Socialist Worker

The bleakest of views from Inside Obama’s White House

A new documentary series examines the legacy of Obama’s presidency, laying bare its failure to deliver the change it promised, writes Josh Hollands

Issue No. 2495

President Barack Obama, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, Phil Schiliro

President Barack Obama, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, Phil Schiliro (Pic: BBC/The White House)

This new four-part series from the BBC takes viewers behind the scenes of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The first episode recalls the president’s initial 100 days in the White House, dealing with the financial crisis and attempting to keep the reforms he promised on track.

The programme briefly recaps Obama’s promises to end the Iraq War, establish affordable healthcare for all and close the Guantanamo Bay torture camp.

By the end of the episode it is clear that he could not deliver on the hope he inspired in millions.

We see Obama’s team grappling with the economic crisis while unemployment soars and people default on mortgage repayments.

When Obama tried to pass his economic stimulus package he had a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Yet he appeased Republicans with massive tax cuts, posing this as necessary to passing future liberal legislation. Yet still no Republican voted in support of it.


In the programme we are privy to sanitised versions of the administration’s history from the head of the CIA, Obama’s chief of staff, and economic advisers—all of whom appear uninspired.

This is followed by unsuccessful attempts to close Guantanamo Bay, and the equally unsuccessful endeavour to pass a bill tackling climate change.

The programme highlights the impossibility of changing the system from the inside. Obama rarely achieves his goals and in the rare moments he does we are told by narration that it took several years.

Republicans try to block any legislation set out by the administration, and the president has been willing to shelve reforms in favour of allowing banks and auto industry executives to receive bailouts.

The documentary depicts a political establishment that transformed the optimism of 2008 into bailouts for the richest while Obama’s core constituencies were left picking up the pieces. This is the context for Bernie Sanders’ success.

Further episodes explore Obama’s attempts to pass healthcare legislation and respond to the Arab Spring. They also look at his secret nuclear negotiations with Iran, his struggle for gun control and his response to racism in America.

Inside Obama’s White House begins on BBC 2 at 11.15pm, Wednesday 16 March

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