Obama administration

Update, April 4, Obama’s choice of 2012 election campaign manager is a further notice of his preference for corporate plutocracy, as opposed to any sort of mumbling about hope and the like which is a dim memory fallen on hard times.

LSW wishes to update its Obama administration page and will uses an article, “Obama and the Republicans”, by Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books.

A few salient points from the article (LSW must admit that Drew’s articles are the source of reading enjoyment as well as a source of non-partisan insights):

In his efforts again win the independent vote after wining it in 2008 and losing it in 2010, Obama has moved to take over Republican ideologies, such as the notion that government is too big, it is unwieldly, regulations prevent job creation and that deficits can be fought using spending cuts as opposed to tax increases. He has already taken aim at a favorite Republican target, federal workers, and implemented a wage freeze for the folks toiling away in government innards. (LSW is not sure why the mavens of Wall Street have not been targeted given that they destroyed the U.S. and its future much more effectively than have federal workers or that bearded dude in the cave ‘over there’). But that typical Obama.

He has in addition argued that federal spending should be frozen for five years, thus making clear that he considers the Great Recession over, and the country no longer in need of stimulus measures. Nonetheless, Obama’s call for more spending on infrastructure projects was lauded by both the notoriously right-wing Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO in a joint statement.

In response to criticism, even by insiders, that his White House was not working properly, was out of touch and not framing its messages in an effective way, he undertook a retooling.

The abrasive (LSW’s word, based on mentions here and elsewhere that Emanuel did not exactly express himself diplomatically) is replaced by William Daley who was valued not so much for his business contacts (as LSW writes below) as his background and contacts in politics and government service and his long list of contacts.

Dailey seems to be the ‘grownup’ that some said was missing in a White House previously filled with high flyers sometimes striking out on their own.

Drew points out that while some have said the new White House appointees signal a more business-friendly Obama, he has never been a flaming liberal, more a pragmatic left of center pol. LSW, not an expert, nonetheless would position Obama in liberal Republican territory. But LSW is an amateur.

Drew cites some polling that might indicate that the 2010 elections did not signal the rightward drift of the country that is usually assumed. The Republicans and the tea bags may overestimate their footing in the electorate and lose ground.

The Tea Party, “driving the Congressional leadership crazy”, may challenge Republicans in primaries while the conservative demand for spending cuts would entail getting rid of the Park Service and the FBI. Actions which may not delight all the voters.

The administration would like to aid business expansion (thus the proposal to cut corporate tax rates), make the place more appealing for foreign investment and get business to spend more the 2.2 trillion piling up in corporate safes.

Drew raises an interesting personality aspect:

“Obama has a worrisome tendency to seem eager to appease those who bring sustained open pressure on him, as the military brass did before he decided to send more troops to Afghanistan. Moreover, in the last election, Wall Street’s and other business donations had shifted notably from the Democrats to the Republicans. Speaking of the administration’s frantic overtures to business, a prominent Republican lobbyist says, “This is about raw politics. The Democrats saw the business community shift its donations dramatically to the Republicans.””

The White House and Congressional Democrats are working on a more “coherent” messaging strategy in which Obama remains above the fray while congressional Dems say things like they are desirous of cooperation across the aisle while allowing the Republicans and tea bags to distance themselves from the U.S. electorate.

Republicans can easily allow their swaggering ideological blindness to push them into a gulch. For example, Drew notes that the Obama administration was smart enough to implement popular parts of the much maligned health care reform, such allowing children to stay on their parents’ policy until they turn 26 and then asking Republicans if they wanted to repeal this part (LSW assume this was done without an accompanying shout of ‘Gotcha’).

Drew also points out that while the tea bags may not like the health care reform, health insurance companies certainly like the new business presented them by forced enrolment of everyone in health care plans.

They have instructed their lobbyists to make sure that regulations don’t effect changes that will take a whack out of their profits.

Other interesting points include a take on Paul Ryan, the 41 year old rising Republican star, framed by a comment made to Drew that in Washington articulateness is often mistake for brilliance. His basic views, Drew says, are too radical for even Republicans and would privatize Social Security, replace Medicare with vouchers and redo the tax code so that the middle class pays more taxes than the rich.

Drew also notes that while Obama is often blamed with bloating the budget deficit, the deficit was already on its way to the moon as a result of Bush administration choices, such as two unfunded wars, two unpaid for tax cuts, unpaid for prescription drug program as well as the effect of the recession and the costs to arrest it (TARP etc.)

She ends the article noting that in private talks the leaders of both parties have agreed on the need to reach bipartisan agreement and a Grand Bargain regarding the budget, replete with agreement on tax reform and deficit reduction actions.

LSW will enjoy watching the maneuverings heading on toward 2912.

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As 2011 energes into daylight, LSW is updating this Obama administration page. To begin with, new appointees, followed by the appointment of GE chairman as top economic chairman:

With new appointees President Obama makes it official and (more or less) proclaims his status as a Republican.

President Obama appointed JPMorgan Exec William Daley to be his chief of staff and former Goldman Sachs consultant Gene Sperling to head the National Economic Council. and GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt to be top economic advisor. Immelt will keep his job with GE which to LSW’s way of thinking, is preposterous, if not somehow illegal.

General perspectives on the U.S. political scene after the 2010 elections from Perspectives on Arizona shootings, Obama, Republicans plus plus:

The country is in an enormous mess: unemployment is ‘down’ to 9.4% because many people have given up finding work and are thus not counted as looking for work, 50 million have homes under water or lost in foreclosure, 40% will end up under the poverty line at some time in a 10 year period.

What will the Republicans do about that? They say they will improve the economy by dealing with the deficit, cutting programs (that help people?). Will people accept that, prevent unemployment benefits extensions, prevent building roads, programs that might help them find work?

