T Nation

The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History


The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History
By James Petras
December 9, 2008

?I have a vision of Americans in their 80?s being wheeled to their offices and factories having lost their legs in imperial wars and their pensions to Wall Street speculators and with bitter memories of voting for a President who promised change, prosperity and peace and then appointed financial swindlers and war mongers.? An itinerant Minister 2008

The entire political spectrum ranging from the ?libertarian? left, through the progressive editors of the Nation to the entire far right neo-con/Zionist war party and free market Berkeley/Chicago/Harvard academics, with a single voice, hailed the election of Barack Obama as a ?historic moment?, a ?turning point in American history and other such histrionics. For reasons completely foreign to the emotional ejaculations of his boosters, it is a historic moment: witness the abysmal gap between his ?populist? campaign demagoguery and his long-standing and deepening carnal relations with the most retrograde political figures, power brokers and billionaire real estate and financial backers.

What was evident from even a cursory analysis of his key campaign advisers and public commitments to Wall Street speculators, civilian militarists, zealous Zionists and corporate lawyers was hidden from the electorate, by Obama?s people friendly imagery and smooth, eloquent deliverance of a message of ?hope?. He effectively gained the confidence, dollars and votes of tens of millions of voters by promising ?change? (implying higher taxes for the rich, ending the Iraq war and national health care reform) when in fact his campaign advisers (and subsequent strategic appointments) pointed to a continuation of the economic and military policies of the Bush Administration.

Within 3 weeks of his election he appointed all the political dregs who brought on the unending wars of the past two decades, the economic policy makers responsible for the financial crash and the deepening recession castigating tens of millions of Americans today and for the foreseeable future. We can affirm that the election of Obama does indeed mark a historic moment in American history: The victory of the greatest con man and his accomplices and backers in recent history.

He spoke to the workers and worked for their financial overlords.

He flashed his color to minorities while obliterating any mention of their socio-economic grievances.

He promised peace in the Middle East to the majority of young Americans and slavishly swears undying allegiance to the War Party of American Zionists serving a foreign colonial power (Israel).

Obama, on a bigger stage, is the perfect incarnation of Melville?s Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives thanks as he packs you off to fight wars in the Middle East on behalf of a foreign country. He solemnly mouths vacuous pieties while he empties your Social Security funds to bail out the arch financiers who swindled your pension investments. He appoints and praises the architects of collapsed pyramid schemes to high office while promising you that better days are ahead.

Yes, indeed, ?our greatest intellectual critics?, our ?libertarian? leftists and academic anarchists, used their 5-figure speaking engagements as platforms to promote the con man?s candidacy: They described the con man?s political pitch as ?meeting the deeply felt needs of our people?. They praised the con man when he spoke of ?change? and ?turning the country around? 180 degrees. Indeed, Obama went one step further: he turned 360 degrees, bringing us back to the policies and policy makers who were the architects of our current political-economic disaster.

The Con Man?s Self-Opiated Progressive Camp Followers

The contrast between Obama?s campaign rhetoric and his political activities was clear, public and evident to any but the mesmerized masses and the self-opiated ?progressives? who concocted arguments in his favor. Indeed even after Obama?s election and after he appointed every Clintonite-Wall Street shill into all the top economic policy positions, and Clinton?s and Bush?s architects of prolonged imperial wars (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates), the ?progressive true believers? found reasons to dog along with the charade. Many progressives argued that Obama?s appointments of war mongers and swindlers was a ?ploy? to gain time now in order to move ?left? later.

Never ones to publicly admit their ?historic? errors, the same progressives turned to writing ?open letters to the President? pleading the ?cause of the people?. Their epistles, of course, may succeed in passing through the shredder in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The conjurer who spoke of ?change? now speaks of ?experience? in appointing to every key and minor position the same political hacks who rotate seamlessly between Wall Street and Washington, the Fed and Academia. Instead of ?change? there is the utmost continuity of policy makers, policies and above all ever deepening ties between militarists, Wall Street and the Obama appointments. True believer-progressives, facing their total debacle, grab for any straw. Forced to admit that all of Obama?s appointments represent the dregs of the bloody and corrupt past, they hope and pray that ?current dire circumstances? may force these unrepentant warmongers and life long supporters of finance capital to become supporters and advocates of a revived Keynesian welfare state. On the contrary, Obama and each and everyone of his foreign policy appointments to the Pentagon, State and Justice Departments, Intelligence and Security agencies are calling for vast increases in military spending, troop commitments and domestic militarization to recover the lost fortunes of a declining empire. Obama and his appointees plan to vigorously pursue Clinton-Bush?s global war against national resistance movements in the Middle East. His most intimate and trusted ?Israel-First? advisers have targeted Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Palestine and Iraq.

