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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:35 PM
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The New Republic: The Unnecessary Fall of the Obama Presidency - A counter-history


The Unnecessary Fall
A counter-history of the Obama presidency.
By John B. Judis
John B. Judis is a senior editor of The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
August 12, 2010


In the United States, politics pivots around the allegiance of the middle class, even as its identity has changed from yeoman farmers and mechanics to store clerks, office workers, x-ray technicians, and small business owners. They are, in Bill Clintons words, those who work hard and play by the rules. They are the central characters in a populist rhetoric that goes back to the early republic. It depicts the middle class as embattled and threatened either from forces below (impoverished immigrants, welfare cheaters, ghetto rioters) or above (Wall Street speculators, state bureaucrats, K Street lobbyists). Populism can be embraced by Glenn Beck or Tom Harkin. It is intrinsically neither left-wing nor right-wing.

Politicians, such as Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, who found a way of using populisms appeal during downturns have enjoyed success, while those who have spurned it have suffered accordingly. If, in circumstances like the present one, you dont develop a populist politics, your adversaries will use populism to define you as an enemy of the people. Thats what Carter discovered during the stagflation of the late 70s. And thats what has happened in the last 20 months of the Great Recession to Barack Obama and to the Democratic Party he leads.

As Obama was delivering his inaugural address, the financial crisis was already in full swing; and it was already apparent that financial speculation, outright fraud, and irresponsible and sometimes illegal housing-loan practices had played a very large role in precipitating the crisis. The public was up in arms. But, instead of rallying the public against the money changers, as Roosevelt had done in his first inaugural, Obama, taking a leaf from Jimmy Carters infamous malaise speech, put the blame on the public as a whole. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age, he declared.

Over the next month, Obama would periodically criticize bankers after embarrassing revelationsat various times calling the bonuses they gave themselves shameful and an outragebut, after hearing complaints about his rhetoric from the bankers, he would back off. At a private meeting on March 28 with 13 Wall Street CEOs, the president, his spokesman Robert Gibbs said, emphasized that Wall Street needs Main Street and Main Street needs Wall Street. And, in his Georgetown speech, Obama returned to his theme of collective responsibility. The recession, Obama said, was caused by a perfect storm of irresponsibility and poor decision-making that stretched from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.

Obamas policy followed the same swerving course as his rhetoric. One week, he would favor harsh restrictions on bank and insurance-company bonuses, but, the next week, he would waver; one week, he would support legislation allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce the amount that homeowners threatened with foreclosure owed the banks; the next week, he would fail to protest when bank lobbyists pressured the Senate to kill these provisions. But, more importantly, Obamain sharp contrast to Roosevelt in his first monthsfailed to push Congress to immediately enact new financial regulations or even to set up a commission to investigate fraud. (When Congress finally appointed a commission in July 2009, Obama and his party put a milquetoast Democratic politician, former California State Treasurer Philip Angelides, in charge of it.)

Obamas appointments also conveyed an impression that he wanted to let Wall Street off the hook. He appointed Timothy Geithner to be treasury secretary. Geithner claimed that he was not part of Wall Street, but, in his capacity as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he had served under a board of directors headed by JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. As New York Fed president, Geithner had been partly responsible for the decision to let Lehman Brothers go under, for the unpopular tarp program, and for American International Group (AIG) paying back its Wall Street creditors with government money. Geithner chose as his chief of staff a former lobbyist for Goldman Sachs. Retiring Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan told me, Most Americans were reading about the massive compensations and bailouts, and the administration largely hired people from the culture of Wall Street.

By early January of this year, Obama was clearly losing the battle for the middle class. According to a CNN poll, 60 percent of Americans thought Obama had paid more attention to the problems faced by banks and other financial institutions than to the problems faced by middle class Americans. Only 28 percent, barely more than a quarter, thought he had paid more attention to the middle class. As Brown surged ahead of Coakley in the polls, the White House temporarily embraced a populist approach. On January 14, Obama called the bank bonuses obscene and said, we want our money back. In a January 22 speech at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio (a far cry from Georgetown), Obama used the word fighting 13 times and fight nine times. I will not stop fighting for you, he declared. But, faced with a falling stock market and anger from Wall Street, Obama once again turned conciliatory. On February 10, he said that he didnt begrudge the $17 million bonus awarded to Dimon and the $9 million to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. I know both guys. They are very savvy businessmen.

