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Thread: Yawn! Obama sworn in

   
   
       
  1. #21
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    Obama: Stiglitz Says Ties to Wall Street Doom Bank Rescue

    On 21 Jan 2009, we said that Obama was a fraud and beholden to the bankers.

    Now, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz agrees. If you judge politicians on their actions instead of their words, you won't need a Nobel prize to figure them out. If you guys are still hanging on to cash instead of gold or silver, don't complain about losing your money soon.


    Stiglitz Says Ties to Wall Street Doom Bank Rescue

    By Michael McKee and Matthew Benjamin

    April 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration’s bank- rescue efforts will probably fail because the programs have been designed to help Wall Street rather than create a viable financial system, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said.

    “All the ingredients they have so far are weak, and there are several missing ingredients,” Stiglitz said in an interview yesterday. The people who designed the plans are “either in the pocket of the banks or they’re incompetent.”

    More…
    py

  2. #22
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    Re: Yawn! Obama sworn in - Obamanomics!

    Obama is on track to lead the US down the road to ruin. The President of sound-bites and Najib wants to emulate him.

    HaHaHa!


    Beware of Obamanomics.
    py

  3. #23
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    Re: Yawn! Obama sworn in

    This guy is headed for a big fall within 2 years. He's pleading for more time... to hang himself. Soon, he will force the Fed to print money to infinity. Watch the RM drop by 1/3 in value relative to gold.

    President Urges Public Patience on Economy

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY and CARL HULSE
    Published: July 11, 2009

    WASHINGTON — President Obama is stepping up efforts to maintain public support for his agenda as rising unemployment presents him with the biggest test of his political strength since taking office.

    Faced with an economic downturn that has proved deeper than the White House initially projected, Mr. Obama asked Americans on Saturday to remain patient, arguing that his $787 billion stimulus plan had saved the economy from collapse and put it on a gradual course to recovery.

    “As a result of the swift and aggressive action we took in the first few months of this year, we’ve been able to pull our financial system and our economy back from the brink,” he said, deflecting calls for a new round of stimulus spending and saying that his plan was intended to work not in a few months but over two years.

    Facing an array of challenges on Capitol Hill and concern about the huge budget deficit, he cast his main legislative initiatives, starting with his call for overhauling the health care system, as part of a long-term plan to rebuild the economy on a sounder foundation.

    Mr. Obama returns to Washington on Sunday from a weeklong trip abroad at a time when Democrats have grown increasingly jittery about the economy and the political risks of the president’s ambitious agenda on health care, energy and climate change, financial regulation and other issues. nytimes....
    py

  4. #24
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    Re: Yawn! Obama sworn in

    Quote Originally Posted by pywong
    The President of sound bites. Do not assess him on what he says. Assess him on what he does. Look at who he is appointing to help him in financial and economic affairs:

    Robert Rubin

    Lawrence Summers: Director of the U.S. National Economic Council.

    Timothy Geithner: U. S. Treasury Secretary.

    Gary Gensler: Chairman of the CFTC

    and Paul Volker

    Less than a year in office and he's already in trouble, clearly a man beholden to Wall Street. The US Federal Reserve is a private bank owned by the Financial Class. It should be abolished as it is a vehicle to steal money from the people.


    Obama ‘too big to fail’ plan blasted in Congress


    [Geithner testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday. — Reuters pic]

    Geithner testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday. — Reuters pic
    WASHINGTON, Oct 30 — The Obama administration's new proposal for tackling financial risk in the US economy, unveiled just two days ago, came under attack yesterday from Congress and regulators, with questions raised about its funding and scope.

    US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner scrambled in a congressional hearing to defend the plan against critics who said it would give too much power to regulators and enshrine government bailouts for troubled financial firms in law. TheMalaysiaInsider....
    py

  5. #25
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    Re: Yawn! Obama sworn in

    One year ago, I yawned at Obama's inauguration. Here's William J Murphy assessment of him. Note Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan were some of his largest campaign contributors.

