Read an Excerpt
Who Is Barack Hussein Obama?
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
—Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto VI, XVII (1808)
Who is Barack Hussein Obama?
Nothing in the last fifty years—make that the last 235!—has demonstrated the phenomenon of social mania, the madness of crowds, or the forces of irrational behavior as clearly as the events that led to the election campaign of Barack Hussein Obama.
Obama was the political equivalent of whatever made one feel better, whether it was another cup of coffee or another shot of cocaine. Obama was the “pause that refreshes!”—or at least that was the way he was marketed to the American public. No matter what it was that made a person feel refreshed and alive, it could be experienced by plugging into the cool vibes of Barack Obama.
Weary of George W. Bush, perhaps even more weary of the relentless sniping campaign waged daily against Bush by the Corporate Mainstream Media (CMM), Americans were just plain fatigued and looking for a quick pick-me-up. Barack Hussein Obama and his campaign took full advantage of that mood. They would have said anything; hell, they did say anything. One suspects Team Obama and the CMM would have claimed that support for Barack Obama would result in minty-fresh breath if they could have gotten away with it.
Whatever one was “into”—a run on the beach, a walk in the park, a moonlight stroll, uppers, downers, another beer, or a shot of rye—the feelings of all those things would be duplicated and reproduced merely by listening to the cool, jazzy, rhetorical stylings of Barack Hussein Obama.
Obama had no past, no record, no documents? No problem! Who needed details? The words of Obama were all one needed to discover the truth. What truth one wanted to discover wasn’t a problem either: the truth about Bush, about good and evil, about love? Getting behind Barack Obama was the answer to every problem; he would provide relief, soothe anxieties, calm the storm. Barack Obama was going to heal the earth, lower the sea levels. He said so himself—on TV!
Obama was the answer to financial worry. As one excited supporter proclaimed on election night, Obama was going to pay for her mortgage, her car—even her gas!
A vote for Barack Obama would prove to the world that America had thrown off its ugly racist past and was a brand-new country. Casting a vote for Obama was a chance to be one of the cool kids: to vote as famous Hollywood stars and celebrities—as seen on TV!—would vote. A vote for Barack Obama was obsessive-compulsive behavior made man and woman.
In 2008, Barack Obama was the electoral equivalent of the Hula Hoop; a political Pet Rock; a craze, a fad, an irrational gadget. The latest have-to-have, must-vote-for candidate. Suppose a goldfish-swallowing, disco-dancing smart-phone salesman in a paisley shirt had met a polyester-bell-bottom-jeans-wearing female flagpole-sitter, complete with platform shoes and a Dorothy Hamill haircut, during the intermission at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Further suppose that the enthralled couple had tripped out to the parking lot, climbed into his Muscle Car, compared mood rings, and then leaped into the backseat to celebrate the Age of Aquarius. Finally, imagine that nine months later that groovy union produced a boy.
That boy couldn’t possibly have been a bigger poster child for the power of temporary fad and fashion than Barack Obama during 2008. Barack Hussein Obama became something never before seen in American politics: the presidential impulse-buy item.
Who is Barack Hussein Obama?
He had answered to many names. Was he Barry Soetoro, Barry Obama, Barack Dunham, Barry Dunham, or Barack Hussein Obama? It’s no wonder the Corporate Mainstream Media didn’t do much investigation into the man: Who knew to which name he’d answer? The number of possibilities might have driven Stephen Hawking mad. Besides, who wanted to know? Hey, Barack Obama’s mom spoke twelve different languages, and BHO had a pet monkey when he was a kid!
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Chris Hedges has written about Brand Obama and captured the true flavor of the marketing fraud that was the official Obama Narrative™. Hedges claims Barack Obama is nothing more than “a brand.”
And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia, and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East.
Hedges argues that Brand Obama “entertains,” makes us feel “hopeful,” and gives us a feeling that the president is “like us.” Hedges finishes with a chilling reminder: “But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.”
Which is all true—with one important difference. If Brand Obama had been an inanimate object instead of flesh and blood, all of the campaign’s leaders would have been thrown in jail for false advertising. If Barack Obama had been a prescription drug, he never would have made it out of the clinical trials.
Barack Obama was not the product to cure all ills—but that didn’t stop his campaign from spinning it that way. The illusion that Barack Obama could be whatever a person desired him to be didn’t stop with his election. After the election Barack Obama continued to be (fill in the blank). However, after the campaign was over, it was the CMM that took over running the con. Before he was inaugurated, according to the CMM, Obama was the reincarnation of any number of past American presidents.
Obama was the “New Teddy Roosevelt” and the “New FDR” (Time and various newspapers). Obama was the “New Abraham Lincoln” (Washington Post, Huffington Post, Pravda). Obama was compared and contrasted with Ronald Reagan (Washington Post, Chris Matthews). A T-shirt even proclaimed that Obama was “the New Black.” As during the campaign, Obama was still whatever one wished him to be—at least for a little while longer.
Who is Barack Hussein Obama?
Hedges contends that it was the “image” of Barack Obama that appeared “radically individualistic and new”—not the candidate himself. Because all high-level political candidates are products of the corporations and the “vast military-industrial complex,” there are no longer different products (candidates); there are only different brands (the way those cookie-cutter candidates are marketed to the voting public, e.g., Brand Obama, Brand Bush). Brand Obama was demanded because the Bush brand had “collapsed.” What new brand will be demanded after the relatively quick collapse of the Obama brand is anyone’s guess.
