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The Obama administration-to-be: is it time for progressives to start worrying?

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 09:29 pm
Wrote a way too long blog post on Observationalism about this week's developments.

Here's an excerpt:

Quote:

[..]

Now that the first wave of confirmations about who will populate the new administration is coming in and outstanding business is being dealt with, [Jello] Biafra’s comments seem like an appropriate warning to dig up. There are a great many Clinton veterans being moved into place. There are a great many centrists being moved into place. The choices are persuasively defended as revealing an uncompromising emphasis on competence - at least that lesson is learnt from the Clinton-era failures. But are the only competent, experienced candidates out there really all centrists?

Most eye-catchingly, there’s Hillary herself, who will be the Secretary of State, it became clear today. That is to say, she doesn’t get to do a job reforming, say, health care, on which she stands to the left of Obama, but instead gets responsibility for foreign policy, on which she has been notably more hawkish than Obama. It was just in 2007 that foreign policy - Iraq, Iran - was at the very core of Obama’s fundamental push against the Hillary candidacy, but it seems long ago now.

Meanwhile, Tim Geithner seems like a very sharp mind and competent administrator, but you don’t need to want Dennis Kucinich in the Cabinet to wonder whether someone else wouldn’t have represented a more fundamentally critical revision of past economic policies. What about former Chief Economist at the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz? Also a Clinton-era veteran with tons of experience, but one who’s actually spent much of the last decade dissecting the substantive flaws of the 1990s economy and the prospects for systemic changes?

Wouldn’t it be reassuring if the names we recognize from the centrist wing of Clinton-era economic policy (Rubin c.s.) were at least balanced out by some explicitly liberal voices? James Galbraith perhaps, Robert Kuttner? If Obama wants to prove, as with appointing Hillary, that he can get beyond grudges easily and work with strong personalities, what about approaching Krugman? If Obama wants to showcase how big a tent, how heavy-weight a team of rivals he can shape together, what about appointing a prestigious progressive politician as well, someone like Russ Feingold?

Instead, some extremely troublesome names are being floated. Former National Counterrorism Center head John Brennan is apparently already recruiting a team he hopes to bring with him if he’s appointed the new head of the CIA. This is someone who, “in interviews since leaving the government, [..] has expressed support for the government’s rendition policy, [..] “enhanced” interrogation techniques and immunity for telecommunications companies involved in government spying efforts.”

For Agriculture, the choice is apparently between the bad (Vilsack) and the worse (Wolff, Stenholm, Peterson). For National Security Advisor, the bet of the day is on General Jim Jones, who is apparently best described as “non-partisan”, although he supported John McCain in the elections.

No wonder impatience is growing. “[A]t this point,” writes Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive, “progressives are getting absolutely nothing from Obama”. Chris Bowers at Open Left feels “incredibly frustrated“:

"Let’s say that all of the leading contenders for Obama’s national security team end up in his administration. This would give him a core foreign policy team of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Jim Jones, and Robert Gates. [..] All of them, with the possible exception of Jones, supported the Iraq war from the outset. At least two of them, Gates and Napolitano, opposed withdrawing troops as recently as 2007 [..]. [T]wo members of this group, Gates and Jones, supported McCain. [..]"

"Even after two landslide elections in a row, are our only governing options as a nation either all right-wing Republicans, or a centrist mixture of Democrats and Republicans? Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration? [..] It seems to me as though there is a team of rivals, except for the left, which is [..] being entirely left out of Obama’s major appointments so far."

Christopher Hayes at The Nation chimes in:

[..]


What do you think? Read more of it and comment there or here:

Red meat for the day… or: is it time to worry yet?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 12 • Views: 2,133 • Replies: 34

 
ossobuco
 
  4  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 09:37 pm
Obama was never as left as me, and none of this surprises me.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 09:44 pm
@nimh,
Start worrying? I was on the far side of worried about hmmm eight months ago.

As they say in the valley, ho hum pig's bum.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  0  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 11:59 pm
@nimh,
Your excerpting your blog?

How precious.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 10:21 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
It's a group blog - seven A2Kers established it a month or two ago, hence why you'll come across links like these. Craven set up the blog for us.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 10:34 am
there have been many words written this last week about Obama going to the center, written by idiots. It is nov 2008 HELLO, America no longer is affluent enough to indulge in the game of partisan politics. There are problems, and there are solutions, everything else is just conversation. Obama gets this. Many of the talking heads on media and at a2k have yet to smell the coffee and wake up.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 10:44 am
@nimh,
Not worried. Actually, I'm pleasantly surprised -- Obama does seem to be gathering the most competent people available for his cabinet.

Then again, I'm not a progressive by your definition, so there you go ....
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 11:10 am
@Thomas,
How are you defining progressive, nimh? Is that a replacement label for "liberal" or is it something else?

I'm not overly fond of some of these choices but since I don't have an alternative set of names that would make me happier I'm taking a wait and see attitude.
rabel22
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 11:29 am
I am not in the least surprised that he is a centrist. He is a Clinton democrat who had the good fortune to run for president after a republican religious, for the rich party that screwed the pooch for eight years. Obama like Bill Clinton is a republican lite. He is also the last democrat I wanted to see running for president. Krsenich, cant spell his name was my first choice because I wanted a real honest to god liberal after 30 years of republican business leaning politicians in office. The common citizen has four more years of bailing out big business to look forward to in the next four or eight years. We are so brainwashed by big business and business leaning politicians that we cant see the job they are doing on us. I guess we git what we vote for. I would like to bitch and I will even though I voted for Obama with reservations. Watching him develope his government with the same old politicians is painful.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 12:48 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Gotta agree with that.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 12:57 pm
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

How are you defining progressive, nimh? Is that a replacement label for "liberal" or is it something else?