Obama?s Economic Con Game

Then there is the contrast between the trillions Obama will shower on the financial swindlers (and any other ?too big to fail? private capitalist enterprise) and his zero compensation for the 100 million heads of families swindled of $5 trillion dollars in savings and pensions by his cohort appointees and bailout beneficiaries. Not a cent is allocated for the long term unemployed. Not a single household threatened with eviction will be bailed out.

Obama is the trademark name of a network of confidence people. They are a well-organized gang of prominent political operative, money raisers, mass media hustlers, real estate moguls and academic pimps. They are joined and abetted by the elected officials and hacks of the Democratic Party. Like the virtuoso performer, Obama projected the image and followed the script. But the funding and the entire ?populist? show was constructed by the hard-nosed, hard-line free marketeers, Jewish and Gentile ?Israel Firsters?, Washington war mongers and a host of multi-millionaire ?trade union? bureaucrats.

The electoral scam served several purposes above and beyond merely propelling a dozen strategic con artists into high office and the White House. First and foremost, the Obama con-gang deflected the rage and anger of tens of millions of economically skewered and war drained Americans from turning their hostility against a discredited presidency, congress and the grotesque one-party two factions political system and into direct action or at least toward a new political movement.

Secondly the Obama image provided a temporary cover for the return and continuity of all that was so detested by the American people ? the arrogant untouchable swindlers, growing unemployment and economic uncertainty, the loss of life savings and homes and the endless, ever-expanding imperial wars.

Featuring Paul Volker, ?Larry? Summers, Robert Gates, the Clintons, Geithner, Holder and General (?You drink your kool-aid while I sit on Boeings? Board of Directors?) Jim Jones USMC, Obama treats us to a re-run of military surges and war crimes, Wall Street banditry, Abu Ghraib, AIPAC hustlers and all the sundry old crap. Our Harvard-minted Gunga Din purports to speak for all the colonial subjects but acts in the interest of the empire, its financial vampires, its war criminals and its Middle East leaches from the Land of the Chosen.

The Two Faces of Obama

Like the Janus face found on the coins of the early Roman Republic, Obama and his intimate cronies cynically joked about ?which is the real face of Barack?, conscious of the con-job they were perpetrating during the campaign. In reality, there is only one face - a very committed, very consequential and very up front Obama, who demonstrated in every single one of his appointments the face of an empire builder.

Obama is an open militarist, intent by every means possible to re-construct a tattered US empire. The President-Elect is an unabashed Wall Street Firster ? one who has placed the recuperation of the biggest banks and investment houses as his highest priority. Obama?s nominees for all the top economic positions (Treasury, Chief White House economic advisers) are eminently qualified, (with long-term service to the financial oligarchy), to pursue Obama?s pro-Wall Street agenda. There is not a single member of his economic team, down to the lowest level of appointees, who represents or has defended the interests of the wage or salaried classes (or for that matter the large and small manufacturers from the devastated ?productive? industrial economy).

The Obama propagandists claim his appointments reflect his preference for ?experience? ? which is true: his team members have plenty of ?experience? through their long and lucrative careers maximizing profits, buyouts and speculation favoring the financial sector. Obama does not want to have any young, untested appointees who have no long established records of serving Big Finance, whose interests are too central to Obama?s deepest and most strongly held core beliefs. He wanted reliable economic functionaries who recognize that re-financing billionaire financiers is the central task of his regime. The appointments of the Summers, Rubins, Geithners and Volkers fit perfectly with his ideology: They are the best choices to pursue his economic goals.

Critics of these nominations write of the ?failures? of these economists and their role in ?bringing about the collapse of the financial system?. These critics fail to recognize that it is not their ?failures?, which are the relevant criteria, but their unwavering commitment to the interests of Wall Street and their willingness to demand trillions of dollars more from US taxpayers to bolster their colleagues on Wall Street.

