Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Obama Presidency is a Mirror; Gazing Into It Progressives have Become Despondent. Can We Change What It Reflects Before It is Smashed?

The Broken Bridge & the Dream (Salvador Dali)

The Obama Presidency is a Mirror; Gazing Into It Progressives have Become Despondent. Can We Change What It Reflects Before It is Smashed?

By Richard Power

The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings. George Monbiot, This Is Bigger Than Climate Change. It Is a Battle to Redefine Humanity, Guardian, 12-15-09

The US negotiators have squandered a tremendous amount of goodwill ... The US has lowered the bar and set goals so low, it's been destructive ... When chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing offers for the US to pay $1.5 billion to help with climate change and says, "the US only has so much largesse," Americans have no idea [how insulting this is to the rest of the world.] Naomi Klein: The Copenhagen Process Is Out Of Control, US Politicians Should Stay Home, Mass Arrests May Occur(VIDEO), Huffington Post, 12-15-09

Senate Democrats are requiring middle class families to give the proceeds of over a month of their work to a private corporation–one allowed to make 15% or maybe even 25% profit on the proceeds of their labor. It’s one thing to require a citizen to pay taxes–to pay into the commons. It’s another thing to require taxpayers to pay a private corporation, and to have up to 25% of that go to paying for luxuries like private jets and gyms for the company CEOs. Emptywheel, Health Care on the Road to Neo-Feudalism, 12-15-09

Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferous email backlash -- easily -- was this one from August, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it. Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 12-16-09

[NOTE: I speak out just as Cornel West has spoken out, with love, and for the man's protection, and for much more. There is a nation to be redeemed, and a planet to rescue. Many of us spent the 1990s defending Bill Clinton on all fronts. NAFTA and GATT? "Fix it later." Telecommunications Act of 1996? "Fix it later." "Welfare reform"? "Fix later." But later never came. It was stolen from us. Not this time. Dissent is the best ally that Barack Obama has, and we must speak out while there is still time. One point must be emphasized before I get into what I have to say: although, at this juncture, there is no appreciable difference between Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham, but there still is a profound difference between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin; just as there was a profound difference between Al Gore and George W, Bush in 200. And that is why the Shell-of-a-Man-Formerly-Known-as-Ralph-Nader has no more credibility today than he had in 2000, when he spent the last weekend of the race campaigning in Fraudida (where he garnered tens of thousands of votes more than the measly few that were falsely claimed as Bush's "margin of victory). The Shell-of-a-Man-Formerly-Known-as-Ralph-Nader spent that last weekend in Fraudida, saying was there was no difference at all between Gore and Bush. He has never recanted, and I doubt he ever will. Dissent is Obama's best ally. But the Shell-of-a-Man-Formerly-Known-as-Ralph-Nader does not offer dissent, he offers only duplicity. It is fitting that he should run against a Democrat to be Lieberman's junior Senator. Do not fall for his sophistry.]

The Obama Presidency is a Mirror; Gazing Into It Progressives have Become Despondent. Can We Change What It Reflects Before It is Smashed?

By Richard Power

Let us not talk falsely now," as the Bard sang, "the hour is getting late."

Why has Robert Gibbs lashed out at Howard Dean, whose 50 state strategy was a significant factor in the election of Barack Obama, instead of lashing out at Joe Lieberman, who campaigned for McCain-Palin?

Why does Rahm Emmanuel only twist left arms
instead of right arms within the Democratic Caucus?

Why does President Obama berate Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) instead of Rep. Stupak ("D"-MI)?

Meanwhile, there is crisis in Copenhagen.

The dominant political story of the day should be Al Gore, standing in Copenhagen, challenging the Obama administration, admonishing the activists in the streets, blasting the climate denialists, and daring both the developed world and the developing world to rise to the urgent demands of this critical moment. Copenhagen is the biggest story in the whole world, and Gore's speech is a vital element in the proceedings.

The former US vice-president, though among friends, was unsparing. He turned up the pressure on Barack Obama, calling on activists to press the White House and the Senate to pass a climate change law by the 30th anniversary of Earth day in late April.
"Join me in asking president Obama and the US Senate to set a deadline of 22 April for final action in the US Senate," he said. "I do not believe we can wait till next November or December."
The ultimatum to Obama was a departure for Gore who has been cautious of exerting too much pressure on the president, or causing him embarrassment.
He kept up the pace by calling for the international community to sign up to a fully fledged climate change treaty by July 2010 - and then announcing that Mexico was prepared to host a deal-making summit.
He scolded rich countries for demanding the developing world offer evidence of emissions cuts while at the same time trying to inflate the funds they were prepared to offer poor countries to deal with climate change ... But Gore also reprimanded rapidly emerging economies for balking at the idea of an international monitoring regime for emissions cuts ...
Gore was just as tough on activists who have embraced him as a hero, demanding they set aside their pride and their principles and embrace a deal - no matter how imperfect. Gore in Copenhagen: Favors Carbon Tax; Calls Deniers 'Reckless Fools,' Guardian, 12-16-09

Instead, we are all talking about Joe Lieberman.

