Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Obama can do

I read that the President is trying to reassemble the political team that orchestrated his successful campaign in 2008. This includes David Plouffe, his campaign manager, who has been content in recent months to write a book about the experience. This is a little like hiring a manager and coaches from a World Series-winning team to lead another team -- in the hopes that their past success will transfer. It is highly unlikely. Obama represented some sort of "hope for change" in 2008. While he is vastly preferable as a President to his truly awful predecessor, he has proved to be no great agent for fundamental change. I don't have to reiterate the long list of things he was supposed to reform: everything from "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" through government secrecy, to the public option in healthcare. It isn't clever political moves designed by his crack election team that's needed, it's genuine gritty populism -- of the FDR kind -- that will bring people around again. His recent attempt to take on the banks and investment houses is more of what he should be doing, IF, in fact, he actually follows through. His recent shift to the regulatory ideas of Paul Volcker -- at least for banks -- is welcome, but Volcker is no populist, just a realist as far as the misdeeds of banks is concerned.

In a previous blog I said:

What I would really like to see is a change in Obama's economic people: replace Geitner, maybe by Sheila Bair (a nominal Republican even); replace Larry Summers by Paul Krugman; bring back Robert Reich (Clinton's Secretary of Labor) and find a place for Bob Kuttner. Obama needs to hear some more progressive voices. Eventually, replace Bernanke by one of them.

Of course this is just a pipe dream team.

However, another person I should have mentioned is Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, the subject of a column in todays' Globe: The Woman Democrats Need. (In fact, I meant to add her name all week long; I'm glad Ethan Porter's op-ed did the job.)

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