On Final Day of Obama Presidency

Eddie Glaude talking:

I think it was important for the president to kind of identify the threat that Donald Trump poses to the fourth estate. He did it in his own unique and, of course, centrist way, but the idea of calling attention to the fact that a free and independent press may very well be under siege as Donald Trump enters the White House, I think, is an important—was an important—an important gesture. I would—you know, I would want to caution, though, that the way in which the president made the point, he, of course, wasn’t attentive to the corporate dimensions of the press, that in some ways the so-called free press has been compromised by big money, by its own pursuit of profits. And so, it’s a critique that only goes so far.

And then I think to kind of point his attention or point our attention or direct our attention to the question of Israel and Palestine, the issues around the DREAMers, issues around race or continued inequality, the issues around LGBTQ—right?—communities, I think, was important as a way of, in some ways, framing his own presidency over and against what is to come. But I have this fear, though, Sister Amy, that he’s positioning himself as, in some ways, the voice of a kind of resistance post his presidency. And I worry about that because of—because of his containing and limiting voice, you know, because President Obama, at the end of the day, is just simply a centrist liberal.

I think his analysis is limited. I mean, to the extent to which the question of voter fraud or voter suppression, tracing its origins back to Jim Crow and slavery, giving it—giving attention to its racial underpinnings is right. But there’s a reluctance, though, to speak to voter suppression—right?—the ways in which voter ID laws are directly targeting black communities, what happened in North Carolina, what happened in Wisconsin, what happens—what tried to happen—what Texas tried to do, what Pennsylvania attempted to do. And to speak specifically to the ways in which race, and particularly the way black and brown communities are targeted today, there’s a reluctance. So, in other words, you get this kind of general claim about an assault on voting rights, that we’re making it more difficult for people to vote, tracing it specifically to Jim Crow and the institution of slavery, but a reluctance to name specifically the ways in which Republicans across the country have targeted black and brown voters in very distinct ways. I mean, the court was very clear in North Carolina, what North Carolina Republicans were doing. And instead, at this point, instead of making that move—and again, I want to begin by saying he’s right to give the historical backdrop to the question of trying to limit voting in the United States, but instead of kind of pointing our attention to what specifically is happening around race, and particularly with regards to people of color, today, he wants to say that people have the right to vote, but they don’t vote. Right? So it’s a kind of, again, on the one hand and then on the other, without him really going to the core of the problem.

it’s one thing for President Obama to point to increasing inequality in the country, and it’s another thing for us to look at his policies. When we look at over the last—when we kind of assess the last eight years, what we’ve seen is that you’ve had a series of policies that really have benefited Wall Street and left Main Street behind. We have a policy that is, in some ways, fit—it fits perfectly with the increasing financialization of our economy, that’s really tailored for the top 1 percent and top 0.01 percent. And there’s kind of modest gains for everyday, ordinary people working. Even if they tout job creation, we know, from one of my colleagues here at Princeton, that 95 percent of the jobs created over the last 15-plus years have been part-time and contractual work. So people are working harder and earning less. So, there’s one thing to point to inequality, but there’s another thing to kind of look to the policies that he has supported and pushed that’s produced inequality. That’s the first thing.

And the second thing—the second move that we have to kind of be very, very careful about is the way in which he always engages in this equivalency. Right? We have to pay attention to the fact that there are some white voters out there who voted for Donald Trump who are catching hell. Of course there are white voters out there who have lost ground, who have suffered in this economy. But at the same time, we have to be mindful that 53 percent of black wealth over the last eight years has just simply been wiped off the planet. It’s gone. And it has a lot to do with housing policy, has a lot to do with his failure over the last eight years to really address the racialized dimensions of the housing crisis. And so, I really want us to say that he’s right to point to inequality, but I’m not sure he’s the right messenger to point to inequality, if that makes sense.

Now, where do we—where are we now, and where are we going? Well, we have deepening racial inequality. We have deepening economic inequality. We have a neo-fascist who is about to be inaugurated. We have the billionaires and millionaires who are about to take over government. What we are in, in some ways, is a conjunctural moment where crisis opens up space for us to put forward a more progressive vision of what this country could and ought to be. So we need to prepare ourselves for day one, as Donald Trump ascends, and attack the policies that, in some ways, Barack Obama’s administration, Clintonism broadly, has made possible.

Rashid Khalidi talking:

he did what he’s been doing for eight years: He sent a signal. The most powerful country on Earth, the sole serious supporter of Israel, without whose support Israel couldn’t do anything, has now, yet again, for administration after administration, sent a signal that what Israeli governments have been doing for decades is going to lead to a one-state solution, in which Palestinians, as he said, are disenfranchised, are not even citizens and so on and so forth. So we have the diagnostician-in-chief telling us about this problem, which he and previous presidents have absolutely—done absolutely nothing to solve. The United States can, could, should act to stop this ongoing annexation, colonization and so forth, which has led to disenfranchisement. I mean, his analysis is impeccable, but his actions—as Professor Glaude said, his actions are just not in keeping with his words, and have not been over eight years in keeping with his words.

president-elect’s team includes people like his son-in-law, his nominee for ambassador to Israel and others, who are not just in favor of incendiary acts like moving the embassy, but are themselves major financial or political supporters of the Israeli settler movement. So we’re not just talking about people who are rhetorically in favor of this or that extremist position.

