Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Actor and comedian Andy Cobb, who used to be the spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, has teamed up with Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films project “Sick for Profit” to produce a new ad in favor of health care reform. In the ad, Cobb calls himself a former “spokesjerk” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and says that his job was to “sell you the worst product in American history: private health insurance.” Cobb calls attention to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for his significant contributions from the health care industry, and asks him to vote in favor of health care legislation with a public option. Watch it:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Now, this is not an effort to boost Books Sales. I just figured that anyone who actually took the time to read Audacity of Hope (first published in 2006) wouldn't at all be surprised by the Barack Obama that is now the President of the United States.
Yet, we're suffering through a week long Woodstock of Misery, fearturing (frankly) whiny Liberals bitching and moaning about all that could have been with the Obama Administration.
And again, stop with the "One Year in..." crap. He was elected one year ago today. He didn't actually gain Executive authority until January 20th. Last I checked, we Liberals actually liked the Constitution. Skipping the fact of it now, for the sake of a week of bullshit stories seems a bit hypocritical.
In thinking about all this, I am reminded of two things. One is from a speech the future-President gave in Powder Springs, GA:
"You're not going to agree with me on 100 percent of what I think, but don't assume that if I don't agree with you on something that it must be because I'm doing that politically," he said. "I may just disagree with you."
And of course, the statement he made on Page 11 of Audacity of Hope (apparently, Arianna and most of the Huffington inteligentsia stopped reading on Page 10).
I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not ail, of them. Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme to this book-namely, how I, or anybody in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments.
I write all this because, I read a piece by John McQuaid in the Huffington Post today (as well as Bob Cesca, who's a reliable contributor).
Mr. McQuaid (and Mr. Cesca, too, I'd bet), actually read Audacity of Hope past page 10:
As Jon Stewart put it, "so when does 'hope' turn into 'change'?" As Arianna points out, we still don't know. To any outside observer it sure looks like Obama has lost his campaign mojo and gotten crushed in the whinging gears of Washington's political apparatus. But I'm not so sure.
I've been in Washington since the early 1990s. During that time, let's face it: very little happened. Well, that's not quite right: a lot of things happened, many of them consequential. There was a presidential impeachment, a government shutdown, and several military campaigns and wars. But when you get right down to it, what did all that mean in terms of the way the government ran and its basic priorities? Very little.
The basic structure of American politics -- the array of interest groups and party structures, the government's basic assumptions about what was politically possible and desirable -- didn't change much at all. Mainly, well, it got stupider. Media coverage got stupider. Electoral politics got stupider. And, especially during the Bush administration, government itself got stupider, or at least prone to spectacular breakdowns. With the assent and encouragement of the White House, large swaths of the federal government became hostage to narrow-minded interest groups of one kind or another that simply didn't have a stake in making it work.
Meanwhile, the world was changing. Fast. Big problems such as global warming and collateralized debt obligations emerged. They were catastrophic and just plain weird, and they didn't fit any of our usual political paradigms. When the government can't respond effectively to the real world, it's going to pile one disaster on another.
Obama clearly recognized this problem -- a government adrift in a revolutionary age, with all its constituent parts hardwired to stay that way -- and set out to change it.
But there was never going to be a revolution. Obama ran on change, but he also made clear that he is a centrist and an institutionalist. He believes in making things work, in practical results -- not in blowing things up and starting from scratch.
As a result, the poetry of the Obama campaign has been transformed into the software users manual of the Obama White House.
This is not to deride the software manual approach. Most of the work of actually reforming government is a) politically very, very hard and b) not especially inspiring or even interesting to the media or the public. That includes big stuff like guiding health care reform through Congress. Or lower-profile stuff like staffing scientific agencies with scientists rather than hacks. At every turn, there are obstacles large and small that have been in place for decades and can't easily be dislodged.
So I'm willing to cut Obama some slack. I think his approach is substantive where those of some of his immediate predecessors were variously incremental, empty or dangerous.
But Obama's problems are more than merely rhetorical. (Tom Friedman's suggestion for a lofty thematic fix, "Nation Building at Home," even if basically correct, was politically suicidal as slogans go.) I'm still wondering: Can someone who is temperamentally conservative and pragmatic, and who clearly doesn't relish political combat, ever make truly revolutionary changes? Or in our system, is this the only kind of president who can? That's the riddle we're all facing right now.
UPDATE: 1:24pm. Read Cesca's piece, and it's all right. I'm not a fan of "blame Rahm" ideology, and I wasn't comfortable with him even coming close to agreeing with Arianna (which he did), but hell...it's his piece.
But it's also hard to ignore when he lets his ego get in the way of the facts, which in my mind, he has a tendency to do:
Thus, I offer Kos's take on last night's elections:
This is a base problem, and this is what Democrats better take from tonight:
1. If you abandon Democratic principles in a bid for unnecessary "bipartisanship", you will lose votes.
2. If you water down reform in favor of Blue Dogs and their corporate benefactors, you will lose votes.
3. If you forget why you were elected -- health care, financial services, energy policy and immigration reform -- you will lose votes.
Wow. While there's something to that in general, in reality, for this particular election...ehhhh, not so much.
1. Despite the "Republican Wave", and Democrats "abandoning their principles", the night wasn't a total disaster for Democrats. Besides the House victories (see below), we held onto Mayorships in the South that were supposed to go to Republicans in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Washington State passed Marriage Equality for Gay-Americans. Washington State and Maine both THUMPED Tea-Bagger favored Tax Resolutions, and the New Jersey Legislature managed to stay Democratic despite the Christie win.
Granted, these are small wins, but considering how animated the Glenn Beck crowd was, particularly in the "Obama-ain't-from-here" South, these wins shouldn't be discounted.
