Wednesday, January 13, 2010

As The One Year Mark Approaches, There's A Case That Can Be Made For Obama-- And Then There's Afghanistan


And last night Rachel Maddow made it. If you missed her show, you can watch that segment above, which starts with a short, incredulous glimpse at the Fox-Palin sideshow Obama's advisors are hoping is what he gets to run against in 2012. But if watching Sarah Palin stumble incoherently from mindless GOP talking point to mindless GOP talking point makes you sick to your stomach, don't worry; it only lasts a few pained seconds before Rachel makes the case that-- contrary to what we posited Sunday (you know, that the Obama/FDR comparison doesn't hold up), Obama is, indeed, the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt.

She's pushing back against the overarching Republican Party/Fox News talking point of the week, namely that after one year Obama's presidency has been a failure. She then proceeds to explain why it hasn't been-- a hard sell for progressive devotees in her audience. "We didn't have a second Great Depression," she asserts. "We still have a banking system, which wasn't a given a year or so ago." She had to turn to foreign media-- our own being so... well, you know-- to find an analysis that explains the taxpapyers making a profit of $52 billion on the bank bailout.
For all the unpopularity of the bailouts and the scare-the-teapartiers actions of the Fed and the Treasury Department; for all the demagoguing and freaking out about the economy, the numbers look OK. They at least seem to have gotten a lot better under Mr. Obama. He things to have turned things around.

And then she goes on to his legislative accomplishments. She sure makes it sound like he's accomplished a lot and points her viewers to Jacob Weisberg's look back at Obama's first year in Slate: Obama's Brilliant First Year. Weisberg's subtitle is "By January, he will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt."
This conventional wisdom about Obama's first year isn't just premature—it's sure to be flipped on its head by the anniversary of his inauguration on Jan. 20. If, as seems increasingly likely [uh... it looks like he'll be lucky-- very lucky-- if he gets a bill in February], Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency. This isn't an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It's a neutral assessment of his emerging record-- how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office.

The case for Obama's successful freshman year rests above all on the health care legislation now awaiting action in the Senate. Democrats have been trying to pass national health insurance for 60 years. Past presidents who tried to make it happen and failed include Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Through the summer, Obama caught flak for letting Congress lead the process, as opposed to setting out his own proposal. Now his political strategy is being vindicated. The bill he signs may be flawed in any number of ways—weak on cost control, too tied to the employer-based system, and inadequate in terms of consumer choice. But given the vastness of the enterprise and the political obstacles, passing an imperfect behemoth and improving it later is probably the only way to succeed where his predecessors failed.

We are so submerged in the details of this debate-- whether the bill will include a "public option," limit coverage for abortion, or tax Botox-- that it's easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government's role since the New Deal. If Obama governs for four or eight years and accomplishes nothing else, he may be judged the most consequential domestic president since LBJ. He will also undermine the view that Ronald Reagan permanently reversed a 50-year tide of American liberalism.

Obama's claim to a fertile first year doesn't rest on health care alone. There's mounting evidence that the $787 billion economic stimulus he signed in February-- combined with the bank bailout package-- prevented an economic depression. Should the stimulus have been larger? Should it have been more weighted to short-term spending, as opposed to long-term tax cuts? Would a second round be a good idea? Pundits and policymakers will argue these questions for years to come. But few mainstream economists seriously dispute that Obama's decisive action prevented a much deeper downturn and restored economic growth in the third quarter. The New York Times recently quoted Mark Zandi, who was one of candidate John McCain's economic advisers, on this point: "The stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do-- it is contributing to ending the recession," he said. "In my view, without the stimulus, G.D.P would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent."

Rachel highlighted this quote:

Her transition is "And speaking of LBJ," which I'll use to go in a somewhat different direction than Rachel wandered off in. Again, you can watch the whole segment above. Please do; you may need it if you're going to be around Fox and Hate Talk Radio repeaters over the course of the next week. But when I think of LBJ, I also think of a deceptive, unjust, futile and failed war in Asia. LBJ's was in East Asia. Obama's is in Central Asia. And last night, when everyone was looking at other bright, shiny objects, A.P. ran a short little-noticed mention that on top of the $708 billion war budget Obama has for next year, he's slipping in another $33 billion, specifically to fight increasingly unpopular occupations of and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The extra $33 billion in 2010 would go mostly toward expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year.

