Obama Scapegoats His Own Voters

I was just going to write about how we should rally the troops to fight for strong progressives (as I did in this video), when Obama dragged me back into the fight between real progressives and the Obama administration. As Al Pacino said in Godfather III, every time I think I'm done with it, he keeps pulling me back in.

I don't want to bore you with the details of why they didn't fight for real change and how they accepted Washington exactly as it was  and made no effort to change its underlying structures and assumptions. We've been over it a million times. No, today the interesting part is why they brought up this old fight in the first place.

This was not a gaffe. It was not a slip about the "professional left" from someone who had grown frustrated. This was a coordinated strategy. Biden and Obama even used the same talking points. They hit their base for complaining and then both said it was time to "buck up." That's not an accident; that's planned.

One possibility is that they think yelling at their voters before an election is smart electoral politics. Accuse them of whining and taking their ball and going home. Treat them like children and maybe they'll comply? These are Democrats we're talking about so maybe they thought their voters would respond well to abuse. It is after all what Republicans have been using on Democratic politicians all of these years to great effect.

But I don't think that's it. That strategy is hardly inspiring and honestly I don't think I've ever seen a political party yell at their voters like this before an election. It's bizarre.

There is one other explanation. They think they're going to lose and they're setting up a scapegoat. It wasn't that they ran a bad campaign or that they didn't deliver on their promises - it was their ungrateful voters and the damned professional left. Actually, Washington reporters will love this. There is nothing they enjoy more than beating up on progressive activists and the Democratic base. This strategy is tailored made for the DC elite. They're going to eat it up!

But to what effect? Obama is so immersed in the DC bubble that he has forgotten the end goal. He is under the delusion that if he can just get the Washington media and politicians to like him everything will be fine. But that wasn't supposed to be the end goal. As a politician, you're supposed to get the voters to like you, not some DC media jerk.

I think they still believe that the DC media is a good proxy for the mood of the country. That is a stunning and inexcusable error. But they're so deep in, they can't even see that losing the election and winning over the DC establishment is not a win or a wash, that's a gigantic loss. Do you think making David Broder happy will win you the 2012 election?

Scapegoating the professional left might send the DC crowd into orgasmic seizures, but what does it do to win the country over? What does it do about unemployment? What does do about our rising insurance premiums (remember, the ones you said wouldn't rise)?

In a recent AP poll about the healthcare bill, people - by a 2-to-1 margin - said that it should have done more not less in reforming the system. That isn't the professional left, that's America. The progressive base is so much larger than the Tea Party clowns running around in Koch brother funded protests. Remember, those are the same progressives who got you elected in the first place.

So, you can shoot the messenger all you like but it isn't going to change the message. You didn't do too much government intervention as Fox News claims, you did too little. Too little to protect the average American, too little to help him or her get a job, too little to change the same old games in Washington.

Almost everyone in Washington is there because they succeeded in this broken, corrupt system. If you make them happy, you've probably done the exact opposite of what you were supposed to do.

What got you elected was the promise to throw those bums out on their asses not to cater to them. But if you like, you can take another cheap shot at the people trying to help you and see if that changes the polls. My guess is it won't. And then when you blame us again, the only people happy will be the ones in DC who hate change.

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Obama Scapegoats His Own Voters

I was just going to write about how we should rally the troops to fight for strong progressives (as I did in this video), when Obama dragged me back into the fight between real progressives and the Obama administration. As Al Pacino said in Godfather III, every time I think I'm done with it, he keeps pulling me back in.

I don't want to bore you with the details of why they didn't fight for real change and how they accepted Washington exactly as it was  and made no effort to change its underlying structures and assumptions. We've been over it a million times. No, today the interesting part is why they brought up this old fight in the first place.

This was not a gaffe. It was not a slip about the "professional left" from someone who had grown frustrated. This was a coordinated strategy. Biden and Obama even used the same talking points. They hit their base for complaining and then both said it was time to "buck up." That's not an accident; that's planned.

One possibility is that they think yelling at their voters before an election is smart electoral politics. Accuse them of whining and taking their ball and going home. Treat them like children and maybe they'll comply? These are Democrats we're talking about so maybe they thought their voters would respond well to abuse. It is after all what Republicans have been using on Democratic politicians all of these years to great effect.

But I don't think that's it. That strategy is hardly inspiring and honestly I don't think I've ever seen a political party yell at their voters like this before an election. It's bizarre.

