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It may be impossible to judge the 1461 days of a US presidency based only on the first 100. Pepe Escobar argues at least a pattern may be discerned. President Obama remains hugely popular – but the man, cool, calm and collected, may be more exciting than his policies. Ever the consensus builder, the pragmatist president will need to take more risks if he wants to accomplish real change, as well as being regarded by the majority of the population as The Fixer. So far, on the financial crisis and on the torture controversy – two key themes of his first 100 days – he was not as daring as he was expected to be.

Story Transcript

What makes Barack run?

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST, TRNN: Oh, yeah, you all remember this. And you certainly must remember this.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: The God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

ESCOBAR: It’s impossible to judge 1,461 days of a presidency based on just 100, but a pattern has emerged. The man’s got style, and the man’s got swing.

OBAMA: By the way, I’ve already talked to Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before, so—.

ESCOBAR: Cool, calm, collected, overhauling and steering not a helicopter but a massive cruise ship, the US state. How not to be seduced by the image he projects? The problem is Obama the man may be much more exciting then Obama’s policies. He’s still on the campaign trail. But a man of action will only match the man of vision—drenched in charisma, of course, especially to US workers, which are battered and internally divided at the moment—to the extent that he becomes Obama The Fixer. For the control freak in all of us, there is always the Oba-meter—not many promises broken yet, and a lot going in his enormous to-do list. This is what Obama wants America to know.

OBAMA: I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future.

ESCOBAR: But does that translate into bipartisanship, national unity? Not really. His approval rating among Democrats is 88 percent. As for a great deal of hyperbolic, hyperventilated Republicans, Obama’s a socialist, Obama’s a fascist, and all evils in between. They are, frankly, scary, and people notice. So Obama has no real intellectually meaningful opposition, apart from a few progressive spots in cyberspace. But in this article, an Obama administration official finally named the real enemy: conservative Democrats in Capitol Hill. Obama, oh, shades of Tony Blair [sic]. He prefers to bill himself as a new Democrat.

OBAMA: If we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress.

ESCOBAR: In foreign policy, the Obama doctrine is to offer up partnership to everyone and his neighbor. He wants to talk to Russia and Iran. And, most of all, he’s already talking nuclear with Russia. But from remonstration to reassurance, everything is artfully framed. The impression in many cases, though, is still business as usual, from the blockade of Cuba still standing to no condemnation whatsoever of the horrendous Israeli attacks on Gaza civilians.

OBAMA: You too have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right, but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrates the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.


OBAMA: So let me say this as clearly as I can. The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.

ESCOBAR: And the former global war on terror, now in its eighth year, under new management, and with no end in sight, is an overseas contingency operations (OCO), redeployed by the Pentagon from Iraq, where failure was rebranded victory, to the Af-Pak theater, the scene of the hell-from-above drone war on al-Qaeda, and on Pashtun civilians as well. And all this while even the very bewildered Pakistani government now seems to believe that the one main reason for the war on terror may be a ghost. And Obama may want to close Guantánamo, but he won’t close Bagram in Afghanistan. Obama’s twin baptism of fire have been Wall Street and torture. In both cases, he has not really acknowledged that the system has failed completely. In his global op-ed peace, for instance, published by 31 major papers across the world, Obama couldn’t go further then, quote, “I know that America bears our share of responsibility for the mess that we all face.” This is as [concise] of a self-portrait as any of The Fixer.

OBAMA: There’s been a tendency to spend a lot of time scoring political points instead of rolling up sleeves to solve real problems. There’s also an impatience that characterizes this town, an attention span that has only grown shorter with the 24-hour news cycle, that insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers. When crisis hits, there is all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died down, the media coverage has moved on to something else, instead of confronting the major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way.

ESCOBAR: But he could not acknowledge that the US free-market outsourcing model is dead. He believes in the Fed fabricating $12 trillion out of thin air. And the best and the brightest stress his no-banker-left-behind plan is destined to fail. And he just needed to read the testimony of the man behind the hood, Professor Ali Shalal, to order the prosecution of American torturers. As a very ambitious, very talented, consummate appeaser, and in exchange for a few concessions from US elites, Obama has made sure illusions will remain, in the hope that everything may go back to business as usual one day. Bob Dylan said Obama is like a fictional character, but real. But unlike Dylan’s characters, he’s no gambler—he can’t tolerate risk. So there’s been no accountability, there’s been no catharsis for, in Obama’s own words, the mess we all face. Yes, after the baby emperor, the Obama shuffle is like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Obama rules over the news cycle, and he talks a great game. But the old order, the industrial-military complex, the financial institutions big pharma remains extremely powerful. He may be opening the door to hope.

OBAMA: A place where anyone from anywhere with a good idea or the will to work can live the dream they’ve heard so much about—that is the house upon the rock.

ESCOBAR: But, for the moment, this is a very, very rocky house. Is perception reality? Could Obama be just a puppet on many strings, an emergency facelift to brand America? Still popular after all these days, oh, yes, no doubt about it. But will cool-power translate into soul-power? In those long, white nights at the White House, perhaps the [better] angels of America’s nature keep whispering in his ear, “Be bold, young man. Be bold.”


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.