U.S. politics? “It sucks,” former chief of staff says

February 15, 2010

USA-OBAMABarack Obama’s plate is piled high with problems — two wars, stubbornly high U.S. joblessness, a stalled healthcare overhaul and a poisonously partisan political environment in Washington. But one thing he isn’t low on is advice.

A recent suggestion comes from a former chief of staff to the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who says the overall health of  U.S. politics “sucks,” but has an idea for how Obama can seize back the political story from the Republicans, who seem to stand stubbornly united against everything he tries.

If he wants to get back control of the political narrative, Obama needs to make better use of his cabinet, John Podesta told the Financial Times.  “He’s got a terrific cabinet. Use it. Get out into the country and use it,” Podesta, who now runs a Washington think tank and advises Obama, said.

Podesta lived through Clinton’s failure to push through healthcare reform in 1993 as a member of his staff. Podesta became Clinton’s chief of staff in 1998. Clinton’s decision to abandon his reform bid is widely credited with contributing to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Podesta said he thought Obama faced a similar risk of an election massacre if healthcare reform — a centerpiece of his domestic agenda — again falls through. “I subscribe to that view,” he told the FT.

Podesta told the newspaper he still thought there was a better than 50:50 chance that healthcare reform would go through, even if Obama has to do it with only Democratic votes.

“I think the president is trying to re-engage with Republicans, but, quite frankly, he’s not dealing with the party of [Abraham] Lincoln. He’s dealing with the party of Palin,” Podesta said, referring to former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has been one of Obama’s most vehement critics.

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Picture Credit: John Podesta, co-chairman of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, attends a news conference by Obama in Chicago, November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


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Imagine what the American political system would look like if the United States Senate operated the way it did for the better part of two centuries — with a majority party that’s allowed to bring its agenda to the floor for up-or-down votes. Imagine how much healthier the system would be if presidential nominees for key posts and for the judiciary were allowed to be approved with the support of a Senate majority, the way the American system used to operate without controversy.

Imagine the strength of our system, in other words, if a party could win national elections and then have the opportunity to govern with the agenda it had presented to voters during the campaign.

If the Senate majority were allowed to bring legislation up for votes, this Congress would be among the most productive and successful in generations, approving economy-rescuing recovery efforts, health care reform, energy and climate packages, Wall Street reform, and a sweeping new student-loan bill.

That wouldn’t “suck” at all.

The only thing stopping this from happening — literally, the only thing — are Republican obstructionist tactics with no precedent in American history. The result is a system that Podesta described quite accurately.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

The Democrats have had a “super majority” up until they lost Ted Kennedy’s seat. There was no excuse for not passing anything and everything they wanted.
Stop blaming Republicans for the Majority Party’s lack of leadership.
When you talk of “obstructionist tactics with no precedent in American history”…I suggest you try reading a history book.
Can you say, “BORK”???

Posted by sting | Report as abusive

The lack of leadership is not from Congress. The lack of leadership is Obama. He still thinks he’s running for office.
When members of the MAJORITY Party refuse to seek re-election, you have REAL problems within YOUR own Party.
Can you say, “Jimmy Carter”?

Posted by sting | Report as abusive

The lack of leadership has been from Obama, no doubt. First, he placated the left by listening to Pelosi. Then, he blamed Republicans for his incompetence. Next, he said Republicans are just doing it for political expediency.

Hello. This president had a filibuster proof Congress. They have no one to blame but themselves.


Posted by neoavatara | Report as abusive

Sting and Neoavatara.

It’s good to see people on here with a grasp on reality of the current political situation.

Republicans re not the reason for the failed policies of this congress and this president.

The American people are angry and the day of reckoning is coming for the current majority party. It’s always the party in power that is judged…

Nov 2010 can’t come soon enough.

Posted by TyC | Report as abusive

You guys can’t be serious. BORK?? LMAO!!

Can you guys say, “Alito, Roberts, give our nominees an up or down vote”??

Apparently, “Up or down vote” has fallen out of the Republican vocabulary now that they are the minority party. So has “hypocrisy”…

And when members of the MAJORITY Party refuse to seek re-election, you have REAL problems….But when MORE members of the MINORITY Party refuse to seek re-election,…it’s never a problem…

You guys really do create your own reality. It’s a good thing you have the media to cover your butts for you.

Posted by Yellow105 | Report as abusive