February 09, 2010
Where Have I Heard This Before?

Steve Clemons is a bit of a character. It’s really important to him that we realize what high-ranking folks he hangs out with. On the other hand, hanging out with high-ranking folks means you hear a lot of inside takes, and he points us to a particularly important one today.

Surprisingly, the Obama administration is portrayed as failing in its first year because it continues to operate on the principles derived from campaigning, despite their being inappropriate for governing.

According to the Edward Luce article at the Financial Times website, the decision-makers in this administration are basically four politicians in a tightly knit group. These folks accomplished what everyone (except me) considered impossible in winning the White House, and are thus somewhat reluctant to accommodate themselves to outside complaints that their plans are impossible.

This White House-centric structure has generated one overriding — and unexpected — failure. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Mr Emanuel managed the legislative aspect of the healthcare bill quite skilfully, say observers. The weak link was the failure to carry public opinion — not Capitol Hill. But for the setback in Massachusetts, which deprived the Democrats of their 60-seat supermajority in the Senate, Mr Obama would by now almost certainly have signed healthcare into law — and with it would have become a historic president.

You gotta love that. The weak link was the failure to carry public opinion. The weak link wasn’t the failure to follow through on campaign promises, no one’s naïve enough to expect that; nor was it the failure to do what two-thirds of the public consistently demanded in polls, namely some sort of Medicaid-like program available to everyone. No, that couldn’t have had anything to do with the failure to produce a bill, just because there was no consistuency other than the insurance and drug companies.

President Obama chose a signature issue for his first year in which he’d taken the only reasonable solution off the table before he began to negotiate. Apparently he and his advisors really saw him as The One, Neo Incarnate, the being whose perfection of purpose could save us all.

I say “surprisingly” because, of course, it isn’t surprising at all. My personal memory tends toward the theory that the permanent campaign came in with Ronald Reagan and Michael Deaver, but Jerry would have a better informed opinion on that score. This was my complaint about the Clinton White House. Bush II was the same, and Bush I only differed by employing smoother thievery.

It’s so hard to campaign nationally that the most productive years of several top-flight talents are required to reach the White House, at which point there’s no time left to learn how to govern. An entirely different skill from that of campaigning, let’s just leave it there.

Hopefully, though I’m not holding my breath, Obama will realize that the reason health care reform failed was not that it was too bold, but that it was nowhere near bold enough. Taking single-payer off the table gave away the game: the President would do anything for a success, which left the most recalcitrant members of Congress in the catbirds’ seats.

And they sure took advantage of that. And that sure was predictable.

Get a new chief of staff, start fighting for the lower and middle classes against the big-money interests, and aim for a great two-term Presidency; or continue to speak like a progressive Democrat while acting like a hawkish Republican, alienate your base, and be as successful in 2012 as your Superbowl pick in 2010. That, Mr. President, is my prognostication, for what it’s worth.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at February 09, 2010 04:40 AM
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The present White House Chief of Staff is positioned there specifically to protect another country: therefore the [above] suggestion to "remove [him]" ---while valid in a narrow organizational analysis context---is, politically, an absolute non-opener.

Posted by: Hoffmann on February 9, 2010 9:01 AM

at which point there’s no time left to learn how to govern.

When I read about JFK, it seems to me that the real tragedy was that he was assassinated just as he was figuring out how to make the most effective use of the office. His dithering on civil rights strikes me as an unpleasant parallel to Obama's dithering on health care. However I'm less forgiving of Obama - he has forty-plus more years of conservative mendacity and obstruction to learn from. And it seems he has not done so.

Perhaps in time Obama, too, will figure out how to make the most effective use of the office. I'm not sure the nation has that kind of time to spare.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on February 9, 2010 12:44 PM

With or without Rahm, Obama's neolib approach to governing is not going to change. As Atrios keeps saying, we need better Democrats.

I read Clemon's blog, and I keep wondering when he is going to get over being so star struck. You'd think, by now, he would recognize that many of his favorite "insiders" are fools and phonies.

Posted by: susan on February 9, 2010 6:17 PM

OFF TOPIC You were and are so right about Windows. Windows users may wish to run a free home scan at Secunia. Google it. Scandinavian based company that offers security services for big corporate clients now offers a free security scan for home users that you can install on your machine. It's not just the browser that's the problem in Windows. It's a whole host of other things.

I often wonder why the trial lawyers don't use Product Liability law to push the software vendors to make their products safer. It would take the support our legislators and our Supreme Court would have to bow to National Security concerns to make the project work, but this kind of law has worked to make consumer products safer and our national security depends upon software vendors providing products that are hacker proof. What better way to make the software vendors create unhackable products than to leave them open to liablity for not making their products secure.

It's a legislative function here most likely or a Ron Motley (the asbestosis and tobacco king, who invented asbestosis liablity theories)type project. I used to live in the same county with him and practiced law there. Little county of less than 20K people had a big travel agency that served the lawyers who flew all over the country taking depositions.

But this is something that needs to be discussed. Our national security depends upon our major software vendors providing safe products. I think the legislators or the functionaries within the government should make it a project. As we are finding out how vulnerable we are. Example: Internet Explorer flaws being used to hack into Google in China to identify dissidents. No reports what happened to these folks but I suspect that the Chinese may have some of them or used the method of dealing with them that Jerry once described as the quick and easy way out. Probably a sad ending here, caused by one vendors bad product. And it doesn't have to be that way. Someone needs to push for our computer software vendors to be required to create safe and secure products. Legislation could define the limits of the liability and how and what the vendors should be required to test for before they release a product.


Why not let the trial lawyers loose to help with such a national security project? They have made strollers, baby products such as sleeping cribs and a whole host of other products safe and that killed or disabled millions and took the worst offending products off the market. Random thoughts. I'll post more thoughts when I can get to a secure computer.

You were right about Ubuntu but I'm considering gnu. The Free Software Foundation has a new campaign against Windows 7 and Apple's DRM.

Wonder if you know anyone using Smoothwall Express and could you post something on it or one of the other similar Linux firewalls. Smoothwall sounds simple, easy to use, effective with absolutely complete logging of every entry and exit if you put it before your router. And completely unseeable if setup correctly, or so it seems. Mark it as a "how to catch a hacker" type product. I've got it now.

Posted by: Buck on February 9, 2010 8:55 PM

RE: Windows etc., I think the market as constructed in 21st-century America will tend to build up the most profitable organization, which I contend will rarely be the most socially beneficial. We don't need legislation to make Microsoft create decent software, we just need to switch to the existing decent software.

Even if a law required Microsoft to make good software I still wouldn't buy it, for much the same reason that I wouldn't put money in Citibank or Chase or invest with Goldman Sachs. So what do I care what they do?

As for firewalls, the Ubuntu family's firewall, while hardly necessary, is nevertheless built in, according to the docs I've read.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on February 11, 2010 3:21 AM

One buys PCs and Microsoft software when one needs to seamlessly integrate with a variety of client companies who use Microsoft Office on PCs.
Otherwise, work can get messy and harder than it needs to be.

And yes, susan, we need better Democrats. Primaries are coming up, which help.

Posted by: Joyful on February 13, 2010 10:39 AM
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