Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama as a Trojan Horse

Liberals not pleased with go-slow approach by Obama,0,2757301,full.story

Reporting from Washington -- Slowly over the last few weeks, some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters have come to an unhappy realization: The candidate who they thought was squarely on their side in policy fights is now a president who needs cajoling and persuading.


Obama's To Do List

THE PRESIDENT: My priorities for the rest of the year. Number one is to get the right structure for the successor to TARP; spending the $300-some billion that has already been authorised as wisely as possible, and injecting transparency and trust into the financial system. Having a housing program that provides relief to people who are at risk of losing their homes. Financial regulations that ensure that the crisis doesn't happen again. A innovative and aggressive push for health care reform that focuses not just on access but also on costs, and trying to just provide relief to working families. And a push for an energy policy that puts us on a path to sustainability.

You asked given what we inherited, are we going to be able to get all this done. Some of these reforms don't cost money. They will still be heavy political lifts because there are philosophical arguments about how to approach it. Some of these problems are very complicated. Health care is a classic situation where it may cost money on the front end and save enormous money on the back end and what we're going to have to figure out is what can we do now to start getting that ball rolling, because the longer we put that off, the worse off we are financially. Medicare and Medicaid on their current trajectory cannot be sustained. And the only way I think we're going to fix it is if we see those two problems in the broader contest of bending the curve down on health care inflation....


While we grow impatient with the man he still says the sorts of things we'd like to hear from the President. His statements may be vague but he seems to be focused on the correct issues. So what gives?

Obama seems to be performing some mix of the following political maneuvers:
1. Acting benign and bipartisan when he actually means to do some fairly radical things
2. Actually being bipartisan in an attempt to make the GOP reveal themselves as stridently too far to the right to compromise
3. Moving in tiny steps because the shifts in status quo that he wants to achieve are too hot politically to make in one bold, decisive movement
4. Trying to seem progressive while sabotaging himself with all of this talk of bipartisanship and negotiating in ways that make no sense to progressives (see previous posts on that subject)
5. Stalling for time while trying to please everyone. In the end, realities will take over and leave fewer choices on the table

I don't know. It's anyone's guess which of these things are at play. The list is probably incomplete.

It would be great if he could be the change we really need. But as time marches on it seems less likely. It must be understood that time is an enormous factor in all of this.

Certainly we need to be agitating from the perceived left of things. We need bolder moves than the limp-wristed stimulus package that was supposedly agreed to over the weekend. Nearly 40% of it was wasted on GOP appeasement tax cuts.