Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid
For several days now I have been fighting the temptation to write about Senator Harry’s Reid’s despicable remarks on the floor of the United States Senate.
After all, he has already been called a “liar,” a “dirty liar,” and a “disgrace.” Jon Stewart called him “a really, really terrible person.” And his remarks have been called “outrageous,” “unfounded,” as well as “reckless and slanderous.”
But the more I read about what he said the clearer it became that the one person who couldn’t care less about what people called him was Harry Reid himself.
Yes, we all know that politics ain’t beanbag and that politicians can make sewer rats look good by comparison. But what kind of person can simply smile when he’s called such vile names? The word psychopath comes to mind.
If some drunk said what Harry Reid said in a bar, who cares? But this is the leader of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. And he made his remarks not in a bar, but on the floor of the Senate. That takes a really, really special person.
I can understand why, as the political hack that he is, he would want to change the subject from slow growth and high unemployment to Mitt Romney’s tax returns. I can also understand why he’d want to focus attention on anybody but himself since he’s the leader of a party that can’t pass a budget and keeps racking up deficits to the tune of more than $1 trillion a year.
And it’s a safe bet that Harry didn’t come up with this all by himself. He clearly was just the dim-witted front man for the Obama campaign. So far, not one of the president’s top political advisors has renounced Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated comments. And they’ve been given plenty of opportunity.
And shame on the president. You may recall that he’s the one who told us that he was going to change the tone in Washington and to lead us into a post-partisan better place. There’s a lesson here: Never trust a Chicago pol no matter how endearing his phony smile might be. There’s an old saying about how sincerity is the most important element in all relationships — and once you learn how to fake it, you have it made. It’s supposed to be funny; Barack Obama took the line to heart.
Senator Reid says he got his information from an “extremely credible source,” someone who had invested with Bain Capital, the firm Romney once ran. But how would such a person – if he or she even exists – know anything about Mitt Romney’s taxes? Journalists might want to ask Senator Reid about that.
As an editorial in the Wall Street Journal put it: “But without any proof, Mr. Reid’s accusations are a smear from the fever swamps that say more about Mr. Reid’s ethics than they do about Mr. Romney’s taxes.”
But then what should we really expect from Harry Reid. After all, here is a career politician who lives in the Ritz Carlton in Washington and has millions hidden in illegal offshore accounts – money he accrued from pimping prostitutes back home in Nevada.
I know this because “the word’s out” about it. Besides, an “extremely credible source” told me.
- Report: Harry Reid helps a Chinese solar firm represented by his son (twitchy.com)
- Harry Reid Is a Liar Trying to Save Barak Obama (itmakessenseblog.com)
- Hypocrisy: In Autobiography, Harry Reid Complained About False Mob Charges Against Him (rubinoworld.com)
- WH Sidesteps Reid Vs. Romney Tax Return Controversy (rollcall.com)
- Lindsey Graham: Harry Reid Is ‘Lying’ About Romney Not Paying Taxes (huffingtonpost.com)
- Harry Reid Is A Corrupt, Dirty Lying Suspected Pederast (riehlworldview.com)
- Cohen: Harry Reid is exactly what’s wrong with Washington; Update: WH distancing itself from Reid? (hotair.com)
- BEYOND THOSE PEDERASTY RUMORS: So, Seriously, How Did Harry Reid Get So Rich? “This isn’t another… (pjmedia.com)
Insider trading is illegal — except for members of Congress. A Wall Street executive who buys or sells stock based on insider information would face a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and quite possibly a federal prosecutor. But senators and congressmen are free to legally trade stock based on nonpublic information they have obtained through their official positions as elected officials — and they do so on a regular basis.
On Sunday night, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” looked into this form of “lawful graft.” The “60 Minutes” story exposed, among others, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for participating in a lucrative initial public offering from Visa in 2008 that was not available to the general public, just as a troublesome piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies began making its way through the House (the bill never made it to the floor). And it showed how during the 2008 financial crisis, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) — then-ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee — aggressively bought stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had received the day before from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
The report was based on an explosive new book by Peter Schweizer that will hit stores on Tuesday. It’s called “Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison.” (Full disclosure: Schweizer is a close friend, a former White House colleague and my business partner in a speechwriting firm, Oval Office Writers.
