Archive for the ‘Obama’ Tag

More LBJ Then FDR

Like ThinkProgress guest blogger Jamelle Bouie I don’t understand the basis for Paul Rosenberg‘s claim that,

Barack Obama has manically embraced “discredited conservative ideas” and “helped enormously in extended the hegemonic continuity of [the] Nixon-Reagan Era

That said, the alternative proposition expressed by NY times columnist David Leonhardt that the Obama achievements “rivals any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition”, isn’t really the that powerful a rejoinder. Here’s the full first paragraph of Leonhardt column:

With the Senate’s passage of financial regulation, Congress and the White House have completed 16 months of activity that rival any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition. Like the Reagan Revolution or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the new progressive period has the makings of a generational shift in how Washington operates.

Which is to say that the Obama administration achievements are comparable to the domestic achievements of Reagan or LBJ. Not that they exceed them or are on par with FDR’s achievements. Nixon actually had a pretty robust domestic policy legacy, although it’s a bit of orphan because of it’s mixed ideological direction and Nixon’s personal legacy.

Obviously the important thing will be if the bills make the world a better place. The early results for stimulus bill are lacking. The economy needed more and it just didn’t happen. In size and scope the health care and financial reform bills are historically large. So what, will they work? For health care it’s pretty clear the expansion of coverage will last and improve lives of millions of Americans. But I wouldn’t pretend to know if financial reform will look like an achievement in ten or twenty years. It’s size and scope could just as easily be measures of failure as success.



On Loyalty

There’s a huge argument on DailyKos and elsewhere in the lefty blogosphere about a certain boycott of OFA. The same boycott is targeting the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC, but that is not being discussed with nearly the same fervor, because OFA is associated intimately with President Obama, and Obama is, by many people, beloved.

There’s a lot of heated discussion going on over questions of loyalty to the president, and the relative fairness/unfairness of opposing him.  I want to define my position in regard to this debate, because it gets to the heart of what loyalty actually is—and that’s at the heart of why I’m in Carrots and Sticks.

For me at least, how I feel about OFA is not the same as how I feel about Obama. And I bet a lot of people feel the same. But more importantly, I can admire, respect, and even love Obama for the character he shows in these photographs without agreeing with everything he does. Matter of fact, I can passionately disagree with some of the things he does. And the way he has made use of OFA–or, rather, not made use of them–really burns me. He has a nationwide network of passionate, loyal, hardworking people at his fingertips, and he wastes them on make-work.

I know folks are going to be angry that I characterize OFA’s work that way, so let me clarify so at least people will be mad at me for the right reason: I’m not saying that the people at OFA haven’t worked their butts off. I’m sure they have. But it doesn’t matter how many tens of thousands of calls you make if what you’re saying is a generic “Support health care reform” message, which any Congressman could say he supports no matter what bill he ends up supporting, as long as “Health Care Reform” is somewhere in its title. Hell, Max Baucus could claim, with some justice, that his original Finance committee bill constitutes a positive response to OFA calls, even though its policy would screw the American people to the ground and present the insurance industries with a ton of customers without pressing them to lower costs at all.

Obama is plenty smart enough to know all this, and to know that he’s not using a tenth of the power that the OFA network could offer him. And I don’t believe he’s keeping that powder dry for something else, because health care reform is clearly the central domestic issue of his administration, and an issue which is occupying the attention of the whole country. He’s decided not to use that populist power. There may be a number of good reasons why, but I find it disappointing and, as an activist who has to struggle daily to achieve a better society with less than 1/1000 of the network Obama has at his fingertips, frustrating in the extreme.

Hell, Obama wouldn’t even have to deploy OFA on my particular pet issues–climate change, energy efficiency, etc.–He could deploy them on anything of importance to the country, and health care reform is a great arena for them to work in. But his use of them has been lame in the extreme, and I can only conclude that he’s decided that the negative reactions he’d get on the Hill and probably on Wall St. if he flexed that muscle would make his use of populist power prohibitively expensive.
I guess that’s understandable, but the whole thing pisses me off, and I think that’s understandable too.

What should be easiest to understand, for any progressive, is that being pissed off does not constitute disloyalty.


No Roosevelt After All

Roosevelt famously said to a group of political activists:  “I agree with you.  I want to do it.  Now make me do it.”  Many of us have taken that dictum and applied it to Obama, thinking that hard work and dedicated political activism are necessary even when you have an ally in the White House.

But apparently President Obama doesn’t want us to “make him do it”. Not if the Chief of Staff’s behavior is any indication of the Chief Executive’s wishes.

I knew Rahm was a hard-ass, but I thought, when he decided to work for Obama, that he would become more of an equal-opportunity hard-ass. If I assume that Obama is a “centrist,” then the man whose job it is to be his whip hand ought to be giving at least an equally hard time to the Blue Dogs and conservative senators as he does to the left wing of his party. Especially since it’s the Blue Dogs and conservative senators who have been opposing Obama on both health care reform and climate change legislation from the beginning. These legislators apparently have little concern even for preserving the President’s political capital, much less for the platform that Obama ran on. After the shenanigans Max Baucus has been pulling in the Finance Committee, excluding a number of important Democratic senators from his discussions while sequestering himself with Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe, Kent Conrad and Jeff Bingaman, you’d think that Rahm would have chastised him on behalf of Obama. Or, if it’s too difficult to square off with a powerful committee chair, how about going to the Blue Dogs, many of whom Emanuel got elected, and using his clout to sway them to the President’s side? After all, Obama has said repeatedly that he wants a robust public option as part of his healthcare plan. Big news flash: it’s not the progressives in the party who are disagreeing with him. The people holding up his plan are the Blue Dogs in the House, and people like Baucus in the Senate.
But no.   Apparently Emanuel’s tenure in the Obama White House hasn’t changed his penchant for bullying liberals, whether they support his boss’ political program or not.  I don’t normally cite Politico, since I think they’re pretty much the NY Post of political journalism, but when both Politico and Firedoglake report the same story, I figure it’s probably true.  Click through if you want a description of Rahm’s rant.

