Matt Taibbi, Bill Moyers and Robert Kuttner: Why Can't Democrats Do Anything Right?
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MATT TAIBBI: Sort of as a means to raise money.
ROBERT KUTTNER: As a means to raise money. So Melissa Bean, who's a two-term Democratic Congressman ends up being the power broker because she controls 15 votes on Barney Frank's committee of what she's going to allow out of committee and what she isn't.
BILL MOYERS: Why does she control 15 votes?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Because there are 15 New Dems, and this is the centrist caucus that particularly specializes in taking money from the financial industry.
BILL MOYERS: You call them centrist, don't you mean corporate Democrats? I mean-
ROBERT KUTTNER: Corporate, yes, sorry. That's too kind. They're corporate Democrats who were put on that committee because Rahm Emanuel felt that there's no better place than the House Financial Services Committee if you want to shake down Wall Street, to put it bluntly.
MATT TAIBBI: There's a great example of Melissa Bean's power was when the banks wanted to pass an amendment into the bill that would have prevented the states from making their own tougher financial regulatory rules. And Bean put through this amendment that basically said that the federal government would have purview over all these laws. And it passed. And this was the kind of thing that the banks wanted. They just go to Melissa Bean, she puts that amendment in there and it and it gets through.
BILL MOYERS: If you were Barack Obama in a city that's overrun by money, how would you try to fix it?
ROBERT KUTTNER: I would go over the heads of the special interests to the people. I think there's a lot of sullen apprehension, frustration out in the country. And I think the people are hungry for leadership. He's not doing that sufficiently.
MATT TAIBBI: It's absolutely a political winner for the president to hit Wall Street very hard and do all the things that he's supposed to be doing right now. You know, that all the things that FDR did. If he did those things, if he remade Wall Street in the way that it needs to be remade, he would do nothing but gain popularity. And I think that's the strategy he should have pursued.
BILL MOYERS: But what if by nature, that's not what he wants to do? What if, by nature, he prefers to head the establishment, than to change it?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Then he runs the risk of being a failed president. And I do have the audacity to hope that he's a smart enough, principled enough guy, that some time in his second year in office, he's going to realize that he's at a crossroads.
MATT TAIBBI: This isn't a purely political problem. This isn't just a question of how does Barack Obama get reelected. This is a serious problem. He has to put aside maybe his inclinations to think about what he can do to actually fix the country. And it's, you know, desperately in need of fixing. And so, if he's not that guy, he has to become that guy.
BILL MOYERS: You say it's a serious problem. But isn't from your own experiences, your long experience, your recent experience, isn't this the fundamental question issue of why it's not working, that there's too much money canceling out other imperatives, other needs, other possibilities?
MATT TAIBBI: This is the fundamental question. Is there a way that we can have a politician get elected without the sponsorship of special interests? Can we get somebody in the White House who's independent of the special interests that are in the way of real reform? And that's the problem. We haven't been able to have that happen. And we need to find a way to have that happen.