Under Clinton and Bush, in the run up to the financial collapse, they facilitated (?deregulated?) the practice of swindling one hundred million Americans of trillions in private savings and pension funds. In the current crisis period with Obama they are just the right people to swindle the US Treasury of trillions of dollars in bailout funds to refinance their fellow oligarchs. The White President (Bush) leaves steaming financial turds all over the White House rugs and Wall Street summons the ?historic? Negro President Obama to organize the cleanup crew to scoop them out of public view.

Obama, the Militarist, Outdoes His Predecessor

What makes Obama a much more audacious militarist and Wall Streeter than Bush is that he intends to pursue military policies, which have already greatly harmed the US people with appointed officials who have already been discredited in the context of failed imperial wars and with a domestic economy in collapse. While Bush launched his wars after the US public had their accustomed peace shattered by an orchestrated fear-mongering after 9/11, Obama intends to launch his escalation of military spending in the context of a generalized public disenchantment with the ongoing wars, with monumental fiscal deficits, bloated military budgets and after 100,000 US soldiers have been killed, wounded or psychologically destroyed.

Obama?s appointments of Clinton, General Jim Jones, dual Israeli citizen Rahm Emanuel and super-Zionist Dennis Ross, among others, fit perfectly with his imperial-militarist agenda of escalating military aggression. His short list of intelligence candidates, likewise, fits perfectly with his all-out effort to ?regain US world leadership? (reconstruct US imperial networks). All the media blather about Obama?s efforts at ?bipartisanship?, ?experience? and ?competence? obscures the most fundamental questions: The specific nominees chosen from both parties are totally committed to military-driven empire-building. All are in favor of ?a new effort to renew America?s standing in the world? (read ?America?s imperial dominance in the world?), as Obama?s Secretary of State-to-be, Hillary Clinton, declared. General James Jones, Obama?s choice for National Security Advisor, presided over US military operations during the entire Abu Ghraib/Guantanemo period. He was a fervent supporter of the ?troop surge? in Iraq and is a powerful advocate for a huge increase in military spending, the expansion of the military by over 100,000 troops and the expanded militarization of American domestic society (not to mention his personal financial ties to the military industrial complex). Robert Gates, continuing as Obama?s Secretary of Defense, is a staunch supporter of unilateral, unlimited and universal imperial warfare. As the number of US-allied countries with troops in Iraq declines from 35 to only 5 by January 1, 2009 and even the Iraqi puppet regime calls for a withdrawal of all US troops by 2012, Gates, the intransigent, insists on a permanent military presence.

The issue of ?experience? revolves around two questions: (a) experience related to what past political practices? (b) experience relevant to pursue what future policies? All the nominees? past experiences are related to imperial wars, colonial conquests and the construction of client states. Hiliary Clinton?s ?experience? was through her support for the bombing of Yugoslavia and the Nato invasion of Kosova, her promotion of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an internationally recognized terrorist-criminal organization as well as the unrelenting bombings of Iraq in the 1990s, Bush?s criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, Israel?s murderous bombing of civilian centers in Lebanon?and now full-throated calls for the ?total obliteration of Iran?. Clinton, Gates and Jones have never in their mature political careers proposed the peaceful settlement of disputes with any adversary of the US or Israel. In other words, their vaunted ?experience? is based solely on their one-dimensional militarist approach to foreign relations.

?Competence?, as an attribute again depends on the issue of ?competence to do what?? In general terms, ?The Three? (Clinton, Gates and Jones), have demonstrated the greatest incompetence in extricating the US from prolonged, costly and lost colonial wars. They lack the minimum capacity to recognize that military-driven empire-building in the context of independent states is no longer feasible, that its costs can ruin an imperial economy and that prolonged wars erode their legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens.

Even within the framework of imperial geo-political strategic thinking, their positions exhibit the most dense incompetence: They blindly back a small, highly militarized and ideologically fanatical colonial state (Israel) against 1.5 billion Muslims living in oil and mineral resource-rich nations with lucrative markets and investment potential and situated in the strategic center of the world. They promote total wars against whole populations, as is occurring in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia and, which, by all historical experience, cannot be won. They are truly ?Masters of Defeat?.

