Sunday, August 23, 2009

Defections from The Base

When the opinion polls showed that George Bush's support from the American people was plummeting, it was Democrats and Independents who drove the charts down.
Now that Barack Obama's poll numbers are plunging -- it's Democrats and Independents who are driving the charts down.
Bush's far right wing base remained steadfastly loyal to the bitter end, even as a second Great Depression threatened to envelope the land.
These same people are as vacuously and steadfastly opposed to Obama as they were before the election results came in. What has changed is that the President's support among independents has eroded, and his support among thoughtful progressives has virtually vanished. The defections are so widespread that in only eight months in office Mr. Obama may already have sealed his fate as a one-term president.
Perhaps this is symptomatic of his lack of experience at the national level: his time in the Senate was not sufficient to educate him in the art of reading the opposition the way, say, LBJ could.
Or perhaps Mr. Obama really believes that bipartisanship is possible in Washington today. How such a belief could possibly have survived the campaign he faced from the McCain-Palin-Fox News ticket defies logic. Probably he thinks, or has been convinced by Rahm Emanuel, that he has been following a "pragmatic" course.
His most compelling task was the economy. Reaganomics and the Chicago school acolytes of Milton Friedman had failed miserably; millions of retirees saw their life savings go up in smoke; millions more lost their homes to foreclosure.
Mr. Obama could have chosen to put any number of world renowned and respected economists in key economic posts -- Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, Simon Johnson to name just a few. Instead he chose Timothy F. Geithner, a Republican who as ninth President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank presided over and indeed encouraged the very Wall Street misdeeds that brought on the economic collapse; Lawrence H. Summers, who as a Clinton administration official engineered the economic policies that created what Ross Perot rightly called "the great sucking sound of American jobs vanishing" and a squadron of Goldman-Sachs alumni who have done a great job of enhancing their old firm's profits, but given little beyond a used band-aid to their new employers, the critically wounded American public. One of his closest friends and advisers is Cass Sunstein, a Friedman acolyte.
The President's Department of Justice has argued in court to continue the Bush administration's unconstitutional arrogation of executive powers. Mr. Obama himself spoke against torture but continued extraordinary renditions to countries that are known to torture. His attorney general has left in powerful posts as U.S. attorneys the right-wing mouthpieces Bush appointed after Karl Rove orchestrated the politically-motivated firings of Republican attorneys who dared to refuse to play partisan politics with the law,
Each of these follies cost Mr. Obama the support of large numbers of thoughtful progressives. A trickle became a waterfall. The waterfall created a flood. What broke the dam was his Dance of Seven Veils on health care. Democrats by the thousands realized that when the last veil --a so-called public option -- was removed, their emperor had no clothes.
Mr. Obama's strongest campaign theme was change and its keystone was a pledge to provide "quality health care for all Americans."
Like his predecessor in the lead-up to war, Mr. Obama, in the lead-up to congressional action on health care, has misled, fabricated, weasle-worded, reneged, waffled and wriggled around the truth. Those who trusted him to provide leadership out of the Dark Ages of Bush have been given a mess of pottage.
Perhaps they were naive to expect more.
Meanwhile, as Sen. Baucus and his five colleagues collude to create a milksop they will call health care legislation, it becomes increasingly clear that the President will throw his support to whatever they come up with. Thus will six senators, who represent 3% of the U.S. population but whose campaign chests swell with millions from the health insurance industries, dictate, in effect, which Americans will survive severe illness and which will not.
Talk about "death panels!"

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