Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan


4:09 pm - May 25th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Mehdi Hasan has a piece in the Guardian today entitled ‘Sadly Barack Obama, like Mitt Romney, is an apologist for the 1%‘, which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Now, Mehdi is a friend and I think he’s right to say Obama hasn’t gone as far as many progressives would like.

But if we’re going to criticise the US President and lump him with the Republicans then the points should stack up.

Mehdi’s main hook for the piece is this:

Take the case of JPMorgan Chase. Official records show that the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, a major Obama donor, has made at least 18 visits to the White House since the start of 2009, meeting the president himself on at least three separate occasions. So should we have been surprised when Obama heaped praise upon the bank and its now-disgraced boss, in an interview with ABC last week? “JP Morgan is one of the best-managed banks there is,” he said. “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we’ve got, and they still lost $2bn and counting.”

But it was a classic bait and switch. The President was saying, look this guy is seen as the smartest around but even his bank can’t keep its shit together. Mehdi deliberately ignores the second (and key) part of that quote:

You could have a bank that isn’t as strong, isn’t as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in. That’s why Wall Street reform is so important.

That hardly looks like someone ignoring Wall Street reform.

Mehdi later adds:

Upon taking office, Obama spoke grandly of the need “to change Wall Street’s culture”. It hasn’t changed at all. Banks are still too big to fail (and, for that matter, jail) and bonuses continue to rise uncontrollably.

This is only partially true, lefties here are almost uniformly ignorant of what the Dodd-Frank act has meant so far. I suggest reading this definitive piece in NY Mag about it. I quote:

The Dodd-Frank financial-­reform act, much maligned, has already begun to change the shape of the financial system—even before a number of its major provisions are proposed to go into full effect this coming July. Banks are working hard to interpret Dodd-Frank’s provisions in a way most favorable to them—and repealing Dodd-Frank is a key piece of Mitt Romney’s campaign platform.

To comply with the looming regulations, banks have begun stripping themselves of the pistons that powered their profits: leverage and proprietary trading. In the wake of the crash, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs converted to bank holding companies to tap the “discount window,” the Fed’s pipeline of cheap funds that gave the banks an emergency source of liquidity. That move seemed smart then, but the stricter standards required of banks have now left them boxed in.

With all the major banks unable to wager their own funds on big bets, there’s a growing sense that the money that was being made during the Bush boom won’t be back. “The government has strangled the financial system,” banking analyst Dick Bove told me recently. “We’ve basically castrated these companies. They can’t borrow as much as they used to borrow.”

Look, I’m all for criticising Obama when necessary. He has been terrible on civil liberties and national security. He could have gone further on bank reform too.

But using quotes out of context and pretending Obama has barely done anything is simply not true.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Ukobserver

This reads like a Daily Mail or Telegraph piece penned by Mel Phillips!!

What happened to her anyway?

Matt Taibbi on Obama’s new JOBS Act:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-obamas-jobs-act-couldnt-suck-worse-20120409

“Boy, do I feel like an idiot. I’ve been out there on radio and TV in the last few months saying that I thought there was a chance Barack Obama was listening to the popular anger against Wall Street that drove the Occupy movement, that decisions like putting a for-real law enforcement guy like New York AG Eric Schneiderman in charge of a mortgage fraud task force meant he was at least willing to pay lip service to public outrage against the banks.

Then the JOBS Act happened.

The “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” (in addition to everything else, the Act has an annoying, redundant title) will very nearly legalize fraud in the stock market.”

I hate to be so negative about a President who clearly has one or two very good qualities to his politics, but unfortunately he does suck. Quite badly. He’s a company man, both on finance and on pharma, and it is showing in his policies and those policies are harming people. And that’s not to look at his civil liberties and foreign policy record. On foreign policy his only saving grace is that he hasn’t invaded somebody for the money. Yet. Iran beckons in his second term.

It’s annoying, because to criticise such an energetic and charismatic leader as Obama feels inherently negative and a bit mean spirited, because he comes across so well, as such an inspiring, intelligent and reasonable speaker. But it is what it is, he is not on our side.

Obviously I’d rather Obama won the presidency than Romney, but that’s largely because the Republican Party are extremist loons. Really, we need to realise the Democratic Party are no friends to the left. They spent decades stomping on any third world government they thought might be even slightly socialist (not just Communists, oh no, remember Juan Bosch?) and in these times they’re as much a bastion of the Mont Pelerin Society consensus as anyone. In the end, everything socialists achieve in the future will be in spite of or against the Democratic Party.

4. Roger Mexico

I’m always amused by how obsessive coverage of the US in the London media is coupled with complete ignorance of how the country works. Perhaps Sunny could take Mr Hasan to one side and explain about the separation of powers sometime. And how legislation is passed by the Legislature (hey, there might be a clue in the name) rather than the President.

As it happens Obama never pretended to be massively progressive. He has also made a number of tactical mistakes and has to work with a Democratic Party that is unbelievably useless and wimpish (and a less statesmanlike President might have done something about that). But the sort of self-indulgent criticism that he gets from this sort of “Left” has more to with trying to show your own excuses for doing nothing than anything else.

Obama is generally a positive force for the left in politics and is attempting to bring about progressive leftist reform (regulating banks, the health bill) , but the US political system and mindset of the people have stifled and stopped the ideas being implemented.

