The Obama Betrayal... '... he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency...' How the Chicago Boys and the Chicago Plan conned the country with the fraudulent candidate and the Obama presidency

As the opening of school looms across the USA and teachers in Chicago prepare to return to their classrooms for a school year that might be called "Obama 4.0" (for the fourth school year of the reign of Obama's former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel), a number of historians are reminding us of the sheer hypocrisy that brought Barack Obama and Joe Biden into the White House amid all that prattle about audacious hope in 2008. Two recent essays, one by Cornel West and the other by a local Chicago teacher, help add perspective to the fraud that was foisted on all of us over the past decade, and especially since President Race to the Top brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of millions of people (not only in the USA but across the planet) when he strode on to the stage in Grant Park after the Obama victory was confirmed in the November 2008 election.

Just as the role of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the international financial crisis (through his directorship at AIG) was about to become a White House problem, Chicago arranged for Rahm to rush back to his local power base and create him as Mayor. Rahm's Wall Street corruptions was just one of the many facets of the corruption of the Obamas and their allies as they rose to power behind a smokescreen of fraud between 2005 and 2008, when Obama was elected President of the United States.Cornel West has seen parts of his career hurt because he dared to speak truth to power about Barack Obama and the Obama Presidency. His comments below, from Salon, are just the latest in his wide ranging and almost Biblically prophetic denunciation of the work of Barack Obama.

And Paul Horton, who taught the Obama children at the University of Chicago Lab School, adds insight into the hypocrisy we are facing by describing the reactionary notions of one of the more important of Obama's local buddies, millionaire Marty Nesbit. (We're still waiting for someone to track the sordid opportunism and racism of the career of Valerie Jarrett, who is still in power, but we hear that's coming, too).

Cornel West is one of those who has been hurt for his criticisms of Barack Obama. West once had a local radio talk show that was widely respected in Chicago, on WBEZ, Chicago's "public" radio station, every Sunday. Listeners were expanding as West regularly exposed the hypocrisies of the Obama administration and the policies of Barack Obama. Until WBEZ cut the show completely, leaving the audience without a regular way to hear from West. (The censorship, lamely explained by WBEZ management, didn't even cost the show many supporters, showing just how deeply these problems are buried).

Horton has become more and more vocal during the past two years as the policies of Rahm Emanuel, whose children attend the Lab School, and Barack Obama, destroy public education and undermine communities from Chicago to both coasts.

There is still no comprehensive analysis of how the "One Percent" began to cultivate a sliver of what W.E.B. DuBois once called the "talented tenth" and began promoting them to further the reactionary policies of neoliberalism behind a facade of racial diversity. At the same time American finance capitalism was creating the pundit infrastructure (from the Heritage Foundation to the careers of dozens of conservative blatherers) that we face today, it was also financing a generation of slick talking carefully screened opportunists who fulfilled the "diversity" requirement while betraying unions, public works and public workers, and all of the traditions of American democracy that helped create them.

Barack Obama is only the most notorious of that generation of opportunists, but there are hundreds who have been spoiled by Ivy League scholarships and careful selection to become the facade behind which the reactionary policies of finance capital screen themselves. Among the others are Michelle Obama, Adrian Fenty (whose election as Mayor of Washington, D.C. created Michelle Rhee), Corey Booker (whose fictionalized reality at mayor of Newark -- "Bricktown" -- was the model for the ridiculous Rahm Emanuel version of Chicago, "Chicagoland"), Deval Patrick, and dozens of others. The Chicago group has been at the center of that since the Chicago Teachers Union helped hoist Barack Obama into national prominence by securing for him the Senate nomination and paving the road to the White House. But there are many many others, and most of them, like Marty Nesbit, have been underwritten by billionaire reactionary tax dodgers like Penny Pritzker.

And so this is just one small chapter is a still to be written story.


Cornel West: He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency

Exclusive: Cornel West talks Ferguson, Hillary, MSNBC -- and unloads on the failed promise of Barack Obama

SALON: Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nations progress since then.

The conversation ranged from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, and although the picture of the nation was sometimes bleak, our talk ended on a surprising note.

SALON: Last time we talked it was almost six years ago. It was a panel discussion The New Yorker magazine had set up, it was in the fall of 2008, so it was while the financial crisis was happening, while it was actually in progress. The economy was crumbling and everybody was panicking. I remember you speaking about the financial crisis in a way that I thought made sense. There was a lot of confusion at the time. People didnt know where to turn or what was going on. I also remember, and this is just me Im talking about, being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president at the time. I dont know if you and I talked about him on that occasion. But at the time, I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed.