    William Murphy: Before I discuss upcoming elections, realize that the Massachusetts Senatorial upset will have ENORMOUS ramifications on our lives, and likely none of them good (except, of course, the termination of that horrific healthcare bill). Already this week, you have seen the Obama Administration’s initial, reckless reaction, which was to radically change its views in order to look more “populist” to the masses of America. By attacking the very banks that were his largest benefactors (Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan were his #2, #6, and #7 campaign contributors, respectively), he directly created the three-day, 550 point avalanche in the Dow, and threatens to completely unglue the last superficial remnants of stability holding up the public’s perception and hopes. The only factors that created such stability at all (signified by the 2009 Dow rally) were the government’s insane money printing and its fraudulent change in accounting rules (courtesy of FASB) that allowed such banks to appear solvent, despite the fact that they most certainly aren’t.

    Additionally, the newly anointed “Time Magazine 2009 Person of the Year”, the esteemed (again facetious) Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, will likely be unceremoniously thrown out of office before we reach the second month of 2010, and right on his heels will be a bunch of (well deserved) scapegoats such as the terminally stupid and incompetent Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner. In fact, I’d love to see the whole lot of Obama’s economic advisors thrown out, including his Chief Economic Advisor Lawrence Summers (who literally wrote the book on gold manipulation, titled “Gibson’s Paradox). But believe me, if they do leave their replacements will be just as horrible. Think about it, Barrack Obama, anointed to near godlike status (frankly, because of his race only) and the potential savior of the United States, is ALREADY a lame duck. To further that point, I ASSURE YOU that if a “special election” was held today between Obama and Sarah Palin for President, Palin would win!

    But the most important thought I have to share regards what could happen in future U.S. elections, assuming they remain free. The law of diminishing returns has once again prevailed, showing the public is becoming disenchanted at a more rapid rate as the nation crumbles. The Republicans held control over the Presidency and Congress until 2006, and it took four years for the Democrats to take both back in 2010. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing keeping the Republicans from taking it all back today is the wait until elections, which surely would landslide in their direction if held today. And believe me, at the rate the U.S. economy is disappearing, that trend will only be more accentuated in November.

    What I worry about most is that the Republicans won’t even get another shot at it, as the dangerous world of demagogues comes into play when things get bad enough. Unemployment will continue rising, particularly as nearly all the new jobs created have been via Obama’s futile and expensive deficit spending programs (from purely printed money), which will no longer be passed now that the supermajority in the Senate is lost. Moreover, you must KNOW that the only thing keeping the U.S. dollar from complete collapse is the fact that the dollar’s competitors, such as the Euro, pound, and even the Chinese Yuan, are also paper currencies with their own set of poor fundamentals. Not to mention, as the world’s “reserve currency”, every major nation in the world hold’s the majority of its reserves in U.S. dollars, and thus will print as much of their own currencies as possible to keep them from rising against the dollar. This is called “competitive currency devaluation”, and explains why gold has been rising against EVERY ONE of the world’s fiat currencies for the past decade.

    ****************

    Meanwhile, Jon Stewart rips into Obama. Can you imagine any media host in Malaysia doing that to Najib, who has performed much worse than Obama?


    STEWART: Senior political analyst Samantha Bee joins with us more. Sam, this looks and sounds pretty bad for Obama.

    SAMANTHA BEE: Well, only if you are watching and listening, Jon. This has been a real problem for the President.

    STEWART: Because he is now being held accountable for his promises?

    BEE: No, because he made promises he could be held accountable for. Listen, it's fine to pledge transparency and openness, subjective concepts, but for God's sake don't start telling people what channel they can go watch it on. You're just setting yourself up.

    STEWART: You are saying that politicians then in your mind should never emphatically promise anything.

    BEE: On no, they can promise emphatically but never specifically. [...]

    Examples of specificities:

    PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BARACK OBAMA: We will give tax breaks to American businesses that are creating jobs right here in the United States. A $3,000 tax credit for every job. We'll let Medicare negotiate for lower prices. We can get our troops out, our combat troops out within 16 months. I'll eliminate income taxes for seniors who are making under $50,000 a year. I will end don't ask don't tell. We'll allow the safe re-importation of low-cost drugs from countries like Canada.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

    Read more:
    py

  6. #26
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    Re: Yawn! Obama sworn in - 16 months later at the Jon Stewart Show

    We need analysis like this to see our political leaders in their real light. The 2nd episode allows you to observe trends over a span of 40 years. That's the only way to understand and see through politicians' deceit.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-epi...010-louis-c-k-
    py

  7. #27
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    Re: Fall of the Republic



    Fall of the Republic: It's about time and becoming clearer now. Obama is in the game of the bank fraudsters. Now it qualifies for inclusion in the Global Conspiracy. See the links - Reuben, Larry Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, Henry Paulson,... All linked to Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan.

