrorist’ and ‘traitor.’ Without that promised dialogue, Snowden’s
    revelations continue to bloody the sheets and the president is (perhaps)
    rightfully exposed, his worldwide reputation coming apart at the seams.
  • Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, is holed up
    in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (in part) for making public thousands of
    American internal documents that outraged the world and of which we knew
    nothing in Obama’s transparent government.
  • Chelsea Manning begins serving 35 years in military
    prison for making public the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009
    Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, both of which indiscriminately targeted
    civilians and for which no military
    servicemen of substantial rank were charged
    . Who got 35 years? Why the messenger, of course, no matter how
    fragile his personal and military life.
  • Without Spc. Joseph Darby handing over of the horrific
    images of detainee abuse to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID),
    the abu Ghraib torture photos would never have sparked an investigation. To its
    credit, the next day, the Army launched a criminal investigation, but the seeds
    of such techniques were well known to have reached all the way to the Bush
    administration, within which no acid rain would fall.
  • The United States no longer tortures prisoners
    under its direct control but continues, under the Obama administration, to
    allow ‘extraordinary rendition’ to other countries for just that purpose and
    Guantanamo is still open for business.
So much for ‘transparency and welcoming a dialogue.’
The broken promises include that closing of Guantanamo
(which he could have accomplished by presidential order as Commander in Chief),
eliminating all oil and gas tax-loopholes, requiring publicly traded financial
partnerships to pay the corporate income tax, restoring habeas corpus rights
for ‘enemy combatants,’ regulating pollution from major livestock operations,
increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, limiting the term of the Director
of National Intelligence, introducing a comprehensive immigration bill in the
first year of his 2nd term, ending tax deductions for companies that
offshore and—pick your favorite ‘other.’
So, what are we to make of Change We can Believe In? That it was a con-game to assure a 2nd
term? That the constituency that elected him had somehow let him down? That he was unable to get his
agenda past Republican blockage? Rather, it seems he was way over his head in
the matter of political experience and used the nation’s governance as a
training ground. But we stayed with him through a re-election campaign, which
is more than he did for those of us who doggedly got him there.
FDR
fought (and largely won against) a Republican Party that despised him through five
successful election cycles. His legacy continues today, responsible (at the
author’s own admission) for the very survival of Dick Cheney’s family. Now
there’s an irony for you.
It would be one thing if the national thirst for honesty and
support were simply not there, but the amazing success of plain-spoken
candidates who support civil society, like Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio,
are riding electoral groundswells on issues that affect American society. Will
they too be defeated by their darker sides, or lust for re-election? It seems
not, but these are early days. It seemed not with Barack Obama as well and this
season’s vigilantes are just swinging into their saddles.
And
there we come down to it, a president’s, or other elected official’s legacy to
the citizens he represents. Barack Obama is a young man, among our youngest
elected presidents. He will have 40 or 50 years to reflect upon what he
promised as a candidate against what he delivered as president. History will
reflect upon those disparities as well, including those of us who unswervingly
supported him.
I suspect history will not be all that kind and he may face
decades of personal regret for the President he might have been.

[1]
Matt Taibbi, Obama’s Big Sellout, Rolling Stone, December 13, 2009