There is one other explanation. They think they're going to lose and they're setting up a scapegoat. It wasn't that they ran a bad campaign or that they didn't deliver on their promises - it was their ungrateful voters and the damned professional left. Actually, Washington reporters will love this. There is nothing they enjoy more than beating up on progressive activists and the Democratic base. This strategy is tailored made for the DC elite. They're going to eat it up!

But to what effect? Obama is so immersed in the DC bubble that he has forgotten the end goal. He is under the delusion that if he can just get the Washington media and politicians to like him everything will be fine. But that wasn't supposed to be the end goal. As a politician, you're supposed to get the voters to like you, not some DC media jerk.

I think they still believe that the DC media is a good proxy for the mood of the country. That is a stunning and inexcusable error. But they're so deep in, they can't even see that losing the election and winning over the DC establishment is not a win or a wash, that's a gigantic loss. Do you think making David Broder happy will win you the 2012 election?

Scapegoating the professional left might send the DC crowd into orgasmic seizures, but what does it do to win the country over? What does it do about unemployment? What does do about our rising insurance premiums (remember, the ones you said wouldn't rise)?

In a recent AP poll about the healthcare bill, people - by a 2-to-1 margin - said that it should have done more not less in reforming the system. That isn't the professional left, that's America. The progressive base is so much larger than the Tea Party clowns running around in Koch brother funded protests. Remember, those are the same progressives who got you elected in the first place.

So, you can shoot the messenger all you like but it isn't going to change the message. You didn't do too much government intervention as Fox News claims, you did too little. Too little to protect the average American, too little to help him or her get a job, too little to change the same old games in Washington.

Almost everyone in Washington is there because they succeeded in this broken, corrupt system. If you make them happy, you've probably done the exact opposite of what you were supposed to do.

What got you elected was the promise to throw those bums out on their asses not to cater to them. But if you like, you can take another cheap shot at the people trying to help you and see if that changes the polls. My guess is it won't. And then when you blame us again, the only people happy will be the ones in DC who hate change.

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Why Does Barack Obama Love the Establishment So Much?

These are hopeful days. The four horsemen of the establishment look like they are leaving the White House. Peter Orszag, who apparently was the most conservative of them all (and who just lobbied for more tax cuts for the rich), has left his position as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Larry Summers is leaving his position as director of National Economic Council. Rahm Emanuel might be out by October. And Tim Geithner is also rumored to be leaving after the election.

There are hardly four Democrats in the whole country who were more pro-establishment, anti-change, pro-corporate power, pro-Wall Street than those four. I'm being literal. Bob Rubin might break into the top four, maybe Evan Bayh, maybe Harold Ford, Jr. But the four that are leaving the White House are undoubtedly in the top ten most corporate friendly Democrats in the country.

So, that leads to the question of why did Obama pick them in the first place? Why did the guy who promised to change the whole system bring in the guys who are most wedded to the system? Why does Barack Obama love the establishment so much?

This is no longer an academic question. In the words of President Obama, I don't want to look backward, I want to look forward. This is the time for hope. So, all of these guys are leaving and I am perfectly happy to let bygones be bygones. The real question is -- who is going to replace them?

Unfortunately, so far the answers aren't good. Jacob Lew has been nominated to be the head of the OMB. During his Senate hearings he said this about deregulation:

"[T]he problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation ... [I] personally [don't] know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don't believe that deregulation was the proximate cause."

That's crazy. Saying deregulation was not the proximate cause of the economic crash is like saying if you jump out of a building gravity will not be the proximate cause of your death. I've had many Republicans on our show that have admitted deregulating the banks so they could take enormous risk was not a good idea. Lew's position is beyond Republican.

Some might think that Lew is motivated to take that position by his former (and possible future) employer, Citigroup. They paid him millions of dollars when he was an executive there, including a $950,000 bonus after Citigroup got bailed out by taxpayer money. But I don't think Lew is driven by personal greed (though I don't know the man, I'm just giving him the benefit of the doubt). I think he is the product of his context. He lives in the Washington/Wall Street bubble. And inside that bubble, everybody gets rich off of deregulation and it makes perfect sense to them.

So, why does Obama keep insisting on hiring within that bubble? Now, we hear that Summers replacement is likely to be a corporate executive because Obama feels he has been criticized for being anti-business. That is unreal. How easy is this guy to manipulate? Or does he want to be manipulated in that direction?

Who is calling Obama anti-business? The same Wall Street guys who robbed us of billions (some would argue trillions) and want to do it again. Why on God's green earth would you continue to listen to those guys?