    Standard tactics against the Rats - Greed and Fear.
    py

  8. #28
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    Re: Obama’s First Blunder

    Good assessment. The Americans have forgotten that the world does not treat her as the no. 1 anymore. This is a common failing of people who has been in power for too long.

    De Volkskrant, The Netherlands

    Obama’s First Blunder



    By Thomas von der Dunk

    He suffers — a general shortcoming in democracies, also in Holland — too much from the need to be liked, and dared too little to pound his fist on the table. In the area of foreign policy, that is sometimes needed — not in front of archenemies, with whom this helps little, but in front of supposed friends, who do not care about neat admonitions.

    Translated By Anne Hukkelhoven

    2 September 2010


    Edited by Gheanna Emelia

    The Netherlands - De Volkskrant - Original Article (Dutch)

    One thing should particularly concern President Barack Obama: that he has over time become almost equally unpopular in the Islamic world as former President George W. Bush.

    Things are not easy for Barack Obama. Even though he is the most intelligent American president in decades, he governs a country of which the international superpower is fading — and the electorate blames not his miserable predecessor, but him. Domestically, he has relied too much on the decency of his opponents, who have started, under the guidance of the Republican clique around Sarah Palin and Fox News, a permanent smearing campaign to tar him. Meanwhile, already a quarter of Americans believe that he is secretly a Muslim and was not born in America. In the eyes of normal people, both are not particularly capital crimes, but for the hysterical conservatives in America they are.

    Majority

    By wanting to bind what simply does not want to be bound, Obama dared too little to use the solid majority he possessed in Congress. He suffers — a general shortcoming in democracies, also in Holland — too much from the need to be liked, and dared too little to pound his fist on the table. In the area of foreign policy, that is sometimes needed — not in front of archenemies, with whom this helps little, but in front of supposed friends, who do not care about neat admonitions.

    Splits

    Obama's main problem comes down to an impossible split: the international relations powers have changed considerably to America's disadvantage, and most Americans, on the score of deeply rooted national feelings of superiority — God’s own country with a universal Manifest Destiny — refuse to face this and accept the consequence of it: that America can no longer flip the switch elsewhere when another country does something that can endanger the wasteful American way of life. Because the issue with this way of life is that it lives on the rest of the world, and that the upcoming BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India and China] now also want their “fair” share in material prosperity.

    Distrust

    Obama wrestles globally with an enormous distrust toward the intentions of America, a product of years of blindness for the opinions of other countries, culminating in the arrogant unilateralism of Bush.

    The attitudes of China and Russia, of Brazil and Turkey concerning Iran, contain also a bit of revenge for what they consider years of contempt. And now that America, measured against its own pompous pretenses of the past, has failed and the credit crisis has also enormously weakened the country economically, these countries seize the opportunity to instill new relations in Washington.

    One thing should particularly disturb Obama: that he has become almost as unpopular in the Islamic world as Bush. Of the goodwill that he fostered with his Cairo speech more than a year ago, nothing is left — and of course that has everything to do with the shortsighted Middle East policy, with which America lets itself completely be taken hostage by Israel. As one of Holland's most talented diplomats, parting ambassador in Jakarta and Islamologist Nikolaos van Dam commented in a Volkskrant interview on Aug. 11 on the Wilderian delusions: “If you want to understand terrorism, then you have to concentrate on the social backgrounds, the political backgrounds. Those bring people to certain actions, their frustrations or ideals. Not the religion.”

    Message

    This is a message that the necessary self-appointed "Islam specialists" among Holland's columnists should also take to heart — but they have long forgotten how to listen. The problem in our country is that even some more circumspect commentators, at one point in time, have slowly started to talk favorably of the twisted PVV ideology to not miss the connection with “the people” — or at least the most blatant part of the electorate that passes as such.

    In the light of what Van Dam put forth, Obama committed a misstep the week before last — possibly the first real one during his presidency. He threatened Turkey with a weapons stop because of the attitude of Ankara toward Israel and Iran, namely if it does not improve the ties with the first country and does not make worse with the second.

    Taliban

    Not that I am such a big fan of weapons deliveries: they have, for Washington, often created more misery than fun. Because of that, it fights against self-created Frankenstein’s monster — see the once armed-against-the-Russians Taliban in Afghanistan and the military and nuclear help for the shah, from which currently the ayatollahs in Tehran still profit.

