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You're making the 'Obama is teh genius!' argument - which seems to be popular with parts of the left in the US, but doesn't seem to have a lot of reality backing it up.

What could he have done?

He could have filled his cabinet with real progressives, not people like Rahm and Geithner.

He could have knocked DINO heads together to make it clear that he's the boss man and if DINOs don't support him, he won't support them come re-election time.

He could have maintained contact with the base, rather than alienating real progressives almost immediately.

He could have pressed for progressive judges throughout the judicial system, and progressive appointess throughout the US equivalent of the civil service.

He has always had plenty of options. But he hasn't done these things, because he's not interested in being a real progressive - he's interested in being everything to everyone to the extent that it furthers his career.

He could have taken a stand on torture, instead of confusing justice with PR.

How long a game do you think he's playing? Will you still be saying the same things in 2012 when nothing much has improved, and his prospects of a second term look slim to non-existent?

Here in the UK we've seen all of this before with the NuLab - which was based on throwing some pennies to the peasants, while keeping the bankers happy and fat, and larding it all with spin, lies and persuasive rhetoric to make it look far more populist than it really was.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:12:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankly, I do subscribe to the "Obama is a genius" theory. The bare facts support that.He ain't exactly a run of the mill politico, however much the purist idiots on the progressive uber alles left think.

There's a huge difference between pleasing all the left, which is impossible, and getting legislation passed.

You ignore the possibility that people with experience in the infighting in the financial system might have been waiting for a smart president like Obama to align with.

Consider that a lot has been done, and will be done, to whittle away the problems the progressives see.

Progressives are neither monolithic nor motivated by hatred, in my opinion. They're susceptible to motive, which is why I keep posting about Obama's motives and possibilities, rather than his inability to walk on executive water. I think as time goes by, and the details of the compromises are revealed, progressives, like you I assume, will begin to come off their purist high horses, and realize that good people can disagree on legislation and the governance of vast tribes.

Quick, hard moves to the left would possibly raise opposition. Do you concede that more opposition would slow the progressive agenda?

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
he's interested in being everything to everyone to the extent that it furthers his career.

I don't think that really applies to the US president - he has nowhere further to go in his career.

ormondotvos:

Frankly, I do subscribe to the "Obama is a genius" theory.

So do I: to get where he is with his colour he has to be.

He has now had a year to get his feet under the table. I think that the events of 2010 - as the next wave of the financial crisis sweeps in - will give him his chance to shine.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would not be so optimistic.. nor pessimistic. financial regulation is make or break for the US. From here, it looks like this has been is unique, big, humongous blunder... but I could be wrong. We will see what the senate passes. The House bill is a very good bill for a first round of regulation.. but would the Senate bill be better than the House bill (like the Health care bill), and if not that much, when we will have the second round of regulation?

Do we really need a second financial crisis?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Dec 23rd, 2009 at 01:48:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Raise opposition from whom?

In this case, the only possible opposition that matters would come from other Democrats.

Yes, of course moving to the Left would arouse opposition. But dealing with opposition is exactly the measure of a politician.

You define leadership not by being clever and making meaningless speeches but by leading - which means setting an agenda, and controlling what people are talking about, what they're spending their time on, and how much attention they're paying to you and what you value. Leadership means facing down challenges and imposing your will on the values of a country.

On that measure, Obama is an epic failure. He's dithered about financial reform, he's dithered about health care, he's dithered about the morality of wiretapping and torture. He could have transformed the US with an epic green revolution, reined in the finance industry, ended a pointless war, and restored pre-Bush moral values. He has done none of these things, and his actions prove that he's more interested in supporting the rightward shift than in promoting any kind of progressive renaissance.

Bush was more successful as a politician, because although his values were loathesome, you always knew what he stood for.

Obama isn't a leader, he's a PR machine. His job is to fill media space with platitudes and promises, while making it possible for business to continue with as little change as possible.

Some minor concessions to the voters who supported him will happen along, but the reality is that Obama isn't really interested in what his popular supporters think, feel, or want.

And in the final irony it's John McCain, not Obama, who's promoting new legislation to return finance to pre-Glass-Steagall conditions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:20:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"controlling what people are talking about"

R U Serious? Have you heard of the noise machine? Tea Baggers? Fox News?

When the competition is between the rational/progressive, and appeals to fear, guess which wins?

You might recall McCain was for Social Security buy-in, until it actually came to a vote. You fool easy.

I'm really uninterested in assignations of intent, what you think is a candidate's motivation. We all have our private evaluations. I think Obama means well and is smart, and is doing the best he can.  I'll continue to think so absent real evidence this isn't true.