And you'll note the source for No. 1. Yeah, it was the Daily Kos.
2. And somehow in this "Republican Wave", the House Democrats snared themselves two more votes for Health Care, as both new Congressmen favor the House Legislation.
3. And sorry, Kos...I know you got a line to push, but exit polls are showing that Obama (of whom you were clearly speaking) was not a factor in either of the Virginia or New Jersey races.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Okay, um...Math geniuses? The President was sworn in on January 20th (remember the Chief Justice flubbed the oath? A bunch of people with purple tickets -- sorry, Lonnee -- were stuck in the tunnel of doom? Me and Heidi were watching the parade from the comfort -- and warmth -- of my living room?)
Today is November 3rd.
Nevertheless, we are starting a process that is sure to be repeated three months from now...grading the President's first year in office.
Well, I'm going to ignore Arianna's bull@#$% column. It is the firm position of this blog that people who run for Office (as Arianna has), and wind up with .55% of the vote (as Arianna did) don't get to give Political advice to anybody, much less someone who figured out how to elect the first African-American guy President of the United States.
It is the stated mission of this blog to explain to people the "whys" of President Obama's decisions. I knew going in that he was going to take fire from the Right, but I also kinda knew it was going to come from the Left as well...and boy has it ever.
Thus, I leave you with two articles that are must-read, perspective-builders. The first is from Obama '08 Campaign Manager David Plouffe, who (as politely as possible) tells Arianna to stick it:
Frustration about the pace of change, even disagreement on select issues, of course is understandable. But stepping back a bit, as those of us in the Obama orbit have learned to do, reveals an administration that already has made a significant down payment on the change so many fought for last year. I remain confident in the president's unique ability not just to lead us through the many challenges and crises of the moment, but also to accomplish the tough, smart, long-term projects of energy and health care reform -- problems that Washington has long ignored but that will secure a more equitable and prosperous future for all Americans.
Arianna Huffington has written much that I agree with. But when it comes to her opinion on the president and his record so far, or her suggestion that there is some great difference between the president and the candidate, I have to register the strongest possible dissent. A year after our historic victory, I have never been more certain that Barack Obama is uniquely suited to lead the country at this unparalleled moment. His values; his ability and desire to think long term; his determination to avoid the easy road of political expedience and to rebuild trust between the American people and their government -- these are exactly what American needs right now. As on any journey, there will be twists and turns, ups and downs. But the change so many of us fought for so passionately last year is becoming a reality in front of our eyes, if we focus squarely enough to see it. And when the decisions he is making today finally resolve into a complete picture years down the road, we will find ourselves living in a stronger, fairer, and more prosperous America. And we will cherish the small part all of us played in electing this unique leader, a man befitting this critical moment in our history.
But there's another one from a guy named Dylan Loewe, who's a contributor to the Guardian Newspaper in London. He too had a very effective piece in today's Huffington Post, this time all-too-politely telling my fellow Liberals (and Arianna by default) to stick it:
What Arianna calls timidity, I call patience.
Campaigning is not the same as governing. In 2007 and 2008, Obama never needed Congressional approval for the executive decisions his campaign made. He never had to worry about securing Joe Lieberman's vote. Governing is more complex, certainly less pure, and noticeably more incremental than most of us would hope. But in American government, even in the midst of revolutionary progressive change, things take time.
It was the same way, by the way, with the Obama campaign. Judging Obama's presidency based on his first 9 months in office is like judging his campaign based on its first five. During that time, as Arianna notes in her column, Obama had difficulty connecting with voters and often felt that the campaign lacked the mojo he had hoped for. He was choppy in debates, often disappointing supporters and worrying campaign aides. And for months and months he trailed Hillary Clinton by double digits, causing such turmoil among his fans that he found himself surrounded by donors and top-tier supporters begging that he change course.
But he didn't change course, despite those who demanded it. He took the long view, saw the road to victory, and never took his eye off that ball.
In that sense, Obama has governed just as he campaigned. Despite calls for him to change strategy by those on the left, including many on this site, Obama has held steady to the strategy he and his team first envisioned.
Dylan also has this interesting bit about Triggers. Now, I still think they're worthless, but:
And of course, there is health care reform, which should pass by the end of this year, and will likely cover 95% of Americans. Any objective observer should consider such a feat to be the biggest domestic legislative accomplishment since Medicare in 1965.
There are those who will complain, as Arianna has, that Obama is more concerned with courting Olympia Snowe's vote than with providing the most progressive policy possible to the American people. But at this point, it's not clear that is what he's doing. We do hear that privately, the White House is pushing for a triggered public option, which would most likely earn Snowe's vote. But I have a hard time believing that winning Snowe's vote is the only reason the White House is pushing for a trigger.
The robust public option that Nancy Pelosi promised would be in the House bill just a week ago is so horribly watered down now that it will actually have higher premiums than private insurance. With higher premiums, there is no way that the public option will actually do anything to control costs. But many on the left would rather the symbolic victory than the policy victory. They would prefer a public option of no real value then a trigger that might have some teeth.
The White House surely must recognize that they are more likely to get a robust public option in the bill, one which will have the intended effect of reducing costs, if they tie it to a trigger. And if the left would stop criticizing the trigger and instead start pushing to define it as a progressive one, the best of both worlds could come to fruition. After all, a trigger that would require insurance companies to reduce costs over the next five years, or else risk a public option tied to Medicare rates, is more likely to actually reduce costs than the one in the current House bill. Does the White House want Olympia Snowe's support? Of course they do. (Let's not forget that that same campaign Arianna is such a fan of was big on bipartisanship.) But in this instance, it may well be that the best policy is aligned with bipartisanship - a true rarity in Washington.