The “60 Minutes” story only scratches the surface of what Schweizer has uncovered. For example, Bachus was not the only member of Congress trading on nonpublic information during the financial crisis. On Sept. 16, 2008, Schweizer writes, Paulson and Bernanke held a “terrifying” closed-door meeting with congressional leaders. “The next day Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia, a member of the Appropriations Committee, dumped his shares in ninety different companies . . . [his] most active trading day of the year.”
Rep. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) and her husband “dumped between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citigroup stock the day after the briefing,” Schweizer writes, and “at least ten U.S. senators, including John Kerry, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Dick Durbin, traded stock or mutual funds related to the financial industry the following day.” Durbin, Schweizer says, “attended that September 16 briefing with Paulson and Bernanke. He sold off $73,715 in stock funds the next day. Following the next terrifying closed-door briefing, on September 18, he dumped another $42,000 in stock. By doing so, Durbin joined some colleagues in saving themselves from the sizable losses that less-connected investors would experience.” Some members even made gains on their trades, at a time when ordinary Americans without insider knowledge were seeing their life savings evaporate.
Schweizer also documents numerous examples of how members of Congress of both parties — including Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former House speaker Dennis Hastert — have used federal earmarks to enhance the value of their own real estate holdings. They have done so, Schweizer shows, by extending a light-rail mass transit line near their property, expanding an airport, cleaning up a nearby shoreline, building roads and bridges, and beautifying land and neighborhoods nearby — in each case “substantially increasing values and the net worth of our elected officials, courtesy of taxpayer money.”
Perhaps the most disturbing revelations come from Schweizer’s investigation into the Obama Energy Department and its infamous “green energy” loan guarantee and grant programs, a program Schweizer calls “the greatest — and most expensive — example of crony capitalism in American history.” The scandal surrounding Solyndra — the now-bankrupt, Obama-connected solar power company that received a federally guaranteed loan of $573 million — is well known. But Solyndra, Schweizer says, is only the tip of the iceberg. According to his research, at least 10 members of President Obama’s campaign finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting tax dollars from these programs. One chart in the book details how the 10 finance committee members collectively raised $457,834, and were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.4 billion — quite a return on their investment.
In the loan-guarantee program alone, Schweizer writes, “$16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers — individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.” That is a staggering 71 percent of the loan money.
Schweizer cites example after example of companies that received grants or loans and documents their financial connections to the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party. And he shows how “the [Energy] department’s loan and grant programs are run by partisans who were responsible for raising money during the Obama campaign from the same people who later came to seek government loans and grants.”
There is much, much more, which means that when Schweizer’s book hits stores Tuesday, heads in Washington are going to explode.
- Huge House majority backs insider trading ban (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- Throw Them All Out: An Interview with Peter Schweizer (fool.com)
- Throw Them All Out: An Interview with Peter Schweizer (dailyfinance.com)
Posted on January 21, 2012
Six House Democrats, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D’OH), have filed a bill aimed at controlling gasoline prices. Styled the “Gas Price Spike Act”, H.R. 3784 would establish a “Reasonable Profits Board” which would have the power to confiscate 100% of oil company profits above a level that they deem to be “reasonable”.
I know: “You had me at ‘Kucinich’.”
Kucinich is either a naive fool, a craven panderer to his electorate, or a throwback to Soviet-style central planning. That he could find five other elected nitwits (Reps. Woolsey, Langevin, Conyers, Fudge and Filyers) to put their names on such an anti-capitalist, unconstitutional fantasy is an indication that the Far Left Wing of the Democratic Party has left the ranch.
Consider, too, what it says about “Republican” presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who recently declared that he would consider Kucinich for a cabinet post in a Paul Administration.
Paul said his libertarian political philosophy helps him connect with some on the far left — including Kucinich, who shares Paul’s general anti-war stance.
Paul joked that if he brought the Ohio congressman aboard in his administration, he might have to create a “Department of Peace.”
“You’ve got to give credit to people who think,” he said.
The Gas Price Spike Act, H.R. 3784, would apply a windfall tax on the sale of oil and [natural] gas that ranges from 50 percent to 100 percent on all surplus earnings exceeding “a reasonable profit.” It would set up a Reasonable Profits Board made up of three presidential nominees that will serve three-year terms. Unlike other bills setting up advisory boards, the Reasonable Profits Board would not be made up of any nominees from Congress.
