Crossing the Line
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
(T)he question, I think, that people have got to ask themselves when they get into that booth is not what Obama has become, but what have we become? - Jonathan Turley to John Cusack
Neon lights, a Nobel prize /When the mirror speaks, the reflection lies/ You won't have to follow me / Only you can set me free - "The Cult of Personality", Living Color
Julius Caesar, the man infamous for breaking Roman precedent by crossing the Rubicon, once crossed another river in a notable and innovative fashion. By 55 BCE, Germania had been ably guarded from invading forces by the Rhine. Marching to the river bank, Caesar saw his only immediate method of crossing was in little rowboats and that wouldn’t do for a man of his ego and ambition (In fact, in Caesar’s own self-serving account to the Roman Senate, he’d actually written, “However, I thought that to cross in boats would be too risky, and would not be fitting for my own prestige and that of Rome.”). So he’d ordered his engineers to construct him a bridge that spanned the entire width of the Rhine.
One of the most amazing aspects of this sophisticated bridge was the speed with which Caesar’s men had built it (a week and a half) and the stone- and gravity-driven pile drivers necessary to drive in the pylons. Then, after Caesar had invaded Germania (encountering no resistance along the way, having completely freaked out the Germanic tribes looking at this project from the other side of the Rhine), Caesar then had the gall to take the bridge apart after they’d crossed it. This was done for several reasons: To show off Roman ingenuity, to keep the hordes from following them and to prevent others from duplicating their feat. It was one of the most masterful (and bloodless) invasions in military history and Barack Obama could certainly take a lesson from that. It was an example tragically ignored by his predecessor.
Because, you see, Barack Obama, either this year or in 2016, will eventually have to cede control of a government that had been moderately modeled on that of Nazi Germany between 1933-1945. But for many years now, power conferred on them through us and the electoral process is a referred power only, with much of the power directly given to government by the government itself.
It is a government that was transformed, engineered almost from the start to restrict individual civil liberties, including any and all forms of dissent, to circumvent the Congress from which the Executive branch derives much of its power, to circumvent the very Constitution from which all three branches derive their power. The government, under Bush and now Obama, is essentially like any corporate monopoly: An arrogant self-dealing entity that writes its own Golden Rule and that Golden Rule says, “There are no rules for me but for thee…?” And when George W. Bush finally let out a tremendous, self-satisfied burp in January 2009, he waddled across this bridge spanning what used to be our democracy from the quasi-fascist state he'd made of it then failed to take it apart. And it's an imperialist bridge that Obama has happily used time and again in his own quest for the Unitary Executive so beloved of Dick Cheney. And as former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr once warned us, “If you give the government power, it will use it.”
In a conversation that ought to be disseminated throughout the United States and everywhere abroad where there are American voters, actor John Cusack and constitutional expert Jonathan Turley had recently put their fingers on much of what is wrong with this nation. There’s too much to unpack in this very revealing colloquy between these two men. But to anyone who’s been paying attention these past three and a half plus years, there’s nothing much in the way of revelation. What’s surprising is that these two men can so eloquently and simply delineate this quiet constitutional crisis that’s been taken to the next level since January 20, 2009. That and the realization that if they can do that during an off-the-cuff conversation (essentially first draft), then why can’t our print and TV journalists do that in writing, where they have much more time to prepare their stenographic notes after the latest political speech or presser?
Back in 2008, Barack Obama was still a freshman Senator from Illinois and still largely an unknown quantity. Ergo, many of us can be excused for not knowing for whom and for what they were voting during the last presidential election. This time around, there can be no excuses of ignorance after over three and a half years of more severely curtailed civil liberties, three and a half more years of seemingly endless wars, three and a half more years of tax cuts and other deferments to the 1% and the right wing. In short, three and a half years into a third Bush term.
One of the thickest pieces of wool that was ever pulled over the eyes of the American electorate is the assumption that we live in a Two Party democracy. Nothing can be further from the truth. We have three parties (four, if you include Joe Lieberman’s eponymous, self-named Independent party) represented in Congress and there are many others struggling to achieve prominence and legitimacy with a political infrastructure that is so thoroughly rotten and corrupt that lobbyists are considered a much more legitimate extension of the American government than the Green party or any other faction.