Something else, ambiguous as the distinction admittedly is.

I gave this a stab earlier this year, so I wont just repeat myself, better just give the links: here and here.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:00 pm
@ehBeth,
Well I could just have doubleposted the whole thing in order to get your opinion, I suppose.

But cross-posting articles in full is not encouraged here - you're encouraged to instead just provide a summary or excerpt. Hence.

Guess you cant please everyone though.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:04 pm
If by not progressive enough you mean not hiring unknown, unproven, cloutless persons, to tackle the greatest crisis of our lifetime, well, what can I say? I want people who can get us back at least to the position we were in when Clinton was president. Get some stability before trying out anything else. I believe the Obama team will be our best hope of staying afloat, regardless of their political labels. I don't mean to say we were on totally the right track with Clinton, but, it is a good place to get back to and then seek real change when equilibrium is better.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:08 pm
@edgarblythe,
That's great. If you want results, don't pick a "Progressive" team, whatever that is.

By the way, I'm expecting good things from Clinton as Secretary of State, surprising as it may sound.

Edit: Sorry, Edgar. I misread your use of Clinton, here.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:09 pm
@edgarblythe,
America suffers from a lack of confidence in leadership, both political and economic. Americans lack cofidence in America, as does the world. The way to fix is is to start doing things well, to put smart people in charge of finding solutions, to put in place a team that is 180 degrees from Bush and his administration. Ideology might be helpful in getting to solutions, but it is not relevant in any other way. Works/does not work is the metric that matters, the only one that does.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:20 pm
@roger,
I am a liberal. But, the times call for forgetting all the idealism and getting the system to work. Then we can fight over right/left without being rats on a sinking ship.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:38 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

If by not progressive enough you mean not hiring unknown, unproven, cloutless persons, to tackle the greatest crisis of our lifetime, well, what can I say?

Um, no, that's not what I mean.

This is what I wrote, for example:

Quote:
Meanwhile, Tim Geithner seems like a very sharp mind and competent administrator, but you don’t need to want Dennis Kucinich in the Cabinet to wonder whether someone else wouldn’t have represented a more fundamentally critical revision of past economic policies. What about former Chief Economist at the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz? Also a Clinton-era veteran with tons of experience, but one who’s actually spent much of the last decade dissecting the substantive flaws of the 1990s economy and the prospects for systemic changes?

Wouldn’t it be reassuring if the names we recognize from the centrist wing of Clinton-era economic policy (Rubin c.s.) were at least balanced out by some explicitly liberal voices? James Galbraith perhaps, Robert Kuttner? If Obama wants to prove, as with appointing Hillary, that he can get beyond grudges easily and work with strong personalities, what about approaching Krugman? If Obama wants to showcase how big a tent, how heavy-weight a team of rivals he can shape together, what about appointing a prestigious progressive politician as well, someone like Russ Feingold?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:42 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:
The way to fix is is to start doing things well, to put smart people in charge of finding solutions, to put in place a team that is 180 degrees from Bush and his administration.

How would, for example, appointing Brennan the new head of the CIA be "180 degrees from Bush and his administration"? I mean, I may be jumping the gun here as nothing is certain yet, but even a name like that being floated at all is pretty disturbing. This is a man who approves of, and was involved in, establishing the practices of "extraordinary rendition" and "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:44 pm
Are there specific statements by Obama that label him a progressive? Other than calling for change?
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:57 pm
@edgarblythe,
Lemme outsource an answer on this one, as this struck me as something I was feeling myself but hadn't formed words for:

Quote:
I continue to consider this a basically weird choice. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did not have many policy disagreements during the primary. Most of their disagreements, including the fight over health care mandates, were minor. They were technical fights or political disputes rather than collisions of principle. The exception was foreign policy. Iraq was a real disagreement on the level of principle. The heated argument over negotiations with autocrats was similarly fundamental. Samantha Power wrote, and the Obama campaign released, a memo entitled "Conventional Wisdom vs. The Change We Need." It argued:

Quote:
It was Washington’s conventional wisdom that led us into the worst strategic blunder in the history of US foreign policy. The rush to invade Iraq was a position advocated by not only the Bush Administration, but also by editorial pages, the foreign policy establishment of both parties, and majorities in both houses of Congress. Those who opposed the war were often labeled weak, inexperienced, and even naïve. Barack Obama defied conventional wisdom and opposed invading Iraq. He did so at a time when some told him that doing so would doom his political future...Barack Obama was right; the conventional wisdom was wrong. And today, we see the consequences. Iraq is in chaos. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, the threat to our homeland from terrorist groups is “persistent and evolving.” Al-Qaeda has a safe-haven in Pakistan. Iran has only grown stronger and bolder. The American people are less safe because of a rash war...Barack Obama’s judgment is right. It is conventional wisdom that has to change.

Conventional wisdom, in this memo, was another way of saying "Hillary Clinton, her foreign policy advisers, and the people who agreed with her about things." And Obama just appointed her to the most important foreign policy position in the US government. She will have to carry out his overarching priorities, of course, but beneath that, she will have significant managerial autonomy, and considerable opportunity to use her judgment. The very judgment Obama oriented his campaign against. Which is not to say that this is a bad pick, or that Hillary Clinton will do a bad job. But it is a very sharp break with the Obama campaign's central message.


But it's not just foreign policy. You'll remember how Obama earned the ire of Bill Clinton early in the primary campaign when he repeatedly spoke of the need to put the country on a substantively different road of economic policy than it had been the last 30 years. He implied that the Clinton years were more of a pause in the conservative hold on economic policy than a break with it. And it's true: the Clinton years were years of welfare reform and deregulation. Obama spoke of a break with the whole era, and surrounded himself with advisors who had criticised the Clinton years from the left.
0 Replies
 
 

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