In a moment of sheer political brilliance, Rahm has decided to attack the people who are fighting *for* Obama’s plan. The people who take time out of their days to go to really fun town halls full of ranting “birthers.” The people who are going to the mat for the President against people who give their kids signs like this (thanks to JR from DKos). Yeah, these are the disloyal ones, Rahm. These are the traitors who aren’t toeing the party line. Why? Because they dare to run ads against Democrats. Of course, the ads are being run against Democrats who have been stonewalling the President’s agenda for months now. But Rahm wants us to stop criticizing them. Sit down and shut up.
Of course, Rahm can’t be blamed without some blame accruing to Obama. I don’t believe for a second that he’s acting in opposition to Obama’s wishes. So the question becomes: what gives, Mr. President? Do you want to intimidate the people who support your agenda? Who are fighting for your agenda on a daily basis? You *did* ask us to fight for change at your side. Now your hired man is trying to swat us down for doing the very thing you asked us to do. Clarify this for me, please.


No More Mr. Nice Dem: Kerry and Boxer Bring Out the Big Sticks

I think many of us fighting against global warming had given up on the Senate passing any meaningful climate change legislation before the meeting at Copenhagen, given the reactions of many conservative Democrats to HR 2454.  Many people were unsure that we would even have 60 votes for cloture to break the inevitable Republican filibuster.  Also, all the Democrats’ energy (including, particularly Obama’s resources) seemed bound up in health care reform.

However, a couple of comments from environmentalist Senators last week indicate to me that this fight is not over, and that Obama might actually be willing to flex his political muscle on this issue.

The first Senator to throw down the gauntlet was Kerry, in Tuesday’s  Finance Committee hearing.  Blanche Lincoln had been attacking Waxman-Markey as “too costly”–though she seemed uncertain as to whether she was worried primarily about the costs to “the average family” in her state or the costs to Arkansas oil refineries.    (Interestingly, Lincoln echoed words I have heard from Senate Republicans of late:  that a cap on carbon emissions might be “opening a door for imported oil.”  I wonder if conservative Democrats are reaching across the aisle for their talking points?)

Kerry first refuted Lincoln’s position about cost by quoting McKinsey & Co’s study of the GHG abatement cost curve, which says that “upwards of 35-40 % of the reductions here paid for themselves [in] the first twenty years.”

But what really changed the climate of the discussion were Kerry’s parting words:

“Well I need to get down to the White House, but let me just say in departure that all these companies that are stating exaggerated opposition to [cap-and-trade] based on very unrealistic modeling need to stop and consider what their models are going to look like when this is regulated by the EPA without any allowances and without any auction, because then they’re in for a very different economic world…It’s gonna happen, if we don’t do something up here and I hope people hear that message loudly and clearly.”

Despite what I believe was a pointed reference to the White House–a reminder that climate change legislation advocates have a rather powerful friend in the President–Kerry’s comment could have been interpreted as merely an expression of random irritation on his part, rather than evidence of a new political stance by environmentalist senators.

But two days later, Barbara Boxer made a similar statement in the middle of an EPW hearing on climate change:

“When Senator Inhofe went through what happened when we changed the gavel here…he left out a couple of things I wanted to make sure we looked at.  One was the Supreme Court ruling that carbon is a pollutant covered by the Clean Air Act and the subsequent action by the EPA…that built on the work of the Bush Administration…which is to take the first steps toward an endangerment finding…So here we are in a circumstance where the Supreme Court ruled that carbon is in fact covered by the Clean Air Act,  the first steps to the endangerment finding have been made…and the other thing that happened that Senator Inhofe didn’t mention is we did change presidents…One way or another we’re going to have to lessen the carbon in the atmosphere; it’s either through the Clean Air Act or through some flexible legislation that we’re all looking at.   The House has passed a version of it which gives tremendous flexibility…My question is, one way or another we’re going to have to address carbon pollution:   Do you feel the flexibility we could put together in a well-crafted bill would make it better for our businesses and our consumers and create more jobs?”

Two powerful Democratic senators in two days raised the spectre of unalloyed government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.  This is something I haven’t seen before, and I find it unlikely that Boxer or Kerry would make such a statement unless they knew that Obama was willing to follow through on it.  Perhaps the (in my view) excessive concessions made to industry in the Waxman/Markey bill were meant to be a carrot, not just in the sense of garnering votes for Waxman/Markey, but in contrast to the stick of having no cap-and-trade system at all, no role for industry except to submit to regulation.  If so, the Democrats are playing their hand on climate change better than I thought, and we may actually see some legislation of substance by December.