>I must admit that as soon as I heard that The Who would be the halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl, the timeliness of what would likely be their last song immediately crossed my mind. However, that didn’t lessen the impact of seeing the aging rockers belt out their classic, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” although this time with more significance for America than at any time since the song was written. The enthusiastic crowd – thousands of whom undoubtedly sport Obama/Biden bumper stickers on their vehicles – joined Townshend and Daltrey in thunderous unison each time the line “We don’t get fooled again” was sung. Ironically, the extent to which the song indicts Obama was probably lost on all, save the venerable old Englishmen themselves, who hail from a bygone era when the left was actually anti-establishment.
Certainly, there has not (yet) been “fighting in the street” here in America, but most of the Obama faithful do believe that the “change” he has promised represents a “new revolution,” whilst opponents certainly object to the “new constitution.” I’m not sure why, since as Jay Leno quipped a few years back, we’re not using the old one anyway. In any case, as Townshend says to begin the second verse, “the change it had to come.” What we are changing from and what we are changing into are questions that Townshend leaves to us to answer.
Fittingly, the word “change” is used five times during the song. However, the real message of the song is summed up in the last verse.
“There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, bye the bye.
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right,
And the beards have all grown longer overnight.”
It is hard to believe that these words were written in the early 1970’s, as well as they describe the Obama campaign and presidency. Certainly, the slogans have been replaced. Obama started his presidential campaign as an anti-war candidate. Upon receiving the Democratic nomination for president, he subtly changed his stance from being anti-war to arguing that America was merely “in the wrong war.” Now, as he escalates the war in Afghanistan, expands that war into Pakistan, and revives his predecessor’s antagonism towards Iran, we find that even Iraq is not such a wrong war that we will not be leaving thirty to fifty thousand troops there after our combat mission officially ends. Haven’t we heard this strategy before?
Regarding “parting on the left now parting on the right,” the neo-conservatives that Obama was supposedly the antithesis of during his campaign couldn’t be cheering his war-mongering any more enthusiastically. While there is obligatory criticism by Republicans towards some of his tactical decisions or supposed hesitation in making them, they do not fail to dutifully commend the emperor for his overall strategic plan: more war, more debt, and – just as in every year of the Bush administration – the largest total DOD budget in American history (counting the actual on-budget Defense budget, the appropriations for the active wars, and the Homeland Security expenditures on the war formerly known as “The War on Terror”).
Domestically, those who hoped that “Change” meant an end to or at least a decrease in corporate welfare have been disappointed as well. In a classic bait-and-switch, it turns out that his signature health care “reform” plan is nothing more than a gift-wrapped half trillion dollars per year presented to corporate health insurance giants, courtesy of American taxpayers who will now have no choice but to buy their insurance. It is hard to imagine how any self-respecting progressive can “smile and grin” at this change, but so far they still do. The hypnotized may never lie, but they also seem completely unable to tell when they are being robbed blind.
Of course, President Obama did at least do something about the Bush administration’s practices of spying on its own citizens, tapping their phones, and reading their e-mails (to keep them safe). He sent a team of lawyers to court to defend all of these abominable practices, hoping to solidify his legal sanction to do exactly the same thing. This shouldn’t have surprised anyone, since while still in the U.S. Senate, Obama voted to grant immunity to telephone companies who complied with the Bush administrations invasions. Perhaps they were expecting Obama himself to “change” on this issue once he became president.
Finally, Obama had promised to go through every one of President Bush’s executive orders and overturn any that “trampled upon liberty.” Having completed his review, the only executive orders overturned or considered relate to stem cell research, oil drilling on federal land, and Bush’s “gag order” on international aid organizations regarding abortion. Conspicuously absent from the list are the infamous orders wherein Bush granted his office vast new powers during a state of emergency, which the hysterical Keith Olbermann quite justifiably wet himself over during several of his anti-Bush diatribes.
To summarize, let us review what liberals/progressives said they hated about the Bush administration. Unless memory fails, it was his immoral and unfunded wars, his preferential treatment of Wall Street and large corporations at the expense of Main Street, his illegal spying on and wiretapping of American citizens in the name of security, and his assumption of dictatorial powers via executive orders and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress. For all of those who voted for Obama to protest and end these atrocities, the last lines of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” couldn’t be more appropriate.
“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”
Indeed he is. We have been fooled again, and if we simply put the neo-conservative Republicans back into office, it won’t be much different the next time, either. Isn’t it time we stopped doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
© Thomas Mullen 2010