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Matt Taibbi, Bill Moyers and Robert Kuttner: Why Can't Democrats Do Anything Right?

Could a crushing defeat on health reform teach Democrats to stop prioritizing corporate interests?

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ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. And I think it's not accidental that the last three Democratic presidents have been at best, corporate Democrats. And one hoped because of the depth of the crisis and the disgrace of deregulation and ideology, and the practical failure of the Bush presidency, this was a moment for a clean break. The fact that even at such a moment, even with an outsider president campaigning on change we can believe in, that Barack Obama turned out to be who he has been so far, is just so revealing in terms of the structural undertow that big money represents in this country. The question is: Is he capable of making a change -- he's only been in office less than a year -- in time to redeem the moment, redeem his own promise? 

BILL MOYERS: When you talk about corporate Democrats, exactly what do you mean? 

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean Democrats who are reluctant to cross swords with the corporate elite that has so much power in this country, whether it's the Wall Street elite or whether it's the health-industrial complex. 

MATT TAIBBI: And I think, you know, back in the in the mid-'80s, after Walter Mondale lost, I think the Democrats made a conscious decision that they were no longer going to rely entirely on interest groups and unions to fund their campaigns, that they were going to try to close that funding gap with the Republicans. And they made a lot of concessions to the financial services industry to big corporations. And that's who they are now. I mean-- 

ROBERT KUTTNER: That's a little too harsh. Just the pity of it is there are probably 40 Democrats in the Senate who are not corporate Democrats. And there are probably 200 Democrats in the House who are not corporate Democrats. If we could push a little harder, we can take back our political system and have a democratically elected set of officials who are the kind of counterweight to big money that we need in order to get reform. 

BILL MOYERS: So Democrats have their own obstructionists? 

ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. You have Republican wall-to-wall obstructionism, which is partisan. And with a few exceptions, Republicans are totally in bed with big business. And you have just enough Democrats who are in bed with big business that it makes it much harder for progressive Democrats to follow the agenda that the country needs. 

ROBERT KUTTNER: It just takes a lot of guts. It takes a lot of nerve. It takes a willingness to be somewhat radical. 

BILL MOYERS: What you mean, radical? 

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, confronting the elite that really has a hammerlock on politics in this country and articulating the needs of ordinary people. Now, in Washington, that's considered radical. 

BILL MOYERS: I was thinking about both of you Sunday night when President Obama was on 60 MINUTES and he said... 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. 

BILL MOYERS: Then on Monday afternoon, he had this photo opportunity in which he scolded the bankers and then they took it politely and graciously, which they could've done because the Hill at that very moment was swarming with banking lobbyists making sure that what the President wants doesn't happen. I mean, what did you think as you watched him on 60 MINUTES or watched that press conference? 

MATT TAIBBI: It seemed to me that it was a response to a lot of negative criticism that he's been getting in the media lately, that they are probably looking at the President's poll numbers from the last couple of weeks that have been remarkably low. And a lot of that has to do with some perceptions about his ties to Wall Street. And I think they felt a need to come out and make a strong statement against Wall Street, whether they're actually do anything is, sort of, a different question. But I think that was my impression. 

 
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