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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama’s State of the Union Address

Posted on Jan 28, 2011

(Page 2)

Instead of listening to people like Volcker and plenty of others out there who could tell him, “No, what you have to do is concentrate on job creation, you have to concentrate on helping people stay in their homes, you have to worry about the consumers, you have to pressure Wall Street to give back something for all the money we’ve given them …,” which has been enormous. There’s a report issued today—this is Thursday—the main report on what happened during all of the meltdown, and it blasts Goldman Sachs. It blasts [Timothy] Geithner, who was the treasury secretary, was head of the Fed back then, making these deals for AIG and the pastoral money, and it said this did not have to happen, this banking meltdown, and that in fact the government going back to Bill Clinton was complicit in it.

Anderson: OK. Well, piggybacking on your point about foreign wars and Obama, we have Chris in Salem, Ill., asking: “If terrorism is using violence to get what you want, aren’t we terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan? If war is a conflict between two well-equipped and well-organized armies, why do we allow our leaders to say what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan is war? Shouldn’t we insist on the more correct term “Occupation”? Wouldn’t it then be harder for them to make the case for funding and to insist what we are doing is noble and good?”

Scheer: Well, there’s no question that these are occupations. In Iraq’s case, there’s no evidence to this day of any involvement of Iraq under Saddam Hussein in terrorist attacks against the United States. It’s a continuous embarrassment that our buddies in the Mideast, in the Emirates and in Saudi Arabia, were the main backers, and the funding came from the places in the Mideast that we thought were the good guys, our allies. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Not one came from Iraq. In fact, not one was a native Afghani. So, you know, the whole excuse … we all know, it’s well documented, there’s an inquiry going on in England right now in which Tony Blair is being blasted for having gone along with Bush. And we know that the whole excuse for the war was fraudulent from the beginning. They knew it, it was built on a tissue of lies.

And so, yes, in terms of terminology, it is an occupation. And you know, this whole use of terror—the whole notion of terror is … it can’t be excluded from the actions of people who have sophisticated weapons. It can’t be reserved just for people who have roadside bombs, or do hijacking. If you’re using drones to destroy innocent civilians, that’s terrorism. The dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I thought, was an act of state terrorism, and I still do. I think just because you have big airplanes and big bombs and can destroy lots of people at will doesn’t mean that’s an act of war as opposed to an act of terror. The key definition in terrorism should be: Are innocent civilians being killed for some other purpose? Even if the purpose is noble—even if you think the purpose is noble—if you’re in fact treating human beings as sort of collateral in your war, and that you can sacrifice them, who are innocent people, that’s terrorism.


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The other thing that should be noted about this use of the word terrorism is this whole idea that we have to have a massive military arsenal to combat it. The terrorists that should have concerned us, the people who did the hijacking and so forth, had an arsenal that could be bought for a couple of hundred dollars at Home Depot. You know, box cutters and pen knives, and so forth. Why in the world we have to have stealth bombers, why we have to have the most sophisticated weaponry, to combat them just makes no sense. We have weapons systems that are designed to defeat the old Soviet Union that doesn’t exist. And then the excuse is “well, the Chinese might get it.” So we’re in this absurd position where we’re borrowing money from the Chinese to be able to pay for weapons to potentially combat the Chinese. It’s like some kind of nightmare scenario, when it isn’t laughable.

Anderson: OK. So, taking it from the international to the domestic front, we have a question about the housing industry, housing market. Truthdig member Anyfreeman asks … well, first he says: “Thanks for cutting through the distractions. My question: How can Americans protect our homes and future from the fallout from the biggest swindle in history? The foreclosure debacle is just a cover-up of the most effective Ponzi scheme, the mortgage securities scam. The Obama crew is the same that created, perpetrated and profited from this “Hoover maneuver” of capital theft. However, nobody has even been referred for prosecution. Heck, during the ’80s S&L scandal, the Department of Justice referred 2,500 miscreants, and more than 1,100 actually did jail time. How can we make the enforcers enforce the rule of law when they are the very architects of this mess?”

Scheer: Well, you know, the only way we can do it is by embarrassing them. That’s why we have Truthdig. That’s why I wrote a book called “The Great American Stickup.” And it’s amazing—I mean, just to combine the two issues of national security and economic well-being, the chief national security adviser to Barack Obama, his previous job was being the Washington lobbyist for Fannie Mae, the housing agency that helped get us into all this trouble. So this guy who was there in Washington, deceiving Congress, deceiving the public about what Fannie Mae was doing, what was going on with the housing thing—is now entrusted with our most secret data and excuse for going to war, and what are we doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, and so forth. It’s bizarre.