    In case of the relations between Turkey and Israel, clearly the wrong country is being punished. The American reluctance, determined by internal electoral considerations, to call to order a quibbling Netanyahu forms a crucial element in the Arab aversion of America — and now thus also of Obama.

    It is also essential for the growing sympathy that Iran enjoys among Arab Muslims. As Shibley Telhami, professor at the University of Maryland, recently formulated in the Los Angeles Times: “The angrier the public is with Israel and the United States, the less they worry about Iran, viewing it first and foremost as the “enemy of my enemy.”

    A workable relation with Turkey is crucial for the West: It cannot allow itself to continuously offend Ankara, because it has not yet dealt with its own Holocaust guilt complex. That a country of 70 million inhabitants is geo-strategically of immeasurably larger importance than one of 7 million, a child understands. The serious thing is that in that respect, America is still too blinded by its own crooked worldview. De Volkskrant
    py

  9. #29
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    Still the same old story about Obama. It's the same for all the Presidents. They are in the pockets of the Global Banks and big businesses.


    The Truth About Obama's Jobs Bill


    On Thursday evening, President Obama gave a speech to a joint session of Congress discussing the jobs situation here in America. The purpose of Obama's speech was to convince the American public and their elected representatives in Washington to support Obama's new $447 billion 'American Jobs Act', which has a cost that is 49% larger than the $300 billion act most people were expecting. NIA believes this bill will do nothing to reduce unemployment in America and that it is nothing but another stimulus bill in disguise that will add to our budget deficits.


    Obama's bill proposes a $4,000 per employee tax credit for businesses that hire somebody who was previously unemployed for 6 months or more, at a cost of $8 billion. At the same time, Obama wants to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC), which allows Americans who have exhausted standard unemployment benefits that last for 26 weeks to continue receiving them for between 20 and 53 additional weeks. EUC benefits are set to expire at the end of 2011 and continuing them through the end of 2012 will cost U.S. taxpayers $49 billion.


    It is totally absurd for Obama to give employers money to attempt to hire people he is simultaneously paying to stay out of work. What makes this even more outrageous is that employers have an incentive not to hire recently laid off workers, when only those unemployed for 6 months or more will bring them a $4,000 check. If this bill is passed it will make the unemployment situation in America far worse than it already is.


    NIA has heard from members who own farms and have positions on their farms available, but can't find anybody interested in working for them and filling the available positions. Every time they hire somebody to work on their farm, the worker purposely does a poor job and tries to get fired. Their sole purpose of getting a job is to convince their local unemployment agency that they are trying to find employment so that they can keep receiving unemployment benefits, when in reality they are trying to take advantage of the system.


    Obama is right that any future recovery will be driven by our businesses and our workers, but if Washington wants to make a positive difference the only step it should take to improve our people's lives, is get out of their lives. It is impossible for any piece of legislation including Obama's 'American Jobs Act', to improve the employment situation here in America. Obama needs to remove any government programs already in place that interfere with the free market. NIA believes that if the U.S. eliminated all unemployment benefits and also got rid of the minimum wage, it would cause the unemployment rate to return to healthy levels.


    U.S. employees earning up to $106,800 annually currently pay a 4.2% payroll tax that is scheduled to revert back to 6.2% in 2012. Obama not only doesn't want employee payroll taxes to raise back up to the historical level of 6.2%, which went into effect in 1990, but he wants to further reduce them to 3.1% for 2012. The annual cost of this employee payroll tax reduction is estimated to be $175 billion. In an attempt to help small businesses, Obama also wants to cut employer side payroll taxes in half from 6.2% to 3.1% on the first $5 million of payroll, while eliminating employer side payroll taxes for new hires. The annual cost of this employer side payroll tax reduction is estimated to be $65 billion.


    NIA believes all payroll taxes should be eliminated. Americans who make payroll tax payments today are paying for other Americans to receive entitlement programs that they will never receive. Social Security and Medicare are already on the verge of insolvency. By the end of this decade, NIA believes Americans receiving Social Security checks will be receiving checks that don't have any purchasing power and aren't worth cashing. Americans would be much better off if they were able to use the money they currently spend on payroll taxes to accumulate physical silver instead. Only Americans with enough savings in physical gold and silver will be able to retire in the future.