The bill would also seem to exclude industry representatives from the board, as it says members “shall have no financial interests in any of the businesses for which reasonable profits are determined by the Board.”
Oil companies would only be able to make less than a reasonable profit without penalty. Anything over 105% of reasonable would be taxed at 100%. Proceeds of the confiscation would be dedicated to tax credits for high-milage vehicle purchase and mass transit subsidies for the poor.
Peeling back the layers of stupidity in H.R. 3784 would be akin to peeling an artichoke. In the interest of time, I will cut to my central point.
Gasoline prices are at historically high prices. Despite the spike above $4.00 per gallon in 2008, you actually paid 10% more at the pump in 2011.
When we refer to the industry as “oil and gas”, we mean “oil and natural gas”, not oil and gasoline. All oil companies make a substantial fraction of their revenue — many more than half — from natural gas.
The price of natural gas has plunged to 10 year lows recently as a result of warm winter temperatures, slack industrial demand and burgeoning supplies.
Natural gas prices have fallen to levels that make it difficult to justify drilling for more. Many of the new supplies of gas that come on will be incidental to the successful search for oil.
I challenge anyone who believes that oil companies control the price of oil and gasoline to explain how they do it, and why they seemingly have no control of natural gas.
Cross-posted at RedState.com.
- House Dems Propose Board to Regulate Oil Company Profits (mikesright.wordpress.com)
James Taylor, Contributor
The Obama administration pulled off a rare trifecta this past week, demonstrating in three separate energy decisions how corruption and election manipulation are killing jobs and restricting the nation’s energy supply, but paying political dividends to our sitting president.
The first example of the administration putting its own political interests ahead of the interests of the nation occurred last Friday, when it announced that it would decline to make a decision on a proposed pipeline to carry oil from western Canada to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Keystone XL pipeline would put Americans to work building the pipeline, would create additional jobs along the Gulf Coast where the oil would be refined.
Predictably, environmental activist groups argued against the pipeline, asserting that we should be weaning ourselves off of oil rather than taking steps to make it more available and affordable. They also argued that the production of this particular oil, recovered from oil sands, imposed more environmental damage than oil produced from conventional deposits. China has nevertheless made it clear that if the United States chooses not to purchase the oil, it will, so a U.S. decision not to purchase the oil will do nothing to alleviate oil sands production, even if environmental activist claims against the process are to be believed.
After reviewing the proposal for several months, the Obama administration was scheduled to announce a decision this fall. Instead, the Administration announced last Friday it would wait until after the 2012 elections to decide.
All the facts have been studied and a decision is ripe for the making. So the question is, why the delay? The reason is obvious; a decision on the pipeline might hurt the president’s reelection campaign. Approve the pipeline and anger the president’s liberal base when he most needs its support. Scuttle the pipeline and Republicans have more ammunition to support their claims that the Obama administration is restricting energy supplies and killing jobs.
A major consequence of the Administration playing political games with the timing of its pipeline decision is that Canada could well decide not to wait around indefinitely for a fickle president to determine whether his personal political career is advanced by approving the pipeline. China will take the oil today and will be more than happy to sign a long-term contract for it. Friendship aside, the smart economic move is to secure a buyer when one can, and friendship only goes so far when billions of dollars of sales are at stake – especially when friendship appears to be only a one-way street right now as Obama unnecessarily leaves the Canadians hanging.
Moreover, the president’s political gamesmanship is keeping domestic oil prices high, and killing jobs. Even if the president announces a year from now that he will approve the pipeline (and even if the Canadians are still waiting around for our decision a year from now), the president will have needlessly prolonged unemployment. If approving the pipeline is the right thing to do, there is no reason other than political self-interest not to give the approval now.
The second example of the Obama administration putting its own political interests ahead of the interests of the nation came to light yesterday, when it was revealed that the Administration pressured Solyndra executives to delay layoffs that were planned for October 2010 until after the November 2010 midterm elections.
