Friday, January 22, 2010

The Blame Game

There have been many progressive voices in and out of the blogosphere complaining about the Obama Administration as it relates to health care , the bank bailout, Afghanistan or the election in Massachusetts.

Bernard Avishai at TPM believes that the Massachussets voters, particularly the "undecideds" saw Coakley as being completely insincere.
I wish I had a bluefish dinner for every time Coakley referred to the health package as "not perfect." It all came out so forced and fake.
But his real gripe seems to be against the 'real' progressives and the Democratic party.
And we can look no further than Howard Dean, and MSNBC, and Arianna Huffington, and, yes, some columnists at the Times and bloggers here at TPM — you know, real progressives — who have lambasted Obama again and again since last March over arguable need-to-haves like the "public option," as if nobody else was listening. They've been thinking: "Oh, if only we ran things, how much more subtle would the legislation be," as if 41 senators add up to subtle. Meanwhile the undecideds are thinking: "Hell, if his own people think he's a sell-out and jerk, why should we support this?"
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones sees discontent with Obama from the left as being 'inevitable.'
The frustration on the left with Obama — and with healthcare reform specifically — was almost inevitable. During the campaign, a lot of people chose to see in him what they wanted to see, pushing to the back of their minds not just the obvious signs that Obama has always been a cautious, practical politician, but also the obvious compromises and pressures that are forced onto any president. It was a recipe for disappointment. The striking thing to me, though, is how fast the left has turned on him.
Did the mere image of Obama become the 'Hope" that he was selling. It wasn't only the right that labeled him a 'liberal.' It was also the left that really wished and hoped that Obama would become the 'liberal' President they were waiting for. In reality he was and is not as progressive as the right labels him to be and as the left wishes he would be.

Given the reality of the Obama presidency, Drum still feels we need to give President Obama a chance.

I've got all sorts of complaints about Obama. He's been weaker on civil liberties than I'd like. His approach to bank regulation has been far too friendly to financial interests. I'm not thrilled with his escalation in Afghanistan. He hasn't moved as quickly on gay rights as I hoped. And he hasn't used the bully pulpit nearly as effectively as I think he's capable of. He could afford to attack obstructionism and conservative retrenchment far more directly than he has.

Still, none of that comes within light years of providing a reason to turn on him. The national security community has tremendous influence; the financial lobby has a stranglehold on Congress; Obama told us explicitly during the campaign that he planned to escalate in Afghanistan; his caution on gay rights is quite likely smart politically; and he certainly gave us fair warning about his dedication to reaching across the aisle and trying to work with Republicans. The fact that they've spent his entire first year in a raging temper tantrum is hardly his fault. Given the cards he was dealt, he hasn't done badly. I think Andrew Sullivan — writing in his Dr. Jekyll persona — gets it about right here.

Obama is a liberal pragmatist in politics and a traditional conservative in his understanding of the presidency. Once you grasp this, his first year makes much more sense.

He has marshalled conservative constitutional norms - against the radical claims of Bush and Cheney with respect to the presidency - in defense of a liberal restoration of the importance of government. This has made for a frustrating year for those who want instant results - because he has often deferred to Congress; or those who want short-term tactical political coups - because he prefers strategy to tactics. But for anyone taking the long view, it is hard to see where Obama has really gone wrong. [...]

Did Obama make a mistake by sticking with his campaign pledge to reform and expand health insurance in such a perilous economic time? My view is: no. He crafted a compromise bill that would provide insurance to 30 million people, reduce the deficit, and bring the drug and insurance companies along. Such a result enraged the left, and sent the right into a tizzy of fury - but it will endure as the biggest social reform since Lyndon Johnson if it survives the Massachusetts special election. Did he err by allowing the Congress to take the lead? Well: the Clintons tried dictating to Congress and look how that turned out. No president has succeeded in this area before, in good times and bad. Obama got his reform in a year of economic crisis. The further you remove yourself from this, the more impressive the achievement is.

One interesting comment left by Anonymous to Drum's analysis of who's to blame, is also relevant in this discussion.

Mr. Drum reminds me of the Queen Alice in Wonderland: he gets everything reversed.

The problem isn't the Left, who have been totally ignored by the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership . . . the problem is the "centrists", who are little more than political whores always with their finger up in the air tracking the latest poll and focus group study results: the American people, completely disgusted with the behavior and failures of "centrist" Democrats, shouted a resounding "NO!!!!" to Obama and the DLC.

If the Democrats want to win, they have to earn a win. That means real change. That means principle. That means doing a U-turn from the "Turn Right" sign they have been following, and GO LEFT.

1. Mr. Obama has, for the most part, embraced or expanded Bush policies. He's a Democrat with a black skin and a white Wall Street soul.

2. Polls have shown, time and time again that Americans don't want this freak of a health care bill, which that mandates people are forced to buy products from the same insurance companies that are responsible for the miserable state of America's health care, they want a single payer system similar to other developed countries which has proven far superior to the present American system.

3. The American people don't want to escalate the war in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

4. The American people don't to bail out Wall Street and billionaire bankers.

5. The American people don't want political hacks like Rahm Emanuel and Wall Street crooks like Larry Summers and Bob Rubin controlling Obama administration policy.

6. The American people voted for real change, and they're sick of getting empty promises and Madison Avenue pabulum.

Where does the truth lie in all this analysis? Probably somewhere in between.

Prof. Robert P. Watson, Coordinator of American Studies, Lynn University, has put together two lists of accomplishments of President Obama that the media has not reported on. The first is a list of 90 accomplishments of Obama in the first six months of his presidency. The second is a list of 159 accomplishments in President Obama's first year.

Yes, Obama is a " liberal pragmatist in politics". It is true that Coakley ran her race for the MA Senate seat without fire in her belly. The Democrats bear some blame in not getting the Blue Dogs in line. The Blue Dogs should stop calling themselves Democrats and just become the Republicans they vote with. President Obama bears blame in not taking into consideration the progressive viewpoint on health care and the economy. The progressives bear some blame for not organizing and screaming as loud or louder than the right wing-nut pundits and birthers.

Now that the 'Blame Game' has been played. What will the next step be in order to piece this mess together?

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