After a spate of “it isn’t I, Lord” leaks to the media on what’s happening in the Obama White House, the Dean of the Beltway media has called a halt to such unseemly musings, and so serious people have now retaken charge of the discussion.
It is reassuring to learn that the President is both listening to serious policy advisers while taking advantage of experienced, successful political advisers to get those policies enacted. So they must be succeeding, right?
It remains only for the rest of us to wonder within the now narrowed field of inquiry how to account for the fact that the Obama Presidency is seriously failing by both policy and political measures. If they’re so good at this, how did the President’s Party come to face the possible loss of one or even both houses of Congress?
How exactly have they managed to alienate intelligent and responsible leaders and experts on the environment, energy, climate change, health reform, financial reform, labor, immigration reform, civil liberties/rule of law advocates, and other core elements of their own base? It’s not like they did that by holding on to independents, who now oppose them only slightly less than the Republicans do, even though they still haven’t done much of what they were sent to do (or accused of doing).
We’ve already seen the Administration’s energy/climate change initiative so watered down in the House that it caused deep splits in the alternative energy/environmental community. Those who pleaded for pragmatic patience on the House Bill are now tearing their hair out watching the Senate become a bastion of delay and denialism, with little effective push back from the Administration.
That mirrors the debate on health care reform, where more hopeful reforms were either forbidden topics or promises to be broken and bargained away — and yet what did we get in return beyond a deal for PhRMA-paid ads? Many hopes have been dashed and once-united reformers are left to argue with each other over whether what’s left is worth risking political blood and treasure.
We’re now watching the same thing happen to financial reform. A watered down but still worthwhile House bill languishes in the dysfunctional Senate, along with 290 other House-passed bills.
Meanwhile, Senator Dodd careens from absurd compromise to absurd compromise searching for some way to mollify the rapacious, unrepentant bankers and even one Republican Senator, to no avail. It seems we can’t even have an independent Consumer Financial Protection agency or even a viable consumer-protective division within any existing agency that didn’t already fail dismally, as the Fed and Treasury did, to protect consumers.
And just like the real reform champions on climate change and health care, Paul Krugman is about to give up on Obama and Congress on their financial reform efforts. What passes may be worse than nothing, he fears. Welcome to our dilemma, Professor. We suggest you wear the flak jacket.
So I remain puzzled by the Beltway wisdom that in the Obama White House, whatever you may think about its political vs policy debates, we shouldn’t worry too much.
The country’s political discourse is coming apart at the seams, and as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been documenting night after night, the level of blatant lying, distortion and hypocrisy has no limits. In the extreme, the lies are coupled with increasing approval of anti-government violence.
Yet the nation’s problems aren’t going away; they’re getting worse. Something needs to change, and if that doesn’t include the advisers/leadership in the White House, then how else do the serious ones think we break out of this?
One common failure on both policy and political fronts seems to be the inability to acknowledge and respond to the fact that the corporate and ideological opponents of genuine reform are both looting the public and waging war. They’re waging class war on everyone and any proposal that remotely suggests reining in unbridled corporate power, whether it’s by Wall Street investors/banks, the energy industry or the health industry or . . .
And Republicans and their media organs at Fox are waging the rhetorical equivalent of pre-civil war.
When you’re at war, it’s not enough to have decent policies and experienced political advisers — and the White House has been too limiting in both to deserve accolades in either department. You need to fight back.
Dick Cheney is right about one key point. You have to fight back as though the enemy is trying to destroy you and everything you claim to believe in, because they are.
Beyond that, it might also help if the Administration understood it’s its job to hold people accountable when they break the law or loot the country, because those are the same people who are waging war against us. And they’re still winning.