I've seen some good things happen that are inconceivable under Rethugs. That's what people forget. I've been watching politics since 1948.

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by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:19:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm completely serious.

You're not understanding the difference between ends and means. The teabaggers aren't successful, because outside of the Fox camp, no one takes them seriously.

The difference between that and the Bush years is that after 9/11 almost everyone on board with the anti-trrrism message.

That's very poor leadership pragmatically - anti-trrism is a crock, and always has been, even if you take 9/11 into account. But politically, it was hugely successful, and immensely influential.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:40:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What?! You're saying that paying attention to public fear of terrorists is incompetent politics?

No one takes teabaggers seriously?

Best polling I know indicates that Republicans intend to vote 2010 at TWICE the percentage Democrats do.

In my math, two to one beats five to three.

The Dems need to energize their base, and sniping ain't the answer.

Donate to Wikipedia!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:49:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I understand correctly, TBG says that fear of terrorism was always irrational, but Bush used it in an efficient way to grab and hold leadership. Obama has not used his bully pulpit nearly as effectively.

ormondotvos:

Best polling I know indicates that Republicans intend to vote 2010 at TWICE the percentage Democrats do.

In my math, two to one beats five to three.

Last time I saw on of these at FiveThirtyEight it was because Democrats intended to stay home.

ormondotvos:

The Dems need to energize their base, and sniping ain't the answer.

As this is a european site, arguments about what can be discussed or not based on what effect that discussion has on the base of the democratic party rarely works here. We feel as free to snipe at Obama as at Medvedev.

But I agree that the Dems do need to energize their voters, and preferably also the potential voters in the about 50% that do not vote in federal elections. I would think they could do that by political leadership, and preferably also by showing clear political results.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 04:54:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but once again, there's the legislature, and its deals, and the corporate lobbyists and THEIR legislators, the party system, with its allocation of funds, and then, way down the list, the voters who can probably be disregarded because at the least little violation of their single issue will sit on their hands.

Progressive politics is about personal freedom, which seems to imply "me first" politics, which progressives are fond of tagging the conservatives with.

Funny thing, the conservatives think the same way, "me first" about money and family, but nonetheless other-directed in the sense they think about region and nation.

"'Tis a puzzlement..."

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 08:22:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ormondotvos:
Yes, but once again, there's the legislature, and its deals, and the corporate lobbyists and THEIR legislators, the party system, with its allocation of funds, and then, way down the list, the voters who can probably be disregarded because at the least little violation of their single issue will sit on their hands.

I would say it is the voter that is loyally voting for the same party no matter how many times their interests get run over that can be safely disregarded.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 04:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Leadership means facing down challenges and imposing your will on the values of a country.

Imposition smacks of dictatorship to me.

In order to be a leader, Obama has to have a government willing and able to be led. This he does not and never will have because Congress and Senate are with a couple of honourable exceptions bought and paid for.

Having said that, with his powers of rhetoric, he could appeal directly to the people, but only if he has a narrative capable of stimulating them to force the politicians to follow him. Such a narrative still evades him.

ThatBritGuy:

He's dithered about financial reform, he's dithered about health care, he's dithered about the morality of wiretapping and torture. He could have transformed the US with an epic green revolution, reined in the finance industry, ended a pointless war, and restored pre-Bush moral values.

I agree that he could and should have acted in relation to wire-tapping and torture and begun to roll back the Bush era moral values. But in all other areas he is entirely a prisoner of the financial system, and only the conclusive final discrediting of the system - which I believe will not be long in coming - can release him from those shackles.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's dictatorship if you use violence to impose your will. That's certainly one option, but it's not a very Western one.

And there's no reason why you can't impose your will for the benefit of the weak and disenfranchised. Chavez is a bruiser and an unsavoury character, but this seems to be an interest of his, at least in part.

As for finance - of course finance is more politically successful than the electorate, precisely because the corporates and Wall St have been able to force their will on everyone else, in spite of popular sentiment.

Obama could have changed this. It would have taken immense courage, but he could potentially have enacted provisions that would either have neutered Wall St, or - more subtly and most likely more effectively - moved the focus back to small business and direct community/government funding relationships, bypassing Wall St altogether, and then delivering a knock-out once the industry was marginalised.

Obama could have left Goldman Sachs to rot, and put the TARP money directly into the economy, or into smaller banks. It would have been dramatic, messy, risky and challenging, but it wouldn't have been impossible - even with a paid-for legislature.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:51:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TGB
Obama could have changed this. It would have taken immense courage, but he could potentially have enacted provisions that would either have neutered Wall St, or - more subtly and most likely more effectively - moved the focus back to small business and direct community/government funding relationships, bypassing Wall St altogether, and then delivering a knock-out once the industry was marginalised.

