Friday, August 14, 2009

Obama Agonistes


Will the excesses of the right keep Obama politically safe?

I spent a long time on the phone today talking with an independent congressional candidate who's no fan of Democrats or Republicans. He's kind of a constitutionalist. We agreed on some things and disagreed on others. One point we both agreed on is that neither of us was ever happy with any nominee of either major political party in our voting lifetimes. I wanted to be happy with Obama and sometimes I would allow myself to get swept up in the excitement and the symbolism. And, let's face it, in comparison to the Cheney-Bush presidency... well, it wouldn't take much.

I tried to persuade myself that I was supporting this Obama. I really wanted to believe it-- and sometimes I did/do. But when he chose the single most ruthless Machiavellian and corrupt slime on the Democratic side of the aisle as his chief of staff, I knew that not only would he be another in a long line of shitty presidents but a failed one at that. None of this should have come as a surprise to me-- or to any DWT reader. All during the campaign, while the Republican media plants insisted Obama had the #1 most liberal voting record in the Senate, I kept pointing out that it wasn't #1 or even in the top 10, nor in the top 20, nor among the top half of the Democrats. In fact, Obama's Senate voting record could at best, be called "moderate." In actuality he was at the bottom of the barrel, never even nearly as progressive a Senate voter as Hillary Clinton, let alone Dick Durbin. His was more in line with Joe Lieberman (his mentor), Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus... that's right, all the worst members of the House of Lords preventing a progressive agenda from going forward under... President Obama.

Last night I read an abjectly pessimistic post by Michael Brenner who points out that "Obama has blown health care reform, big time. The opportunity of a lifetime has been squandered." Harsh. But true. They'll pass some crap, small-ball, bipartisan bill that will further enrich insurance CEOs, Big Pharma, lobbyists, and crooked politicians. But not even a "robust public option," which was supposed to be the fall back compromise because we couldn't get-- or try to get-- single payer, is going to pass. How could it? He picked Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, someone who has failed at everything he's ever attempted except for self-promotion. An administration burdened with Emanuel cannot be anything but an administration burdened with all-encompassing corruption and failure. The sleazy backroom deals with Big Pharma lay that bare for the whole country to see.
A quick review of what has survived an unbecoming process of deal making exposes the dismaying reality. For starters: no public plan; no wealth tax to help pay for cost incurred; no right for the government to bargain with Pharma on drug prices; no meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure that vested, for profit interests comply with whatever undertakings, explicit or tacit, that they have made. What do we gain? Not much. A commitment that everyone must be insured, yet with a much weakened employer mandate to accomplish it. An elimination of the most egregious practices of insurance companies re. e.g. pre-existing conditions, arbitrary termination of coverage. Some small subsidies for the working poor.

Weak tea and not what congressional Democrats need to go into the 2010 midterms. Let's hope it's mostly the red state Blue Dogs Emanuel helped elect who lose their seats. One of them declared Obama a political liability and another raised the idea of Obama as a one term president.

I want to remind DWT readers that Blue America never endorsed Obama and that of the approximately $2,000,000 we raised not one cent went towards electing him. I consider our contributions well spent inasmuch as they helped elect dedicated progressives like Donna Edwards (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Alan Grayson (D-FL), men and women of great incite, great integrity and great character who are all motivated by one thing-- working to better the lives of ordinary American families, the backbone and the soul of our country, every single day. Obama? Nice symbol; better-- much better, than Bush, nice speeches... but, as Brenner pointed out, he's to blame for the health care debacle.
For months, he stayed aloof from the out-of-control Congressional maneuvering based on a strange belief in some kind of bipartisan collective will emerging by osmosis. He never leaned the weight of his person and his office to elements of reform that has been touting as candidate and then President. He deceived the country by pursuing secret talks with the very lobbies who are the heart of disgraceful national health care situation. He entered into deals that were weighted heavily in their selfish interest rather than the national interest. In short, we have gotten from him the antithesis of what we were promised and expected -- in the substance and process of policy both. We have instead a conventionally minded politician overly respectful of the status quo and deferential to those who control and profit from it, A man with no apparent fixed convictions.

Serious health care reform is gone with the wind. It cannot be retrieved. All other domestic issues pale in importance by comparison -- except for the financial crisis. On that front, Obama has behaved exactly as he now has done on the health care front. That is to say, viewing the world from the prejudicial perspective of the high and mighty while neglecting his duty to the citizenry and those who put their trust in him. The question: 'who really is Barack Obama?' is more compelling than ever. The answer looks to be more and more disheartening.

When he was viciously attacked by the right, I rallied to the defense of another weak, "centrist" Democrat, who sold us down the river, Bill Clinton. I'll be a much harder sell this time around. Although... it... will... be... tempting-- if we keep getting more and more of this:

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At 11:14 AM, Anonymous paul_lukasiak said...

any chance that Kucinich (or other prominent liberal) will be willing to go all Gene McCarthy on Obama's ass in 2012?
I agree that its absolutely the case that given how poorly Obama and the Congressional Dems are performing, their biggest asset is the irrational stupidity of the average Republican politician/spokesperson. I mean, imagine what would happen to Obama's "health care deform" initiative if the GOP was talking about the PhRMA deal, instead of "death panels"!

At 11:15 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Paul, they'll figure that out by next week, believe me.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Pretty much my thoughts for some time about Obama, Howie. I told my wife a few months before the election that between a conservative Democrat and a far right Republican, we would probably be better off with the far-right Republican--because as terrible as things would get for the average voter afterward, there would be a real chance of getting a progressive in the White House in four years.

As it is, the conservative Democrat is being painted as a radical, and we've only had very little to take joy in. Obama and the banks; Obama and health care; Obama and Afghanistan/Iraq; Obama and forced detention. Hell of a record, guy!

Not that any of it is surprising, but still, for such a brainy president, wouldn't you have thought he'd figure the times called for bold, imaginative thinking, instead of attempts to play kumbaya with the Republicans and other conservative Democrats?

At 4:18 PM, Blogger 333 said...

I m sick to death of the Republicans and Democrats. They are all against us...

Here is one of the First NEWS STORIES about a woman in Atlanta FIRED because the Obama Adminstration is ALLOWING the Department of TREASURY to float the idea that you can be FIRED over your CREDIT SCORE???

WHy? Because they want the banks to control your life... This whole OBAMA_RAMA Crap is at its end with me already... If none of you derelict lefties get to the REAL stories here, you're not going to have a job tomorrow.. THIS IS SERIOUS PEOPLE!!

At 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks, politicians only think of the next election, How do I get reelected? They are not and never will be problem solvers. It's like asking a cow to write a cook book.

The economic system has failed.

The school system has failed.

The political system has failed.

It is the twilight of the worlds structures and so far it hasn't been pretty.

Print some more money and give it to the same 1%.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Gregg Jocoy said...

I hesitate to say this, but the end of this piece is so telling. You have already admitted that you will suck it up and support Obama if the far right continues to demonize him. Of course they will, which means you have already decided to abandon your principles, unless your principles are "elect Democrats no matter what", and use your influence and whatever cash you may have to prop up a corrupt and faltering system.

I mean, that's your right, but I don't understand what you're trying to say.

I remember a piece where Colbert interviewed a Black politician who said "We can't let the Democrats take our votes for granted." Colbert asked which Republicans the Black politician was suggesting they consider as an alternative to voting Democratic...and he refused to do that.

It seems to me that you are already set to hold your nose and not only vote Obama, but to write, raise funds, and campaign in support of him if he continues to be why should he or his supporters give a moment to care about *your* opinion?


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