SYNDICATED COLUMN: How Obama Helps Murder Our Inner Child

Blame Politicians’ Lies, Not Apathy

I can’t stop thinking about what Obama said about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl shot to death in Tucson.

Christina-Taylor, said the president, saw politics “through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted.”

Those are disturbing words. But not the way Obama intended.

Obama relies on a deeply flawed assumption: that becoming cynical is an inherent part of growing up.

That’s a lie. As American citizens travel the long road from childhood to adulthood to valued members of the AARP, their political system repeatedly lets them down. Cynicism is taught. Optimism is ruthlessly crushed.

People vote for politicians who break their promises. Disappointed by the limited choices offered by the two major parties, they pick one only to see it repeatedly sell out its purported principles. As year after year slips by they watch the problems they worry about go completely unaddressed, much less solved, by their so-called representatives.

On those rare occasions that “their” government impacts their lives, it does so negatively, with taxes, fines, paperwork, parking tickets. Meanwhile the pols fatten themselves and their cronies at the public trough (before moving on to the even richer private one).

Say you have an absentee parent who drinks up the grocery money and beats you up. To protect yourself you develop a bit of a shell. Who can blame you? When you finally stop talking to the deadbeat SOB, is it fair to call you cynical?

Hardly. You’re merely acknowledging reality. You’d be a fool not to.

In researching this column I found countless articles and studies that try to explain why the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates on earth. Almost all suggested ways to get more Americans to the polls. None focused on the supply side of the equation: improving politicians and politics so they become more appealing to the electorate.

Ask not, Mr. President, what Americans can do to become less cynical, but rather ask what you and your pals in D.C. can do to deserve our trust.

It’s interesting to ask why many Americans are registered to vote but rarely cast a ballot. (Usually whether or not a person is registered is the best predictor as to whether or not they actually vote.) A 2006 Pew Research survey found that 42 percent of these individuals were “bored by what goes on in Washington,” 14 percent were “angry at the government,” 32 percent said “issues in D.C. don’t affect me,” and 30 percent said “voting doesn’t change things.”

These people aren’t stupid or lazy. They’re cynical, and rightly so. They think the government is evil, irrelevant, or both. Lords knows politicians give them lots of reasons to hold those beliefs.

Start, for example, with President Obama himself.

In a September 2010 interview with Rolling Stone Obama claimed to have “accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do—and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.”

These politicians! Even in a line about keeping promises, the dude fudges facts. “Minimum”? You can’t assume a second term when you’re president. Moreover, no one who voted for Obama in 2008 wants to wait until 2016 to see the fulfillment of a 2008 promise.

Anyway, Obama has kept a mere 24 percent of his 2008 promises. That’s according to Politifact—and their assessment is generous.

Totally broken promises—promises Obama didn’t even pretend to try to keep—include the following:

He said he would close Guantánamo concentration camp.

He said he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.

He said he would create a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund.

He said he would let the Bush tax cuts expire.

He said he would eliminate warrantless wiretaps.

He said he would eliminate extraordinary renditions.

He said he would eliminate torture.

He said he would create a transparent online database related to government ethics and lobbying activities.

He said he would close the revolving door between government and private sector lobbying.

He said he would create a national publicly funded healthcare system.

So many broken promises. No wonder so many optimistic kids turn into hardboiled adults.

Politicians lie and lie and lie. Then, when we notice, they accuse us of being faithless. Us! What about them?

“I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it,” Obama said. “All of us—we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

No, Mr. Obama. “All of us” don’t have to do jack. It’s not our job to take an interest in politicians. It’s the politicians’ job to take an interest in us.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is


8 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: How Obama Helps Murder Our Inner Child

  1. What a crock of crap. Obama made an effort on every damn item on your list; yet you seem to place all the blame for the failure of those items on HIM and none where it actually belongs- on Congress, and especially on Congressional Republicans.

    Were Obama the dictator you seem to think he is, we’d have all those things already. But he has to work within a deeply flawed and broken system.

    And your last paragraph pinpoints exactly why the system has become so deeply flawed and broken- because people are neglecting their responsibility to take an interest in politics and politicians. It damn well is yours, mine, and everyone’s “job” to take an interest in politicians- the founding fathers clearly expected the electorate to always be intelligent and informed and invested in the political process (their biggest mistake, but I don’t have time to go into that)- and when people start shirking their responsibility- their “job” if you will- of being intelligent, informed, and invested well then they allow messes like the current one to happen and the blame gets placed squarely at their feet.

    I usually agree with what you say in principle Ted, even if I think your expectations are ridiculously out of line with what is realistically doable.

    Here, you’re just dead flat 100% wrong. sorry.

  2. How convenient. Obama tries to do all these things, but those evil ‘other guys’ won’t let him.

    Except those ‘other guys’ are also elected. And several of the things on Ted’s list wouldn’t require the approval of those ‘other guys’ at all. All they would require is an executive order. Which Obama won’t give, of course, because those ‘other guys’ would get mad at him and block other legislation. Which those ‘other guys’ are doing anyway.

