Pre-Inauguration Obama Retrospective

by: David Sirota

Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 20:10


Like most Americans, I'm pretty excited about tomorrow's inauguration. During the primary and general election, I was pretty outspoken in my support for Obama. That doesn't mean I didn't critique/criticize him - I sure did. But I was out there advocating for him pretty intensely too.

Indeed, I took today to look back on my own last three years of reporting on our soon-to-be president and am mostly proud of what I wrote, though am also sure I got a few things wrong. I figured that if you are reading this post, you obviously read OpenLeft, which means you are probably A) as excited as I am about Obama becoming president and B) perhaps interested in a bit of a retrospective. So without further ado, here are the articles on Obama I wrote over the last three years in chronological order:

David Sirota :: Pre-Inauguration Obama Retrospective
- Mr Obama. Goes to Washington (The Nation 2006): This is sort of my foundational piece on Obama, as it revolves around my own personal interaction with him. It includes an exclusive interview from a day I spent with Obama back in 2006.

- Stay Classy, Mike Huckabee (Creators Syndicate, 1/11/08): A look at the contrasting messages on class between Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama.

- The Democrats' Class War ( (Creators Syndicate, 2/8/08): This column examines how racial stereotyping forced Obama to confine his populist economic message.

- Is Wright Right About Racism? (Creators Syndicate, 3/28/08): The headline speaks for itself - the column looked at how Jeremiah Wright - and consequently, the Obama candidacy - raised lots of questions white America didn't want to answer (I got a lot of flack for this column from conservatives).

- The Race Chasm (In These Times, 3/31/08): Using primary results, this magazine article explored how Obama's candidacy highlighted the persistent racial divides inside the Democratic Party and throughout the country as a whole.

- Countering Race With Class (Creators Syndicate, 6/20/08): As Republicans ramped up his cultural populism/racism, this column looked at how Obama could counter with an economic message (which he ended up doing quite effectively).

- "Centrists" Running the Asylum (Creators Syndicate, 7/18/08): Published after Obama made a series of moves to the "center," this column tried to explain why Obama made such moves, and how to counter them.

- No Time for a Minimalist (Creators Syndicate, 9/19/08): As Obama adviser Cass Sunstein was bragging that Obama was merely a "minimalist," this column made the case that the candidate had the potential to be much much more.

- Mandate '08: Reagan vs. FDR (Creators Syndicate, 10/31/08): This piece, out just before the election, looked at how Obama's message down the stretch was straight out of Roosevelt, and how McCain's message was straight out of Reagan - and what that would mean for an Obama victory.

- Our Dear Leader (Creators Syndicate, 11/28/08): With progressives worried about Obama as he appointed center-right Cabinet secretaries, this column discussed why to be simultaneously concerned and not concerned.

- That Old Saying In Tennessee (Creators Syndicate, 1/16/09): Obama's first exercise of presidential power was his recent veto threat of any bill restricting the Wall Street bailout. This column put that into context, asking what it might mean for the new administration.

Leave any comments/critiques in the comments section below, though I hope you also leave some of your own retrospective thoughts as well. Rest assured, I know I wasn't 100 percent perfect in any of my predictive statements (which I do try to limit), but I tried to be 100 percent factually accurate. As I said, I'm very excited about tomorrow for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that despite my concerns/criticism of Obama, I think he's a good and decent person who has a real shot to help our country start turning itself around.


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Good read. (4.00 / 2)
Here is hoping the economy turns around in the next two years so this election could be a generational realignment for the dems.

God knows I hate the repug leaders even right now (saw Rummy today still say obama has the most liberal senate record, and hannity is doing a smear job on another obama appointee right before he is in office etc). Hopefully defeat after defeat will force to moderate them (as well as things like health care reform) so when they do win it is not a disaster.


Mr. Obama Goes to Washington (4.00 / 1)
Reading through David Sirota's interview with Obama in "Mr. Obama Goes to Washington," it's obvious that the ruling passion of one of the interlocutors is uncovering the truth and faithfully reporting it, and the ruling passion of the other is bullshitting his way into the Oval Office.

If I had to choose one situation or the other, it sounds like a lot of fun to ride a big limo down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, but if I had choose one soul or the other to inhabit, I would choose David Sirota every time.  


"There comes a time when silence is betrayal" (0.00 / 0)
The roaring silence from Obama on Gaza does not indicate that Obama is a "good and decent" person. In addition to this I've not heard a whisper from this "decent" human about the thousands of Iraqi children who have been slaughtered by the US war machine which Obama will now captain.

Those of us on the Left have heard for decades now sentiments such as "what will ever make you happy?" and "you are a purist" and "no one agrees with you" and "that may be what YOU want, but you need to be practical" and "OK if you reject them, who do YOU think would be the right person? What is YOUR choice then?" and "it is easy to criticize, but do you have any positive suggestions or do you just like to whine and complain?" and other similar statements.

"Not revolution, but evolution" people said when Clinton was elected, and we were harangued to see Clinton as some sort of wonderful new direction from the Reagan years. "We" got NAFTA.

"Now "weeeeeeeeee" have control of the House, and you have to be patient." We saw what happened. We don't have jack. Nothing. Ashes. A big sick cruel joke is what we have, and the joke is on us.

