Obama With a Thousand Faces


Image courtsey of sodahead.com

TODAY I SAW a “Romney 2012” bumper sticker on a Honda Civic. Actually, there were two identical stickers, one on each side of the back window. This is notable because it is the first piece of Romney propaganda I’ve seen this election season, leading me to conclude that the owner of said vehicle was either a Latter-Day Saint or a member of Mitt’s immediate family (which would, needless to say, make him both). Romney does not inspire the sort of fervor that manifests itself in defacing one’s car with sticker glue.

Not so Ron Paul. His name is emblazoned on lawn signs, bumper stickers, buttons, hats, and t-shirts all over creation. If the GOP selected its candidates purely on the basis of signage, Paul would win in a rout. What makes this grouchy, rumpled Texan so special? Wherefore this Pauline ardor?

Ron Paul, it says here, is a somewhat enigmatic figure, a white screen citizens may project their own political views upon—sort of like how tween girls can pour their own personalities into the empty vessel that is Bella Swan. Paul is fully aware of this, and actively encourages it. In this way, he is similar to President Obama, who, in the primary and general election four years ago, came across as a blank slate upon which bleeding-heart liberals might write their progressive dreams (and racist reactionaries their birther conspiracies). The difference, of course, is that Obama is a handsome, intelligent, engaging, charismatic young leader, with a photogenic family, while Paul looks like a lesser player from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That, and Obama won the White House.

Ron Paul easily took the Mordor primary.

Four years later, despite an almost-full presidential term in a spotlight of Zeus-revealing-himself-to-Semele intensity, Obama remains something of a mystery. We still don’t really have a handle on who he is. Or, to be more accurate, we have a very good idea of who he is—an imperial president unafraid to flex American muscle abroad, a taker of risks, a natural-born cooperator unwilling to accept that the rival party would rather destroy the economy than meet him halfway, and a pragmatist of the highest order.

And yet the perceptions of him from 2008, on both right and left, persist—and none of them are true. Here are seven things Obama is decidedly not:


1. A socialist.

I’m not sure where this odd notion originated. Was it from the glossed lips of Sarah Palin, in the midst of her “death panel” railing against his healthcare program? The op-eds by right-wing pundits after his bail-out of General Motors? This is pretty weak evidence. Obamacare is nothing close to the European-style universal coverage we liberals wanted (and want). As for GM, if buying a company when it’s down, making it run more efficiently, and then selling it at a profit is socialist, then Mitt Romney is Louis Auguste Blanqui.


2. An environmentalist.

The organic garden at the White House makes for good copy, but that’s Michelle, not Barack, who is unlikely to chain himself to a tree anytime soon. Fracking is the centerpiece of his energy policy. He’s given major ground to oil companies. He stalled on the Keystone XL pipeline before bowing to pressure from environmentalist groups and passing…but will likely approve the proposal after the election. Conclusion: He’s our first black president; he’s not our first green one.


3. A bringer of peace.

When he won the Nobel Peace Prize, nine months into his presidency, we envisioned MLK 2.0—the sort of transcendent, transformative leader who could rally the entire world to his cause. We did not imagine a stone-cold killer who shuffles a deck of terrorist playing cards to determine whom to take out via drone strike. The Nobel committee was misinformed. Badly. Obama is closer to Stringer Bell than Martin Luther King.


4. A proponent of class warfare.

Obama extended the Bush tax cuts—cuts that put the top marginal tax rate at almost a third of what it was for most of the 20th century. And although Wall Streeters publicly loathe him, he’s been their lapdog. His economic team, featuring many of the people responsible for the economic crisis, is meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss. If Obama wants class warfare, so did George W. Bush.


5. A Muslim.

He did not close Gitmo, where a number of Muslims are indefinitely imprisoned. He took out Bin Laden, Gaddafi, scores of al-Qaeda operatives, and many Muslim civilians (including some children) via drone stike. All of which seems an unusual way to pay homage to Allah. Furthermore, one of those hateful PAC-funding billionaires had to be talked out of financing a series of ads portraying Obama as the white-hating, angry devotee of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He can’t be both, can he?


6. A foreigner.

He released the long form, people. He was born in Hawaii. And even if he wasn’t…it’s a little late now. What do the birthers want him to do? Resign? Can you make a sitting president who has the legal power to decide an America citizen is a terrorist and then have him whacked via drone strike, without a trial, leave office on a technicality? Kenya?