    It’s a simple math problem. Figure out how much your elected officials are paid by us; salaries, perks of office, etc. Now, look at how much they spent getting that job (the cost of the election), and where most of that money comes from. If you get 25k a year from your employer…but a 100k a year from someone else to help you keep your job…who are you going to spend more time working for? If you have any brains at all, you’re working for the guys who help keep your job; not the people who are paying you to do that job.

  3. “Obama made an effort on every damn item on your list[.]”

    Stunning. Just stunning.

    Bruce, there’s no good reason to talk to this person.

  4. 1. I was reading an advert (by a German) saying ‘Don’t buy American products. America tortures.’ An American responded: ‘America has never used torture.’ The responder was legally correct: Bush, Jr. issued an executive order, Congress passed a resolution, and the Supreme Court agreed: NOTHING the US government does to its enemies can legally be called torture under US law–not the rack, not the bastinado, not thumbscrews, not electrodes to the genitals, not the Chinese Water Interrogation, none are torture, all are legitimate enhanced interrogation techniques if used by US government agents against the alleged enemies of the US government. So Obama has NEVER authorised torture: he cannot.

    2. If Obama released a single Guantánamo prisoner, a prisoner who was completely innocent but who harboured anger against the US for years spent at Guantánamo subjected to enhanced interrogation, and that prisoner then performed an act inimical to the US or any US agent, Obama would be fully responsible. The only prudent policy is a fair trial, conviction, and execution. Not necessarily in that order.

    3. The Iraqis and Afghanis MUST be punished for 9/11. It is clear that 9/11 was perpetrated by Arab Muslims who killed almost 3,000 Americans. So it is simple, unassailable justice that America MUST kill at least 3 million Arabs, whether Muslim or not, and 3 million Muslims, whether Arab or not. And Sikhs for wearing turbans. Failure to continue to carry out this goal of the Bush, Jr. administration would be a grievous miscarriage of Justice.

  5. Funny you should mention Executive Orders, Bruce, as one WAS issued to close Gitmo. Guess who blocked it from being implemented? Why, yes, Congress. They can be gotten around, and easily – so they’re hardly the dictatorial tools you’ve oversimplified them to be.

    As for the rest of your post, as far as I can decode your rambling; you seem to agree with me- the system is broken. And while the symptom of how the system is broken is the money that currently rules it; the cause is the elitist bullshit attitude typified by Ted’s last paragraph (and Grouchy’s no-information “answer”).

    It is everyone’s “job” to be interested in politics and politicians. To claim or act otherwise leads directly to the kind of mess we’re currently in.

  6. Presidents have gotten around Congress for years. If Obama was ‘blocked’ by Congress, then he permitted it to happen, so as to avoid blame. After all, since we’re not at war, what possible authority does Congress have in the administration of a military base? (Particularly one that isn’t supporting any constituents.) Now, Congress can insist on continuing to fund said base; that authority is theirs. But the day to day administration? Not their call.

    Ditto for extraordinary renditions. That’s under the direct control of the Executive. The same for torture (which every interrogation expert disapproves of, from the strictly pragmatic reason of ineffectiveness in most situations). Warrantless wiretaps? The same. Would their be risks in eliminating these things? Possibly; but then, don’t promise things you have no intention of (or power to) deliver. (If Obama truly lacked the power to change all these things, then why did he claim that he did? That’s also lying, you know.)

    So you’re claiming that the politicians have no duty to be interested in the wishes of their constituents? I think they would agree with you on that. As far as us taking an interest…since the Supreme Court has declared that money equals free speech, I doubt the common sitizen has any chance to make their meagre voice heard. (I wonder when someone will use that decision to claim that giving money to a police officer is merely engaging in free speech re traffic regulations?)

  7. Nice try, Bruce.

    I have not, nor have I ever claimed that politicians have no duty to be interested in the wishes of their constituents. What I have claimed, and continue to claim is that when large chunks of the public shirk their responsibility to be interested in politicans (as Ted advocates in the last paragraph), as a side effect of that, you wind up with politicians that have no interest in the wishes of their constitutents. And, as a side effect of THAT, you wind up with crap like Citizen’s united.

  8. This article exactly sums up how I feel. Obama made statements about what he would do, and he didn’t do those things, just as Ted describes. Would you trust a person in your life who said they would do something and then didn’t? Of course you wouldn’t, especially if they didn’t do it time after time after time. It’s just not the case that he has tried and been defeated on the issues Ted mentions – he hasn’t tried. When did Obama ever come out as president and make an argument for public funded healthcare: never. On issue after issue, the same pattern: rhetoric, followed by lack of followup. I for one, pay zero attention to what Obama says anymore. It’s only what he does which is important to note.