But "We" have "Dennis" - finally a man who "matches my personal spiritual values so that I can vote my conscience."

WTF??? Are we picking a guy for a high school prom date???

Have "We" lost our minds??

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee - second only to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee meeeeeeeeeeeee a candidate for meeeeeeeeeeeeee and IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII.

I don't give a damned what any liberal's personal little choice is, and I am sick of hearing about their latest knight in shining armor (Obama- The Audacity of Hype).

There are a number of implied assumptions behind this "not perfect enough for you" line of assault - and make no mistake, it is an assault, designed to silence people and terminate consideration and discussion. "Are you happy NOW??? Will you stop bothering us with your gloom and doom NOW???? Can we stop listening to you NOW????"

To say that the "latest-greatest" Obama (for example) is being rejected because he is not quite perfect is to imply that he is kinda sorta there, or "in the right direction" or presumed to be an ally. What is being pointed out here is not that Obama and The Dems fail some perfection test - an imaginary test that suggests that he/they are mostly OK but have a few flaws that only perfectionists would notice, and a test that the people being accused of using it are not using - but rather that these people are not at all, in any way, remotely, or vaguely aligned any of the working people and that the notion that they are aligned with us is all a carefully created and totally false illusion. What are presumed to be "flaws" - which a few of us are supposedly unwilling to overlook in our stubbornness and obtuseness - are actually accurate glimpses through the camouflage at the whole picture, not minor peripheral and insignificant flaws.

They aren't minor flaws in an otherwise perfect gem - they are indicators as to the true nature of this chunk of manure painted up to look like a gem so as to fool people. Looking through the holes in the fancy paint job at the interior of the object, and saying it is not a flawed diamond, it is a chunk of manure with a coat of paint hastily slopped on to make it look like a diamond is merely pointing out the hypocrisy and unreality of the liberal fetish.

On another level this assault on Obama's critics is wrong-headed and destructive, and that is in the implied assumption that politics is a matter of personal taste - "well that is what YOU want but not very many people agree with you." FUCK THAT. Politics is about the greatest good for the greatest number, not about "what I want." The narcissistic belly button lint gazing political "choice" mantra is completely antithetical to working class solidarity, and is nothing more than an amusing little hobby for the pampered and spoiled and selfish latte' liberal.

Beyond the question of whether or not Obama is perfect or even reasonably "progressive" (the latest political buzzword du jour), I also reject the assumption that we are all looking for a person to begin with, and that looking for a person is the essence of politics.

Barack Obama is the enemy.

Looking for a person is the problem, not the solution.

Insulting, frustrating, and silencing the most perceptive among us is what is destroying the possibility of a strong Left emerging, and is the tawdry and amoral House Negro work that keeps the ruling class in place. THAT is the  problem, and that is a LONG way from the snide and demeaning accusations that critics of Obama and others are being prissy little perfectionists, carping and fault finding for the sake of irritating people or being a party spoiler.

This "you are being a perfectionist" propaganda is infinitely more destructive to the Left than anything that ever comes from the right wingers, and is one of the most important bulwarks of ruling class power.

This is not nit-picking. It is not "being negative." It is not being a "purist."

This is the whole battle.

We have tried being polite, reasoning with people, documenting the truth, respecting and considering people's complaints that we are being too harsh, too radical, that we are making attacks, that we are alienating allies, that we are hurting "the cause."

None of that has worked.

The years slip by. Conditions grow worse and worse, The danger grows and grows. The ruling class gets stronger and stronger. Polite nicey-nice "can't we all get along children and play nice?" is bringing no positive returns and there is nothing to lose by speaking the truth as harshly as needs be to get the message across.

Maybe the bottom line is whether or not we all seek the same depth of changes in our society. There is no doubt in my mind that whether under the control of Democrats or the Republicans, the number one beneficiary of political decisions, be they foreign policy or domestic, will be large corporations/the extremely wealthy - that is, the general protection of the status quo, and the continuation of a capital-before-people mentality, the right of the US to impose its will on nations for the benefit of its corporations.

"For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society...a radical redistribution of political and economic power."

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr  


"Barack Obama is the enemy. " (4.00 / 1)
That seems to be the general consensus around here... The man hasn't even taken office, yet, and everyone is branding him as worse than Bush.  It makes no sense at all...

Absolutely insane, really... completely and totally nuts...  

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
Dont mind them (4.00 / 1)
They are the idiot fringe of the fringe and Irrelevant.

people like that match the case of 9/11 truthers and right wing birthers.


[ Parent ]
"The enemy?" (4.00 / 1)
I don't admire Obama, but it's absurd to call him "the enemy."

What would you call Dick Cheney, if Obama is "the enemy?"

What would you call terrorists like Timothy McVeigh or Usama bin Laden?

It's weird to have to agree with burry and lord_mike, but this time I think they're right.


[ Parent ]
On Eve of History Obama Follows Low Key Path (0.00 / 0)
That is the crappy headline today on the front page of today's NY Times.

What a crock.


NY times (0.00 / 0)
Is still pissed that Obama hasn't given them an interview. Their panel made a big deal that he is breaking precedence because bush gave them an interview!
They should grow up!

[ Parent ]
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