Solyndra was preparing to make necessary job cuts in light of its difficulty generating revenue. Rather than allow the company to immediately make a decision that would maximize its chances to eventually balance its books, Obama administration officials used their leverage to push Solyndra to delay necessary cost-saving measures. Delaying necessary cost-saving measures would harm the financial viability of the taxpayer supported company but would avoid an embarrassing news story for the president and his political allies on the eve of an election.
Solyndra indeed held off announcing its job cuts. On the morning after the 2010 midterm elections, Solyndra announced it would lay off 190 workers and close one of its factories. The Obama Energy Department rewarded it by thereafter giving the floundering company millions more taxpayer dollars even though its ultimate fate was by then readily apparent.
Again, as was the case with the Administration’s Keystone XL pipeline decision, the only reason for it to delay was for the president to gain a transitory political advantage. If layoffs needed to be made and a factory needed to be closed to improve the prospects of Solyndra’s survival, delaying such necessary action merely placed the company further at risk of going bankrupt. Despite the fact that these were taxpayer dollars with which the Obama administration was playing politics, it indeed chose to pressure Solyndra to delay implementing action that would have improved the chances of its survival.
Solyndra gave in to the Administration’s pressure and predictably went bankrupt soon thereafter. Solyndra executives will be bailed out in bankruptcy court (especially with taxpayer funded federal loan guarantees backing them up) and the Administration successfully avoided an embarrassing news story on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections. The only losers were the remaining 300 million Americans left on the financial hook for such corrupt political gamesmanship.
The third example of the Obama administration putting its own political interests ahead of the interests of the nation also came to light this week with advance excerpts of a book written by Peter Schweizer exposing how the Administration is abusing federal energy loan programs to pay off political donors. According to Schweizer, over 80 percent of the billions of dollars distributed under the federal stimulus 1705 Loan Program “went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party. The grant and guaranteed-loan recipients were early backers of Obama before he ran for president, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008.”
“Indeed, at least 10 members of Obama’s finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting your money,” Schweizer added. “At the same time, several politicians who supported Obama managed to strike gold by launching alternative-energy companies and obtaining grants.”
Under normal circumstances there would be a hefty political price to pay for deliberately obstructing an economically necessary pipeline merely for personal political gain, pressuring a company to make financial decisions that make the company more likely to take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars with it into bankruptcy, and using federal stimulus dollars to pay off political donors rather than maximize job creation. But government interfering with energy markets is now the rule rather than the exception, and where there is excess government power there is invariably government corruption. As our nation suffers an unnecessary and self-inflicted energy crisis, government corruption of the energy market has apparently become the “new normal.”
- White House Pressured Solyndra To Delay Layoffs Until After Midterm Elections? (outsidethebeltway.com)
- GOP says Energy Dept. tried to delay solar layoffs (sfgate.com)
- Can the Solyndra-Obama connection get more disgusting? Why yes. (ricrx.wordpress.com)
- The Annals of Crony Capitalism: Is Siga Technologies he New Solyndra? (reason.com)
Fuelling controversy: trucks carry tar sands from the Fort McMurray mine, Alberta
At first glance, it’s what the Americans call a no-brainer, a decision so obvious it doesn’t require an instant’s thought. You are the world’s biggest importer of oil, spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year to prop up unstable or downright hostile countries that happen to produce the precious stuff. Then your next-door neighbour, a proven friend and your biggest trading partner, offers to build a pipeline to provide you more of its own oil. The deal means greater energy security, not to mention thousands of new jobs, a year before you face a tricky re-election campaign in which high unemployment is likely to be the make-or-break issue. Truly, a no-brainer.
Except it hasn’t worked out that way. By the end of the year, the Obama administration is supposed to give final approval for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, that would carry up to a million barrels a day of oil, some 10 per cent of US import needs, from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The decision not only seems certain to split the Democratic Party, but it will also say a great deal about the core beliefs of a president who stands for so much – but, it often seems, for nothing very passionately.
For the oil that would flow through Keystone XL is not just any oil. It comes from the Alberta tar sands, which contain economically recoverable reserves equal at least to those of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, production from this super-heavy bitumen generates three times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil.
For the Republican candidates jostling to oppose Mr Obama next November, the latter consideration, of course, hardly applies. Climate change, they believe, has nothing to do with humans, while the venture is just the sort of bold private-sector investment that creates jobs and revitalises the economy: government should get out of the way and give business its head. Indeed, listen to Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and one of the frontrunners for the nomination, and you would imagine that America’s every woe could be solved by an oil derrick in everyone’s back garden.
