Glenn Greenwald: Why Do We Assume Obama's Actually Trying to Enact a Progressive Agenda?
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It wasn't that they eagerly wished to defeat these Bush policies but just couldn't figure out how to do it. The opposite was true: they were content to acquiesce to those policies, if not outright supportive of them, because they perceived no political advantage in doing anything else. Many of them supported those policies on the merits while many others were perfectly content with their continuation. So I stopped trying to give them tactical advice on how to achieve outcomes they didn't really want to achieve, and stopped attributing their failures to oppose these policies to bad strategizing or political cowardice. Instead, I simply accepted that these were the outcomes they most wanted, that Democratic Party officials on the whole -- obviously with some exceptions -- weren't working toward the outcomes I had originally assumed (and which they often claimed). Once you accept that reality, events in Washington make far more sense.
That Obama's agenda includes an affirmative desire for serious budget cuts and entitlement "reforms" has been glaringly obvious from the start; it's not some unintended, recent by-product of Tea Party ascendancy. Since before Obama was even inaugurated, Digby has been repeatedly warning of his support for a so-called "Grand Bargain" that would include cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And Jane Hamsher and Ezra Klein had a fairly acrimonious exchange very early on in the Obama presidency over the former's observation that Obama officials were expressly advocating cuts in Social Security while Klein insisted that this would never happen (yesterday, Klein reported that Obama would be supportive of Bowles-Simpson, which proposes deep cuts to Social Security, and boasted of his anticipation weeks ago that this would happen). Before Obama's inauguration, I wrote that the most baffling thing to me about the enthusiasm of his hardest-core supporters was the belief that he was pioneering a "new form of politics" when, it seemed obvious, it was just a re-branded re-tread of Clintonian triangulation and the same "centrist", scorn-the-base playbook Democratic politicians had used for decades.
What amazes me most is the brazen claims of presidential impotence necessary to excuse all of this. Atrios has written for weeks about the "can't do" spirit that has overtaken the country generally, but that mindset pervades how the President's supporters depict both him and the powers of his office: no bad outcomes are ever his fault because he's just powerless in the face of circumstance. That claim is being made now by pointing to a GOP Congress, but the same claim was made when there was a Democratic Congress as well: recall the disagreements I had with his most loyal supporters in 2009 and 2010 over their claims that he was basically powerless even to influence his own party's policy-making in Congress.
Such excuse-making stands in very sharp contrast to what we heard in 2008 and what we will hear again in 2012: that the only thing that matters is that Obama win the Presidency because of how powerful and influential an office it is, how disaster will befall us all if this vast power falls into Republican hands. It also contradicts the central promise of the Obama candidacy: that he would change, rather than bolster, the standard power dynamic in Washington. And it is especially inconsistent with Obama's claimed desire to be a "transformational" President in much the way that Ronald Reagan was (but, Obama said to such controversy, Bill Clinton was not). Gaudy claims of Fundamental Change and Transformation and Yes, We Can! have given way to an endless parade of excuse-making that he's powerless, weak and there's nothing he can do.