The request for that additional funding will be sent to Congress at the same time as the record spending request for next year, making financing the war an especially difficult pill for some of Obama's Democratic allies to swallow.

Is anyone going to stop him? Certainly not the Republicans. They may oppose everything he's trying to do to help ordinary working families, but when it comes to wars... it can't do enough to sate their unquenchable appetite for blood and jingoism. Last June 32-- only 32-- Democrats stood up and said "no" to Obama on war funding. Many Democrats campaigned on ending Bush's war policies. But now that Obama is running them, all but these 32 were willing to-- at best-- give him some slack. Will they still be willing to give him some slack when he comes back looking for another $33 billion? You'll be able to count on the Democrats who already stood up and took the stand-- Alan Grayson, Donna Edwards, Maxine Waters, Carol Shea-Porter, Eric Massa, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, James McGovern, Tammy Baldwin, Keith Ellison, John Conyers, et al-- but will that number expand to a place where the war can be stopped? Most politicians-- like more than 90%, easily-- follow public opinion rather than lead it. You want to stop the wars? It's up to you. Lead the way; Obama will follow.

Labels: , ,


At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rachel maddow is showing herself to be nothing more than a demo-zombie. What cherry-picking. The money the federal reserve says it made has not even been verified ... but who are we to question the good guys at the federal reserve ... and I'm fairly certain that any losses that they now have on all those junk securities they took of their pals' hands on wall street has not been included in their calculations of a profit.

Why is getting an hispanic into the supreme court necessarily an accomplishment? What if she turns out to be terrible ... is it always about the packaging? What about the contents? I think she'll be a good supreme court justice though and that is an eccomplishment I'd say.

The stock market has much more to do with the federal reserve flooding money into wall street than anything the pope of hope has done.

And with the much ballyhooed "success" rate of obama on his legislative imperatives, he has way too often acquiesced to anything to get a "win" .... sometimes compromising with republicans for ZERO votes in return. Doesn't the content of the bill mean anything? Isn't that the true measure of what he has effectuated, not the rahm's definition of a win?


At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how the hell can one think much of a health care bill that only further empowers the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries? For God's sake, is that really a step in the right direction? And why does the head pr man of the establishment refuse to consider taxing the filthy rich to help fund this health insurance bailout bill? Why does he want to lay it on our middle class thru the "cadillac" tax? Or do you believe the nonsense their bought-and-paid for shill from mit (over 3/4s of a millions dollars paid to him although the obamaination administration failed to inform us of that as they held his work up as independent support of their bill), gruber, lays out that companies will fork over any money that they save to avoid the tax to their employees in other forms of compensation?

And before you say it is all the senate's fault that obama is forced into these positions, I think it has been pretty well established that this senate bill IS the bill that obama wanted and one that the oval office spent considerable time sculpting behind the scenes.

Why did obama make a sleazy secret deal with the pharmas to prevent the importation of drugs from foreign countries? Which was against what he said he stood for in his campaign of lies where he also said that everything would be out in the open in the health care debate and he attacked his opponent for proposing the "Cadillac" insurance tax.

And getting back to that cadillac tax that he said he was against, why does he want that so bad? Could it be possible that he just wants it so that it will provide data (premium costs) that he can hold up as decreasing insurance costs when it will very likely lead to higher deductibles and co-pays for us to offset the effects of decreasing premiums?

And why did the pope of hope set the parameters of this health care bill such that it won't go into full effect until 2014? Why don't we get a chance to evaluate this bill before his re-election? And why do thousands have to die in the meantime becoz they don't have health insurance? And is it coincidence that this will allow obama to use that as leverage with voters by threatening that a republican president will prevent the bill from going into effect if we don't re-elect him? ... a bill, again, that we'll never have a chance to fully evaluate.