Who is Barack Hussein Obama?
Maybe the CMM should have interviewed Chris Hedges before the election; he had Brand Obama nailed. Maybe someone should have quizzed Hedges; it might have been helpful. No one else had the answers.
It hasn’t much helped to ask the voters who supported Obama. They didn’t know and, in many cases, didn’t care. It wasn’t much help to look at the meager Obama record. Obama has ensured that most of his records have been impossible to access.
His Occidental College, Columbia University, Harvard University, and medical records have all been sealed by the president himself. In addition, the April 2011 release of a document alleged to be Obama’s long-form birth certificate has raised more questions than it has answered. Before Obama’s election, his campaign refused to release relevant records, and the CMM declined to press him on the issue.
Private investigations have revealed that Barack Hussein Obama has used more than one Social Security number—and that the SSN currently used has a prefix reserved for residents of Connecticut, a state in which Barack Obama has never resided. This information has not sparked, in a decidedly uncurious press, any inquiries into such curious circumstances.
It hasn’t done any good to ask members of the press. While they’ve provided plenty of opinions, most haven’t provided many real answers to Obama’s past—because they never asked the hard questions themselves and never followed up on those asked by others outside their ranks. During the campaign, the CMM exhibited a singular lack of curiosity about their Fab Fave candidate and his past, preferring instead to quote from Obama’s two memoirs or the campaign’s canned answers from the Obama Narrative™.
Inquiries about actual records, which would’ve helped shed light on Obama’s background, were a subject—much like the John Edwards scandal—that remained off-limits in the polite little pieces the CMM substituted for election news. Who wanted hard news anyway? For the corporate media reporters covering Obama, Tiger Beat was much more fun than the political beat. Why dig for the hard facts when it was so much easier to provide “Fun Facts”?
It did no good to ask former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. According to published reports, questions about Obama’s post–Columbia University employment with Business International Corporation (BIC) have been strictly verboten—as well as any questions about Obama’s withheld records while he was a student at Occidental College or Columbia.
And it hasn’t helped to ask Barack Obama himself. Whenever it has been impossible for the CMM to ignore some aspect of Obama’s record that has surfaced, he has run from it or insisted that he was unaware of what the record revealed.
Reverend Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright? After vigorously defending Wright, Obama ran from him, claiming that he sat in Wright’s church for twenty years and never heard him say any of those unpleasant things about America.
Former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers? At first, Obama claimed Ayers was “just some guy from the neighborhood” or “one of the thousands of people I know.” Bill O’Reilly bought it.
Others didn’t. It was shown that Obama had a years-long relationship of working with Ayers, whose views on America (“Every time I think of America, it makes me want to puke”) were well-known. Obama spokesmen claimed that Obama didn’t know about Ayers’s past. Even some in the CMM had trouble swallowing that one.
Obama’s relationship with ACORN? The subject was something that Obama spoke of proudly—until ACORN’s record of massive voter fraud became better known. Then the Obama camp’s position became that Obama “never worked for ACORN.”
Who is Barack Hussein Obama?
In 2008, Barack Obama was The Hope; he was The Change. To his opponents, BHO represented the triumph of wishful thinking, the belief that unicorns existed and fairy dust was a real-world commodity. “Who is Barack Obama?” was a new national parlor game in which there was no wrong answer. Barack Obama was more than the sizzle that sold the steak: He was the sizzle all by itself. Who needed steak anyway? Obama would feed anyone who got hungry—probably with steak.
The Obama campaign naturally encouraged this “promise of the empty vessel.” In The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Barack Obama truly was whatever supporters wanted him to be—even he knew it.
With few records to actually consult and with little relevant experience in public service—Obama had served only 143 working days in the U.S. Senate before announcing his campaign for president—Barack Obama offered the American public few clues to who he actually was. Those interested in learning more had nowhere to go other than the Obama campaign. The CMM churned out a steady stream of puffery. An examination of the hyped hagiography, slobbering puff pieces, and messianic ballyhoo seldom revealed much that proved helpful.
In the end, Barack Obama became electoral Silly Putty for 2008. But Obama’s fifteen minutes of marketing fame ended, not with warehouses full of unsought knickknacks or toys that consumers no longer wanted; it ended with a neophyte with no real-world, practical experience in the White House.
At a little before 10:30 P.M. local time on November 4, 2008, CNN declared Barack Obama the winner of the presidential election. A self-congratulatory celebration then began around the country. It erupted into a national three-piece toga party, as Obama Nation celebrated not so much the election of Obama himself as the Idea of Obama—and it was captured live on national television so all the world could watch and feel part of the fun.
The festivities were narrated by many of the same media commentators who had worked so hard the previous twenty-one months in order to ensure that this long-imagined magic moment became a reality. Network coverage revealed a night when Hope! reigned triumphant over Reality. For 52 percent of the American electorate, November 4, 2008, was the Wild Night Out, the Last Great Fling, the Ultimate Bachelor Party, a One-Night Stand, and Girls Gone Wild all rolled into one.
On January 21, 2009, the country woke up with what looked to be a four-year-long national hangover. The CMM has already suggested a little “hair of the dog” for 2012. All of which might or might not have been prevented, if only some enterprising members of the press had resolved to answer the question: Who is Barack Hussein Obama?