By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 1, 2016
For the past three years, the Obama administration has snatched an idea directly out of the hit TV series, “West Wing.” That’s the Aaron Sorkin created fiction revolving around the beloved President Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) and the encyclopedic brains of his executive staff who toil 24/7 in a perpetual display of personal sacrifice on behalf of the country.
West Wing ran on NBC from the Fall of 1999 to the Spring of 2006 – in other words, from the scandalous sexcapades in the Oval Office by President Bill Clinton and his catastrophic deregulation of Wall Street through the trumped-up invasion of Iraq by President George W. Bush. West Wing was, in other words, an anesthetic to the harsh reality of America’s actual Oval Office under a two-party system that had become grotesquely corrupt at the top.
The Obama administration’s idea for the past three years was to create the mirage of a Jed Bartlet in the Oval Office by lifting directly from the Sorkin script the “Big Block of Cheese Day” to make itself appear open and accessible to the American people. The day was themed after an event during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, who, in 1837, had a 1,400 pound block of cheese positioned in the main foyer of the White House, then threw the doors open to thousands of citizens who could slice off a piece of cheese for munching while discussing the issues of the day with the President’s staff: Participatory democracy in action.
Obama’s “Big Block of Cheese Day” promotion has featured some of the stars from the TV series. (See video below.) However, rather than letting real people on the grounds of the real West Wing, as occurred in the Sorkin script, the public was kept at bay by the Obama White House, relegated to asking and having their questions answered on social media.
The promotion by the Obama White House stated that “Here at the White House, we’re dedicated to making President Obama’s administration the most open and accessible in history.”
Indeed, on Obama’s very first day in office he promised a brand new era where the public would have unprecedented access to government records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Wall Street On Parade has had many times to test the President’s promise as sincere or hollow. Despite a dozen or more FOIA requests made to Federal agencies under this President, we have yet to receive a meaningful response. (See here for the epitome of what we’re talking about.)
Our first-hand experience with the closed-door, nontransparent attitude of this administration that promised “hope” and “change,” has hardened our views on the risks of putting another Wall Street Democrat like Hillary Clinton or an egocentric corporate suit like Donald Trump in the Oval Office. A free press and a free people simply cannot endure when their government treats them as annoying peasants to be cajoled with public relations tricks while ignored and kept in the dark.
The height of arrogance by President Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to ignore both national security and the Freedom of Information Act by conducting all of her government electronic communications on a private server stationed in her home rather than on a U.S. government server where these communications would be accessible under Freedom of Information Act requests. Despite her repeated statements that this maneuver was “allowed,” the recent State Department Inspector General report made it crystal clear that the Secretary of State had neither requested nor received permission. The report went one step further, stating that had she made the request, it would have been denied.
Today, only Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, marginalized daily by corporate media, is capable of delivering the fiery, impassioned speeches of a Jed Bartlet and sincerely believing in his message. The two leading contenders for their respective party, Clinton and Trump, have the lowest approval ratings from the American people in history.
How could a nation of creative geniuses that invented the airplane, the Model T, the integrated circuit, the personal computer, social media and conceived of a beloved President like Jed Bartlet, be willing to accept Clinton or Trump as their next President of the United States.
America faces a clear and pressing danger in thinking that the next President can muddle through, despite being loathed by tens of millions of Americans. GDP growth has dramatically slowed, corporate earnings have turned negative, the stock market has been propped up with debt-financed corporate buybacks and high frequency trading tricks. A President who lacks the trust and confidence of the American people will be a heavy weight around the neck of a citizenry already deeply disillusioned and a country struggling to recover from the economic hubris of recent occupants of the Oval Office.
We need more than the illusion of a “Big Block of Cheese Day” to restore America’s promise to the next generation.