From the outside looking in and with the rosey glow of an FDR presidency to live up to it is easy to be disappointed in the Obama administration. I share some of that disappointment, but I also see the reality of a dysfunction senate and a media that either leans Right or loves over simplified narratives. This is the same media that managed to talk about Bill Clinton’s hummer for years and with the exception of a few journalists like Helen Thomas, gave Dubya’s rationales for invading Iraq very little scrutiny. As Glenn Greenwald has documented the structural problems with the Obama administration are real enough – Bush Lite – on national security and civil liberties. Note the Right does not criticize the continuance of many Bush era national security policies – they only start another round of shrill demonizing when he varies slightly from them. Still there is a lot to a presidency and Obama is not doing that bad on a progressive domestic agenda given circumstances beyond his control. Much of the problem seems to be perception and a case in which the wisdom of the crowd is influenced too much by being overly critical – Liberal Despair And the Cult Of The Presidency
To read through any number of thorough histories of the New Deal is to be struck not by the differences between Roosevelt (man of action) and Obama (pensive equivocator) but by the many consistencies in how politics actually unfolds in real time–the difficulties inherent in trying to effect change, the readiness to accept half a loaf, and the regular reassurances sent to the moneyed classes that the liberals hadn’t taken over the candy store. It’s worth noting, for example, that the second act to become law under the New Deal, after the Emergency Banking Act, which was a progressive piece of legislation, was a conservative bill, the Economy Act. It cut salaries of government employees and benefits to veterans, the latter by 15 percent. Arthur Schlesinger, in The Coming of the New Deal, writes that literally an hour after signing the banking act, Roosevelt outlined this bill to congressional leaders, saying the next day and sounding more than a little like some Robert Rubin progenitor had been whispering in his ear: “For three long years, the federal government has been on the road toward bankruptcy.” (And maybe one had: Schlesinger notes that Roosevelt’s budget director, Lewis Douglas, was certainly no Keynesian.) Just imagine Obama having tried something like that, alienating both veterans and AFSCME within a week of taking office. The Economy Act was opposed by many liberals in the House, so FDR turned to conservative Democrats and Republicans, who passed it. (Michael Tomasky from “Against Despair”)
[ ]…Rachel Maddow offered a perfect example of the phenomenon the other night. She delivered her fantasy version of the speech President Obama should have given. It was filled with unequivocal liberal rhetoric. I was struck by this portion, explaining how she would pass an energy bill:
The United States Senate will pass an energy bill. This year. The Senate version of the bill will not expand offshore drilling. The earlier targets in that bill for energy efficiency and for renewable energy-sources will be doubled or tripled.
If Senators use the filibuster to stop the bill, we will pass it by reconciliation, which still ensures a majority vote. If there are elements of the bill that cannot procedurally be passed by reconciliation, if those elements can be instituted by executive order, I will institute them by executive order.
In reality, you can’t pass any of the climate bill by reconciliation. Democrats didn’t write reconciliation instructions permitting them to do so, and very little of its could be passed through reconciliation, which only allows budgetary decisions. Maddow’s response is to pass the rest by executive order. But you can’t change those laws through executive order, either. That’s not how our system of government works, nor is it how our system should work.
If Maddow’s speech had to hew to the reality of Senate rules and the Constitution, she’d be left where Obama is: ineffectually pleading to get whatever she can get out of a Senate that has nowhere near enough votes to pass even a stripped-down cap and trade bill.
I love Rachel Maddow and that piece she did appealed to the part of me that likes a good liberal rant, but it was full of good thoughts and totally removed from reality. Much like many of the liberal attacks on Obama’s handling of the BP Gulf spill. To liberals’ credit at least they’re not manufacturing conspiracy theories about Obama and BP cooking up this disaster on purpose. That level of nut filled fantasy could only come from the Republican side of the aisle. It’s not like conservatism really stands for anything, all they seem to have is their crazed conspiracy of the day. Standards are a funny thing in American politics. Despite their head spinning convoluted outbreaks of insanity the Right always seems to get more of a break than Democrats – FLASHBACK: During Exxon Valdez disaster, President George H. W. Bush got a free pass from the press
The rather breathless Nightly News segment, with lots of what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it implications, perfectly captured the news media’s somewhat odd obsession, virtually from Day One of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, with making Obama a central figure, if not the responsible player, in the drama about an oil-industry catastrophe.
No, the government didn’t operate or own the rig. And oil giant BP was obviously the responsible party. Yet the press immediately focused in on Obama.
The knee-jerk interest in the Oval Office was especially odd when compared with how the same Beltway press corps went out of its way in 1989 to completely remove President George H. W. Bush’s role as a player in the Exxon Valdez environmental crisis. If you go back and look at the coverage, in the days following the first reports that the Exxon supertanker’s hull had ruptured on Bligh Reef, spilling more than 10 million gallons of oil into the pristine Prince William Sound…
President Obama had cabinet level officials in the Gulf on day one. G.H. W. Bush took five days to send top officials to Alaska. Bush was never the center of attention. No pundits left or right made over the top speeches about what magic words Bush should have said to make the boo-boo go away.
After BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward had expressed his contrition to members of Congress for the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a long-time friend of the oil industry, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), today issued an apology to Hayward for his harsh treatment at the hands of the White House.
Barton, speaking at a congressional hearing, called the $20 billion escrow account set up by BP to pay for claims related to the spill, a “shakedown” on the part of the Obama administration.
Barton was first elected to Congress in 1985. The people that complain the loudest – at least when a Democrat is president – about how government is broken, government doesn’t work and government is too beholden to special interests just keep electing representatives like Barton who see to it that government does not work for the average American. Barton probably would not claim that bail for a shop lifter was a shakedown, but demanding money from a company that has destroyed large segments of the economy of at least four states, that’s extortion. Once a again we all owe a debt of gratitude to a Republican that gave America a glimpse of the real values, the real thinking of the conservative movement: Corporations cannot commit crimes and any attempt to hold them accountable is a shakedown.