Jared Kushner, who will be a top adviser his son-in-law. David Friedman. the ambassador designate, and Jared Kushner are both, according to all the reports, major financial backers of the settlement movement. So, what we have in American and Israeli politics with the arrival of Trump is the completion of a convergence between the extreme right-wing settler, colonial regime that we have in Israel and a segment of the American ruling class, if you want. I mean, Jared Kushner is a major real estate entrepreneur, and he’s used many, many, many of his family’s millions to support not just charitable causes in Israel, but the settler movement, among many other extreme causes.

And so, what we’re seeing on the policy level, what we’re seeing on the media level, what we’re seeing in terms of people who are making political contributions to both the right-wing parties in Israel and American political parties is sort of a convergence of the two systems, but at a time when we’re going to have the most extreme—we have had the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, and when we’re going to have a president who is in favor of things that are sometimes to the right even of that right-wing Israeli government, in terms of what his designees for various positions have said.

I think every American president who has stood by idly and just uttered words, like the president has done in his press conference and like the secretary of state did in his speech, and did nothing to actually stop this trend, that he so accurately described, are—they’re all responsible. He is certainly responsible. Had Security Council Resolution 2334 been passed in the first year of this president’s eight years, who knows what might have happened?

That resolution said that everything Israel has done in the Occupied Territories, in Jerusalem and the rest of them, is illegal. It has said that moving its population into occupied territories is a violation of the Geneva Convention, i.e. moving a half a million or 600,000 Israelis into territory occupied is illegal, that the acquisition of territory by force is illegal. And it went on to lay down various other parameters for a solution, including a two-state solution, and the ’67 borders as the basis of that. Now, none of this is new. The United Nations has said this again and again and again. This is a reiteration of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. It’s also a reiteration of positions that have been taken by every single American administration from President Johnson’s to George W. Bush’s, and this one, as well.

But had that been laid down as a marker, a slap in the face of the Netanyahu government, in 2009, when the president came into office, instead of mollycoddling them, instead of continuing to fund settlements—we fund settlements by giving American so-called charities 501(c)(3) status. The president could have reversed that on the first day he was in office, saying, “You cannot send money, tax-free money—you cannot reduce your taxes to support illegal occupation and colonization.” He didn’t do that. The Justice Department, the Treasury could have done that. So, we have financed by—we taxpayers, who are actually paying our taxes, have enabled people who are not paying our taxes, by making so-called charitable deductions, support the settlement movement. Jared Kushner is one of them. [David] Friedman is one of them. There are many, many others.

this should be a wake-up call for people in the United States who had some kind of idea of Israel as the light unto the nations, to wake up and realize that the United States has helped to create a situation in which Israeli Jews rule over disenfranchised Arabs, that this is not a light unto the nations. This is not really a democracy, if you have helots. He called them “not citizens.” Well, you can call them what you want. He said they’re disenfranchised. It’s actually worse than that. Go to the Occupied Territories. Go to Arab communities inside Israel. Look at what happened to a member of Knesset yesterday, shot in the face by Israeli border police, because he protested the demolition of a village in the south of Israel. You’re talking about people who, in some cases, nominally have rights—Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel—or in the Occupied Territories having really no rights, and both of whom live under an unjust and discriminatory regime. We have fostered that. We have helped to finance and fund that, all the while our political leaders talk about how wonderful Israel is, how its values and our values—well, these are Jim Crow values. The president talked about Jim Crow. What Israel is enforcing are worse than Jim Crow values. And I think we have to start talking and thinking in those terms and setting ourselves apart or understanding how to set ourselves apart from those kinds of practices that are discriminatory or racist.

– what do you think it was that led President Obama to have the ambassador for—to have the United States abstain from this, at the very end of his two terms?

I can’t speculate what was going on in his mind, why at the very end. It’s a really good question. I would love to have seen this eight years ago. Maybe it was his chance to get back at the slights and insults that he’s been receiving from Prime Minister Netanyahu over the past eight years, coming to Congress and attacking American—

– Netanyahu, famously, to say the least, disrespects him. And yet President Obama has been more solicitous of Israel than all the previous presidents from the Bushes on to Clinton, all involved with resolutions that were critical of Israel, but President Obama did not allow that to happen until now.

This is the first such resolution that has passed under Obama. Every—as you’ve just said, every previous American president has allowed or has sponsored resolutions that are just as harsh as this or involved elements of this resolution. So, maybe he was—you know, what he seems to be doing in his last few days, few weeks, few months, is to doing—is to do some of the things that maybe he wanted to do but felt he couldn’t do. And it’s really a terrible shame. I mean, this is a—this is a man who came into office, supposedly, with fresh ideas about how to deal with the Middle East. He appointed Senator Mitchell, who ultimately was undermined by people he himself had appointed, and was not able to do what he wanted to do. And from that point on, I think it really was downhill for this president, as far as the Middle East is concerned. His legacy is not a good one, as far as Arab-Israeli issues, as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Palestinians will not—and Arabs and, I would argue, Israelis should not remember this man’s legacy with any fondness.
____

Eddie Glaude
chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, author of several books, most recently “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul.”

Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.

— source democracynow.org

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