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