    Obama's bill also provides $35 billion in state and local government aid, $50 billion in infrastructure repairs, $10 billion for a national infrastructure bank, $30 billion for school modernization and repairs, and $15 billion in housing expenditures. Unfortunately, the jobs Obama's bill will create for construction workers, teachers, veterans, and the long-term unemployed, are only temporary jobs that will vanish after the bill expires, and the money printed to pay these workers will steal from the purchasing power of American workers who already have jobs today. There is no doubt about it that America's infrastructure is decaying and we need to build new roads and bridges, but this is something that we can't afford to do until we return to an economy that is based on production instead of consumption.


    We need to return to a trade surplus and begin paying off our debt before we can afford to make investments into infrastructure. China can afford to build newer airports and faster railroads because they have a $254 billion trade surplus and $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves that they are better off spending on infrastructure improvements than keeping parked in U.S. dollars that will soon be worthless.


    Obama says that everything in his bill will be paid for, but NIA wonders how? The government is claiming this isn't another stimulus bill and Obama didn't mention the word stimulus once during his speech. The truth is, NIA believes all of the measures in this bill will have to be paid for by borrowing and printing money, which will increase our budget deficit, expand the money supply, and lead to massive price inflation.


    The jolt that Obama is trying to give to the economy he admits has stalled, is the same economy he tried to jolt with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which put the U.S. $787 billion deeper into debt. NIA said at the time this stimulus bill was passed that when it failed to produce the results the government said it would, instead of admitting that stimulating the economy failed and reversing course, they will say the stimulus didn't work because it wasn't big enough and attempt to pass further stimulus bills by making new false promises.


    Obama is lying to the public just like Congress recently did in regards to its bill to raise the debt ceiling. Congress deceived Americans into believing that in return for raising the debt ceiling so that the government can continue operating as it is today, "spending cuts" would be made to lower future budget deficits. These so called "spending cuts" turned out to be minor reductions to very large spending increases, with even these minor reductions not beginning until early 2013. Government spending is set to rise every single year until the dollar doesn't have any purchasing power left.


    Obama said in his speech last night that, "while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven't." The reason this is true is only the largest banks and the companies they do business with have direct access to the Federal Reserve's cheap and easy money. If the Fed didn't bail out all of the banks on Wall Street that made risky leveraged up bets with other people's money for the sole purpose of paying their employees huge bonuses, smaller banks would have acquired their assets in bankruptcy court for pennies on the dollar and be prospering today. Instead, small banks that made sound decisions were punished for doing the right thing. The Fed has made it even more difficult than ever for them to compete with the large banks that should be out of business.


    If the Fed and Treasury didn't bail out Wall Street, the world wouldn't have come to an end like former-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson conned everybody into believing. The truth is, we would be better off today because the bad assets would have been liquidated. The bad assets that caused the financial crisis of late-2008/early-2009 still exist today. The main difference between back then and now is, the size of the Fed's balance sheet has doubled to $2.862 trillion due to the toxic assets they purchased, and the world is now flooded with excess liquidity of U.S. dollars.


    It is impossible for the U.S. not to feel the consequences of the money we squandered fighting wasteful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maintaining military bases all around the world. It is impossible for the U.S. not to feel the devastating effects of interest rates that have been left artificially low for way too long. When you have an artificial boom, that boom will eventually go bust and the more that is done to prop a phony economy up that is built on U.S. consumers spending money they don't have, the harder the economy will fall in terms of high unemployment, high inflation, and a total lack of purchasing power that will cause a permanent decline in the U.S. standard of living.


    The fact that Obama felt the need to demand that Congress pass his bill 17 times in 1 speech, shows that nothing positive will come out of this bill for the average American citizen. The only people who will benefit from this bill are bankers on Wall Street who are in line to earn huge fees on the infrastructure deals that get funded by the new national infrastructure bank. While the official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment rate in August was 9.1%, down from its peak in October of 2009 of 10.1%, the real rate of unemployment including both short and long-term discouraged workers is now 22.8%, up from 22% in October of 2009 and a new high since the Great Depression in 1933. By further impeding the free market, Obama's bill will further misallocate what little resources Americans still have left before hyperinflation arrives.



    It is important to spread the word about NIA to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, if you want America to survive hyperinflation. Please tell everybody you know to become members of NIA for free immediately at: http://inflation.us
    py

  10. #30
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    Obama's Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities


    September 20, 2011 | 0856 GMT
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    11435ShareThis195






    By George Friedman


    STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it’s our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.