So thats my first question, its a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didnt turn.

CORNEL WEST: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that hes just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.

And thats a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we arewere an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebodya Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

SALON: Thats exactly what everyone was saying at the time.

CORNEL WEST: Thats right. Thats true. It was like, We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner. And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.

SALON: Yeah. Thats what everyone was saying.

CORNEL WEST: And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. Its like, Oh, no, dont tell me that! I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, its Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.

And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. Its a sad thing. Its like youre looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.

SALON: When you say you got hit hard, are you talking about the personal confrontation you had with him? Im just thinking about the vicious attacks of the Obama cheerleaders. The personal confrontation you had with him is kind of famous. He got angry at you because you were saying he wasnt progressive enough.

CORNEL WEST: I just looked at him like Cmon, man. Let the facts speak for themselves. Im not into this rhetorical exchange.

SALON: Is there anybody who thinks hes progressive enough today?

CORNEL WEST: Nobody I know. Not even among the progressive liberals. Nobody I know. Part of this, as you can imagine, is that early on there was a strong private-public distinction. People would come to me and say privately, We see what youre saying. We think youre too harsh in how you say it but we agree very much with what youre saying in private. In public, no comment. Now, more and more of it spills over in public.

Theres a lot of disillusionment now. My liberal friends included. The phrase that I have heard from more than one person in the last year is they feel like they got played.

Thats true. Thats exactly right. What I hear is that, He pimped us. I heard that a zillion times. He pimped us, brother West. Thats another way of saying we got played.

SALON: You remember that enthusiasm in 2008. Im from Kansas City. He came and spoke in Kansas City and 75,000 people came to see him.

CORNEL WEST: Oh yeah. Well we know there were moments in Portland, Oregon, there were moments in Seattle. He had the country in the palm of his hand in terms of progressive possibilities.

SALON: What on earth ails the man? Why cant he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

CORNEL WEST: I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didnt have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesnt realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesnt just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if youre going to show courage and vision. And I think thats his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and its clear now hes not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time youre headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that youre not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but theyre real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesnt mean anything.

The rule of law, oh my God. Theres one law for us and another law if you work on Wall Street.

Thats exactly right. Even with [Attorney General] Eric Holder. Eric Holder wont touch the Wall Street executives; theyre his friends. He might charge them some money. They want to celebrate. This money is just a tax write-off for these people. Theres no accountability. No answerability. No responsibility that these people have to take at all. The same is true with the Robert Rubin crowd. Obama comes in, hes got all this populist rhetoric which is wonderful, progressive populist rhetoric which we needed badly. What does he do, goes straight to the Robert Rubin crowd and here comes Larry Summers, here comes Tim Geithner, we can go on and on and on, and he allows them to run things. You see it in the Suskind book, The Confidence Men. These guys are running things, and these are neoliberal, deregulating free marketeersand poverty is not even an afterthought for them.

SALON: Theyre the same ones who screwed it up before.

CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. That was the worst moment [when he brought in the Rubin protgs].

We tried to point that out as soon as he became part of the Rubin stable, part of the Rubin group, and people didnt want to hear it for the most part. They didnt want to hear it.

SALON: Now its six years later and the search for the Grand Bargain has been fruitless. Why does he persist? I shouldnt be asking you to psychologize him

CORNEL WEST: I think part of it is just temperament. That his success has been predicated on finding that middle ground. Were not black. Were not white. Were not rich. Were not poor. Theres no classes in America. We are all Americans. Were the American family.

He invoked the American family last week. Its a lie, brother. Youve got to be able to tell the truth to the American people. Were not a family. Were a people. Were a nation. And a nation always has divisions. You have to be able to speak to those divisions in such a way that, like FDR, like Lincoln, youre able to somehow pull out the best of who we are, given the divisions. You dont try to act as if we have no divisions and were just an American family, with the poor getting treated in disgraceful ways and the rich walking off sipping tea, with no accountability at all, and your foreign policy is running amok with Israelis committing war crimes against precious Palestinians and you wont say a mumbling word about the Palestinian children.

What is history going to say about you? Counterfeit! Thats what theyll say, counterfeit. Not the real thing.