It's all about semantics and photo-ops and deceit and nothing about the people ... it's not different enough than what the last administration of crooks pulled (you know the ones that obama shields from justice). The head pr man of the establishment is primarily all about maintaining the corrupt power structure of this country while spouting empty promises of change to the populace to sedate them.

At this point, anything this corporate sellout would sign as a health care bill is a bad bill IMO becoz he will only sign a bill that provides outsized benefits to his corporate constituency.

maddow is employing a no president left behind standard ... this man is an utter disgrace!


At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And please people stop being impressed by meaningless words such as obama is passing a health care bill that covers all americans ... all he is doing is making it mandatory that we buy insurance and using the federal government to force us to buy private products with little cost controls. How the hell is that an accomplishment?

And this "mandatoriness" is another campaign promise that the liar broke.


At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Z: You are not wrong on any of your points. Sadly, Obama has not been able to or couldn't make fully good on a progressive agenda so far. Nor is he likely to do so. What you are overlooking, imo, is that neither could have anyone else done so.

Very sadly, this is likely as good as it gets in the politically corrupt USofA Congress.

What everyone including you needs to decide is whether they want the Republicans back in White House in 2012. Because if you don't, the progressives - while continuing to badger and work for progressive laws and programs - need to start pushing back against the Republican/TeaParty/Corrupt-Media propaganda about a failed presidency.

Feel free to sit out this ongoing fight, of course, but wimpy agenda or not unless the whole Democratic constituency goes into full-time campaign mode, you're going to see a TeaParty-approved President in January 2013.

The Obama people need to switch on the full-time campaign machine again immediately as well to prevent a tidal change this November. As Rachel wisely and presciently understands, the campaign for preeminent propaganda is already underway. Don't let the imperfect (to say almost the least) keep you muzzled in the battle against the truly greater evil of an even-worse Republican corporatism.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, thanks for the intelligent reply.

The republicans are absolutely terrible ... no doubt ... damn near 100% of them. And the democrats are turning out to be about 90% as bad as the republicans IMO.

I don't buy that narrative that obama is doing the best he can under the circumstances to serve the people. In fact, I think that is complete nonsense and no doubt what rahm and co. want us to believe.

We could have gotten some of the money back from the aig execs thru a tax that appeared to be able to pass, but obama, after claiming that no stone will be left untouched to get the money back and initially backing the tax, nixed it.

And please inform how obama was forced by the reps into appointing scumbags like rahm emanuel, timmy geithner and larry summers to his cabinet? He even tried to get his pal daschle in his cabinet who would have went straight from essentially lobbying for health care companies to directly doing their business. C'mon, if obama was truly interese3td in change, he wouldn't have appointed these people.

We couldn't have had drugs imported with this health care bill, but obama gave that away in a sleazy backroom deal with the pharmas partly for campaign cash and promotion of his health insurance bailout bill. And then when Dorgan brought the issue to the senate, obama had his minion reid hold up the bill until they could build up enough opposition ... make enough deals ... so that the bill would not pass and obama could keep his promise with his precious pharma pals. Is that representing the American people? Or obama's own selfish political interests? By your contention that we ought to pretty much accept whatever we can get from the dems becoz the reps are so much worse, any deal to keep these dems in power is worth it. I don't see things that way. If the dems are not going to represent us, what good are they?

And could a republican president have passed this abomination of a health "care" bill? No. Could the republican president have passed nafta? Probably not. We also were handed all this bullshit that the dems wanted to allow overseas pharmas, but what happens in the end? Nothing!!! The dems and the reps dance for corporate money ... that is the bottom line ... and the rest is just kabuki theatre.

I grow tired of this belief that we just accept whatever medicine scumbags like rahm ... and I'll include the head or man for the establishment, obama, in that ... feed us becoz that is the best we are going to get. Both of these parties are hopelessly corrupt and we ought to get started on the hard work of developing a viable third party with a simple initial objective: purely public financed elections. Without that, we'll never gain representation and just have to accept being subjects ... something I'm not willing to do.

He's a disgrace, not as bad as bush, but an utter disgrace nonetheless.



Post a Comment

<< Home