And as I say, the chief of staff there now in the White House is somebody who lobbied for the big banks, and was up to his eyeballs in all of those deals. The guy who was brought in, the head of GE is brought in to be on the jobs council, is somebody who at GE capital … they specialized in these toxic subprime mortgages, and the government had to bail them out. So not only are these people not being punished for what should have been crimes, except they got to write the laws to make their crimes legal, these Ponzi schemes, but they’re being rewarded with ever more important jobs. Ever more important jobs.

And let me say something to our readers who feel I’m too harsh on Obama. If George W. Bush or another Republican were president now, and that president, that Republican president, made the appointments that are being made now by Barack Obama, I know every one of those people on the progressive side of things, that’s criticizing me, would be outraged. They would condemn it. Absolutely condemn it. If we had a Republican president, say John McCain were in there now, and he was appointing the head of GE to be head of his jobs commission, and the guy had exported hundreds of thousands of jobs, he had the subprime mortgages coming out of his eyeballs, more than half of GE’s profit that this guy has benefited from, he got $14 million himself in salary when we were all suffering. And if McCain had appointed that guy to be head of his jobs council, we would all think it was ludicrous! Obama does it and we think it’s an act of statesmanship. Or some people do.

And I don’t understand the people who feel the need to defend Obama at this time. You know, I find him very charming, very impressive; yes, I did support him when he was running. And by the way, I hope he does well. I really would like to see … I’ve said this before in these broadcasts: I would love to be proved wrong. Trust me. I don’t like the American people to suffer; I would love to see policy succeed rather than fail. But the idea that we’re doing ourselves a favor, we’re doing our president a favor, we’re doing our society a favor, by withholding criticism is nonsense. It’s a denial of what democracy is all about! Democracy is all about debate, and dissent, and challenging. And I hear just too many people—I’m getting too many comments around, you know, when I’m on the radio and in our columns and other places that run the columns, people saying “Oh, you’ve got to rally around the president.” Well, that’s not what Jefferson, you know, had in mind. That’s not what our Founders had in mind. What, rally around our leaders mindlessly? No! We’re supposed to be the center of democracy. We’re supposed to be thoughtful. We’re supposed to be challenging. And I’m hearing too much of this talk about, you know, “Let’s rally around our president.” I think that’s a very dangerous notion. You know, the emperor has no clothes now, and we have to challenge it.

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By Tyler, January 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to the previous commenter who acknowledged by question was NOT at all answered - although I enjoy all of what Mr. Scheer normally says. We do not live in a democracy but an inverted totalitarian state. If elections are what the power elites hold up to claim we have choice, what is the choice? In 2012, what happens? Do we slowly slip into a fascist feudal post-oil state? No one can of course accurately predict the possibility of the US in regard to geo-political interest. But within, we must have a progressive option for the people ASAP

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By Rodney, January 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, thank you for being so truthful, honest, and compassionate about the issues that affect all the world. especially the poor.  I appreciate your profound analysis of the President’s speech that helps us to see beyond the feel good phrases.  PLease continued to give us the real deal behind all political manuevering.  Thus far, you seem to be the only voice that speaks with objectivity. Keep up this needful community service.

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By Rodney, January 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, thank you for being so truthful, honest, and compassionate about the issues that affect all the world. especially the poor.  I appreciate your profound analysis of the President’s speech that helps us to see beyond the feel good phrases.  PLease continued to give us the real deal behind all political manuevering.  Thus far, you seem to be the only voice that speaks with objectivity. Keep up this needful community service.

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By FiftyGigs, January 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

T Groan? “...I really don’t see much difference between obama and the republicans…”

With respect, your comment is the epitome of stale argument. It is demonstrably wrong to begin with. It’s also extremely shallow.

Stop obsessing over parties. This is about political power. The most powerful force in this country is a neo-fascist conservatism, embraced by the Republican Party, and buttressed by religious institutions, the most influential media organization in the country, and many of the richest individuals on the planet.

That’s who you’re fighting. Whether it’s a Democratic Party, a Green Party, or the New Party of Egypt, it makes no difference. You face the exact same problem: how are you going to amass more power than Republican conservatives?

Your friends—people like me who wish for many of the same things you do—are struggling to build a counter-force to that power, using the organizational structure of the Democratic Party, which happens to contain today a substantial number of progressives, people you’d admire. It embraces a strong labor movement, people of religious conviction who are horrified by the hijacking of God’s Word by godless politicians, a nascent environmental movement, a feminist movement, a gay rights movement, a consumer rights movement, blacks, Hispanics.

Not to mention liberal youth.

The progressives within the Democratic Party would love to rule the party. I’d love to help them. How about you?

Read Shannon’s comment. That’s one person who has voiced the truth for untold others who don’t want to bother to do even speak up anymore. That’s where your political power stands. That’s how far out of the game you are. That’s the reality as you diss Obama.

What’s happening isn’t that dolts like me are being snookered by Slick Willy 2—think about that. The problem is that the progressive movement is stuck in some kind of fixation with self-immolation.