The point of the matter is that Obama appointed the ?Big Three? for their experience, competence and bipartisan support in the pursuit of imperial wars. He overlooked their glaring failures, their gross violations of the basic norms of civilization (of the human rights of tens of millions civilians in sovereign nations) because of their willingness to pursue the illusions of a US-dominated new world order.


Nothing speaks to Obama?s deep and abiding commitment to become the savior of the US empire as clearly as his willingness to appoint to the highest position of policy making the most mediocre failed politicians and generals merely because of their demonstrated willingness to pursue the course of military-driven empire building even in the midst of a collapsing domestic economy and ever more impoverished and drained citizenry.

Just as Obama?s electoral campaign and subsequent victory will go into the annals as the political con-job of the new millennium, his economic and political appointments will mark another ?historic? moment: The nomination of corrupt and failed speculators and warmongers. Let us join the inaugural celebration of our ?First Afro-American? Imperial President, who wins by con and rules by guns!


This was so spot on! No matter what the guy did or does, who he appoints, his policies, ...the sheep love him. Can you imagine the outright contempt he must feel for people who are so easily duped as these fools? "We got to vote for a BLACK man!", they exclaimed. Jeez, how fucking pathetic...


While I completely go along with the fact that Obama's election was the most monumental con job in history I disagree entirely with this guy's assessment of it's design.

I do not believe for a second that Obama planned on continuing the "militaristic, imperialistic, colonial" traditions of the past. That is an idiotic and naive way of characterizing our world influence to begin with. Obama wanted to enact the very flowery, peace through weakness policies it sounds like this guy favors, but somewhere along the campaign and especially after he won, if anything, he came to realize that he would oversee the most decisively catastrophic chapter in this nation's geo-political history if he did in fact move in that direction.

The economic front is a different story. Bush can always be blamed for that for the foreseeable future, but foreign policy disasters are much more difficult to spin that way.


From the NY times...

The Real Rahm Emanuel:

"After Mr. Emanuel left banking to run for Congress, members of the securities and investment industry became his biggest backers, donating more than $1.5 million to his campaigns dating back to 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Emanuel also leaned heavily upon the industry while he was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 midterm elections. Financial industry donors contributed more than $5.8 million to the committee, behind only retirees.

Friends of Mr. Emanuel?s from his private-sector days said he still checks in with them regularly to plumb their insights on economic issues."

How I love change!!!


If everything is as it seems all it means is that the country will continue it's turn to the left at a more relaxed pace than I would have bet on which is what I'm hoping for... I guess.

Corrupt, connected politicians are as old as mankind. Neither party was going to do, or was even capable of doing, what would revive this country. Obama was in a no win situation. If he brought in the maniacal leftist amateurs his past was full of he would have made people like me correct. If he did what he is doing in bringing in standard experienced liberals he gets blasted for not enacting the change he promised.

They are more or less left trudging versions of each other.


I think the US society and government has such a massive 'inertia',for lack of a better word,that the damage any individual could do while president is limited,and if the change was perceived to be that damaging,8 years is the limit of any one individual's or parties influence.

That would be followed by a move in the other direction,with the following administration.

That pretty much ensures a fairly consistent course,in my opinion.


Reminds me of how you loved Bush, no matter what he did.

And boy, did he screw up.

Remember when you all HAD to vote for a guy you would like to have a beer with ? ? ? Well, turned out that was all that he was good for.


After 8 years of Bush disaster, this is your opinion?


Bush was a disaster,hence the move now to the left.If there had been no Bush,there would have been no Obama.And there will very likely be 8 years of him.

So yes,that is my opinion.


No, I loved FINALLY having a Republican Congress with what I thought was a conservative president. Then Bush started having movie nights with Ted Kennedy and that was the end of that.

Obama is a puppet. He's surrounded himself with minions of his puppeteers. Don't expect much in the way of 'change'.

Come back in about 6 months and voice your love for this con artist.


You're right with regards to foreign policy. But everyone knows that once a governmental program, law, regulation, or whatever goes on the books, it never comes off. No matter how burdensome such a law is on society, it stays there.