For Democrats, however, Keystone XL is the wedge issue from hell. It pits two of Mr Obama’s key constituencies against each other. On one side are the unions, a major source of Democratic funding and a key grassroots organising force for the party, who naturally are unequivocally in favour of the pipeline because of the estimated 20,000 jobs it will generate.
On the other, however, stand environmentalists from the liberal wing of the party that most fervently backed Mr Obama in 2008, and whose enthusiasm will be sorely needed if he is to secure a second term. But environmentalists’ faith was heavily dented by the President’s decision in September to halt plans to impose more stringent clean-air standards – announced on 2 September, the very same day the government reported that no new jobs were created by the economy in the month of August.
A go-ahead for the pipeline would be portrayed by liberals as more evidence that, when push comes to shove, Barack Obama will yield to corporate clout. In recent days, the divisions have only deepened. More than 20 Democratic congressmen have written to the President urging him to support the scheme, but Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, warned that anything was preferable to increasing dependence on “unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil”.
Not so long ago, everything seemed plain sailing for Keystone XL. Because the pipeline crossed an international border, it fell to the State Department to judge its environmental impact. The Canadian government lobbied heavily for the project, and in November 2010, with memories of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill fresh, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State indicated that she was “inclined” to grant a permit. It was, she said, “a choice between “dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada”.
Then came the counter-attack, spurred in part by the verdict of the federal government’s own Environmental Protection Agency that the State Department’s review process was “inadequate”. Scientists and environmental groups, even farmers in South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, made common cause – the former warning that increased production from the tar sands would render futile all efforts to hold back climate change, the latter fearful that a pipeline leak could contaminate the shallow Ogallala aquifer on which the Great Plains depend for irrigation and drinking water.
By August, demonstrations were taking place outside the White House, and Hollywood was getting into the act. The crude from Alberta was ” the dirtiest oil on the planet”, Robert Redford declared, as he urged Mr Obama to “stand up for the future you know we deserve … and say ‘no’ to the Keystone XL”. Some noted that in 2007, none other than George W Bush had signed a law banning the government from buying fuel with a higher carbon footprint than ordinary oil. If tar-sand oil was too much even for the “Toxic Texan”, surely it was too much for Barack Obama?
There, for now, matters stand. The White House urges liberals not to lose faith, pleading with them to consider what evils might be visited upon the environment if a Republican won in 2012. The official mantra remains that the US must somehow end its addiction to oil, by switching to renewables and other “green” sources of energy.
But the much-publicised bankruptcy this summer of Solyndra, a solar panel company that had received $535m in federal loans, tells another story. The affair is not the political graft scandal some Republicans suggest, rather a well-meaning investment that failed. But the story of Solyndra only underlines how hard it will be to find a speedy alternative to oil.
In the short term, however, politicians must create an economy that generates jobs and wins them elections. And the two goals may well be irreconcilable. “To govern is to choose among disadvantages,” Charles de Gaulle once said. Barack Obama knows exactly what he meant.
- U.S. State Department Approves Keystone XL Pipeline (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Obama Hedging on Oil Sands Pipeline (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Keystone pipeline defended by U.S. senator (cbc.ca)
- Obama, Reject the Keystone Pipeline Proposal and Make Good on Your Campaign Promise to “End the Tyranny of Oil” (alternet.org)
- Indigenous Oil Sands Protest Leads to White House Arrests (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
The End of the Road
by PAUL STREET
On March 31, 1968, United States President Lyndon Baines Johnson told a national television audience that he would not seek and would not accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for another term in the White House. “When the address was over,” author Hampton Sides notes, “a euphoric Johnson leaped from his chair and bounded from Oval Office to be with family. ‘His air was that of a prisoner let free,’ the First Lady wrote: ‘We were all fifty pounds lighter and ever so much more lookin’ forward to the future’…The president described his mood this way: ‘I never felt so right about any decision in life.’”
Harassed and depressed by antiwar demonstrators, urban riots, rampaging youth, unruly professors and reporters, and a deadly colonial quagmire in Southeast Asia, Johnson felt that (as he later told historian Doris Goodwin) he “was being chased on all sides by a giant stampede coming at me from all directions.” And by Bobby Kennedy.