It castigates Obama endlessly, yet offers nary a peep against the Republicans who impose on them the things they say they despise. People raise hell about Obama because they think they CAN affect him, because they know they could NEVER have affected Bush in a million years, but they’re too proud to admit it.

In your effort to “keep Obama honest”, you must not loose sight of the fact that your efforts are wasted if you don’t also expend effort to keep him in power too. I realize such conundrums are difficult for liberals to handle, but we really need to smarten up.

Because President Gingrich won’t give a rat’s ass about what you think. That’s the truth, the difference. And you know it.

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By david reese, January 29, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great, great interview!  Why don’t we have more of these?

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By chip, January 29, 2011 at 1:36 am Link to this comment

Thank You Mr. Sheer
  I guess you won’t get rich speaking the truth
all I can give is my respect.

I wonder what the DNC pays these shills who get on here and attempt to defend this wall street puppet we elected?
They need to quit wasting their money though because your readers are well informed and quite sick of doughnut holes and pre-exsisting conditions and getting to stay on their parents insurance crap.

I notice when the “news” reports that auto deaths are down they never mention the fact that cars have airbags now, that could lead into a unspeakable word. Ralph Nader.
If squeaky clean, incorruptible Ralph can’t save us, maybe it’s Tunisia time.

See> Chris Hedges

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By VoteGreen, January 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment

It appears that the first caller’s question was not answered.  Robert’s reply was informative and insightful(as usual) but I think what the caller wanted was either:a possible Democratic primary candidate to run against Obama; or an alternative to the Democrats altogether. That someone as progressive as Robert didn’t think to even mention the Green Party is disturbing.  How many progressives have even gone to their website to find out the Green platform? It is 100% progressive. Yes,the Green Party is still small and disorganized, and won’t win the next election. But we have to start somewhere.  The comment sections of progressive sites are full of disillusioned progressives vowing to not support the Democrats anymore, so Democrats can’t win anyway(unless they run Bernie Sanders). Thanks to Obomber, I almost gag on the word “hope” now, but we need to vote for our hopes instead of our fears.

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By FRTothus, January 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment

19 hijackers with box-cutters?  Tell me another fairy-tale, Uncle Bob.  What will it take for you to do your own investigation instead of taking official pronouncements as fact?

What credibility does one give to the willfully ignorant, the intellectually lazy?  None, in my book.  None at all.

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By AT, January 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

while tLKING bout the fAWS,LET’S TALK about the lack of
imagination we encountered.doingup Against private
citizen is just that, how ARE YOU FARING Vs SEASONED

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By Shannon, January 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I see nothing but a dodge in Robert Scheer’s response to credible alternatives for progressives in 2012.  How can organization of progressives be possible if those bashing the status quo won’t commit to a reasonable answer?

I have volunteered on several occasions to assist the local groups in campaigning only to arrive and be sent home because the ‘schedule changed.’

Obviously, progressives lack centered leadership and are losing me quickly as a viable option.

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By T Groan, January 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fifty Gig, are you offering the stale argument that obama is the only choice because the republicans are worse than him?

If that’s the case sorry I really don’t see much difference between obama and the republicans.  Both are owned by the same people and guess what, they don’t have mine or the majoritys interests at heart.

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By SoTexGuy, January 28, 2011 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Scheer speaks well on important, the most important issues. His calls for accountability from the Obama administration and an end to coddling of the president by the left are especially refreshing.

I was also thrilled to view his fundamental opposition to institutional usury! I’m wondering, however if that extends to individual usury.. in other words, if I acquire something like a piece of residential real estate with the intent and purpose of selling it to someone else in a year or two for 20-30% more.. am I a savvy investor? a slick salesman?

And if this doesn’t work out for me whose fault is it? Should everybody else step in and rescue me?

Just thoughts..

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By FiftyGigs, January 28, 2011 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

I wish this website would get in the game.

Egypt is in turmoil. WikiLeaks is issuing destructive information about Egyptian “police brutality” and none about civilian brutality. (You don’t think the latter exists?) The Republican Party has amassed power from border to border, deciding when life begins, deciding what constitutes science that must be taught to children, deciding if climate change is worthy of attention, deciding what rights we have. The Supreme Court has become demonstrably corrupt.

And this site is headlining a discussion about the State of the Union speech???

My gosh, how could we have been so blind all these years about a matter so terrifically important. The TWO Republican responses we’ll let slide. Let’s be sure and not critique the speeches of the party running Congress. You know, the budgeting bunch?

But, I suppose, everybody needs a website, including those people who simply want to bash Obama. Lord knows there aren’t enough of those.


So, it’s a fact that President Obama isn’t “focused” on unemployment, huh? Please cite the source of that information, because I don’t believe you. In fact, I’ll wager that Obama is more focused on American unemployment than any single individual on the face of the earth. Certainly more than any pundit.

May I recommend the URL “ConjectureDig”. You ARE concerned about honesty, aren’t you?

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