If Obamas politics leads to a Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress, and even to a Republican president in 2012, then much of what Obama has accomplished could be undone. Its unlikely that a new Republican president and Congress would actually repeal the health care or the financial reform bill. But the former could be starved of public funds and deprived of regulatory oversight; and the latter could be neutered by a hostile treasury secretary and by weak or hostile presidential appointees to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Reform legislation needs administrations and congresses committed to reform. That is where politics has to come in; and thats where the Obama administration, with its aversion to populism, has fallen short.

Read the thoughtful and well written full article at:

http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/magazine/76972/obam...



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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:51 PM
Response to Original message
1. Sad but true -- if only one could have faith such articles would be "wake up calls"
...for this administration.

But only GOP electoral victories seem to serve as "wake up calls" for the DLC, and as we know, not even then...
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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Over the past few months the administration has received a ton of "wake up calls".

And all of us read the White House response to those calls.



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GCP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 03:49 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. Nothing's going to wake them up
Until he's history in 2012.
What a huge disappointment he's been as a leader and champion of the working and middle classes.
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OHdem10 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. Give the people a choice of a REAL Republican and a Fake Republican
and they will choose the Real Thing everytime---Harry S.Truman, Pres. USA
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IndianaJoe Donating Member (664 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:54 PM
Response to Original message
3. Good article. And Gibbs wonders why so many Lefties
have so little enthusiasm for him. No fire, no fight. Too much of a wuss about confronting important problems. Compromising instead of twisting arms or dangling carrots. There's no LBJ in Obama.
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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. The writer explains President Obama's aversion to confrontation

"Why has the White House failed to convince the public that it is fighting effectively on its behalf? The principal culprit is clearly Barack Obama. He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics. His aversion is strange because he was schooled in it, working as a community organizer in the 1980s, under the tutelage of activists who subscribed to teachings of the radical Saul Alinsky. But, when Obama departed for Harvard Law School in 1988, he left Alinsky and adversarial tactics behind.

The young lawyer who returned to Chicago and won a seat in the Illinois state Senate in 1996 practiced a very different style of politics. Obamas principal accomplishments in Springfield were bills restricting lobbying and requiring videotaping of confessions in potential death penalty cases. He was not a typical blue-collar, bread-and-butter Chicago Democrat, but the kind of good government liberal that represents the upscale districts of the city, seeing in politics a higher calling and ill at ease with (although not in open opposition to) the citys Democratic machine. He was also a post-racial politician who eschewed the hard-edged, angry rhetoric of Jesse Jackson. (That, too, is oddly reminiscent of Carter, who partly campaigned in 1976 as the white Southern antidote to George Wallaces angry racial populism.)

Obama carried this outlook into the U.S. Senate, into his campaign for the presidency, and then, into the presidency itself. He is a cerebral, dispassionate, post-partisan; he wants to end the political strategy that has been based on division, to turn the page on the culture wars of the 1960s and the partisan battles of the 1990s. During the campaign, his aides jokingly referred to him as the black Jesus. While he can tolerate and even brush aside conflict, he is reluctant to actively foment it. In a time of crisis, we cant afford to govern out of anger, he declared in February 2009. During his campaign and his first year in office, he held to a blind faith in bipartisanship, even as the Republicans voted as a bloc against his legislation. He is, perhaps, ill-suited in these respects for an era of bruising political warfare.

His advisers have clearly reinforced these inclinations. In the campaign, they fashioned him as the outsider candidate of hope and change and have extended this strategy into the presidency itself. They see him as standing above party. In a meeting with congressional leaders last April, senior adviser David Axelrod rejected the complaint that Obama accorded equal blame to Democrats and Republicans with his descriptions of the cynical politics in Washington. Within the White House, top aides still speak of promoting the Obama brand. Organizing for America, the administrations campaign organization, which is supposed to be focusing on the 2010 elections, recently devoted its resources to organizing parties across the country to celebrate Obamas forty-ninth birthday."

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geek tragedy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:56 PM
Response to Original message
5. The aversion to populism and insistence that
everyone is in this together has been his biggest weakness. The nation needs a leader, not a mediator.
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Desertrose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Amen that! nt
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zipplewrath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 03:36 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. I get in trouble for this around here
Mostly because folks are paranoid of trolls and gop interlopers. But he has to stop thinking like a community organizer. He doesn't have to encourange people to come together. They willingly come to him. He needs to lead them when they are there.