He wanted out. He left and it felt good.
Barack Obama might want to think about that happy moment experienced by an earlier failed Democratic president as he reflects on the revolting re-election season ahead. Along the way he should imagine a beautiful picture: he and his wife and two daughters relaxing on a beautiful beach on a sunny day in Hawaii on January 21 2013, one day a day after Mitt Romney, Rick Perry or Hillary Clinton is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president on January 20, 2013. As he looks out across the rolling waves of the blue Pacific, he takes a nice long drag on a cigarette he doesn’t feel compelled to hide from the press. Reflecting on all the “ideological extremists,” “unrealistic” zealots, “partisan dividers” and opportunists who criticized him in office, he can take comfort in the fact that “they won’t have Barack Obama to kick around anymore” an d in contemplating the many millions of dollars he will be slated to rake through future speaking, writing, and other fees.
What does Obama have to look forward to in the future if he insists on trying for a second term? The stalled profits system seems ready to double dip back into full technical recession (the human recession never stopped beneath the mild statistical recovery), fitting him with the same fatal yoke of economic powerlessness that deep-sixed Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and the first George (H.W) Bush’s hopes for second term. Unemployment remains sky high, contributing to a recent low in American history: the largest number U.S. citizens (46 million) ever recorded below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level. Obama’s job approval is at an all time low (43 percent), 7 points under his disapproval rating (50 percent). A preponderant majority of Americans say that the country is “on the wrong track.”
Four months after his empty, politically calculated execution and sea-dumping of Osama bin-Laden., Obama is widely perceived as weak and ineffective, as too eager to compromise with – and as incapable of standing up to – his (supposed) right-wing enemies. His party has recently lost two special House elections and one of those defeats came in a district Democrats had previously held for 88 years in a row. He has staked his future prospects on a highly flawed jobs bill – legislation that may well not pass the House and that is scaring off many conservative Democratic legislators. Most Americans think the bill won’t work.
The president is starting to look like the potential victim of a landslide in November of 2012. The Democratic base is widely disillusioned with him. Even many among his fake-progressive pseudo-liberal dead-end defenders sometimes squawk about his conservative corporatism and unwillingness to govern in accord with his idealistic campaign promises. Liberal and progressive Democratic elected officials in the House and Senate have been grumbling about his center-right proclivities for some time now. It is one thing to rightwardly triangulate on the backs of welfare mothers and declining unions in the mode of Bill Clinton; it is another thing to do so at the expense of the broadly popular programs Social Security and Medicare, all while passing on hyper-regressive Republican tax cuts for the obscenely rich and powerful.
After years of overexposure, the Obama brand has gone toxic to a degree that may well be terminal. Leading Democratic political consultant and media pundit James Carville recently offered a single word of advice for Obama: “PANIC.” According to Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and senior political strategist, “Democrats should be very nervous.” Unless Obama can somehow rally his party’s progressive base, Burton thinks, “it’s going to be impossible for the president to win.” But how is the deeply conservative Obama (accurately described in 1996 by Dr. Adolph Reed Jr. as “a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics”) going to do that in the middle of a center-right presidency hat has been a shining monument to the power of the United States’ “unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s term) and to John Dewey’s observation notion that American politics is “the shadow cast on society by big business”? Obama’s “liberal” defenders complain that he is checked in his supposedly progressive ambitions by the power of right wing congressional Republicans. But what did the nation get from their “liberal” president and the Democrats in his first year, when he enjoyed a clear and filibuster-proof Democratic majority in Congress? Expansion of the monumental bailout of hyper-opulent financial overlords, refusal to nationalize and cut down parasitic financial institutions, a health “reform” bill that only the big insurance and drug companies could love (consistent with Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to the president: “ignore the progressives”), an auto bailout deal that raided union pension funds and rewarded capital flight, the undermining of global carbon emission reduction efforts at Copenhagen, a refusal to advance serious public works programs (green or otherwise), the green-lighting of escalated strip mining and hazardous deepwater oil drilling, the disregarding of promises to labor and other popular constituencies (remember the Employee Free Choice Act?) and other betrayals of its “progressive base” (the other side of the coin of promises kept to its corporate sponsors), and the appointment of a Deficit Reduction Commission “headed [in economist Michael Hudson’s words] by avowed enemies of Social Security”
Along the way, the “new” White House escalated Superpower violence in South Asia, passed a record-setting “defense” (Empire) budget, rolled over George W. Bush’s not-so counter-terrorist assault on human rights (in the name of “freedom”), extended the imperial terror war to Yemen and Somalia, disguised escalated U.S. occupation of Haiti as humanitarian relief, aided and abetted a thuggish right wing coup in Honduras, and expanded the Pentagon’s reach in Columbia/Latin America – a fascinating record for the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It called progressives who dared to criticize these and other White House policies “fucking retard[s] (former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel) who require “drug testing” (former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs). Leftists and sincere liberals were accused of being “purists” who do not live in the real world, who make “the perfect the enemy of the good” and fail to grasp the necessity of “compromise” to “get things done.”