SALON: Lets talk about Ferguson. All I know about it is what Ive been reading in the newspapers; I havent been out there. But I feel like theres a lot more going on there than this one tragic killing.

CORNEL WEST: Oh, absolutely. I mean, one, we know that this is a systemic thing. This thing has been going onwe can hardly get a word out of the administration in terms of the arbitrary police power. Ill give you a good example: Carl Dix and I, three years ago, we went to jail over stop and frisk. We had a week-long trial and we were convicted, we were guilty.

While the trial was going on, President Obama came into New York and said two things: He said that Michael Bloomberg was a terrific mayor even though he had stopped and frisked over four and a half million since 2002. Then he went onto say that Ed Koch was one of the greatest mayors in the last 50 years. This is right at a time when were dealing with stop and frisk, arbitrary police power, and Bloomberg is extending stop and frisk and proud of it.

At least Bloomberg is honest about it. Bill De Blasio is just trying to walk a tightrope in this regard. At least Bloomberg was honest about it. He was glad that stop and frisk was in place. When we went to jail he said, Yall are wrong. If stop and frisk is stopped, then crime is going to go up

I just give you that as an example in terms of arbitrary police power because in Ferguson were talking about arbitrary police power, and this particular instance of it has been going on for a long time. The Obama administration has been silent. Completely silent. All of a sudden now, you get this uprising and what is the response? Well, as we know, you send out a statement on the death of brother Robin Williams before you sent out a statement on brother Michael Brown. The family asked for an autopsy at the Federal level, they hold back, so they [the family] have to go and get their own autopsy, and then the federal government finally responds. [Obama] sends Eric, Erics on the way out. Eric Holders going to be gone by December.

SALON: Oh, is he?

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, hes already said, this is it. Hes concerned about his legacy as if hes somehow been swinging for black folk ever since hes been in there. Thats a lie. Hes been silent, too. Hes been relatively silent. Hes made a couple of gestures in regards to the New Jim Crow and the prison-industrial complex, but thats just lately, on his way out. He was there for six years and didnt do nothing. See what I mean?

SALON: I see exactly what you mean, but I look at the pictures at Ferguson and it looks like it could be anywhere in America, you know.

CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. It looks like it could be New York, Chicago, Atlanta, L.A. Its like theyre lucky that it hasnt hit New York, Chicago, L.A. yet, you know.

When they rolled out the militarized police, it frightened people. Something is going on here. Its not breaking down the way it usually does. People are reacting to this in a different way. Thats true. Its a great moment, but let me tell you this though. Because what happens is you got Eric Holder going in trying to create the calm. But you also got Al Sharpton. And when you say the name Al Sharpton, the word integrity does not come to mind. So you got low-quality black leadership. Al Sharpton is who? Hes a cheerleader for Obama.

SALON: I havent followed him for years; I didnt know that.

CORNEL WEST: He meets with the president regularly.

SALON: I did not know that.

CORNEL WEST: On his show on MSNBC

SALON: I knew he had a show, I justI guess I dont watch it enough.

CORNEL WEST: You gotta check that out, brother.

SALON: Thats the problem with me, I dont watch enough TV.

CORNEL WEST: Its probably good for your soul but you still have to be informed about how decadent things are out here. But, no: MSNBC, state press, its all Obama propaganda, and Sharpton is the worst. Sharpton said explicitly, I will never say a critical word about the president under any condition. Thats why he cant stand what Im saying. He cant stand what I do because, for him, its an act of racial traitorship to be critical of the president. Theres no prophetic integrity in his leadership.

SALON: I understand that. I think a lot of people feel that way. Not just in a racial sense but because Obamas a Democrat. People feel that way in a partisan sense.

CORNEL WEST: I think thats true too. You have had some Democrats whove had some criticisms of the president. Youve got some senator that has been critical about his violation of civil liberties and so forth, and rightly so. But Sharpton, and I mention Sharpton because Sharpton is the major black leader who is called on to deal with arbitrary police power. So, Trayvon Martin, what did he do? You got all this black rage down there calling for justice. Has there been justice for Trayvon Martin? Has the Department of Justice done anything for the Trayvon Martin case? None whatsoever. The same is true now with Ferguson. They call Sharpton down. He poses, he postures like hes so radical. But he is a cheerleader for the Obama administration which means, hes going to do what he can to filter that rage in neoliberal forms, rather than for truth and justice.

SALON: One last thing, where are we going from here? What comes next?