We’ve been conditioned to believe by rich and powerful factions such as the Bilderberg Group, the Anheuser-Busch corporation that almost entirely underwrites the presidential debates and the two, self-dealing political parties (Democratic and Republican, henceforth referred to as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee) that anything and anyone not represented by either monolithic party cannot possibly be taken seriously. Essentially, if the candidates during the caucus and primary phase don’t raise enough money within a certain time frame to meet the standards set by either party, they’re frozen out of the next debate, thereby making their lack of visibility a self-serving prophecy. Money buys free speech, in other words. (So is it any wonder why Citizen’s United came into being midway through Obama’s first term?)
Obama is a classic example of the old adage of a truth being found somewhere in the middle between two diametrically opposed sides of an argument. On the right hand, we have leading our country an illegal immigrant from Kenya, a Muslim, a Socialist, a Communist, a fascist, a racist, a homosexual, virtually everything that humans in general, particularly Americans, have been conditioned to loath. “ObamaCare” is a massive government takeover of the health care industry and he wants to raise your taxes and force you into gay marriage.
On the left hand, we have leading our country the second coming of Martin Luther King, Jr, someone who’d expanded health care like John D. Rockefeller throwing dimes at the poor, a champion of women, of homosexuals, of union workers, of the poor and disenfranchised. In short, Obama is the greatest thing for liberals since sliced bread and one can easily imagine a huge, stiff monolithic painting or statue of him that would fit perfectly in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Then there’s the Obama in between that the rest of us can see, a man whose only ambiguity comes from us trying to decide if he’s a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat. Either way, Obama is certainly no liberal icon nor has he ever pretended to be. And the disingenuousness and hypocrisy of Obama is just as rank as Mitt Romney's and Paul Ryan's. Yet, while liberals and Democrats rightly called the GOP on the absurdity of their "We Built This" convention last week in a building funded mostly through government money, how often has the “liberal media” reported that despite the Democrats’ pledge to hold “a peoples’ convention” most if not all of the Charlotte convention is funded by some of the biggest corporations on earth?
How many liberals are calling the Obama administration or the Democratic Party on that much less the Orwellian hypocrisy of a massive police presence actually outnumbering protesters who simply want to exercise what used to be their first amendment rights? Mention this to any liberals as swept up in the mass hysteria as Republicans were last week in Tampa and the sound of crickets will prevail. When the Democrats refer to their “peoples’ convention”, it’s obvious the “people” they’re referring to are the corporations funding it. It certainly doesn’t seem to include the workers of Charlotte, North Carolina who are still unsuccessfully trying to get the DNC to support their right to collectively bargain.
It’s time we finally woke up from this cult of personality centering on Obama and started looking at the man’s voting record and his record as President. He’s strong-armed Congress into excising language from the NDAA bill that would’ve exempted US citizens from assassination and yet despite the Executive fiddle-fucking with legislation before it was even ratified, hardly any liberals cried foul. When Spain’s courts were deliberating over whether or not to try the Bush administration on war crimes charges, the Obama administration stepped in and strong-armed them into dropping the case like Dick Cheney at Langley. Once again, liberal penises went limp.
When the Obama administration signed that selfsame NDAA into law and he inserted a non-binding signing statement saying in essence, “Well, yeah, Congress gave me the power to kill you on a whim but trust me, I wouldn’t do that to you” and liberals breathed a sickening sigh of relief. Then he and Congress gave themselves the power to ban and outlaw any protests near a federal building or anywhere near anyone with Secret Service protection, essentially shredding what was left of the original spirit and letter of the first amendment and liberals said little.
And, just today, the Democratic Convention Chairman, the Convention, the Democratic delegates and basically the entire nation was mortally embarrassed over language of the platform being reinserted (in which Barack Obama, as usual, stuck his unwanted nose) naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite voice votes to the contrary. Why this should be part of either party’s platform in an American election and why AIPAC, the radical right wing lobby for Israel in the US, should’ve been allowed to sign off on the language is a mystery. But both parties have been in Zoroastrian competition to see who can suck the Israeli Prime Minister’s cock the hardest since Harry fucking Truman and this latest SNAFU at the DNC only proves that neither party is even remotely capable of holding a convention that isn’t dysfunctional and in which the rights of the non-rich and non-Israelis aren't even addressed let alone supported. If this doesn't impress upon voters the absolute necessity of the irrevocable replacement of both parties, nothing will.
And if you were to ask the typical Obama acolyte why they’re voting for him despite his imperious shrugging off of the working class, the drone strikes, the broken campaign promises, the stripping of more constitutional rights, in short, all the things for which we would’ve dragged Bush kicking and screaming and hung him from a gas station like Mussolini, they’d shrug and say, “Yeah, he gave me a little bit of health care.”
To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who forgo liberty for a little health care deserve neither.