Monday, August 8, 2011

A failed president

I found the following article from this Sunday's NYT to be, unfortunately, all too true. Check it out for yourself; I'd appreciate reading your comments.

(Thanks to Maxine for spotting this.)


  1. This article captures many of the lurking fears that have led to my summer malaise. For some reason, I'm somewhat optimistic regarding the public's perception of the Tea Party, however, and this catchy moniker is a good start.

    I too mourn the missed opportunity of the Obama presidency, but what troubles me more, is the insidious work being done by ALEC at the state and local level. There have been numerous articles recently about this organization, but their level of sophistication is truly alarming.

    Obama may actually "win" reelection, but the campaign promises to be extremely ugly (bashing of the left from both sides), and I'm not sure that destruction of the social safety net by compromise is better than it's destruction by frontal assault. At least the latter path might lead to the electorate's holding one party responsible. Destruction by asphyxiation, with the complicity of the "good guys," is harder to take. Armageddon would be a spiritually more fulfilling way to go. And that's the frustrating thing about the Obama presidency: the right seems to win even when they lose, while the left loses even more than they expected to even by a worst case scenario.

  2. Have you seen this? I think it is interesting to read alongside Westen's piece...

  3. Thanks, "jessica", for passing on the link to Chait's New Republic article.

    First of all, I don't endorse every single thing that Westen says in the NY Times piece I alluded to, but I think that Chait misrepresents Westen points. First of all, Westen is not criticizing just what Obama said, but what he didn't say. Obama time after time refused to name the names of the villains. Even now he is blaming "Congress" instead of the Republicans; it was even worse earlier in his term when he kept talking about bipartisanship while the Republicans were drawing out their knives. Rhetoric-wise he was simply not in Roosevelt's league. That's one of the reasons why Roosevelt was "wildly popular" while Obama isn't. The other main reason, of course, is racism, the effectiveness of right-wing propaganda in drawing on that racism, and the ineffectiveness or sometimes the non-existence of Democratic propaganda. And Chait is lagging behind the news: Obama's popularity is sagging and is well below what Clinton's was at a similar time -- it's getting more and more like Carter's.

    However, even more important, is Chait's claim that Westen thinks rhetoric is central to getting things done. In fact, Westen's critique is that Obama hasn't backed up his rhetoric with actions -- say on the Bush Tax Cuts, or war, or Guantanamo. When everyone hated Wall Street, Obama didn't seize the moment to institute legal actions against the many frauds committed by investment banks and ratings agencies like S&P. (Note that the first thing the newly-elected Republican majority in Congress did was to set up Darryl Issa on the Oversight Committee to dig up dirt on the Obama administration and Democrats in general. This while Obama was talking bipartisanship.)

    Obama chose his cabinet and advisers, which included a lot of faces quite sympathetic to Wall Street -- or at least, not unsympathetic. He didn't exactly go to the mattresses over Elizabeth Warren -- a decent, knowledgeable and highly competent person who was attacked unmercifully by highly partisan Republicans and Wall Street flacks.

    Chait claims that simply because the debt "compromise" protected "entitlement" programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, these programs are not threatened. In fact, by cutting many discretionary programs, the "compromise" has, and will later, placed incredible pressures on state and local governments, and on their Medicaid funds. When Head Start, WIC (nutrition) and all sorts of educational and supplementary health programs are cut, this forces the States to spread Medicaid funding even thinner. In fact, cuts in non-Medicaid health programs will create more illness that Medicare and Medicaid will have to cover. There is no free lunch here, and these programs to be cut -- many staffed by highly-motivated, talented, idealistic, and underpaid workers -- are largely very efficient and, in the long-term, money saving.

    Chait casually mentions that Democratic "moderates" share some blame. Well, true, they are a problem, but the President, as leader of the party, must decide what sort of discipline to exert in the ranks. Whatever discipline there was (check out Joe Lieberman), it seems to me, was exerted in the House by Nancy Pelosi. Many give her most of the credit for passing the health reform plan (such as it was).

    I could go on, but I don't have the time just now. In any case, my own opinion, made quite clear in recent blogs, is that Obama needs both clearer and more pointed -- partisan if you will -- rhetoric as well as a real JOBS BILL. And soon.