Is Barack Obama a closeted Republican?

21 Jan

It is discomforting, if not puzzling that Mr Barack Obama, a Democratic Presidential candidate, promising positive blazing changes, has chosen to use Ronald Reagan, a former Republican President as an example; as well as to endorse the Republican party in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board.

After all, Reagan was a controversial figure head, who was notorious for his human rights and environmental record, mismanaging the economy, and having the dubious honour of being the first President who surrounded himself with a bunch of neo-conservative advisers during his administration. They included Defense Department aide Richard Perle, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz.

Upon hearing his comment, John Edwards, another Democratic candidate, was quick to denounce Obama for using Reagan as an example. On Reagan, Edwards said, this was ‘the man who busted unions, the man who did everything in his power to destroy the organized labor movement, the man who created a tax structure that favored the richest Americans against middle class and working families… was destructive to the environment by removing a lot of the regulation that existed

Edwards is spot right on all accounts.

On busting unions, just months into being office in 1981, Reagan fired about 12,000 federal air traffic controllers from the Professional Air Traffic Controllers’ Organization (PATCO) who, ironically, supported his presidential campaign. While it was a violation for governmental employees to strike at that time, the result was to ‘break the union and signal to corporations that it is acceptable to be anti-union.’

The former President’s track record in the management of the American economy has often been labelled as ‘Reaganomics’, which, according to Robert Pollin, Professor of Economic and founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, benefited the rich and not the poor.

In the article, ‘Reaganomics Revisited, Beyond the Glow of Nostalgia’ published on Counterpunch, he cited the increase of individual poverty rate from 11.9 per cent under Carter to 14.1 per cent under Reagan as an indicator. He also cited the fall of average real wages. The average figure during his presidency ‘was $15.72 per hour (in 2005 dollars), was 7.6 per cent below the average hourly wage under Carter of $16.95, and 9.6 below the Nixon/Ford peak of $17.39.’

He summed up, ‘Reagan’s fiscal program was fundamentally about tax cuts for the rich, a massive expansion in military spending, sharp reductions in social expenditures, and an acceptance-or better still, an embrace-of large-scale federal government fiscal deficits on these terms.’

Even on the topic of environmental conservatism, Reagan nominated advisers who actively sought to break the laws for the benefit of corporate profiteers. Jeffrey St. Clair charted the rise of these figures, known as the ‘Sagebrush Rebels’ or ‘the Crazies on the Hill,’ which featured two prominent stalwarts – James Watt, the head of the Department of Interior and Anne Gorsuch in the Environmental Protection Agency.

In an excerpt of Jeffrey’s book on Reagan’s Administration, he had this to say about Watt, ‘ Within a matter of months Watt proposed the sale of 30 million acres of public lands to private companies, gave away billions of dollars worth of publicly-owned coal resources, fought to permit corporations manage national parks, refused to enforce the nation’s strip mine law, offered up the Outer Continental Shelf oil reserves to exploration and drilling, ignored the Endangered Species Act and purged the Interior Department of any employees who objected to his agenda.’ Gorsuch, on the other hand, according to him, created a ‘climate of cronyism that infected the EPA in those days… pander to its political allies: Coors, Browning-Ferris Industries, Westinghouse and Monsanto.’

His claims were supported by Amanda Griscom on Grist.com, a Washington based environmental group. In her article on Reagan’s environmental legacy, the writer quoted Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Trust, who reported on environmental policy for The Washington Monthly during the Reagan era, “EPA budget cuts during Reagan’s first term were worse than they are today.” Phil Clapp, president of National Environmental Trust said, ‘the administration tried to cut EPA funding by more than 25 percent in its first budget proposal’.

While Edwards had not touched on Reagan’s foreign policy, it was the latter’s aggressive ‘anti-communism’ efforts, in the form of funding and supporting right wing Latin American dictatorships that proved most disturbing. Reagan’s support of these illiberal and violent regimes paved the stage for repressive military assaults causing massacres and human rights violations.

The Iran-Contra scandal in which proceeds from weapon sales to Iran was secretly used to fund the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua, an illegal act under the Congress, caused a civil war in Nicaragua, leading to the deaths of 50,000 people.

In El Salvador, Reagan’s administration pumped in more than $4 billion on economic and military aid to the military government, resulting in more than 75,000 deaths, most of them civilians, who were caught in the crossfire. He also supported General Efrain Rios Montt’s coup in Guatemala that caused the death of than 200,000, mostly indigenous people, over a lengthy 36 years period of civil war.

