Epitaph for an American Galba

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

14 October 2013

I’ve never heard a politician so careful not to offend conventional elite opinion while pretending to be fearless and forthright.”

Now what politician do you think the writer of that sentence is gunning for?

Yep, right first time. It’s Barack Obama, of course.

What is surprising, however, is that those words were written in 2006 – two years before Obama, then an Illinois senator,  entered the White House.

The author was Alexander Cockburn, a left-leaning English journalist who crossed the pond in 1972 and became a commentator on life in the USA. The remark we cite can be found in a collection of Cockburn’s writings just published in UK by Verso: “A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip through Political Scandal, Corruption and American Culture”.

Cockburn for one was not taken in by the hysteria of Obamamania that greeted the Honolulan’s run for the presidency among naïve liberals in what passes for the democratic left in America.

The “audacity of hope” that Obama sold to Americans on the campaign trail turned out, naturally enough, to be little more than the “audacity of hype”.

Sure enough, once Obama had won the race and had started actually presiding over the nation’s fate, the scales started to fall from the eyes of the gullible as it became clear that the promised break with the reactionary political culture of the Bush years – Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush was president from 2001 to 2009 – was not going to materialize: the US military-industrial colossus continued to stoke the unending “war against terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guantánamo torture camp in Cuba was kept open for business, etc etc.

During Obama’s first term as president (2009-2013), in a television interview, Noam Chomsky, the doyen of the US left, declared that Obama was “worse than Bush”.


Antigone1984 can claim some prescience in the matter of Obama’s presidential trajectory. See our post Illusions perdues  published on 14 December 2012.

In that  post we cite the misgivings we had about Obama as early as 27 November 2008 – hardly a month after the presidential poll and nearly two months before he actually took office for the first time.

Inter alia, we said the following: “It’s all over with Obama before he’s even started. We can already make out his epitaph in the words that Roman historian Tacitus used of  the Emperor Galba: ‘omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset’ (‘everyone agreed that he would make a good Emperor – until he actually became Emperor’).”


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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