Next week sees the publication of Oliver Stone’s years in the making book, The Untold History of the United States (co-written with American University historian Peter Kuznick). The volume aims to puts forth a, uh, Stoned, I guess, counter interpretation of American history of the past century. Gallery Books is putting out the hefty, 618-page tome that apparently slams Democrats every bit as it rips Republicans.
“The country Obama inherited was indeed in shambles, but Obama took a bad situation and, in certain ways, made it worse,” Stone and Kuznick wrote. “…[R]ather than repudiating the policies of Bush and his predecessors, Obama has perpetuated them.”
Obama’s election “felt like a kind of expiation for the sins of a nation whose reputation had been sullied, as we have shown throughout this book, by racism, imperialism, militarism, nuclearism, environmental degradation and unbridled avarice,” they wrote.
But on subjects from Wall Street reform to health care to Afghanistan, Stone and Kuznick rip Obama for breaking campaign promises and continuing the policies of President George W. Bush — who’s roundly condemned throughout the book. In some instances, they write, Obama went further than Bush’s White House toward anti-progressive policies.
Obama is basically Bush-lite. Anyone not blinded by partisanship can see that. You thought you were getting FDR, but you got a guy to the right of Nixon on both economics and civil liberties! It shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say out loud, but other than Daniel Ellsberg, actor John Cusack and Oliver Stone, few on the Left are saying it.
This, however, is just waggish conjecture:
“Obama asserted presidential power in ways that must have made Dick Cheney jealous,” they wrote.
Well, I laughed.
An accompanying 12-hour documentary series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, will air on Showtime beginning November 12th. I can’t wait to see it. One of my best friends, composer Adam Peters, scored the series, and I myself worked on conceptualizing a similar project with Stone’s Ixtlan production company (note Carlos Castaneda reference there) back in 1994 that had the working title “History Inside Out.” (Without going into the how or why of it here, this project didn’t happen, but Disinformation did, a year later). Stone has wanted to do something like this for a long time, obviously—and he’s a brilliant guy, passionate about history—so I fully expect this to be Stone at his most inspired. Adam told me it was really amazing.
Politico summarized some of the harsher Obama critiques from Stone and Kuznick’s book:
On Wall Street reform: “The biggest winner under Obama was Wall Street.”
On health care: “Obama’s failure to articulate a progressive vision was also apparent in the fight over health reform, which was to have been his signature initiative…Obama’s health care reform effort, marked by the inability to even refute Republican charges of death panels, was so unpopular that it became an albatross around the necks of Democrats in the 2010 election.”
On a troop surge in Afghanistan: “When it finally came down to decision time, Obama didn’t have the courage or integrity of a post-Cuban Missile Crisis John F. Kennedy. He settled on a 30,000-troop increase, giving the military leaders almost everything they wanted and more than they expected.”
On civil liberties: “Among the greatest disappointments to his followers was Obama’s refusal to roll back the expanding national security state that so egregiously encroached on American civil liberties.”
On ‘imperialism’: “[He] was not offering a decisive break with over a century of imperial conquest. His was a centrist approach to better managing the American empire rather than advancing a positive role for the United States in a rapidly evolving world.”
On defense spending: “While cutting defense spending, pulling combat forces out of Iraq and beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan represented a welcome retreat from they hypermilitarism of the Bush-Cheney years, they did not represent the sharp and definitive break with empire that the world needed to see from the United States.”