Last night I watched a revealing 2 hour special by NBC about life inside the White House. The team were allowed access all areas (more or less) and what’s initially striking is just how relaxed and youthful the White House is under Obama’s administration.
Most of all though – and I got the same impression reading Barack Obama’s autobiographies – was how earnest he and his team seem to be in improving the lives of Americans. Obama in particular is incredibly personable, friendly and intelligent and you can’t help but get drawn-in that he really is “change”.
After watching the program however, I had to take a step back and ignore the smile, the charisma and the openness for a second and pinch myself. Surely this is all too good to be true?
I always find Noam Chomsky a good antidote for this kind of thing and as he points out in the speech below, people need to take more note of the substance of Obama’s appointments and policies and less note of his laid-back charisma and style. In particular, he points out a few people that feature very prominently in the NBC film that clearly do not embody Obama’s election campaign promise of “change we can believe in”:
- Joe Biden Obama’s 66 year old choice as vice-president and long term Washington insider. A strong supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
- Rahm Emanuele Obama’s Chief of Staff. Probably the most powerful member of his team as he decides on the President’s policy agenda. Another long term Washington insider, he’s a former investment banker and was one of the largest recipients of money from investment institutions and hedge funds during his time in the House of Representatives. Also thoroughly supported the war on Iraq. In 2003, he spoke at a pro-Israel rally in Chicago and said Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians “turn away from the path of terror”.
- Larry Summers Obama’s bizarre choice to solve the financial crisis. A move once described as “Like putting Osama Bin Laden in charge of the war on terror.” The reason being Summers is a former World Bank employee with a record of leaving developing economies in ruins. Most importantly, he did a similar job in the Clinton administration where he oversaw much of the neo-liberal policies and financial regulation dismantling that’s actually responsible for the financial crisis in the first place. Summers also once described Africa as being “under polluted” and women as being “genetically handicapped” when it comes to maths. As The Exiled points out: “Summers’s track record, in which he oversaw the destruction of entire economies and covered up cronyism and corruption, his Africa memo and sexist declarations aren’t exceptions but rather part of a disturbing pattern.”
In some ways, I think it was better to have someone so much easier to see-through like George Bush as President than someone as silky smooth as Obama.
The start of the NBC film can be seen here: