Obama: Too much style, too little substance?

It’s still too early to make a final judgment but the administration of America’s first black President may go down in history as a triumph of style over substance.

Barack Obama’s charisma charms the hell out of most of the American public, the mainstream media and even hardened political pundits. He’s a powerful speaker, an articulate politician and an adept manipulator who has built an image that has mesmerized a nation and most of the world.

But style alone cannot deal effectively with the many problems that face this nation. Articulate rhetoric is not enough to lead America. When you get past Obama the image and take a close, hard look at Obama the President, you come away wondering if America simply replaced a right-wing problem with one from the left.

In too many ways, Barack Oama is a left-wing George W. Bush.

Bush came into office promising to unite the country. So did Obama. Bush governed as a strident partisan. Obama’s promises of bipartisanship have disappeared and his actual job performance is now as partisan on the left as Bush’s was on the right.

Bush promised "the most ethical administration in history." He delivered one of the most corrupt. Obama promised an administration free of lobbyists and typical Washington politicians schooled in the old way of doing things. His administration is filled with old Washington hacks and — yep — even lobbyists.

Obama promised to rid this nation of the Constitutional abuses of the Bush administration but he has continued the legally-questionable rendition policies of his predecessor. Such policies violate international law and American constitutional experts like Jonathan Turley say the Obama administration continues to wade through "murky legal waters" when it comes to abuses of the Constitution.

Obama promised an "open administration" but reporters and watchdog groups are finding the new boss is the same as the old boss when it comes to access to documents that detail the inner workings of our government.

Some who defend Obama’s retrenchments say things like "well, no candidate keeps their campaign promises" and "you can’t expect the rhetoric of the campaign to translate into real policy when it comes to governing."

With most candidates, perhaps, but Barack Obama promised to be different from most candidates. He promised to fundamentally change the way Washington worked. Instead of being the new kid on the block with new ideas and new ways of doing things, he has become another good old boy in the Washington political system.

Centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans who intially thought Obama would govern from the center find, to their dismay, that he took a sharp left turn after taking the oath of office and now promotes a hard-core, leftist agenda.

 The first cracks may be appearing in Obama’s style-over-substance approach to government. A New York Times-CBS poll shows 58 percent of Americans think the President is mishandling the banking crisis but he continues to have record high marks in other areas.

Americans are a fickle bunch when it comes to support of our leaders. Obama wins now on style but if he doesn’t show substance beneath all the hype, hoopla and rhetoric he may well be a one-term President who will go down in history as just another politician who promised a lot and delivered little.


  1. Carl Nemo

    Hi Richard,

    Obama is our President and Commander in Chief, but where the rubber meets the water it was one of our superlative USN Seal teams that accomplished the mission; ie., the best of the best when it comes to SOC personnel…! : )

    I am glad that our President didn’t screw the pooch and waffle when it came to authorizing the use of deadly force as Clinton waffled back in 92-93 during “The Battle of Mogadishu”.


    “The Battle of Mogadishu (also referred to as the Battle of the Black Sea) or for Somalis The Day of the Rangers (Somali: Maalintii Rangers) was a battle that was part of Operation Gothic Serpent that was fought on October 3 and 4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, by forces of the United States supported by UNOSOM II against Somali militia fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid,”…extract from Wiki article

    “October 6, 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton directed the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David E. Jeremiah, to stop all actions by U.S. forces against Aidid except those required in self-defense.” …extract from Wiki article


    Notice the close proximity of the date of engagement to high level policy changes. When you no longer authorize your troops to act in an offensive posture when necessary you put them in harms way…period! So it forces elements to “attack to the rear” in lieu of calling it an actual retreat paraphrasing a quote from the late, great Marine General “Chesty” Puller.

    Obviously we shouldn’t have been in Somalia to begin with, but guess what Somalia is sitting on a ocean of unexploited “OIL”…! Humanitarian aide my butt, it was about securing Somalian oil contracts from the getgo, courtesy of our skewed National Security Council; ie., running dogs for the MIC and the “oil patch”.

    This is another example of politicians killing off good men and women as a function of political and corporatist expediency. It happened in Nam too and that’s why many missions were sacrificed due to mere containment policies not allowing us to excercise our consumate expertise on the field of battle.



    Carl Nemo **==

  2. RichardKanePA

    Obama handled piracy right. He captured the prisoner and arrested the one hijacker who was willing to surrender. He didn’t say much until it was over.

    Obama can be faulted for wanting political unity, perhaps more than victory, for not being tough enough on criminal bankers and not showing the tough love on the others he is giving the auto industry.

    But he can’t be faulted for seeking the limelight when it is not prudent not to do so.

    Doug if you like all sides presented, why didn’t you mention Obama being a so-called Muslim. Actually, close enough for bin Laden to call Obama a traitor to Islam.

    I wouldn’t be surprise at age six or seven he thought he would become a Muslim. If so, good news because he understands Islam better than most Christians.


  3. AustinRanter


    What the hell, all of your suggestion would be a better start that what We The People have done at anytime in history since the American Revolution.

    We The People just don’t like being the 4th Branch of Government…that gives our nation just an added touch of Checks and Balance.

    We’re a “Give Me, Give Me, Give Me nation…and our politicians are a “Let Me Give It To RIGHT NOW kind of folks. We the people just love em. Nothing to sweat, just set back at take…

    Ahhhhhhhhhh, is right SearingTruth.

  4. SearingTruth

    “When everybody figures out how to buy back our politicians and government from special interest…then you can hit the reset button…and We the People will have just one more chance to get it right. Until them…all the boooohoooing don’t get it.”

    Ahhhh …. I have.

    The SearingTruth American Recovery Plan
    1. Investigate the treason and subversion of our Constitution during the Bush, and now Obama, administrations and try all Republicans and Democrats involved in Americas most shameful period in history. Any found guilty must be justly punished according to the rule of law.

    2. Get as much of the trillions of dollars we gave away to billionaires back, as soon as possible.

    3. Let all the failed corporations in America go bankrupt, so that viable companies can move in and clean up the mess.

    4. Immediately implement universal health care for the people, and an emergency plan to shelter and feed us so we can weather the depression.

    5. Implement publicly funded elections, and forbid political bribery (a.k.a. “lobbying”). Every citizen may contribute a maximum of $20.00 to their favorite candidate, whether they’re a homeless person or a corporate CEO. And that’s it, period. This will do away with one of the major causes of our rampant political corruption.

    6. Begin a ten year economic disengagement program from China. Besides being an inhumane nation that regularly commits atrocities upon all those within its domain, they are our enemies and are simply using the trillions of dollars we are giving them to build an army to destroy us.

    7. Implement fair trade, because “free trade” doesn’t exist, and has helped to bring us to the brink of destruction. This means making trade agreements that benefit America, not other nations.

    8. Forbid the outsourcing of American jobs, which is another key reason America is failing. And from now on any company that wants to move to another country may do so, and then never do business in America again without extremely high tariffs on their products or services.

    9. Heavily regulate and monitor our financial system so criminal billionaire thugs can never threaten us again.

    SearingTruth, March 21, 2009

    A Future of the Brave

  5. acf

    After little more than 2 months in office, out of a 48 month term, it’s a little soon to say Obama will go down in history as a president with too much style and too little substance. At the most, a claim can be made that thus far it appears that way, but there’s still time to improve his performance.

  6. AustinRanter

    When everybody figures out how to buy back our politicians and government from special interest…then you can hit the reset button…and We the People will have just one more chance to get it right. Until them…all the boooohoooing don’t get it.

  7. Doug Thompson

    Wrong, partisan breath! I was trashing Bush before he even took the oath of office. I didn’t trust the SOB when he was guv of Texas.Nobody gets a pass on this web site. I questioned his military record during the 2000 election. I questioned his cabinet choices. I questioned his honesty before he took office.

    Try doing a little research next time. That way you won’t have to make yourself look foolish by trying to nail me with petty partisanship. Stop bringing a knife to a gunfight.

  8. Auctionchick

    Just out of curiousity Doug, could you tell us what you were saying about George W when he was in office only 75 days? Still talking about the breath of fresh air after the “stench” of the Clintons? Did you give him a pass while he figured things out in time of “quiet” while great danger lurked and important intelligence briefings were ignored? My guess is yes. Let’s give Obama a break for 3 months at least. There’s a lot of crap to sort through after the debacle of the last 8 years.

  9. SearingTruth

    Thank you Doug, it’s good to know that their are still thoughtful Americans like you who owe their loyalty to our Constitution, instead of party.

    As a non-partisan voter I indeed voted for Obama, because the alternative would have been an assured continued police state.

    But unfortunately, our police state is getting even worse, thanks to Obama’s new claims of omnipotent presidential power, which surpass even those of Bush.

    And as for his promises for health care for all, we can forget about that also. He is quashing all efforts at true universal single payer health care, and simply planning on continuing to give away a third of our health care dollars to immoral health insurance companies for their blood profit, even trying to legally mandate that Americans who can’t afford health care in the first place somehow pay them anyway.

    And at the same time that he can’t seem to find any way to help the working class and poor, he has given two trillion dollars of taxpayer money to the Wall Street thugs who brought our economy to its knees, simply prolonging the housing bubble and other artificially high prices, and has engaged in out and out union busting, which will surely force our country into bankruptcy.

    And to think, if he had just imposed new strict regulations on the Wall Street criminals, allowed our once capitalist economy to correct itself, and saved the two trillion to weather the American people through the coming depression, we could have recovered.

    No, we need not wait any longer for judgment, because Obama has shown us exactly who he is. The proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    We have been betrayed, again. And I fear that this time, it is one betrayal to many. One from which America may be financially and morally incapable of recovering from.

    “The Republican and Democratic parties have delivered us into the hands of darkness.”

    A Future of the Brave

  10. tropicaltaco

    Oh come on, who else were we going to vote for, Maddog and the mindless bitch? I shudder to think what would be going on right now if they were elected. Would McCain even offer to talk with Iran?
    If Obama did everything we want him to, the way we want him to do it, he’d be a dead man within the year. The only one who can do everything that needs doing is us, we don’t want a leader, one man can’t go up against AIPAC much less the the Military Industrial Complex and the banking cartels.

    Stop bitching and start fighting for what we want and need…

    Universal health

    Tell Israel to Jump back, way back, or get the hell out.

    The banking institution is a fraud, money is created out of thin air, in response to the demand for borrowing and the only way out is “Public Capitalism”. North Dakota has had this since 1919; a state bank that lends to the state, counties, cities and towns at 0%. It also lends to worthy businesses. With a pop. of 700K it has a surplus of $1.2 Billion, low unemployment and rising wages. If we take back the power of money creation under the constitution, we can eliminate interest payments and make the economy sustainable, because every dollar created won’t have interest attached. The creation of money is the sole domain of the people in the Constitution.

    Instead of beating the man down, start working on solutitions and screaming about them until they get done

  11. RichardKanePA

    Tropicaltco, thanks for the follow up, perhaps we can convince this site and Consortium News Blog to be more careful in not copying what they criticize. Though CapitolHillBlue may really want all sides to be heard.

    Good luck on us getting intelligent progressive blogs to be more careful.

    By the way, seeing what else you wrote at CapitolHillBlue, made me at my ripe old age learn that LSD and New Age Positive Thinking nonsense don’t have to overlap.


  12. RichardKanePA

    Obama can be criticized for wanting to avoid blood in dealing with banking crooks and with Cheney Inc.

    Can be criticized for not appointing aids who will help him; having Hillary asking Iran to participate is brilliant, but the price is a State Department that doesn’t day in and day out help Obama conduct his foreign policy, without being prodded every inch of the way. He got himself is a corner where if he doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

    To claim he shows style over substance, is perhaps inadvertently, in part, giving into right-wing smears. Let’s be careful that we who criticize Obama for the right reasons, doesn’t get mixed in with those who criticize him for the wrong reasons.


  13. gfm975

    Poor ole Doug. He’s just jealous of Obama because Doug has no charisma, charm, or style. He’s just a grumpy old fart.

    Republicans… they are the party of NO, no ideas, no power… simply impotent!

  14. DejaVuAllOver

    I think you guys got it about right. Obama is as “leftist” as the neocons want him to be. In other words, the right, which still runs most branches of the government and most of the MSM, has now redefined “the left” in terms that only demean liberals. Massive spending, any kind of social equality and any foreign policy shift not in the neocons’ agenda are now the hallmarks of “the new left”, as Carl Nemo calls them. Just as the Christian right managed to re-write the word “liberal” to mean anyone who did not share their radical-right values, now the propaganda machine is in high gear, keeping us all bamboozled. Obama is no liberal. He’s done nothing except throw a few bones to the left, all the while increasing and certainly not diminishing our war machine, hard-right foreign policies, bailouts for the capitalist crooks, domestic spying, torture and rendition policies and massive debt to the banking Establishment.

    I too voted for the guy and I’m very sorry I did.

  15. Siannan

    I called him an empty suit from the very beginning and some of you people got quite nasty with me over it. I’m sitting here finding this all very interesting now. In fact, I think it’s almost hysterical. I have one acquaintance who got extremely mad at me, who is now practically apoplectic over Obama.

    Ah, how things change.

  16. barak

    So, from all these comments I assume (danger is becoming the first part of that in the act of doing) that all believe we are back in the grasp of another megalomanic whose sole intent is to feather his own nest. That fits with most Chicago Politicians I have known and with my fears pre-election.

    I haven’t been convinced yet that this is true, but suspicion of Obama and his motives has again risen in my oft dormant mind. I hear many voices criticizing, but none offering a solution. Must we return to the words of Jefferson and have a revolution again, and who do we replace BO & JB with? The Simpsons? Maybe we could dig up FDR, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson and a few others and grab some DNA from each, mix it all up, and create a new blended American leader. While we are at it could we add some DNA from some eminent intellectuals and world renown thinkers? And how about some normal, regular people? A couple of farmers, sailors, working class men and women, etc. etc. We will end up with something we already have lots of–an American. I would prefer a woman for stability and pain resistance, so maybe we could clone one or two and rule by clone.

    Seems to me the time is coming when we the people must retake our government. Better sooner than later. A revolution is long overdue and maybe now is the time, but give O & B a chance first. Nobody wins a war. In the 60’s the cry was “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine.”

    Let us do that for now, and watch. When the time comes for whatever, we will know, and then we must act. Together. As a People.

  17. almandine

    I would suggest that his left-wing agenda starts at the 99%ile income level and moves downward until it reaches the EIC level, at which point the leftist policies bloom. He’s crawfishing on the healthcare thing until he’s fully ensconced politically, but the corporate takeovers by gov’t and social indoctrination he’s pushing look far left to me.

    A big problem, of course, is that Geithner and Summers have their marching orders coming from the top, and The Big O doesn’t get it that the real goal is to turn America the beautiful into America the indentured. What he IS beginning to know is that the folks down on the farm – so to speak – are getting wise to the shenanigans going on in DC, so he’s expanding the “terrorist security measures” in preparation for trouble… at home.

    He may be just another corporate shill… and probably is… but his heart is with Rev Wright and Bill Ayers. Look at what he has spouted overseas.

    Collectivism is slavery…

  18. Carl Nemo

    Thanks lorenbliss for what I consider to be a brilliant analysis of our post inaugural predicament; one that seems to put all Americans in harms way from cradle to the rest home…!

    Seemingly, we’ve gotten ourselves a “silver-tongued” devil for a leader. Due to his broad-based, almost mindless appeal on the part of his followers, he just might be what is described as the Anti-Christ in the Christian Apocalypse. Hopefully he will not have turned the U.S. into an internment camp or worse in four years or less. : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  19. Carl Nemo

    Hear…hear Jim C! Great “fire in the belly”, spot-on commentary. I too share your sentiments… : )

    Btw, their duopoly; ie., the unholy merging of the two are known as “republicrats” a term coined by Ralph Nader many years ago.

    Carl Nemo **==

  20. Jim C

    Left wing agenda , say what , where is this so called ” left wing agenda ” ? His healthcare plan looks more like a scheme to herd us all into the grips of insurance companys , no real national healthcare plan here , much less single payer , it’s not even being discussed . Fixing the economy , his plan seems to be to bury the very criminals that got us into this mess in money . Most of the creeps he has put in his administration are the very same people who presided over the current disaster . We just couldn’t make it without little timmy Geithner and that genious Larry Summers in charge , they did a fine job of greasing the wheels to facilitate the current financial collapse , it’s easy to see why that “lefty ” Obama would want them back in the drivers seat . From what I’ve seen so far Mr Obama is just another corporate shill pretending to be a populist , but a far left liberal , give me a break . Corporate money has taken over the democratic party so we now have a hard right ( republican ) party and a republican lite democratic party .

  21. lorenbliss

    The Obama Administration uses style not to cover a lack of substance but rather to conceal its substance behind the powerful intoxication produced by the opiates of slogans, celebrity and religion. Obama’s motive is obvious — or should be: it is that the substance must be hidden because the substance itself is infinitely damning; it proves the entire campaign of “change we can believe in” to have been among the biggest of Big Lies ever foisted onto the U.S. electorate.

    Today’s CHB contains one of the two most obvious (and most revealing) proofs of the falsehoods that are the administration’s true substance: “Obama Administration quietly expands Bush’s legal defense of wiretapping program.”

    The other such proof — Obama’s active collaboration with the ruling-class banksters to continue the looting — was revealed last Friday by Bill Moyers on PBS. That transcript — about how the United States is being murdered economically, is literally the most disturbing news I have ever learned. It is linked here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/index-flash.html (click on “CSI Bailout with William K. Black”).

    Nor is the breathtaking audacity of these deceptions anything new. Obama clearly understands the reality of what the U.S. has become — that thanks to mass media and public schools we truly have been dumbed-down to Moron Nation — and he exploits that understanding more effectively than any politician in our national history.

    As if that were insufficient proof of his daring, Obama’s electoral campaign itself was based on the what is probably the most brazenly Machiavellian ploy in human political experience. Obama and his advisors gambled that racism — the same racism that normally condemns people of color to the back of the economic bus — could be transformed from hatefulness into achievement. Thus they wagered the racist assumption that African Americans are genetically predisposed to be leftists could also enable Obama to redefine our national despair as “hope” and ride it to victory on the deliberately undefined promise of “change.”

    The stakes were huge and the risk was nearly infinite. I know of no comparable gamble ever: not in the place and time of Amergin or Lao Tzu or Sappho or Marcus Aurelius or Geoffrey Chaucer or Ryokan or now.

    It was as much as anything else my recognition of his tactical and strategic brilliance that prompted my own vote for Obama — though I said at the time and repeated many times afterward my vote was not an endorsement of undefined promise (that because of its very lack of definition I recognized was in fact no promise at all), but rather the desperate act of a shipwreck victim clutching at anything that might act as a life-preserver. Alas what I thought was potentially protective flotsam has turned out to be the dorsal fin of a shark — a (superficially) “kinder, gentler” Dick Cheney (note again Obama’s huge expansion of government snooping), albeit disguised by the articulateness and intelligence of some legendary philosopher-king.

    At the time I voted, I still had not realized that, since 22 November 1963, the purposes of government and governance at all levels of the U.S. had been gradually redefined so that now and forever, only a single purpose remains: the propagation of capitalism by any means deemed necessary — that is, the absolute protection of the ruling class (just as Obama is providing the banksters), and the total subjugation of all the rest of us (precisely as demonstrated by the far-beyond-Cheney expansion of government snooping).

    If I had known in November what I know now, I wouldn’t have voted at all. Our liberty is betrayed beyond restoration and our wealth is looted beyond recovery. Hope is stupidity; the only “change” we can in believe in is that things will get worse. Which leads me to two predictions:

    — That Obama will (precisely as he implied during one of the presidential debates) slash present-day Social Security stipends;

    — That Obama will (as so many Second Amendment activists fear) forcibly disarm the nation.

    Each of these predictions is based on realpolitik.

    Present-day Social Security stipends will be slashed because we seniors — already isolated in genteel ghettos called “retirement homes” and “senior centers” — have nevertheless become politically dangerous: our memories of far better times stand in ever more subversive contrast to the McSweatshop wretchedness of today and the McSlavery horrors of tomorrow. Hence, lest recollection become agitation, we are to be silenced by the U.S. version of the Final Solution: not death camps but euthanasia by abandonment and neglect: in this instance by slashing our Social Security pensions and Medicare coverage. In other words, the logical escalation of principles already long in effect.

    As to firearms, how else save by forcible disarmament is Obama to placate the Pacifist Left? Once it awakens to the magnitude of betrayal revealed by the coddling of banksters and expanded snooping against those of us who would protest, its tantrums will be seismic — that is, until it can delude itself back to pseudo-satisfaction by saying, “well, at least we got the guns off the streets: there’s ‘change we can believe in.’”

    Such is the terrifying substance emerging from beneath Obama’s soothing style and his administration’s smokescreen of superficiality.

  22. almandine

    “All things considered, he’s done a good job with what he’s been dealt…”

    Then, “all things” must mean “nothing”. We’re getting screwed and your applauding. UNBELIEVABLE.

    Collectivism is slavery…

  23. spartacus

    Wait a minute. Most Americans are against the banking bail out to begin with, and have absolutely no understanding why it’s necessary to bail the scumbags out. 58% of Americans thinking he’s mishandling something they don’t understand nor approve of shouldn’t concern anyone. All they know is that Wall Street is responsible for this economic meltdown, and they want them to pay. Of course, the large megabanks always knew they were too big to fail, and that if it came to this, the government would have to step in. Bankers aren’t stupid; they just have no conscience.

    As for the partisanship: you can hardly blame Barack Obama for the Republicans in the House and Senate deciding to act almost unilaterally to say ‘no’ to everything the President tries to do. When Democrats try to include them, Republicans come up with the same old things: tax cuts, lowering the capital gains tax, less regulation, corporate welfare – the very things that helped lead us into this mess (except for capital gains, which is always on their wish list). They won’t cooperate. Eric Cantor (an embarassment to every Virginian) is a strident jerks who now seeks to ambush new Democrats in the House by talking over them or having his henchment talk over them about topics unrelated to what the current debate’s about. He’s rude, arrogant, and unconcerned about the damage his negative policies might have on the welbeing of this country.

    Frankly, I am disgusted with the lack of concern by the Obama administration over the abuses by the Bush administration and Obama’s desire not to prosecute the guilty. This administration has ended many of their practices; some of what they did, to some degree, was also done by previous administrations, though not to the same degree nor with the human rights abuses of Bush and his minions. Obama is, however, looking into these abuses and judging them one by one. I’m disgusted by the recent decision on wiretapping; I know a Vietnam vet, Syrian by birth but who hadn’t been there since he was a child, who lost three businesses due to the paranoia of those taps: he lost customers because THEIR phone were bugged simply because they called his businesses! (So much for only listening to ‘terrorists overseas’; many of these people were local bigshots). Quakers had: their mail opened; their phones tapped; their meetings infiltrated; and all of this was due to their anti-war stance, which they’ve held since their inception (it can be found in every American history book; however, you can’t expect people that stupid to know anything about our history, country, or Constitution). Frankly, I’m really unhappy and extremely disappointed in his attitude towards the Bush legacy of abuses.

    I wish you’d stop talking as if the sky is falling, though. You can’t judge what he’s done about this economy yet, and that wasn’t part of his original plan. All things considered, he’s done a good job with what he’s been dealt; except for letting the previous administration skate effortlessly by despite its many crimes.