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12/1 Lee Siu Hin: What We Should Expect from President Barak Obama?

by Lee Siu Hin - Immigrant Solidarity Network Wednesday, Dec. 03, 2008 at 5:01 AM (213)403-0131 Los Angeles, CA USA

If history can teach us something, the election of Obama and Clinton has many similarities: after the initial excitement we might experience the same disappointment and disillusion like Clinton-era--and even the possibility of Republicans can capitalize the public disappointment to regain the control of Congress at the future elections.....

What We Should Expect from President Barak Obama?

Lee Siu Hin

December 1, 2008

What we should expect from President Barak Obama? Being living through when 1976 – 1980 many of us arguing we should support “liberal” President Jimmy Carter because he is the “two of lesser evils,” while we’d overlooked his failed policies; or during 1992 - 2000 at President Bill Clinton period, when we “celebrated” end of the Reagan-Bush neocon era but end up entering not so-left but hawkish-neoliberal Clinton era. The lesson from our modern U.S. political history can thought us: more the politicians claiming to “change” more remain the same--regardless “left” or right candidates elected to the office.

The problem of the current Obamania-hype is our progressive left putting too much hope on “change” will be coming--or at least with some political push and protest, etc., our wishes will come true under Obama. However, many left seems to have very short memory—just two years ago, the anti-war vote on 2006 mid-term election helped to install a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch it became a pro-war Congress. The "anti-war" Congressman Obama, along with Hilary Clinton and others Democratic party Congressional members vote repeatedly for the past two years record-breaking war funding to the President Bush, for helping him to continue his illegal war and occupation at Iraq and Afghanistan.

As of December 1st, 2008, Obama's first several crucial cabinet appointments are full of recycled Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons from the past administration, along with his lists of political programs from his official Presidential transitional webpage spells out his hawkish agenda, present the crash of hope—at least a denial of the wishes of his supporters who voted him hope for a clear break away from the corrupted Bush’s pro-war Neocon past:

Rahm Emanuel: Obama’s first appointment, Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff will be very problematic since he has been known for his notorious war-mongering, pro-Israeli Zionist, anti-immigrant, pro-corporate and NAFTA-pushing agenda.

Robert Gates: Obama choose Gates to be staying on as Defense Secretary, what this means is simple enough--a continue war and occupation in Iraq, with military surge in Afghanistan--20,000 more troop to boost Afghan war—and, possibly, a new conflict with Iran, and covert “anti-terrorism” operation in Pakistan—Obama’s choice of Gate is a clear slaps to antiwar voters in the face.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Obama’s pick for Secretary of State, Clinton has notorious records on supporting her husband President Bill Clinton’s economic sanction & low-intensity warfare against Iraq during 1990’s that result in death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, along with U.S./NATO bombing against Yugoslavia following the Kosovo crisis at 1999. After she elected to U.S. Senate at 2000, she was one of the hard core supporters on President Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, includes voting for Iraq War Resolution at 2002 that authorize U.S. to invade Iraq, and every single war funding since then. During her Presidential campaign, Clinton says she won't rule out the use of force to stop “pro-terrorist” Iran.

James Jones: Former Marine general and Obama’s pick for National Security Adviser is a combination of all wrong choices—Corporate-military tie. While his military achievement was moderate, he had been more active on business world after his retirement on February, 2007. He was the president of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Jones also joined the Board of Directors of The Boeing Company on June 21, 2007, and elected to the board of directors of Chevron Corporation on May 28, 2008. In addition, he is the chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States, a Washington think-tank that has very close military tie.

Timothy Geithner: Geithner as treasury secretary is yet another clear sign of Obama’s choose on Wall Street over Main Street. Geithner is head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; he was the main government official to regulate Wall Street financial institutions, a task that he obviously failed and result in trillion-dollar government bailouts for Wall Street.

Larry Summers: Obama’s pick for director of the White House's National Economic Council, as guru of neoliberal economic policies under Clinton era that economically devastated Billions of people across the World.

Furthermore, the very problematic nature of Obama’s Geithner and Summers appointments are their trouble connection with the Wall Street--which result in current financial meltdown and trillion-dollars government bailouts that’ll hunt us financially for generations. Geithner and Summers are the protégés of Robert Rubin, the Citicorp executive, they worked together when Rubin was Secretary of the Treasury during Clinton-era, and their appointment was announced along with a 0 billion federal bailout of Citigroup by the taxpayers' money.

Janet Napolitano: Obama's choice for Secretary of Homeland Security, known for her racist anti-immigrant policy as Arizona governor. She is a supporter of militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and other anti-immigrant policies, includes: declared a state of emergency in Arizona to direct more funds to block border from immigrants; and support the toughest “employer sanctions” law in the country that will punish businesses to hire undocumented workers.

Peter Orszag: Obama’s choice for Office of Management and Budget Director, another protégé of Robert Rubin. For the past few years, he has been advocating his idea to save the Social Security by reduction in Social Security benefits, and raising Social Security taxes.

Eric Holder: Obama’s choice for Attorney General, a Clinton-era official who was famous for pardoned Marc Rich. As a corporate lawyer, he’d defended worse U.S. corporations like: Chiquita International Brands, Chiquita was indicted in U.S. court over their security payments to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group U.S. government had designated as a terrorist organization; Holder argued that there is no evidence linking killings in Colombia to Chiquita.

Susan Rice: Another Obama's inner circle of foreign policy advisers to be named as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was appointed by President Clinton to National Security Council; as a protégé of Madeline Albright—Secretary of State during Clinton-era, she then became the Assistant Secretary of Sate for African Affairs; after Clinton Presidency she jointed liberal think-tank Brookings Institution as senior fellow. She is a strong advocate for U.S. military attack against Sudan over the Darfur crisis; “Sudan will only respond to the threat of an attack; and if an attack is necessary,” and suggest bombing Sudanese strategic targets like airfields and blockading Sudan's port at her 2006 NPR interview.