7. A liberal.






About Greg Olear

Greg Olear (@gregolear) is a founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker, an L.A. Times bestseller.
This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Obama With a Thousand Faces

  1. Caleb Powell says:

    It’s interesting that the conservatives cry how “liberal” he is, coming up with goofy terms like “Obamunist” and so forth. Counter this with how the left sometimes feel betrayed that he caters to the liberal agenda only when necessary.

    Usually I’d rather err too far left than too far right, ie. I’d take too much social programs than not enough, too much taxes over not enough, and so on, but I think there can be excesses either way. I’m not moderate but independent, and concede a middle ground needs to be reached.

    As far as drone strikes and Guantanamo, I’m not comfortable with everything, but in the context of terrorism, the multitudes of released Guantanamo prisoners returning to the battlefield; how the majority of them wouldn’t hesitate about walking into your supermarket and self-detonating (why do libs gloss over how most of these prisoners have serious blood on their hands? They are not basket weavers or simple taxi drivers just caught in the crossfire, although the lib is most likely to believe this poo-poo), I almost admire Obama’s implementation of these policies. In essence, he’s following Samantha Powers’ call to use reasonable force to prevent evil. Whenever the libs criticize this I’m always reminded of the saying about how, if two people start a fight, the liberal is the one to walk out and leave. Obama’s got balls.

    That being said, Greg, always enjoy your two cents, but whenever the libs tsk-tsk about how Obama has not gone as left as they would like, it reinforces my reasons to vote for Obama again. I’d vote for him twice!

    • Major Weekling says:

      Thanks, Caleb.

      I’m of two minds about his use of force…intellectually, I’m opposed, because he’s killed waaay too many innocents, and if he has the power to indiscriminately kill from on high, like a Greek god, so will his successor, who may not be as morally sound. But on another, visceral level, he’s bad-ass, and the Dems really needed a bad-ass. It’s curious to me that no one sees him this way.

  2. Richard Klin says:

    Completely spot-on, Greg. The only (caustic) observation I would add is that he’s also not a Democrat.

  3. Sean Beaudoin says:

    Please, please just a little bit more of that Stringer Bell action…

    • Jeffro says:

      It’s been almost eight years since Omar and Brother Mouzone took out Stringer and I’m still depressed about that. It’s not everyday you have a drug lord who regularly attends and excels in economics classes at his local community college. RIP Stringer.

      Now whether Obama is more Stringer than Martin Luther King, that’s up for debate; but I would say he shares the same pragmatism in his belief system. He’s calculating and doesn’t show which cards he’s holding until he makes his move. Although I believe his personal beliefs are liberal, he isn’t a liberal president. He’s a moderate that does reach out to the other side. Unfortunately, the other side has absolutely no desire to return the favor. That’s bad for the economy and for the country as a whole. And no one should be surprised the Republicans have played this game. They did the same with Clinton. It’s only worse now, in my opinion, because the social conservatives have tried to portray Obama as an Other. I imagine in 50 years, American youth will look back on this time and all of the propaganda by the Right and say, “Wow, what a bunch of racist assholes.”

      • Major Weekling says:

        Well said, Jeffro. Agree on all fronts. Especially on Stringer. I love the ep where he makes the guys use Roberts Rules of Order.

    • Major Weekling says:

      Omar list’nin’…

    • Jennifer Kabat says:

      Yeah. And one of the best comparisons I’ve heard in a long time. Right on Olear.

  4. Sir_OPR says:

    re: item #7

    I thought of this post after today’s historic SCOTUS ruling.

    The ACA is the most consequential piece of liberal domestic legislation since the Great Society programs of the ’60s.

    Now we learn that it was a *non* liberal president who decided to spend a year enduring infuriating negotiations with people like Chuck Grassley and Ben Nelson, at great expense to his own popularity, to extend health care to an additional 30 million citizens (most of whom don’t understand or appreciate the bill.) That makes the ACA even more remarkable.

    • Major Weekling says:

      I love that he made it a priority, love that it was signed, love that it passed muster with the Court.

      But it ain’t universal coverage. And I don’t know that a piece of legislation that was originally a plank of the GOP platform, and initially introduced by a GOP governor, and then blessed by a GOP Chief Justice, makes this “liberal.”

      That said, I hereby commission you to write something about why The Big O is a liberal. Rather than argue about it on here. You may just convince me…

  5. Pingback: On the Eleventh of the Eleventh — The Good Men Project

  6. Roger O. Thornhill says:

    I apologize for the indolence of sir_OPR. Thankfully, several quality writers at The New Yorker and TNR have completed your writing task in the past couple days. Even longtime skeptic Krugman is (mostly) on board now.

    Best New Year wishes,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *