Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews had Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, on his show today. Here's what Matthews asked:

"It seem like this President has had to go to alot of fundraisers lately, he's played alot of golf lately, he's hung around with Geithner and Summers and the Paulson crowd, the whole New York rich guy scene.

He's beginning to look like a Clinton, he looks like a typical Democrats now, hanging out, playing golf, going to rich people's parties, bringing people into the White House to go bowling, this whole thing begins to smell like the Clinton era, what happened to the change we can believe in?"

But for the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party, our political system is effectively marked and dominated by two parties tied to corporate interests. Each party in their own way serves the interests of a narrow set of economic interests. There is little question that the interests served by the Democrats are broader than those served by the Republicans. As I've noted before, the former is the party of the top 10% and the latter the party of the top one-tenth of one percent. In numerical terms, that's a party of thirty million versus one of thirty thousand. No doubt, the differences in social issues is as deep as the Grand Canyon but on economic ones, not so much. But that's not the point really. The point is that they can be different because we are the party of people. That's what demos means. We have been this party since the Jacksonian Era.

I'm not the only one who has said this but there is a worry that Obama is just another Grover Cleveland, the lone Democrat to win election in the Gilded Age. My impression back in 2007 was that Obama was a centrist, a corporate Democrat. That hasn't changed even if I largely support the President's agenda because I hope it is but step one of a much larger re-orientation of our politics. I'm not worried about 2012; I expect President Obama to comfortably be re-elected barring an economic collapse. It's 2016 that's on my mind. This is about the long haul and need to remake the country to what it was when we shared a broad based prosperity even though it wasn't as inclusive as it should have been.

Back in late August, Bill Moyers was on Bill Maher's show. Here's some of what he said:

MOYERS: I don’t think the problem is the Republicans . . . .The problem is the Democratic Party. This is a party that has told its progressives -- who are the most outspoken champions of health care reform -- to sit down and shut up. That’s what Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of Staff at the White House, in effect told progressives who stood up as a unit in Congress and said: "no public insurance option, no health care reform."

And I think the reason for that is -- in the time since I was there, 40 years ago, the Democratic Part has become like the Republican Party, deeply influenced by corporate money. I think Rahm Emanuel, who is a clever politician, understands that the money for Obama’s re-election will come from the health care industry, from the drug industry, from Wall Street. And so he’s a corporate Democrat who is determined that there won’t be something in this legislation that will turn off these interests. . . .

Money in politics -- you’ve had in the last 30 years, money has flooded politics . .. the Supreme Court saying "money is free speech." It goes back to the efforts in the 19th Century to give corporations the right of personhood -- so if you as a citizen have the right to donate to campaigns, then so do corporations. Money has flowed in such a flood into both parties that the Democratic Party gets a lot of its support from the very interests that -- when the Republicans are in power -- financially support the Republicans.

You really have essentially -- except for the progressives on the left of the Democratic Party – you really have two corporate parties who in their own way and their own time are serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests in the country -- who, as Glenn Greenwald, who is a great analyst and journalist, wrote just this week: these narrow interests seem to win, determine the outcomes, no matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter who has their hands on the levers of powers, these narrow interests determine the outcomes in Washington, even when they have to run roughshod over the interests of ordinary Americans. I’m sad to say that has happened to the Democratic Party.

I’d rather see Barack Obama go down fighting for vigorous strong principled public insurance, than to lose with a [corporate-dominated] bill . . . . the insurers are winning. Everyone already knows the White House has made a deal with the drug industry -- promising not to import cheaper drugs from Canada and Europe – promising not to use the government to negotiate for better prices -- that deal has been cut . . .

There’s this fear that Barack Obama will become the Grover Cleveland of this era – Grover Cleveland was a good man, but he became a conservative Democratic President because he didn’t fight the powerful interests – people say Obama should be FDR – I’d much rather see him be Theodore Roosevelt --– Teddy Roosevelt loved to fight – … I think if Obama fought instead of really finessed it so much . . . I think it would change the atmosphere.

But question to you is Chris' question fair? Is it a reasonable worry? Is Moyers right?

Tags: Obama Administration, President Bill Clinton, President Grover Cleveland (all tags)

Comments

19 Comments

Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

Oh Chris Matthews, man of the people.  These phonies make me sick.  If he cared so much about the working guy, he wouldn't have worked so hard to put George Bush in office.

by Steve M 2009-11-04 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

I'm not worried about 2012; I expect President Obama to comfortably re-elected barring an economic collapse.

Worry, we're going through a slow-motion economic collapse, and if we don't get further another stimulus package passed (unfortunately Obama seems to be a very concerned near-Hawk on deficits) the slide will speed up noticeably next year. If that causes a major defeat for the Dems in 2010 then the Republicans probably will get serious about retaking the White House in 2012 with some sort of 'fake maverick moderate'.

by fairleft2 2009-11-04 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton

Data suggests we are rebounding and back in growth mode.   If historical trends hold true job creation should follow and come back in the spring, early summer '09 just in time  for the serious midterm campaign season.

There was more good news today.

I think deficit reduction is something that we need to tackle as we start to come out of this.   That is where the Republicans will try to knee cap Obama and the Democrats.    Plus it is good for long term economic well being.

Things won't be rosy in Nov. 2010 but I think it will be a lot better than Nov. 2009 and I think people will notice and give some credit where credit is due ... to Democrats who governed.

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton

Let's see what happens and get back to these comments in 9 months or so.

by fairleft2 2009-11-05 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

If we dont see a significant improvement in the economy and notably jobs, along with controlled spending, than come 2010 we are going to see a major defeat in the congressional elections. Its a fact, if the incumbent party is mired in a bad economy the electorate will hold them responsible. Most people I talk to are worried about 2 things...jobs and government spending. They see the government as being out of control in terms of spending.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-11-04 05:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

So. You are talking to Repubicans?

by JDF 2009-11-04 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

I have friends,relatives, coworkers....they are democrats, republicans and independents. They overwhelmingly say the say things.....I am worried about my job, I cant find a job.....the government is spending out of control, who is goinf to pay for all this? Those sentiments and concerns are supported by public polling. if you dont believe it, all you need to do is sit back and watch what happens if the jobs situation doesnt change and if the Federal Government and our wonderful congress dont stop spending our money like drunkin sailors....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-11-04 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

I know what would happen if the government "stopped spending like drunken sailors."  First, with no stimulus the economy would utterly crash and all the people without jobs would say "why, oh why, doesn't the government do something to help us?"  Second, as Paul Krugman documented just the other day, here is how real-world voters would react to a major program of deficit reduction.

Do you get it?  After Bill Clinton reduced the deficit from $290 billion in 1992 to $107 billion in 1996 - one of the largest deficit reduction programs in history - no one even realized it.  Less than a third of the population even knew the deficit had gone down at all.

People say the deficit is the problem because people they trust tell them the deficit is the problem.  But it's simply not true, and not only would addressing the deficit right now do nothing but harm to the economy, there wouldn't even be a political payoff for doing so because even the people who claim to passionately care about the deficit actually don't.

by Steve M 2009-11-04 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

Yeah it's funny how all of the people who are so concerned about the deficit now had absolutely no problem whatsoever with it when a Republican was in the White House.

by Will Graham 2009-11-05 02:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

Wrong, I was quiet aware of the deficit and was quite unhappy. Government wastes far more than most people care to recognize. Another stimulus makes no sense.....the Government cannot fix the jobs problem, they cant fix the economy simply by spending. The deficit spending has devalued the dollar, is destroying our credit and burdening us for generations to come. You folks who believe that the government can spend its way into a vibrant economy are delusional. Whats goign to stimulate the economy is a combination of controlled spending and targeted tax cuts.

Even the current healthcare plan is misguided. Its does absolutely nothing to target the major culprit in healthcare spending.....lifestyle, namely obesity which is drain on the systems to the cost of billions. Until people activitely change their lifestyle habits of poor nutrition and excercise no amount of health care coverage will improve the costs involved. The plans being discussed today do little to address lifestyle and prevention.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-11-05 03:28AM | 0 recs
Smells Like Whining

Gee, some on the left hates it when Democrats win, because they might hang out with rich people. Well, I'm on the left and I don't hate rich people, and I don't mind it one bit if Obama hangs out with some of them. The whining, and purity obsession, the ideologues who think they are somehow on the side of the "real people" who have less is so self defeating and absurd.

by cmpnwtr 2009-11-04 05:44PM | 0 recs
It's up to us now.

The disease is money in Washington, and to survive the Dark Years, democrats made a Faustian bargain with it.

Rahm, who I believe is oft villified on sparse evidence, is just doing his job to get as many Democrats reelected as possible. Can that be done on less money and real populism? I don't know...

In our hearts, they will always be for the powerful, and we will always be fore the people.

The argument of Moyers is monarchistic and proponing laziness: Obama is not king. He cannot rule by decree. And he cannot rule without our support.

Making the vision of real change a reality in the face of money and lobbyists is in part up to us. Look at how we have carried the Public Option this far.

I agree Obama could be more aggressive. But until Buckley v. Valeo is overturned, progressives are going to have to work as hard as the wingnuts and teabaggers.

Where is that million strong march on Washington, DC for the public option? I'm waiting...

by NoFortunateSon 2009-11-04 06:08PM | 0 recs
Re: It's up to us now.

you make a few good points.

Bernie Sanders once said that progressives just don't like to do heavy lifting of running for office on local levels. That catches up with you because having electoral experience of any kind helps as you go up the scale.

Bachmann's loonies invade the Capitol tomorrow. Should be interesting.

by Charles Lemos 2009-11-04 07:53PM | 0 recs
There's something really wrong with that woman.

Tomorrow we will watch as FAUX News attempts a feat of magic worthy of David Copperfield by multiplying a crowd of 1,300 into a reckoning of 130,000.

I realize my initial response was rambling and disjointed, but there is an important point burried in there regarding the teabagger gathering tomorrow.

Where is the gathering for the public option? Based on well documented poling, we should have 5 proponents for every one of their opponents.

If I could get a mere 200,000 at the Capitol Building tomorrow, we would have the public option. Progressives need to put their money where their mouths are.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-11-04 09:07PM | 0 recs
Re: There's something really wrong

I agree with you but who on our side could get 1,300 people to show up anywhere next Thursday?

That is what concerns / upsets / confounds me at this point.  

The teabaggers show up, our side types and text messages.   ... If only you could vote via texting.   That would be awesome.

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 08:04AM | 0 recs
Real Grass Roots

A lot of the conservatives we see today owe their existance to zealots who ran for school boards and local zoning boards, and who stood out in front of abortion clinics protesting, and all the while organizing organizing organizing.   That was real grass roots at work, before the age of the internet.   Not the astro turf tea bag nonsense we see today.

But I wonder, is the netroots better than the astro turf?  What is being accomplished?   It may not be astro turf but it more like 'Shake & Bake' grass roots.   Its not quite the real thing ... at least I don't think.   I am not sure.  If nobody come out from behind the computers whats the point?

When I see bloggers that want to go from nobodies to powerbrokers, perhaps supporting primary challenges at the national level,  all in the span of a few years, while ignoring local and state politics that build the pipeline of future candidates,  I suspect nothing sustainable is coming from this.

I wonder could any of the leaders of the netroots, or a group of them working together, get 5,000 people to show up to a rally in Atlanta in support of a strong public option?    Could they get 8,000 in Michigan on the same day?   I wonder.

We scoff at the teabaggers (... they did call themselves teabaggers after all so it is hard not to) but can we do better?  The teabaggers, lead by liars and snake oil salesmen, actually show up.   Can the netroots make the same claim ... that they can get people to show up?

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 08:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Real Grass Roots
 We ought to learn from the tea-baggers and mimic them.
 Totally agree.
by QTG 2009-11-05 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Real Grass Roots

That is not what I said and you know it.

But maybe our leaders should call for a day of civil rallies to support a robust public option, and get out the real facts about health care reform.     Maybe the events could even be used to educate more Americans about single payer and why we should start moving in that direction in the near future.  

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

The only reason we shared broad based prosperity was BECAUSE it wasn't inclusive.

by MNPundit 2009-11-04 10:20PM | 0 recs

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