American Samizdat

Monday, December 15, 2008. *

Yet another edition of Good Obama, Bad Obama.

Booman has some positive things to say about Obama. (I'm personally excited about his appointment of Chu for energy...he's a for real alt fuels scientist....)

These are all solid progressive picks and none of them are white dudes. I think this points out the folly of thinking that we, who have received no applications and have done no vetting, can make the best selections for important administration jobs. Other than Carol Browner, I didn't know who any of these people were until I read their biographies tonight. Are they going to be capable administrators? I don't know. How could I? But they all appear to be solid on the issues and to have sterling qualifications. They're not big donor flunkies or political appointments.

I know there are some obvious limitations to the idea that you can or should just trust the Obama administration, but I learned repeatedly over the course of Obama's presidential campaign that he deserved my trust because he and his team consistently made decisions that were better than anything I had been able to dream up. I do trust him. I'm not going to lecture you about how you ought to trust him, too, but I think you should look at what he is not doing.

He is not filling his administration with donors and lobbyists and concessions to different political constituencies. His cabinet is amazingly diverse, but he hasn't made a single pick just to pay someone off or to satisfy some interest group. His picks are all qualified, and many of them are well positioned to get things done.

I would definitely have made different picks, but I just can't argue against the way Obama is staffing up with incredibly competent people that are willing to implement his campaign promises.

Yes, I'm happy with these picks.

Makes sense. Now the bad news: what's happened in the last two years is that the republican filibuster stopped pretty much everything progressive that the dems wanted to do. We got 700 billion for rich fat cats, possibly 2 trillion unaccounted for by the fed, but nothing for the autoworkers. I'm trying to figure out how Obama beats this or whether he even wants to. Here's a key: don't let Bush spend the remaining half of that 700 billion. There's no plausible reason why they should. I mean, if it's that hard to get a lousy 15 billion, come on....Firedoglake puts it best:

As much as I think Dubya is the worst president of all time and can't wait to be rid of him, he was damn good at getting shit done. Sure, almost everything he got done was stupid and destructive and unpopular, but that just makes his "achievement" even more perversely impressive.

Remember after the 2004 election, when Bush declared that he had political capital and intended to spend it? That was not exactly a landslide victory, and his approval rating dipped below 50% immediately afterwards and stayed there. Republicans did not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And yet, Dubya was still able to bully and bluster Congress into giving him almost everything he wanted... even after the Democrats were in the majority!

Now compare that with Obama. As the Democratic nominee, he caved on telecom immunity, and was perfectly happy to push for the financial bailout without insisting on oversight. Now that he's the landslide president-elect chock full o' political capital, I don't see any evidence that he wants to spend it - at least not on the auto industry. Here's what Obama said before the bridge loan failed in the Senate:

The legislation in Congress right now is an important step in that direction and I'm hopeful that a final agreement will be reached this week.

And here's his statement after:

I am disappointed that the Senate could not reach agreement on a short-term plan for the auto industry. I share the frustration of so many about the decades of mismanagement in this industry that has helped deliver the current crisis. Those bad practices cannot be rewarded or continued. But I also know that millions of American jobs rely directly or indirectly on a viable auto industry, and that the beginnings of reform are at hand. The revival of our economy as a whole should not be a partisan issue. So I commend those in Congress as well as the Administration who tried valiantly to forge a compromise. My hope is that the Administration and the Congress will still find a way to give the industry the temporary assistance it needs while demanding the long-term restructuring that is absolutely required.

He sounds like an innocent bystander with no ability to influence the outcome, either as a senator or a president-elect. No cajoling, no arm-twisting, no deal-making, not even any of that if-we-don't-pass-this-immediately-America-will-be-destroyed rhetoric that Dubya deployed so effectively. He couldn't even persuade everyone in his own party to show up and vote the right way. (Okay, I'll give him a pass on Teddy, and Harry voted Nay for procedural reasons.)

As Ian points out, there are still ways that Obama can make this happen, and they don't all depend on congressional approval or being president. Let's see if he's willing to take action to avoid catastrophe, or if he's content to just wring his hands on the sidelines and hope that Dubya can make something good happen for once.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 11:55 PM
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