It is up to Dems to make sure battles are not over window dressing (cutting funding to regulatory agencies which while important to avoid can amount to so much kabuki theatre as positions are established for the 2012 elections). But rumors are going around that Obama will in the state of union speech provide at least tacit approval for suggestions made by his deficit cutting commission. Social Security and Medicare may be threatened, by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

Will the Democrats look to extend the age of retirement and cut benefits as a way of fixing a non-existent Social Security problem with the ultimate goal to privatize Social Security? Will they look to make Medicare healthy (and fix the nation’s debt problem) by reducing health care costs and taking on Big Pharm and doctors?

The idea that you can cut spending without going after the military is nonsense. The tea bags may well battle traditional Republicans. Will they stick to their positions, Ron and tea bags when confronted by traditional Republicans looking to bring the pork back to their districts as they always had done? The Republicans are not a block, tea bags don’t like Republican Party leaders.

Will the Republican House be obstructionist? But Obama has signalled he will play ball with the Republicans and Sperling and Daley, radical free traders, with Nafta and deregulation on their conscience, are evidence.

Obama may not be obstructed but in league with the Republicans or simply just a Republican. 2012 Presidential race may just be theatre. At the end of the day Obama will ally with the Republicans and look to solve the country’s problems by obsessing on deficits and free trade, and abandoning a lot of the New Deal

Don’t blame immigrants or the Chinese for our problems. We have a one party system for the most part composed of corporate politicians with a few politicians genuinely concerned for the citizens and the country’s future. LSW would again like to urge President Obama switch parties.

2010 Updates:

  • Obama administration’s treatment of its own nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Councel
  • The Kagan Supreme Court nomination
  • Great example of Obama’s political thinking. the compromises and ends of the new START treaty . December 2010

Making good use of the darkness which emanated from the incompetent, criminal, sadistic, unconstitutional, ‘i am the decider, you’re either with us or against us” Bush administration, the Obama campaign created an image of the candidate as intelligent, willing to compromise, desirous of negotiations as conflict resolution, and agent of some unspecified change. One was able to project on to the figure what one wished.

There is a tension between the wishes projected onto the president and the actions undertaken by the Obama administration.

Some are satisfied with a president who is intelligent and reasonable and personable. Some are disappointed by the lack of change exhibited in the administration’s actions.

As a measure of ‘change, LSW posits the distance between Bush actions/nornmal U.S. policies (Republican or Democrat) and the actions of the Obama administration.

Appointees:

Larry Summers, current national economic council director, was was Secretary of the Treasury for the last year and a half of the Clinton Administration. “Summers, along with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Arthur Levitt, Fed Chairman Greenspan, and Secretary Rubin, torpedoed an effort to regulate the derivatives that many blame for bringing the financial market down in Fall 2008.” clipped from Summers, along with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Arthur Levitt, Fed Chairman Greenspan, and Secretary Rubin, torpedoed an effort to regulate the derivatives that many blame for bringing the financial market down in Fall 2008.” Clipped from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers#Summers.27_role_in_the_deregulation_of_derivatives_contracts

No change from politics as usual.

Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Representative of business as usual

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, Bush II secretary of Defense. Does not represent a change from either Bush/Cheney nor from politics as usual.
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Judicial matters
The nomination for the next Supreme Court justice to fill Justice John Paul Steven’s place. A NY Times article can serve as a starting point in the effort to assess the choice of the nominee in terms of the Obama’s place in the U.S. political landscape.

Merrick B. Garland,, seen as a safe choice in terms of avoiding confrontation with the Republicans. ‘an appeals court judge here, is well liked by elite legal advocates’, well liked by conservatives.

Elena Kagan, solicitor general but never a judge and has not left a trail of judicial decisions or scholarly utterances. ‘But as the dean of Harvard Law School, she earned respect across ideological lines by bringing in several high-profile conservative professors, and she is a favorite among some in the extended Obama circle, who see her as smart and capable.’ Her views are not well known and there is some wariness (f.eg. Greenwald interviewed on Democracy Now being expressed.

Diane P. Wood, liberal federal appeals court judge ‘a progressive voice on a court that is home to several heavyweight conservative intellectuals.’ Strong supporter of abortion rights. Might easily arouse the dander of the Republicans.

Then again, a different person may be chosen as the nominee. Stay tuned.
And the choice is made.

The Obama handling of its own nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel indicates that it does not intend to stray from the judicial path laid out by the Bush/Cheney administration. A rather sobering and depressing recognition but it makes one wonder why Obama chose to nominate Johnsen to begin with only to, evidently, change his mind. Like other issues, Obama’s first tendency seems to be in a so-called progressive direction only to change course under way back towards the center or to the right. One can wonder who exactly is making decisions in the Obama administration.

Financial crisis
Can be looked at through the perspective of what should be in financial reform legislation.

From baselinescenario.com, “If the White House continues down the path of endorsing reform while not really pushing for meaningful change, the financial reform conversation will become increasingly uncomfortable for them.

Passing a bill that contains mostly mush is not a good idea – it would only further the perception (and the reality) that this administration is far too close to certain “savvy businessmen” on Wall Street.

The coming legislative debate will clearly divide people into “for” and “against” our massive global banks that have so manifestly gone bad. For the last time: Which side does the president really want to be on?”

LSW finds it difficult to ascertain a big difference between the Obama administration’sactions (Obama’s words on the need for financial reform are as usual groovy) and the Bush adminstration’s pandering to the rich and mighty on Wall Street. The Obama rhetoric indicates comprehension of the issues at stake, but the actions until now indicate either a lack of will or a lack of capacity.

Obama’s military
NATO kills four Afghan civilians in what is now known as Obama’s war.
Obama’s new START treaty