From these resumes of Obama’s future cabinet members, we could expect to see the Team Obama will aim to sell us sugar-coated conservative, neocon/neoliberal, pro-corporate, pro-bailout, anti-immigrant, pro-war hawkish policies as progressive politics. Form Change.Gov, the official Obama-Biden President transition information website, he lists two dozen main issues he'll focus as President (Created just one day after he won the election, the most important part of the Change.Gov is his "agenda" section; however, in a strange twist, within just less then 2 days after they put the information on-line, they took down the entire "agenda" section without explain why, but put it back two weeks later with some modifications):

Economy: Some of his economic agendas are seems good and progressive on paper but not practical in reality, or merely just a campaign rhetoric: "Provide a ,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families", " "Provide a Making Work Pay tax credit of up to 0 per person, or ,000 per working family for America's Working Families" (sound more like a Republican tax cut ideology); "Invest 0 billion over 10 years in the Manufacturing Sector and Create 5 Million New Green Jobs", "Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank" and propose a new American Jobs Tax Credit for “businesses to receive a ,000 refundable tax credit for each additional full-time employee hired in the U.S.” (But does not provide any suggestion where’ll be the funding coming from).

Trade: While he against NAFTA, his agenda didn't intend to end of it, rather just try to amend it.

Iraq: Obama proposes a 16-months withdraw timetable, but "a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism." (Sound like the same old U.S. military "advisors" role at the past in Vietnam, Central America, but his agenda also didn't explain withdraw from Iraq will be also total withdrawing the U.S. forces from the middle east and Persian Gulf region)

Immigration: Obama’s "Immigration" agenda is horrible! He proposes "additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry." (A.K.A. militarization of the border) "Allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens." (The same old horrible fake immigration "reform" bill proposed by the Congress and push immigrant to accept it for the past few years)

Iran: His agenda on Iran is full of Hawkish-Bush’s legacy, includes: "If Iran continues its troubling behavior (refuse to abandon its nuclear program and support for terrorism), we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation."

Homeland Security/Anti-Terrorism: While critiquing Hawkish-Bush legacy, his homeland security agenda is more to suggest changing, looks more like the same old covert operations. His main focus: “Find, Disrupt, and Destroy Al Qaeda” includes "New Capabilities to Aggressively Defeat Terrorists," "Prepare the Military to Meet 21st Century Threats" "Win the Battle of Ideas" "Restore American Influence and Restore Our Values" includes billion price tag on Global Education Funds to build pro-U.S. ideology schools, and another billion to create Shared Security Partnership Program to “improve cooperation between U.S. and foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies.” (Sounds just like creating another School of Americas for global “anti-terrorism”)

Israel: Obama’s agenda on Israel clearly shows that he ABSOLUTELY no different then Bush, Clinton and any other past U.S. Presidents on foreign policy. He’ll “ensure a Strong U.S.-Israel Partnership” where he believes “first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel” which includes “stood up strongly for Israel's right to defend itself,” and support U.S. foreign assistance to Israel that will ensure billions of dollars our tax money will go to “annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and have advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met,” plus “U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.”

Defense: Obama calls for preserve U.S. global military reach in the air “we must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe,” that includes “need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to essential systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft,” and supports to build Reagan-era National Missile Defense program but demands other countries “ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites.” Need I say more?

Workers’ Rights: That’s the only major proposal from Obama’s “agenda” seems to be good and can be accomplishable: “ensure freedom to unionize”, “protect striking workers,” and “raise the minimum wage to .50 an hour by 2011,” “fighting for pay equity,” “expanding paid sick days,” and helping low-income workers by invest “ billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathway programs.” Weather to these pro-worker/union proposals will be happen under Obama’s administration will be remaining to see.

While there’re many progressive, pro-worker, pro-women, pro-civil rights and good educational proposals at his agendas on that will be benefiting the working class; however, facts vs. reality, most of these are just long-due reformist proposal and there’s no much hyped FDR-type major national economic transformational projects in his agenda, rather, there’s a overwhelm hawkish imperialist, pro-business and anti-immigrant agendas at his proposal. He already guaranteed billions, even trillion dollars bailout funds for the failed Wall Street financial institutions and another hundreds of billions of dollars for military spending--making all rest of his proposed low-billions dollars social spending programs just merely a tip money for the working poor.

What’ll be happen for the next four years? We only can speculate but certainly Obama is not the liberal, inspirational, progressive working-class savoir that many well-wished progressive American voters and peace-loving people from around the world hope to see will be happen. His pro-war, pro-corporate agendas didn’t arrive from nowhere; it’s a carefully crafted agenda by his team whose most of them were once protégés of corporate America, past pro-war/pro-corporate administration officials and/or members of neocon/neoliberal think tanks.

If history can teach us something, the election of Obama and Clinton has many similarities: after the initial excitement we might experience the same disappointment and disillusion like Clinton-era--and even the possibility of Republicans can capitalize the public disappointment to regain the control of Congress at the future elections.

We should not keep any illusion of "change"--since it won't drop from the sky or someone who said so, "change" will only happen when we rise up and fight to make it happen from below.

* Lee Siu Hin is a long time peace, labor, immigrant rights and human rights activists. A long time Pacifica Radio KPFK Los Angeles, CA and WBAI New York, NY producer. Founder and national coordinator of National Immigrant Solidarity Network (, ActionLA Coalition ( and Peace NO War Network (

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