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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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BILL MOYERS: But here's how they repay him. This is on "The Huffington Post:" "Bank lobbyists launch call to action to crush financial reform. The American Bankers Association issued a call to action on Wednesday urging its lobbyist and member banks to make an all-out effort to crush regulatory reform in the Senate." This is how they reward his own tolerance towards them, right? 

ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. And you've got to play hardball against these guys now. I do not want to leave this show with your viewers thinking this has been just a council of despair. So will you allow me to play Pollyanna for 30 seconds? Because I think this guy is nothing if not a work in progress. He's nothing if not a learner. And I think there is a chance. I don't think I would bet my life on it but I think there's a possibility that by the fall of 2010, looking down the barrel of a real election blowout, you could see him change course, if only for reasons of expediency, but hopefully for reasons of principle as well, if he feels that the public doesn't have confidence that he is delivering the kind of recovery that the public needs. This is a guy who is a very smart, complicated man. And I think don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin. I don't want to totally give up. 

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah. I mean, obviously, it's too early to completely abandon hope that he's going to turn things around. But I think that's a belief that's not really based on evidence. If you look at the evidence of how he's behaved so far, and who he's got, you know, working in the White House, and who he's getting his money from, and how the party has behaved over the last couple of decades. You're really basically relying upon the impression that he gives as a kind, decent, warm-hearted intellectual guy. That's what the basis of that faith that there's going to be this turnaround. It's really not anything that's actually concretely happened that would give you reason to think that. 

ROBERT KUTTNER: The other thing that's missing, if you compare him with Roosevelt or LBJ or Lincoln, the other thing that's missing is a social movement. In all of these great periods of transformation, you had social movements doing a complicated dance with the president, where sometimes they were working with him, sometimes they were beating up on him. That certainly describes the civil rights movement and Lyndon Johnson. It describes the abolitionists and Lincoln. It describes the labor movement and Roosevelt. Where's the movement? 

BILL MOYERS: Coming down to the office this morning, the cab driver turned and said, "You see the newspaper this morning?" And he turns and hands me the NEW YORK POST. "It's Wall Good: Wall Street Earnings Soar to $49 Billion in the First Three Quarters of the Year ... Profitability has soared because revenues rose ... Wall Street bonuses for employees in the city may be as much as 40 percent higher than in 2008." What would you say to the President about this? Does he know? 

ROBERT KUTTNER: I think, to some extent, the White House lives in an echo chamber. They do these public events that are intended to demonstrate that the president's listening, that he's feeling our pain. Congress gets a very bad rap. But I was invited to speak to the House Democrat caucus a couple a weeks ago. And they are furious. They can't publicly embarrass their president, but they go home on weekends and they talk to their folks and they hear the individual stories of suffering. And they feel that certainly the Treasury, to some extent the White House, just doesn't get it and the Republicans are going to end up with a narrative and the Tea Party folks, it's the far right that is on the march when ordinary people need a champion. 

 
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