There is a passage in his book about when Harold Washington visits the event Obama organizes. He tries to get folks to confront Washington and get promises for support. Instead, they are all star struck and looking for the photo op. Nobody gets a commitment out of Washington, but Washington gets what he needs out of them. Obama has to realize he's not the guy that doesn't have to be star struck anymore. He has to realize that he IS Washington at this point. He's the guy that can get what he needs and doesn't have to give up much to get it.
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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 05:42 PM
Response to Reply #5
15. Everyone is trying to scapegoat. Check out Dorgan's comment for example
Edited on Tue Aug-17-10 05:43 PM by ProSense
Retiring Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan told me, Most Americans were reading about the massive compensations and bailouts, and the administration largely hired people from the culture of Wall Street.


Well, guess what: Congress has a role to play, which most people seem to forget. Some Senators who voted for or against the original TARP changed their vote on the bill to end it

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, voted against the original TARP legislation in October while locked in a tight reelection race. With the election behind her and the next contest not for another six years, Landrieu voted with Obama to release the funds. Landrieu's vote sends a signal that she is likely to vote with Obama often during the first year of his administration, a helpful sign for the incoming president, who needs every Democratic vote from a red state that he can get. Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida also opposed the original TARP plan but voted with Obama this time around.

Obama also won six Republican votes: Sens. Lamar Alexander (TN), Jon Kyl (AZ.), Judd Gregg (NH), Richard Lugar (IN), Olympia Snowe (ME) and George Voinovich (OH).

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted to block the bailout funds, as did seven Democrats: Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Ron Wyden (OR), Ben Nelson (NE), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Evan Bayh (IN).

In what will likely be their final Senate votes, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton both voted against the resolution and with the president. In his first Senate vote, Roland Burris voted with his leadership, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, who had just last week been blocking him from taking his seat. Burris, Reid and Durbin chatted amiably on the floor and Durbin even polished Burris' senatorial pin for him.


Dorgan voted to continue it.






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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 03:20 PM
Response to Original message
8. Obamaism in a Nutshell
Judis has really nailed it.
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old mark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 03:59 PM
Response to Original message
11. Rec. Obama has been wasting time and effort and I believe he may soon run out of time
and the effort after January won't make much difference.

I believe we may have another Jimmy Carter here, and we needed another FDR.
Rec
mark
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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 04:47 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Well, so much for bi-partisanship. Why can't we all get along? Because the ....

rich have a gun to our heads and are robbing us blind!
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old mark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-18-10 12:12 AM
Response to Reply #12
18. Hard to have bipartisanship it only one side is doing it, huh? nt
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Yukari Yakumo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-18-10 01:59 AM
Response to Reply #11
19. That's the same conclusion I've reached
Started out with no support from the right.
Then proceeded to lose the left with pointless politicing to satisfy the right.
(Even though he had no real chance winning the right over.)

Forget about Obama = FDR or JFK. Obama = Carter 2.0

Unless the repubs choose a real winner (such as Palin), Obama is toast in 2012.
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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 04:59 PM
Response to Original message
13. What speculative nonsense
"The Unnecessary Fall"? When did he fall?

Politicians, such as Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, who found a way of using populisms appeal during downturns have enjoyed success, while those who have spurned it have suffered accordingly...

<...>

If Obamas politics leads to a Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress, and even to a Republican president in 2012, then much of what Obama has accomplished could be undone. Its unlikely that a new Republican president and Congress would actually repeal the health care or the financial reform bill. But the former could be starved of public funds and deprived of regulatory oversight; and the latter could be neutered by a hostile treasury secretary and by weak or hostile presidential appointees to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Reform legislation needs administrations and congresses committed to reform. That is where politics has to come in; and thats where the Obama administration, with its aversion to populism, has fallen short.


An entire article based on "if"?

What is the likelihood of Republicans taking over Congress:



Reagan lost seats in both mid-terms.


Obama is not Carter. Spin doesn't make it so. The Presidential election is two and a half years away.



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snot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
14. K&R'd; & NOT nonsense. The Fin. Reg. law is a Fall all by itself.
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FlyByNight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 07:05 PM
Response to Original message
16. "He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics."
To be fair, Obama's legislative accomplishments have been good overall. However, the fundamental power structures remain intact (probably as planned and very DLC-friendly) - HCR with no drug re-importation or public option, FinReg, current imperial military posture, etc. In addition, the administration was warned about an inadequate stimulus.

The Summers, Geithner and Emmanuel appointments have seriously done this administration harm as well. I believe they knew damn well about the breadth and depth of the recession; I believe they just didn't care (they're corporate whores and they have other bosses to serve other than the president).

I'm afraid the tenor of this administration can be wrapped up in one phrase: not bold enough.






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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-17-10 10:06 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. "not bold enough" Another way of putting it is saying we have a weak President.

People don't re-elect weak presidents and that's not what this recession/depression called for.
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