If he had the control to implement change he’d undoubtedly be a benefit to ordinary Americans, he’s a prisoner within his own system which he cant single handedly reform.

6. So Much For Subtlety

Look, I’m all for criticising Obama when necessary. He has been terrible on civil liberties and national security. He could have gone further on bank reform too.

Guantanamo is still open. US soldiers are still in Afghanistan. Drones are still killing people. In fact they have been killing more people.

All Obama has done is a arcane piece of banking legislation which probably won’t do a damn thing to change the way Wall Street works, and a botched piece of health care reform which the Supreme Court is likely to toss.

On everything else the best you can say is that he is not a Republican.

Isn’t this just supporting Obama for Obama’s sake?

Obama has

1. Successfully introduced healthcare reform
2. Made gay bashing a hate crime
3. Repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
4. Ended the Iraq War
5. Signed a new START Treaty with Russia

On top of that, some of things he wanted to achieve (improved Wall Street regulation for example) only failed because of GOP oppositon.

Anyone who thinks he’s no better than Bush, Romney, McCain or Palin has long since abandoned reality.

8. So Much For Subtlety

7. PaulG

Obama has

1. Successfully introduced healthcare reform

That is an interesting definition of the word “successfully”. He has passed an utter abortion of a bill that will raise costs and strip old people – who vote – of their existing programmes. And it has yet to pass the Supreme Court.

2. Made gay bashing a hate crime

Hardly relevant as it was a crime already.

3. Repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

A token symbolic gesture like Blair’s fox hunting ban. It shows how low the Left’s ambitions have sunk that they have gone from something like creating the NHS, or the Great Society for an American parallel, to the repeal of DADT.

4. Ended the Iraq War

Exactly on George W. Bush’s schedule.

5. Signed a new START Treaty with Russia

An irrelevant throw back to the Cold War. Makes no difference.

On top of that, some of things he wanted to achieve (improved Wall Street regulation for example) only failed because of GOP oppositon.

You mean he looked for scapegoats and his True Believers were willing to believe?

Anyone who thinks he’s no better than Bush, Romney, McCain or Palin has long since abandoned reality.

I don’t. I think he is worse. But it is a measure of the cravenness of the Left and their intellectual exhaustion, their utterly lack of ideas, that they can compare Obama to anyone and think he is a success. He is the furthest Left President ever, and yet he has done nothing because he has been too extreme and too craven to do a damn thing. Well anything useful.

A key weakness of Dodd-Frank is that it doesn’t fit properly with Basel iii, or the other way round, esp. but not only re: use of Credit Rating Agencies, and that in turn relates to lack of Obama administration influence/cooperation internationally on the dull things like this that might really count (as opposed to the killing people side of international influence). I thought Obama might have done better on this.

But yes, I agree, this looks like a selectively quote hatchet job from Mehdi.

10. Trooper Thompson

Anyone paying attention to America can see it has descended further into a fascist police state run by criminals. The difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama gets a free pass and a lack of scrutiny from the partisan left, just as the partisan right did for Bush. There are things that should really concern liberals, of whatever persuasion, going on under Obama, such as the NDAA, the use of the military for policing matters, federal agents running around with machine guns busting raw milk producers, government involvement in shipping weapons to drug gangs in Mexico etc etc ad nauseum. I would say, looking at America today, there is a strong case that no one should be extradited to the USA, for all the same reasons as we don’t extradite to other places,

11. Shinsei1967

“This is only partially true, lefties here are almost uniformly ignorant of what the Dodd-Frank act has meant so far.”

Indeed, and lefties are also almost uniformly ignorant of what banking regulation reform has occurred in this country and its impact on bankers pay.

However you don’t get Sunny writing articles saying so.

Without going into all the details the structure of UK banking has changed considerable in the last few years.

Bonuses have fallen 80% from their level in 2007 and tens of thousands of investment bankers have lost their jobs.

12. the madmullahofbricklane

I don’t think anything anything Hasan says any more will be taken seriously. His demotion from the Staggers to The Huffy bypassing the Indescribablyboring says enough about the man. And if that wasn’t enough his description of non Muslims as cattle will hand around his neck for the rest of his career or what’s left of it.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan http://t.co/VPxT9JhR

  2. sunny hundal

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to @ns_mehdihasan – http://t.co/w9Ktkw1B (couldn't stop myself)

  3. Lee Winstanley

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to @ns_mehdihasan – http://t.co/w9Ktkw1B (couldn't stop myself)

  4. Jason Brickley

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan http://t.co/sSRzzAwJ

  5. Monkey

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to @ns_mehdihasan – http://t.co/w9Ktkw1B (couldn't stop myself)

  6. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan http://t.co/KploPOCD

  7. Sam Caddick

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to @ns_mehdihasan – http://t.co/w9Ktkw1B (couldn't stop myself)

  8. BevR

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5Rvpkw0Y via @libcon

  9. Gizmo Doe

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan http://t.co/5WVMAaSG

  10. deepak abhishek

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan http://t.co/wxTJEkoB

  11. Alex Braithwaite

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/CktWGMol via @libcon

  12. sunny hundal

    And a shorter post on… 'Criticism of Obama on financial reform for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan' http://t.co/w9Ktkw1B

  13. Thomas Milman

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/PW9wbGyO via @libcon

  14. The Pryer

    Criticism of Obama for its own sake: a reply to Mehdi Hasan | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jLI2t0he via @libcon





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