    The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.


    The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. The United States has a vast government that rests on a system in which significant change is not impossible but which demands a level of consensus over a period of time that rarely exists.


    This is particularly true in domestic politics, where the complexity is compounded by the uncertainty of the legislative branch. Consider that the healthcare legislation passed through major compromise is still in doubt, pending court rulings that thus far have been contradictory. All of this would have delighted the founders if not the constantly trapped presidents, who frequently shrug off their limits in the domestic arena in favor of action in the international realm, where their freedom to maneuver is much greater, as the founders intended.

    The Burden of the Past

    The point of this is that all U.S. presidents live within the framework in which Barack Obama is now operating. First, no president begins with a clean slate. All begin with the unfinished work of the prior administration. Thus, George W. Bush began his presidency with an al Qaeda whose planning and implementation for 9/11 was already well under way. Some of the al Qaeda operatives who would die in the attack were already in the country. So, like all of his predecessors, Obama assumed the presidency with his agenda already laid out.

    Obama had a unique set of problems. The first was his agenda, which focused on ending the Iraq war and reversing social policies in place since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. By the time Obama entered office, the process of withdrawal from Iraq was under way, which gave him the option of shifting the terminal date. The historic reversal that he wanted to execute, starting with healthcare reform, confronted the realities of September 2008 and the American financial crisis. His Iraq policy was in place by Inauguration Day while his social programs were colliding with the financial crisis.

    Obama’s campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. To the anti-war faction it meant that the wars would end. To those concerned about unilateralism it meant that unilateralism would be replaced by multilateralism. To those worried about growing inequality it meant that he would end inequality. To those concerned about industrial jobs going overseas it meant that those jobs would stay in the United States. To those who hated Guantanamo it meant that Guantanamo would be closed.


    Obama created a coalition whose expectations of what Obama would do were shaped by them and projected on Obama. In fact, Obama never quite said what his supporters thought he said. His supporters thought they heard that he was anti-war. He never said that. He simply said that he opposed Iraq and thought Afghanistan should be waged. His strategy was to allow his followers to believe what they wanted so long as they voted for him, and they obliged. Now, this is not unique to Obama. It is how presidents get elected. What was unique was how well he did it and the problems it caused once he became president.


    It must first be remembered that, contrary to the excitement of the time and faulty memories today, Obama did not win an overwhelming victory. About 47 percent of the public voted for someone other than Obama. It was certainly a solid victory, but it was neither a landslide nor a mandate for his programs. But the excitement generated by his victory created the sense of victory that his numbers didn’t support.


    Another problem was that he had no programmatic preparation for the reality he faced. September 2008 changed everything in the sense that it created financial and economic realities that ran counter to the policies he envisioned. He shaped those policies during the primaries and after the convention, and they were based on assumptions that were no longer true after September 2008. Indeed, it could be argued that he was elected because of September 2008. Prior to the meltdown, John McCain had a small lead over Obama, who took over the lead only after the meltdown. Given that the crisis emerged on the Republicans’ watch, this made perfect sense. But shifting policy priorities was hard because of political commitments and inertia and perhaps because the extremities of the crisis were not fully appreciated.


    Obama’s economic policies did not differ wildly from Bush’s — indeed, many of the key figures had served in the Federal Reserve and elsewhere during the Bush administration. The Bush administration’s solution was to print and insert money into financial institutions in order to stabilize the system. By the time Obama came into power, it was clear to his team that the amount of inserted money was insufficient and had to be increased. In addition, in order to sustain the economy, the policy that had been in place during the Bush years of maintaining low interest rates through monetary easing was extended and intensified. To a great extent, the Obama years have been the Bush years extended to their logical conclusion. Whether Bush would have gone for the stimulus package is not clear, but it is conceivable that he would have.


    Obama essentially pursued the Bush strategy of stabilizing the banks in the belief that a stable banking system was indispensible and would in itself stimulate the economy by creating liquidity. Whether it did or it didn’t, the strategy created the beginnings of Obama’s political problem. He drew substantial support from populists on the left and suspicion from populists on the right. The latter, already hostile to Bush’s policies, coalesced into the Tea Party. But this was not Obama’s biggest problem. It was that his policies, which both seemed to favor the financial elite and were at odds with what Democratic populists believed the president stood for, weakened his support from the left. The division between what he actually said and what his supporters thought they heard him say began to widen. While the healthcare battle solidified his opposition among those who would oppose him anyway, his continuing response to the financial crisis both solidified opposition among Republicans and weakened support among Democrats.