Yes, they have some lackeys in the establishment press, too. I'm sure Mark Halperin would write a blistering article if Obama dared to pick an actual progressive to fill any of these positions. But my God man, why in the world would you give a damn what Mark Halperin and his DC buddies think?

You're losing the whole American population while trying to cater to these clowns. Get your head out of ... the DC/NY bubble. The rest of the country doesn't think you're too tough on business; they think you haven't done enough to help them -- the middle class.

So, I ask this as an earnest question -- why is Barack Obama obsessed with appeasing the establishment? Was he being completely disingenuous when he ran on change? How could he possibly have thought that Larry Summers or the corporate executive who might replace him would bring us real change?

Look, I ask all of this not to complain or because I am part of the so-called "professional left" but because it matters to the very important decisions he is about to make.

For example, if he picked Howard Dean to replace Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, we would all know we were going in the right direction. Not because Dean is a panacea, but because it would mean that Obama is getting serious about change and taking on the power establishment.

You know Dean would stand up for the middle class. You know all of the political pundits in DC would hate him. Now, does anyone think Obama has the courage to defy Washington conventional wisdom and appoint Dean? That's what I thought. Even if you love Obama with all of your heart, you know he'd never have the guts to pick Dean. That would make Washington and New York very angry with him. And he hates that. He has to be loved by those guys. They're the ones in his bubble.

I ask all of these questions because I am desperate to figure out how we can get President Obama to deliver on the change he promised so we can finally deliver for the middle class in this country instead of the wealthy and powerful that surround the president in Washington. What makes him tick? How can we get him to fall out of love with the establishment? How can we get him to have the courage to govern like he ran for office -- with passion and conviction to help all of us instead of the Washington power elite?

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Gibbs is Wrong: It Isn't About the Professional Left

On Tuesday, Robert Gibbs made comments about the "professional left" being "crazy" for attacking Obama. Then he backpedaled away from those comments by saying, "I watch too much cable, I admit." If he was watching cable last week, this is what he might have seen:

Now, it looks like I'm attacking the president from the left since I say he should be more progressive. And I have written in the past about the value of doing just that. But the reality is that this isn't about left or right. That whole paradigm is wrong.

If I was more of a liberal, I might have been ecstatic about the 30 million new people that will have health insurance under Obama's reform. That's basically lower income people getting government subsidies.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at Obama for dragging his heels on fixing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But I know he's getting to that. As annoyingly political as his split the difference stances are on this issue and gay marriage (which he is comically opposed to), I can live with slow progress as long as we're on the right road.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at the amount of stimulus spending. They think it's way too low. I'm a real deficit hawk, so I'm torn on that issue.

This isn't about whether Obama is liberal enough. It's about whether he's actually going to challenge the system or just be a clog in it. The system is fundamentally corrupt. Our politicians and their staffs are bought by the highest bidder. They then use the government to funnel taxpayer money to the people who bought them. Conservatives are just as angry about that as liberals are.

So, that's why so many of us are mad that the president didn't fight for the public option. It wasn't that the public option is some sort of liberal magic cure-all. It's that it would have provided real competition to the private insurance companies. Instead Obama not only left the system exactly as it was, but instituted a mandate that would funnel even more people into the arms of those same companies.

The public option was a bellwether. It signaled which direction he was going in - and that turned out to be in a corporatist direction that leaves the system wholly unchanged.

We got more of the same when the drug companies got the same deal as they did under Bush - the government cannot negotiate prices with them and we cannot import drugs from other countries (i.e., another unnatural monopoly imposed by the government).

We got more of the same when the big banks got out of financial reform relatively unscathed. They're still too big to fail. They're still doing risky bets with taxpayer backed money. They're still in charge.

The large defense contractors are also just as large as they were before. Actually, they're bigger because Obama not only escalated the war in Afghanistan, but increased the already record breaking Bush budgets at the Pentagon. And the game remained the same.

Do you see a pattern here? Corporate and special interest money always wins out. That's what we're worried about! That is what we're challenging Obama on - because that is not the change we voted for.

I guess the president and his staff think they're clever because they played the same old Washington game a little better. I guess they think they couldn't have done any better. I guess they think that this is the best they could do given the state of Washington. But that's the whole point. We didn't elect them to accept the Washington status quo as reality. We elected them to challenge and ultimately change that reality. And it seems like, on that count, they didn't even try. That's what we're so disappointed by.

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