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Frank Rich: Is Obama Punking Us?

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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:32 PM
Original message
Frank Rich: Is Obama Punking Us?
AUGUST is a challenging time to be president, said Andrew Card, the former Bush White House chief of staff, as he offered unsolicited advice to his successors in a television interview last week. I think you have to expect the unexpected.

He should know. Thursday was the eighth anniversary of Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S., the Presidents Daily Brief that his boss ignored while on vacation in Crawford. Aug. 29 marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrinas strike on the Louisiana coast, which his boss also ignored while on vacation in Crawford.

So do have a blast in Marthas Vineyard, President Obama.

Even as we wait for some unexpected disaster to strike, Beltway omens for the current White House are grim. Obamas poll numbers are approaching free fall, we are told. If he fails on health care, hes toast. Indeed, many of the bloviators who spot a fatal swoon in the Obama presidency are the same doomsayers who in August 2008 were predicting his Election Day defeat because he couldnt close the deal and clear the 50 percent mark in matchups with John McCain.

Here are two not very daring predictions: Obama will get some kind of health care reform done come fall. His poll numbers will not crater any time soon.

Yet there is real reason for longer-term worry in the form of a persistent, anecdotal drift toward disillusionment among some of the presidents supporters. And not merely those on the left. This concern was perhaps best articulated by an Obama voter, a real estate agent in Virginia, featured on the front page of The Washington Post last week. Nothings changed for the common guy, she said. I feel like Ive been punked. She cited in particular the billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks that still act like theyre broke.

But this mood isnt just about the banks, Public Enemy No. 1. What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. Its the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged that, as the president typically put it a month after his inauguration, the system is in hock to the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few who have run Washington far too long. He promised to smite them.

No president can do that alone, let alone in six months. To make Obamas goal more quixotic, the ailment that he diagnosed is far bigger than Washington and often beyond politics domain. What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.

Its a cynicism confirmed almost daily by events....

<snip>

Then there are the 52 conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who have balked at the public option for health insurance. Their cash intake from insurers and drug companies outpaces their Democratic peers by an average of 25 percent, according to The Post. And lets not forget the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which has raked in nearly $500,000 from a single doctor-owned hospital in McAllen, Tex. the very one that Obama has cited as a symbol of runaway medical costs ever since it was profiled in The New Yorker this spring.

In this maze of powerful moneyed interests, its not clear who any American in either party should or could root for. The bipartisan nature of the beast can be encapsulated by the remarkable progress of Billy Tauzin, the former Louisiana congressman. Tauzin was a founding member of the Blue Dog Democrats in 1994. A year later, he bolted to the Republicans. Now he is chief of PhRMA, the biggest pharmaceutical trade group. In the 2008 campaign, Obama ran a television ad pillorying Tauzin for his role in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices. Last week The Los Angeles Times reported and The New York Times confirmed that Tauzin, an active player in White House health care negotiations, had secured a behind-closed-doors flip-flop, enlisting the administration to push for continued protection of drug prices. Now we know why the president has ducked his campaign pledge to broadcast such negotiations on C-Span.

<snip>

The best political news for the president remains the Republicans. Its a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist. They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy. If anything, the most unexpected and challenging event that could rock the White House this August would be if the opposition actually woke up.

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/opinion/09rich.html
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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:42 PM
Response to Original message
1. Interesting
<...>

The making of legislative sausage is never pretty. The White House has to give to get. But the cynicism being whipped up among voters is justified. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose chief presidential campaign strategist unapologetically did double duty as a high-powered corporate flack, Obama promised change we could actually believe in.

His first questionable post-victory step was to assemble an old boys club of Robert Rubin protgs and Goldman-Citi alumni as the White House economic team, including a Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who failed in his watchdog role at the New York Fed as Wall Streets latest bubble first inflated and then burst. The questions about Geithners role in adjudicating the subsequent bailouts arent going away, and neither is the angry public sense that the fix is still in. We just learned that nine of those bailed-out banks which in total received $175 billion of taxpayers money, but as yet have repaid only $50 billion are awarding a total of $32.6 billion in bonuses for 2009.

Its in this context that Obama cant afford a defeat on health care. A bill will pass in a Democrat-controlled Congress. What matters is whats in it. The final result will be a CAT scan of those powerful Washington interests he campaigned against, revealing which have been removed from the body politic (or at least reduced) and which continue to metastasize. The Wall Street regulatory reform package Obama pushes through, or doesnt, may render even more of a verdict on his success in changing the system he sought the White House to reform.

The best political news for the president remains the Republicans. Its a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist. They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy. If anything, the most unexpected and challenging event that could rock the White House this August would be if the opposition actually woke up.


Rich thinks the opposition is asleep?

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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:49 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. My guess is that he thinks they're living in a dream world
Edited on Sat Aug-08-09 10:49 PM by depakid
It's the blue dogs and other Democrats on the take that are the biggest problem at the moment. They're basically carrying the Republicans' water in the policy fights- obscuring the difference between what the two parties once stood for, and creating and reinforcing the perception that there's not a dimes worth of difference between the parties.

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debbierlus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 06:02 PM
Response to Reply #2
11. Excellent point
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Uzybone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 12:35 AM
Response to Reply #1
8. The media is hilarious arent they
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:06 PM
Response to Original message
3. he's governing like i thought he would govern --
'This concern was perhaps best articulated by an Obama voter, a real estate agent in Virginia, featured on the front page of The Washington Post last week. Nothings changed for the common guy, she said. I feel like Ive been punked. She cited in particular the billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks that still act like theyre broke.


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tabatha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:30 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. No, and it is going to take a while for the huge ship to turn.
To think that everything should be fixed in 6 months is idiocy (and arrogance).
Not even Bill Clinton could have done it.
And I cannot think of another president who could come anywhere close.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:39 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. well -- i think the point is that the 'huge ship' is going to turn -- in what ever time it takes --
and sail in much the same wake it ever was.
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tabatha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:51 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. prejudiced much?
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Proud Liberal Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 11:51 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. Other than the progressive standard-bearer Dennis Kucinich
EVERY other recent Democratic nominee and/or candidate would have likely made a lot similar decisions, appointed similar candidates, advocated for similar policies- and would have probably been just as criticized by the more progressive elements of the party IMHO. Had Hillary Clinton won, you can bet that a lot of us would have been just about as critical of her as we are of Obama.
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bvar22 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 03:50 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Hillary & Obama were virtually identical on policy,
The only real difference was on Health Care.
Hillary supported insurance MANDATES.
Candidate Obama strongly OPPOSED insurance mandates.


Now, President Obama SUPPORTS Insurance mandates.
Go figure. :shrug:
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debbierlus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 06:00 PM
Response to Original message
10. Another relevant article doomed by the unrecommend button -
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Raffi Ella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 08:18 PM
Response to Original message
12. Last friday Howard Deans brother was on Hardball
He has an ad out taking fire at a Democratic Senator who took money from pharma/insurance co.'s. and is making trouble for the President on Healthcare reform.

The ad basically asked him whose side are you on? Do you work for them or Us.

Chris Mathews attacked him for that ad. Accused him of going after a Democrat as if - as if WHAT?


It was like Chris Matthews was saying You're not playing the game Sir! We all know what the game is and you Sir are not playing along.


yeah, this article resonates deeply with me.
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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 08:34 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Now that seems to me to resonate what Rich is saying
Could be Rich even watched the segment.
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