When Obama’s center-right corporate-imperial presidency yielded the predictable consequence of demobilizing the Democratic Party’s “progressive base” in the mid-term elections and thereby enabling an historic right wing sweep in Congress, the president quickly moved yet further to the business-friendly right like a hungry lion leaping on a faltering zebra. In the debt-ceiling fiasco last July and August (a preposterous drama he could have prevented), Obama ignored majority progressive opinion (as usual) and accepted the Republicans’ reactionary framework, according to which (i) the nation’s main imperative was deficit-reduction, not job creation and (ii) the way to reduce the deficit is to cut spending and attacking working people and the poor, not to raise taxes on business and the filthy rich.
Good luck “rallying the progressive base” with that sort of corporate-imperial track record and as the economy sours yet further!
It is possible, I suppose, that the Republicans’ nomination of the doltish Christian Dominionist, mass executioner and arch-plutocrat Rick Perry could activate enough of the Democrats’ base and scare enough moderates and independents to push Obama over the top in November, 2012.. But does Obama really want an encore? Second terms have not been kind to returning presidents. Think Watergate (Nixon), Iran-Contra (Reagan), the Monica Lewinsky impeachment (Clinton), Katrina, and the financial meltdown of 2008 (George Bush the Lesser). A second Obama term could well coincide with Republican control of both the House and the Senate. Obama can expect many of his administration’s top staffers to exit in droves, leaving the second string to finish out a truly lame-duck term, headed by a temporizing, boring, and distant figurehead to whom the populace has long been overexposed.
If he cared about his party, Obama would step down and give the nomination to Hillary Clinton, determined by a recent Bloomberg poll to be “the most popular national political figure in America today.” Ms. Clinton has distinct advantages over Obama in running against Perry or Mitt Romney in 2012. She is not a member of Congress, which has even lower popular approval than Obama. She is associated with economic prosperity thanks to the long neoliberal Clinton boom of the 1990s. And she carries a reputation for toughness, quite different from Obama’s emerging legacy as a 98-pound weakling who gets kicked around on the policy beach by bullies like John Boehner, Sean Hannity, and Eric Cantor. (For those of us on the radical left, a Hillary Clinton presidency might have the benefit of inducing at least some less confusion and tepidness among progressives than “the first black president.”)
My sense is that quitting is unthinkable for the current president. Obama is far too convinced of his own special qualities and qualifications for Mount Rushmore to seriously entertain standing down. Personalities and money and candidate brands have trumped traditional parties and party needs in U.S. politics for some time now. Obama’s narcissistic desire to be at the center of the action is too strong for him to seriously contemplate stepping down at the end of just one disastrous term. Relinquishing power would go against every grain of his being.
His campaign for a return engagement should be an especially nauseating chapter in the expression of what the still-left Christopher Hitchens once accurately described as “the essence of American politics….the manipulation of populism by elitism.” That was the basic nature of Obama’s 2007-08 campaign, of course. It’s going to be a harder and uglier sell this time around – a path worth not taking.
- Should Barack Obama pull a Lyndon Johnson? (capitolhillblue.com)
- Should Democrats Challenge Obama in a Presidential Primary? (usnews.com)
- Maybe we shouldn’t ask if Obama will quit … (hotair.com)
- Obama’s sharp return to the liberal left (capitolhillblue.com)