Reagan’s supporters may argue that the former President was an important figure, at least, in contributing to world stability for his overstated role in ending the Cold War. Yet, scholars and historians have disputed that version of history. In fact, Reagan was purportedly ‘anti-communist’ as has been witnessed through his support of Latin American military dictatorships. He admonished, called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’ and came up with belligerent military policies which escalated the arms race. Efforts which are clearly promoting distrust and increasing tension with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

During his administration, he approved the Star Wars, or the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a military defense program (as a deterrence against the Soviets), using ground and space-based systems to protect America from strategic nuclear ballistic missiles attack.

As such, he actually extended the cold war by promoting hard-line rhetoric in the Communist bloc, and not the other way round. Academics also argued that the end of the cold war were due to internal pressures within Soviet Union, in the form of declining legitimacy, an increasing need for reforms and widening gaps in the society as the reform process unfolded. All these were significant factors in ending the cold war.

Perhaps a Sunday Times Online article, uncannily titled, ‘Republicans defect to the Obama camp’ will provide clues as to why Barack Oabama has chosen Reagan as his exemplifying example of change.

The writer, Sarah Baxter, reported that Barack Oabama is converting, not just Republicans, but also those who used to be ardent Bush supporters. For example, John Canning, a previous Bush supporter and investment banker; and Tom Bernstein, who co-owns Texas Rangers baseball team with the current President.

Robert Kagan, founder of the neoconservative think think, Project for the New American Century, and a supporter of John McCain, has publicly endorsed Obama, as a “pure John Kennedy”, a neocon hero of the cold war for his support of the war.

At the end of Sarah’s article, Obama was strangely labelled, the ‘Black Ronald Regan’ for his unwavering optimism for the future. Is it therefore, any surprise, that Mr Obama has chosen to cite the former President as an agent of change, and perhaps, implicitly and unconsciously, his source of inspiration?

===

References:

1. Edwards, Clinton critical of Obama, Associated Press, Nedra Pickler, 19 January 2008

2. Reagan presidency pivotal for unions; Workers: Organized labor’s situation worsened under his administration, Baltimore Sun, Stacey Hirsh, 8 June 2004

3. Reaganomics Revisited; Beyond the Glow of Nostalgia, Counterpunch, Robert Pollin, 22 February 2006

4. The Nature of Ronald Reagan, Will the Earth Accept His Corpse?, Counterpunch, Jeffrey St. Clair, 8 June 2004

5. How Green Was the Gipper?, A look back at Reagan’s environmental record, Grist, Amanda Griscom, 10 June 2004

6. In Central America, Reagan Remains A Polarizing Figure, Washington Post Foreign Service, Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan, 10 June 2004

7. Republicans defect to the Obama camp, The Sunday Times, Sarah Baxter, 6 May 2007

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7 Responses to “Is Barack Obama a closeted Republican?”

  1. Dave January 21, 2008 at 11:55 pm #

    To paraphrase your closing statement: At the beginning of your article, Obama was strangely labelled, the ‘Closeted Republican’ for his unwavering optimism for the future.

  2. Susan January 22, 2008 at 1:34 am #

    Some people have the upper level thinking ability to discern nuances when hearing one make an argument. I am beginning to worry that if indeed, Clinton polls strongest among voters on the lower end of the education and income ladders, then this country’s future will be decided by a lesser educated populous. We deserve what we get. I am educated and comfortable. Whomever gets in won’t affect my life that much. I am supporting Obama because he believes in the little guy and will fight for him. He makes me want to be a better person for this country. HRC just wants the power of being in the White House again and will abandon the little guy once there in order to return favors. This is just the same politics in a skirt. I believe a woman president would be wonderful shot in the arm to the US, just not a mudslinging Clinton again.

  3. Dodgypress February 4, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    As a Black Man living in Sydney, Australia, I watch with baited breath and anticipation about Barack’s Progress in this Election. His wins have been mindblowing

    To Say that I am very proud, would be an understatement.

  4. joni February 5, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    Dodgypress,

    Have you seen the Youtube clip that the guy from Black Eyed Peas created? Have a look on Youtube for “Yes we can Obama” – it is so inspiring.

    • geez August 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

      Yeah, I used to like him until he got caught up in the O’bama O’mama kool-aid test and ‘gagged me with a spoon’ with this charade.

  5. Emily Booth February 18, 2008 at 1:45 am #

    Obama is for the No Child Left Behind Act. He’s for capital punishment. He’s for changing the Endangered Species Act. You may be right, he may be a closeted Republican.

  6. jason June 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    yes…obama is a republican! how do u think he is raising all this $money$??? it’s a conspiracy!!! the republicans dont wanna face hillary so they are secretly conspiring to have obamba win the democratic primary!!! what a shammm!!! first…the democrats complain that they cannot get enough black voters to come to the polls!!! second…the black voters rush to the polls like cockroaches to elect barakko obammo!!! now…we cant get rid of the this douschbag!!! get ready to have 4 more years of high energy prices, taxation, and war!!!!! way 2 go u fu**ing moreons!

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