    A Foreign Policy Problem

    This was coupled with his foreign policy problem. Among Democrats, the anti-war faction was a significant bloc. Most Democrats did not support Obama with anti-war reasons as their primary motivator, but enough did make this the priority issue that he could not win if he lost this bloc. This bloc believed two things. The first was that the war in Iraq was unjustified and harmful and the second was that it emerged from an administration that was singularly insensitive to the world at large and to the European alliance in particular. They supported Obama because they assumed not only that he would end wars — as well as stop torture and imprisonment without trial — but that he would also re-found American foreign policy on new principles.


    Obama’s decision to dramatically increase forces in Afghanistan while merely modifying the Bush administration’s timeline for withdrawing from Iraq caused unease within the Democratic Party. But two steps that Bush took held his position. First, one of the first things Obama did after he became president was to reach out to the Europeans. It was expected that this would increase European support for U.S. foreign policy. The Europeans, of course, were enthusiastic about Obama, as the Noble Peace Prize showed. But while Obama believed that his willingness to listen to the Europeans meant they would be forthcoming with help, the Europeans believed that Obama would understand them better and not ask for help.


    The relationship was no better under Obama than under Bush. It wasn’t personality or ideology that mattered. It was simply that Germany, as the prime example, had different interests than the United States. This was compounded by the differing views and approaches to the global financial crisis. Whereas the Americans were still interested in Afghanistan, the Europeans considered Afghanistan a much lower priority than the financial crisis. Thus, U.S.-European relations remained frozen.


    Then Obama made his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, where his supporters heard him trying to make amends for Bush’s actions and where many Muslims heard an unwillingness to break with Israel or end the wars. His supporters heard conciliation, the Islamic world heard inflexibility.


    The European response to Obama the president as opposed to Obama the candidate running against George Bush slowly reverberated among his supporters. Not only had he failed to end the wars, he doubled down and surged forces into Afghanistan. And the continued hostility toward the United States from the Islamic world reverberated among those on the Democratic left who were concerned with such matters. Add to that the failure to close Guantanamo and a range of other issues concerning the war on terror and support for Obama crumbled.

    A Domestic Policy Focus

    His primary victory, health-care reform, was the foundation of an edifice that was never built. Indeed, the reform bill is caught in the courts, and its future is as uncertain as it was when the bill was caught in Congress. The Republicans, as expected, agree on nothing other than Obama’s defeat. The Democrats will support him; the question is how enthusiastic that support will be.


    Obama’s support now stands at 41 percent. The failure point for a president’s second term lurks around 35 percent. It is hard to come back from there. Obama is not there yet. The loss of another six points would come from his Democratic base (which is why 35 is the failure point; when you lose a chunk of your own base, you are in deep trouble). At this point, however, the president is far less interested in foreign policy than he is in holding his base together and retaking the middle. He did not win by a large enough margin to be able to lose any of his core constituencies. He may hope that his Republican challenger will alienate the center, but he can’t count on that. He has to capture his center and hold his left.


    That means he must first focus on domestic policy. That is where the public is focused. Even the Afghan war and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are not touching nerves in the center. His problem is twofold. First, it is not clear that he can get anything past Congress. He can then argue that this is Congress’ fault, but the Republicans can run against Congress as well. Second, it is not clear what he would propose. The Republican right can’t be redeemed, but what can Obama propose that will please the Democratic core and hold the center? The Democratic core wants taxes. The center doesn’t oppose taxes (it is merely uneasy about them), but it is extremely sensitive about having the taxes eaten up by new spending — something the Democratic left supports. Obama is trapped between two groups he must have that view the world differently enough that bridging the gap is impossible.


    The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action. Foreign policy isn’t currently resonating with the American public, so any daring initiatives in that arena will likely fail to achieve the desired domestic political end. Obama has to hold together a coalition that is inherently fragmented by many different understandings of what his presidency is about. This coalition has weakened substantially. Obama’s attention must be on holding it together. He cannot resurrect the foreign policy part of it at this point. He must bet on the fact that the coalition has nowhere else to go. What he must focus on is domestic policy crafted to hold his base and center together long enough to win the election.


    The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worse non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy.


    This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.


    The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it.
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