Paul Street: Obama IS like JFK, but that's no compliment; or, Faking MLK While Betraying His Mission

Paul Street writes: "Walking in JFK's cautious and calculating footsteps on race, the technically black Obama has been careful to distance himself from the fact and claim that racial oppression and white supremacy continue to pose steep barriers to black advancement and racial equality in the U.S.

"He talks about the racism that stokes the fires of living black anger as if it was merely a troubling overhang from the past (Rev. Jeremiah Wright's ancient era).


"Obama advances no relevant or explicit policy agenda to take on the deeply entrenched institutional racism that lives on beneath white America's readiness to elect a president who is 'black, but not like Jesse.'
"He has made numerous speeches and comments suggesting the black Americans are personally and culturally responsible for their disproportionate presence at the bottom of the nation's steep socioeconomic and institutional hierarchies.

"He has failed to link himself strongly to contemporary Civil Rights struggles around the small-town southern white prosecution of the 'Jena 7' and the monstrous 50-shot New York City police murder of Sean Bell. Obama responded to the exoneration of Bell's killers with a terse statement lecturing black New Yorkers on the need to respect 'the rule of law.'


"Such behavior has provoked the understandable ire of Reverend Jackson, whose psycho-sexualized revenge fantasies are music to the politically pragmatic ears of Obama's handlers in the "post-Civil Rights era" - when racism is officially over....

"Walking in JFK's imperial footsteps, Obama has advanced mealy-mouthed and ever-shifting positions on Iraq, clearly (however) indicating that an Obama White House will maintain the criminal occupation of oil-rich Mesopotamia for an indefinite period of time.

"He takes brazenly imperial positions on Israel/Palestine, Columbia, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, the 'defense' (Empire) budget, and the broad role of the United States (which Obama absurdly calls the 'last and best hope of the world') in the world.

"Here is an interesting formulation from an essay Obama published in the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations' journal Foreign Affairs in the summer of 2007:

"'The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew... A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace.... we must become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale...I will not hesitate to use force unilaterally, if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests ...We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense, in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability - to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities.'

"The article in which these words appeared was published while liberal and left peaceniks all over my home town (Iowa City) were putting up Obama signs next to peace posters quoting Dr. King on how 'War is Not the Answer.' Ronald Reagan or JFK couldn't have given more brash forewarnings of imperial adventurism to come!

"In the openly imperial foreign policy chapter of his Kennedy-esque campaign book The Audacity of Hope, Obama criticized 'left-leaning populists' like 'Venezuela's Hugo Chavez' for thinking that developing nations 'should resist America's efforts to expand its hegemony' and for daring (imagine!) to 'follow their own path to development.'

"Such dysfunctional 'reject[ion] [of] the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy' along with 'American' ideas like 'the rule of law' and 'democratic elections' - interesting terms for the heavily state-sponsored U.S. effort to impose authoritarian and corporate-state capitalist policy imperatives on impoverished nations - will only worsen the situation of the global poor, Obama claimed.

"Obama's bestselling book and supposed proclamation of 'progressive' faith (the candidate used that word to describe himself on numerous occasions in the volume) ignored a preponderance of evidence showing that the imposition of the 'free market' corporate-neoliberal 'Washington Consensus' has deepened poverty across the world in recent decades.

"Billions are forced to live in ever-more extreme poverty as Obama's book audaciously instructed poor and exploited states that 'the system of free markets and liberal democracy" is "constantly subject to change and improvement...."


Veteran left historian and activist Paul Street ( paulstreet99@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is the author of Empire and Inequality (2004) and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (2007). His next book is "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics" (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, August 2008.

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