CORNEL WEST: I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep. Thank God for the new wave of young and prophetic leadership, as with Rev. William Barber, Philip Agnew, and others. But look whos around the presidential corner. Oh my God, here comes another neo-liberal opportunist par excellence.

Hillary herself is coming around the corner. Its much worse. And you say, My God, we are an empire in decline. A culture in decay with a political system thats dysfunctional, youth who are yearning for something better but our system doesnt provide them democratic venues, and so all we have are just voices in the wilderness and certain truth-tellers just trying to keep alive some memories of when we had some serious, serious movements and leaders.

SALON: One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like theyre going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time therell be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

CORNEL WEST: Itd be about over then, brother. I think at that pointHillary Clinton is an extension of Obamas Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. Shed be more hawkish than he is, and yet shes got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point its even too hard to contemplate.

SALON: I know, I always like to leave things on a pessimistic note. Im sorry. Its just my nature.

CORNEL WEST: Its not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues arent pessimistic. Were prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. Thats different.


Diane Ravitch reports on Marty Nesbitt, Penny Pritzker, and more about the Chicago connection to neoliberal attacks on democracy and the public schools:

Paul Horton is a history instructor in the University High School at the University of Chicago Lab Schools. This post explains the Obama administration's love for charters and its disdain for public schools.

Martin Nesbitt is the President's best friend, and close associate of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who provided much of the start-up capital for Parking Spot, a very successful off airport parking company that Mr. Nesbitt directed for several years before Ms. Pritzker sold the company. Nesbitt and Pritzker also are invested in the Noble Charter Schools chain in Chicago. In the last year, Mr. Nesbitt has created an investment firm called the Vistria Group that seeks, in part, to bundle capital for Charter School investment.

Mr. Nesbitt grew up in Columbus, Ohio and credits the discipline he acquired at the private Columbus Academy for helping him deal with the violence, drug use, and the social dislocation that surrounded him growing up in a tough neighborhood. He sees the Noble Charter Schools as a vehicle to instill discipline in inner city youth. Like the President, he grew up, for the most part without a present father. They both see themselves as self made men and view charter schools as a potential path to success for inner city youth. (

Mr. Nesbitt and the President are basketball addicts. They play as much as they can and talk basketball incessantly. They, of course share this addiction with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education and Craig Robinson, former Oregon State coach and Michelle Obama's brother. Mr. Nesbitt sponsors and participates in three on three basketball tournaments all over the country.

During his first campaign, the President narrowed his friendship group, forcing long time friends Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi out of their social circles in response to attacks from the right concerning Mr. Ayers's political past and from AIPAC on Professor Khalidi's advocacy for Palestine and criticism of American Middle East Policy.

In Chicago, Mr. Nesbitt was the President of the Chicago Housing Authority in the late 90s where he worked with Rahm Emanuel and other power brokers to create public-private partnerships that created housing on Chicago's south and west sides to replace the drug and crime ridden behemoth projects, the Robert Taylor Homes (see Gang Leader for a Day) and Cabrini Green.

The Commercial Club of Chicago worked with CHA to re envision the development of mid south and near west sides. A subcommittee created the "Renaissance 2010" plan that sought to create mixed income housing in these area that was open to former project residents who worked thirty hours a week. "The Renaissance 2010" plan resulted in heavy real estate investment in these areas and the creation of charter schools were seen as essential to attracting young urban professionals into these areas.

So the connection between real estate developers who speculate on land and building investment and the push for charter schools is very strong. Chicago real estate moguls lead by Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor, and the Crown family drive much of the Chicago push to close public schools to expand the charter sector. Indeed, the Commercial Club of Chicago, known as "the billionaires club" on the streets of Chicago, drives the Education policy of the mayor and funds, through connections with the Joyce Foundation (the Director of the Joyce Foundation sits on board of the Commercial Club) funds education "research" (non peer-reviewed) that is printed on the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune to legitimate public school closings.

This pattern of connection between real estate developers, the creation of and public-private partnerships to build low density mixed income housing in impoverished neighborhoods, and the drive to close public schools and open charter schools has been chronicled in powerful detail by Education theorist and sociologist Pauline Lipman. I have addressed these issues in more detail in an Education Week piece, "Why Obama's Education Policies will not Change and why 'Change is Hard.'"