SS is one example. The state of SS is so horribly sunk that the government is, for all practical purposes, taking out loans to make the interest payments on even bigger loans. It will crash eventually (and this is like predicting that it will rain at some point next year), and it will make this current 'financial crisis' look like a drop in a bucket when it does.

But it's political suicide to even suggest that SS is a ticking time bomb, much less try to fix it.

So there's one example of a president's influence having a profoundly negative effect on this country, yet we still can't get rid of it nearly 80 years later.

It's my opinion that entitlement spending is the gravest threat to the United States as we know it (simply because We. Can't. Afford. It.), and history has shown that once an entitlement program is enacted, it will not come off the books.

(Universal Healthcare, for example: does anyone really think that such a program will not eventually become a bankrupt albatross across our necks? Does anyone really think that, once it becomes reality, any politicians will seriously attempt to get it removed?)

It's from this perspective that I say a president's 'legacy' can NOT be undone just by electing the other guys next time around. And that's not even mentioning the lifetime appointments of SC judges.

If Obama enacts much of the policy that he campaigned on, there is not a single doubt in my mind that it will eventually have a disastrous effect on this nation's economy and that it will never be completely undone.

Scarier still is that there is currently no check against that; Obama and a heavily Democratic Congress will likely rubber-stamp each other. We're relying on their discretion, not in the opposition (no matter how self-serving) trying to stop them.

So it's my hope that Obama is content to be a figure-head and that his administration will basically be a four-to-eight year 'Victory Lap'.


So, you are saying that electing Goore over Bush wouldn't have made much of a difference? I'm just gauging the depths of your . . .

Well, I don't know what it is, put it's pretty deep.


6 months ? ? ? I only get 6 months. We've seen you swooning over Bush for 6 years.

I love how you manage to blame Teddy for your fuck up though.


So after 8 years of Bush disaster you worry that somehow Obama would have a disastrous effect on your nations economy ? ? ? Am I reading that right?

When was the last time you read a paper?
Your economy is already spiraling down the drain. At least Obama has a clue about what direction he should be heading.

How's the weather on your planet?


wow man, thats a lot of words.


Good post. However, Obama never promised universal healthcare or anything close to it. His plan subsidies healthcare in certain circumstances, and will add 140 million to the budget in 2009, but it is not universal healthcare. To put this in perspective, Canada will spend 170 billion on health care next year on a much smaller population. Statistics from the conservative NTU.

Are you speaking generally, or about some specific new programs Obama has proposed? From what I gather, most of the proposed new spending is not in the form of irreversible new programs and the like but in the form of subsidies to green technology and other things he wants to promote. Which I also oppose, but these things are not irreversible.


First things first. Wreckless, you don't matter. Not even a little
Second, the honeymoon with the messiah will last about 8 months. He'll do nothing, spend more $$ doing it, but the blame will fall on the moderate Bush and the democratically controlled congress will get yet another media pass.

Worldwide, a conservative rebellion is going to happen.


long ones...


From Obama's website:


Once that program is in place, it won't go anywhere, no matter how ineffective or expensive it becomes. And it will become ineffective and (even more) expensive, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

Even if we assume for the sake of discussion that the '$50-$65 billion' is a one-time payment, and the following annual expenses are projected to be around $140 million, do you think they'll stay there?

Or do you think that every future politician will try to buy cheap votes by expanding the program? SS wasn't intended to be a full-blown retirement plan for senior citizens when it was first implemented, but it's turned into that.

Once Obama so much as cracks the bottle, that genie's going to come pouring out.

Another example are his refundable tax credits. Once those are in place, do you see any future politician attempting to remove them in the name of fiscal responsibility? I don't.

Even if I'm wrong, this politician's opponents will claim "his economic policy disproportionately targets the poor and minorities!" In short, once Obama's refundable tax credits come online, anyone who publicly opposes them will labeled a racist. The refundable tax credits will then be as permanent as the Rocky Mountains.

To be fair, McCain wasn't a whole lot better than Obama w.r.t. entitlement programs. He supported moving towards Universal Healthcare, he supported bailouts, etc.. W wasn't great at opposing entitlements either.

But Obama is a step in the wrong direction.


You'd hope people that bitched about the ABB'ers wouldn't themselves turn into ABB'ers...