Obama could have left Goldman Sachs to rot, and put the TARP money directly into the economy, or into smaller banks. It would have been dramatic, messy, risky and challenging, but it wouldn't have been impossible - even with a paid-for legislature.


EXACTLY! Had he started on Jan 21 and moved vigorously I doubt that the Dow would have dropped more than another thou below its March lows but GS, JPM, Citi, WF, BofA, AIG would be dismembered and the hit would have been to those who caused the mess, including foreign banks and the governments who indulged them by allowing CDSs on junk to suffice for reserve capital. Valuations of "assets" would have been marked to some believable reality, unpayable debt would have been written down and the basis for a real recovery would  be in place by now, whereas what we have now is a bogus recovery courtesy of the Fed, the Treasury and the regulators and the manipulation of markets by the TBTFs. It is great for the executives of the TBTFs but a disaster for everyone else.

Had Obama slaughtered the TBTFs he would be a folk hero of mythic porportions, would almost be assured increased majorities in the House and Senate and re-election in '12. By defending the status quo he is sinking in quicksand. He might not be looking to further his career, but he damn well better be concerned with his position in history. His only real accomplishments to date are to be the first black president, to insure the survival of a predatory financial sector for another year and to push through a revision of health care that is so flawed that it may further damage the economy.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 11:14:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really don't think that Obama had control of the levers of power in a way that enabled him to take such radical action so precipitately.

And I hate to say this, ARG, but at best it would just have kicked the can down the road. It may have cut the debt burden, but it would have done nothing to redistribute wealth (ie productive assets) and nothing to make the population more creditworthy. The system is terminally fucked IMHO whichever way you look at it. Nothing deficit-based works in the medium and long term.

What we will shortly see is that all of the remedies prescribed by these voodoo economists fail. And they must be seen to fail. No-one may be able to say to Obama - as they would do when the action that you recommend fails, too - that it's because voodoo economics was not tried.

I think that in the next few months we will definitively see the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.

This will be Obama's challenge, and opportunity.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 02:04:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...I really don't think that Obama had control of the levers of power in a way that enabled him to take such radical action so precipitately.

And I hate to say this, ARG, but at best it would just have kicked the can down the road. It may have cut the debt burden, but it would have done nothing to redistribute wealth...


The Secretary of the Treasury is his appointee and, had he chosen a better one, things could have gone differently. He might not have accomplished wealth redistribution FROM financial elites, but he could have stopped pointless continuing wealth distribution TO these same elites and he could have demanded that they cease all lobbying and provide massive returns to the public if they survive.

How much could have been done may be open to argument. That he did NOTHING to reform the system during the biggest crisis in 80 years is not open to argument.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 05:00:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All Obama HAS done is to kick the can down the road and undermine his own legitimacy. Bush would have had no problem seizing the authority do do what ever he wanted but he was clueless and chose to let Paulson do whatever he wanted in the interest of GS.

I think that in the next few months we will definitively see the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.

I too am anticipating another big down leg.  The current situation is so unstable it is almost certain to blow. If Obama then steps up and does the right thing, I will be happy to applaud him at that time. But I expect that he will only take the minimum actions that he can and will do everything to protect the very institutions that have to be destroyed in order for the economy to survive. I am fucking sick and tired of waiting for Obama.  It is turning into Wating for Godot.

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 05:15:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
I expect that he will only take the minimum actions that he can and will do everything to protect the very institutions that have to be destroyed in order for the economy to survive.

I don't think it's necessary to destroy the old to create the new. In fact, I think that the new is already beginning to create itself in the most extraordinary way.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 07:15:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"We" didn't quite give Obama enough power, with failing to get sixty solid votes on progressive issues. He's not a dictator, he's an executive. He has a veto, but the bills have to get to him to sign.

The sheer power of the lobbies arrayed against him is impressive. It may not impress Obama, but it impresses those who still have to get elected in 2010 and 2012.

It's a chicken and egg problem. Obama says vote for my progressive bills and my coattails will carry you to victory. But right now it's a t-shirt. And politicians are notoriously uninterested in promises and hope because their job is lying and hope.

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by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 08:31:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would substitute dither for "humengous blundered" financial reform,  diter onthe oraliy of torture but ending torture in the US Empire for the firt time ever..

and regarding Health care.. well, here I disagree. Obama has been more than impressive, he has been brilliant on Health Care. The agreement with pharma, the basic structure of the law, the approach to the problem, the approach to congress. The US will have a universal health care system...and this will make/fix the rest (as Krugman puts it).. even pharma.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Dec 23rd, 2009 at 01:56:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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