Mr. Nesbitt and Mayor Emanuel are the leading political actors who have orchestrated and executed public policy for the interests of the Commercial Club. Their chief supporters need the value of the land that they bought in gentrifying neighborhoods to increase. They see charter schools as a key magnet to attract middle class professionals back into neighborhoods within a three- to four-mile radius of downtown on the south and west sides.

The process appears to be working for developers on the near west side with the construction of a massive shopping mall, the sales of condos that were intended to be mixed income to middle and upper middle class white and black professionals, and the plans to build a new selective enrollment "Barack Obama High" smack dab in the middle of the former Cabrini Green.

The gentrification scheme of developers, however, is clearly not working in Bronzeville, on the near south side. According to a recent Harvard study that received some attention on NPR, real estate values in the mId south and Bronzeville areas on the south side is slowed by perceptions of violence. According to this study, white urban professionals are more likely to move into Latino areas like Humboldt Park and Pilsen.

To date, Mr. Nesbitt's friends are scared to death about their investments in Chicago's mid south and Bronzeville areas, explaining why this area has been targeted for several rounds of public school closings and charter school openings.

The take away from this piece is that many of the people who provided the funds to transform Mr. Obama into a viable national candidate after he passed the litmus test of Iowa are associated with the Commercial Club of Chicago were heavily invested in real estate speculation and building charter schools as a way to increase the value of property purchased by investors. All of this is couched in the language of making Chicago a global city and creating school choice for parents.

At the national level, Democrats for Education Reform stepped into the discussion over schools in exchange for raising money for Democratic campaigns that was needed to counteract the impact of the Citizens United decision.

The reason why those closest to the President are strong supporters of RTTT and charters is because they are connected to south and west side real estate investment in Chicago and bad press for public schools in the form of low test scores will create the pretext and legitimation for more investment and funding of charter schools that will lead to rising condo sales, condo values, and land values. Once values rise and more middle class professionals move into these areas, commercial shopping and retail investment will do its work to increase the value of real estate.

That the President's best buddy, should attempt to capitalize on on charter school investment after playing a role in the shaping of the President's education policy, is either the hallmark of a "free enterprise system" or more grease to the wheels of yet another episode of crony capitalism excreted by the proximity to power of buddies helping each other out.

I taught Mr. Nesbitts two oldest children and I have communicated my disappointments about the Obama administrations education policies to him.

I told Mr. Nesbitt several times that the Democratic party would pay a price for creating education policies that did not serve the interests of the majority of parents, students, teachers, and administrators.

He told me that teachers do not deserve the amount of money that they make, that their salaries should be reduced, and that they deserve no respect for sacrificing other career paths to answer the calling of teaching.

He seemed more concerned about reducing teachers salaries to create a profit margin for investors than about the impact the disruptive policies of school closings would have on human communities.

I recently sent him a note that explained to him that the majority of 3.7 million teachers in this country are very upset with policies that denigrate teachers, students, parents and communities for political gain.

For an administration that pretends to care about the disappearance of the middle class and rising income inequality, its lack of support for teachers and public schools is astounding. We have heard nothing from this administration when democratic state representatives all over the country threaten to steal pensions that were not adequately funded due to political incompetence and a willingness to pay political cronies rather than pension funds.

We now see an attack on due process for teachers gaining political support from both parties and the billionaires who will benefit from the destruction of public unions. The attack on due process rights for teacher unions will set precedents for attacks on due process rights for other unions.

Scarcely 12% of Americans belong to unions and real wages in the United States have declined as union membership has declined.

The curtain has been pulled back, and most Americans can see now who are pulling the levers. The Democratic Party no longer supports the working people of this country. it serves the commercial clubs in every major American city, Wall Street bundlers, and plutocrats all over the world.

Mr. Nesbitt, the 3.7 million teachers in this country will not be fooled by staged meetings between a few teachers in the White House, listening to a few BadAss Teachers at the DoEd, or calling for a congress of teachers. WE know that this is political posturing in advance of November elections.

Your administration has disrespected us, our communities, and our families. How stupid do you think we are? Your policies are an attack on our self-respect.

Unless you instruct Senators Harkins and Durbin to defund NLRB and RTTT, fire Arne Duncan, and begin pursuing a new path, very few of us will support you in November.

We know that your billionaire friends will profit from their investments only if you pursue policies that create more charter schools. We know that you and your friends are betting on Pearson and Microsoft stock.

Your blatant disrespect for students, teachers, parents, and school communities will cost you the upcoming election.

You are blinded by greed and ignorance.


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