So it's another not so small victory for the Chamber of Commerce.
Remember, the goal was to delay and obstruct healthcare so that there is no time or political will left for climate change legislation. Yes, good times for the energy giants, and the Wall Street bankers as well as the health insurance industry.

It should have been Barack Obama who stood up and rebuked those Senate Democrats seeking to sabotage meaningful healthcare reform; instead it is Howard Dean, who has taken a stand, with clarity and boldness, against their destructive influence on the Senate bill.

Following the jettisoning of both the public option and the Medicare buy-in provision, one of the nation's leading progressive voices on health care reportedly said Tuesday that the Senate bill is no longer worth supporting.
"This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate," former Gov. Howard Dean told political reporter Bob Kinzel of Vermont Public Radio. Kinzel relayed the news to The Plum Line's Greg Sargent, and the full VPR interview will air at 5:50 pm today.
"Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill," he said.
own as reconciliation, through which a bill can be passed with a 51-vote majority. Dean says kill the Senate health bill, Raw Story, 12-15-09

What Dean is doing is applying pressure. Pressure from the progressive side is what will save both healthcare reform and Barack Obama. There is still time.

Well, then let us get to the real issue.

Barack Obama was elected on the promise of "change." And only one year into the most massive clean-up in US political history, no one would expect breathtaking progress; but it is not the lack of results that disturbs progressives, it is the very direction that Obama has chosen on numerous critical issues that we find deeply disturbing.

Why are Bush's U.S. attorneys still in office?

Why has the conviction of Don Siegelman not been overturned?

Why has more blood and fortune been shipped off to that graveyard of empires known as Afghanistan?

Why are the architects of the financial meltdown in control of the recovery and reform in the aftermath of the meltdown? (Read Nomi Prins' 10 Reasons Bernanke Should Be Fired.)

Two of Obama's early moves deserve closer scrutiny.

Why did Obama choose Rick Warren, who had behaved so hatefully toward one of Obama's core constituencies, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration?

Was this a blessing or a curse?

Why did Obama attempt to name Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), a right-winger who has voted to abolish the Commerce Department, as his Secretary of Commerce?

What possible good could have come of such an appointment? (Yes, it would have been good to pick up that Senate seat, but Gregg boasted he had a promise that it would be filled by a Republican.)

What do these two perplexing moves tell us?

And remember all that saccharine nonsense from the likes of Joe Klein and Doris Kearns Goodwin about Obama wanting to model his Cabinet on Lincoln's Team of Rivals? Tell me, how come no high-profile "rivals" from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party were appointed to any of the senior positions in the White House or the Cabinet? No Dean, no Wes Clark, no RFK, Jr.

All very troubling.

The Obama presidency may yet yield "change you can believe in," but the odds are not as good as they were a year ago. And some of what was lost was squandered by Obama's very deliberate, very demonstrative efforts to define himself as a "New Democrat" in his deeds, if not his rhetoric.

Whether or not the true direction of Obama administration turns out to be more progressive in the end than it appears at this juncture, it will not have been in vain. Because what Obama and the struggle to deliver meaningful healthcare reform have done is hold a mirror up to our political system, so that all of us could see with our own eyes and smell with our own noses just how rotten things are in Beltwayistan.

Yes, this struggle for meaningful healthcare reform has ripped the facade of conservative versus progressive, and Democrat versus Republican; it is not longer so simplistic, it is now largely a struggle between small "d" democrats and corporatists within the Democratic Party. Looking in this mirror has shown everyone who did not already know that only an agenda which is framed around publicly funded political campaigns and the abolishing of the false premise of corporate personhood can save us.

But it is my profound hope that Obama chooses to align himself with the small "d" democrats and indeed lead those forces in the clashes that are coming.

If he does not, and the mirror is smashed, the worst will happen.

The Cult-Formerly-Known-as-the-Republican-Party will ascend to power once again. And the light will again go out in this land, this time perhaps forever. Because as the Shell-of-a-Man-Formerly-Known-as-Ralph-Nader knows very well (although he will not admit it), there is a profound difference between the Cult-Formerly-Known-as-the-Republican-Party and even this tragically compromised Democratic Party.

The evidence?

If there were nothing else to point to, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor as opposed to Antonin Scalia and John Roberts would be difference enough. (Yes, some Democrats voted to confirm those reich-wing justices, but a handful of Senators voting against their caucus to confirm is very different from a President entering such a person's name into nomination.

Hopefully we shall influence what happens, and instead of being smashed the mirror will reflect "O beautiful for spacious skies/ For amber waves of grain / For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain!"

The alternate is unthinkable.