The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘American politics’

One-Term Obama?

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 13, 2010 @ 09:41

OK, maybe our expectations were a little too high...

It being a fine Saturday, what better excuse is needed for forgetting about our politics and thinking about politics in America again. Hey, it’s been a while!

The big hooha at the moment in the States surrounds Obama’s apparent further drop in support. Approval ratings are tanking, with them now being some way below the 50% mark, with the latest figure being 46%. Panic buttons are being hit across the Democratic party. Republicans holler with delight. Oh, those early days when this approval was sky high at 69% seem so far away now.

We’re being told that the reason is simple. Americans don’t want Obama’s “socialist” take over of everything, from healthcare to the economy.

Time for a reality check. Obama was elected on the biggest wave of hope and optimism for change America has seen in decades. Obama’s program was by no means radical, being firmly rooted in the centre of American politics (centre-left doesn’t really exist as a concept over there). He looked good, he sounded great. The Americans gave him a thumping mandate, both personally and to his party.

14 months later – yes, that’s all it’s been – Obama’s agenda has stalled. Early small victories came to a crashing halt when the Republicans happened to stumble upon the strategy that has delivered so much success. Do nothing. Stop everything. Use every parliamentary trick in the book to ensure that Obama fails.

Obama has some responsibility for letting his useless Congressional leadership take care of the specifics. They have wasted the biggest opportunity in a generation to use full control of the legislature, having been held to ransom by a handful of truly awful Senators. Obama might have got a bit more involved at an earlier point. And Obama’s insistence on trying to get “bipartisan” legislation is a total waste of time, when the Republicans have no desire to take part.

And why would they? They’re doing awfully well out of Democratic failure to deliver. And now, because Democrats have no spine, the Republicans are able to claim that it’s all the Democrats fault for their internal squabbling and inability to govern. Republicans never needed 60 votes, after all.

To me, the narrative behind the approval ratings failure is simple. The American people wanted change. The American people have not seen any. Approval ratings don’t equate to masses Democrats suddenly wanting to vote Republican. No. It means Democrats lose interest. Republicans get fired up as the feel the tide turning. Independents feel let down by one side and start to consider whether maybe the other side could do a better job after all.

Meanwhile, the approval ratings continue to slide, as the nation gets bored to death by talk talk talk about healthcare reform, with still no delivery or end in sight.

But there was something Obama said last year that he ought to come back to…

President Barack Obama is “quite comfortable” with the prospect of being a one-term president in order to address the issues he is concerned about, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.

If I’m wrong, and greater access to affordable healthcare really is not what the American people want, then Obama probably will be a one-term President.

But I’m willing to bet that if Obama can finally get round to strong arming enough of his errant Congressional party into supporting his reforms, his plans will steadily gather support when the Democrats can start to wheel out the laundry list of things the healthcare package improves for Americans.

The attitude of “I’m going to do what I think is right, because I have no electoral fears” may be the only way out of this mess. So what if you’re a one-term President but massively increased access to healthcare, cut the budget deficit and started the ball rolling on curbing the worst excesses of the insurance companies.

Obama must regain that confidence in his messaging that he displayed during the campaign.

Change takes time. Change takes guts. Change involves a mammoth battle with the vested corporate and selfish interests.

But I’m starting to doubt if Obama has the bottle to do it.

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POQs

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 30, 2010 @ 10:10

The Republicans gave Obama this document of "solutions" to read. In response, he shoved it up their arses and tore them a new one. Nice man.

… stands for President Obama’s Questions, of course.

Apologies for yet another American politics post, but I can’t let this one go by uncommented.

The liberal blog networks are alight at the moment because yesterday President Obama walked right into the lion’s den and held a “question time” at the House Republican Retreat. Better still, the whole thing was recorded and televised.

I’ve watched the whole thing – you should too –  because it truly is the mother of all smackdowns, so much so that there are rumours around that the Republicans are regretting agreeing that it should be televised.

One by one, Obama politely takes apart the myths, lies and outright bullshit that the Republicans have spouted on every issue they threw at him. In various parts, he directly mocks the unbelievable way in which issues such as healthcare have been spun by the GOP machine.

But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.  No, I mean, that’s how you guys — (applause) — that’s how you guys presented it.

What can we learn from this?

Liberals across the nation are suggesting that this becomes a regular feature. They look at our Prime Minister’s Questions with awe. They don’t understand why politicans would subject themselves to that bearpit. They examine it through their political culture, and think how can someone be so disrespectful to their leader – forgetting, of course, that our Prime Minister is merely a chief executive, with a separate head of state who everyone (allegedly) looks up to.

Obama is clearly intelligent enough to be able to handle such a system; and not a single toadying question handed out by a friendly party whip in sight. And, in truth, there’s no real reason why Obama couldn’t repeat this on a regular basis, setting a very strong precedent for any future president. After all, the American system is all about checks and balances. What greater check than to see the President being held to account by the Congress?

It would be a fantastic way of directly calling out smears and obstructionism, right to their faces. Obama has such a way with words that he could do it in such a way that is extraordinarily respectful, yet effective. No other President in recent history would be able to handle such an environment on a regular basis. Facing an unelected, unaccountable press corps is one thing. Facing fully mandated, legitimised, elected opposition is another.

Maybe it’s high time for the Americans to think about it.

But somehow I don’t think Republicans will be all too keen on the idea any more…

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State Of The Obama

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 28, 2010 @ 10:39

I suppose this is funny to Americans...

It says it all when Obama is craftily reminding everyone that he never promised that he alone would deliver change…

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone

And, you know what, he is right. I could have sworn I’d written about it before, but if I have I can’t find the post where I did, but it had always been abundantly clear to me that Candidate Obama was saying to the American people that if you want change, I can help you, but you are the ones who’ll actually have to do it from the bottom up.

After one year in government, Obama is now all too painfully aware of the defects in the American constitution, the goal of which is to ensure that real change is boringly slow, if not impossible.

He has faced the obstruction of a Senate, tied up in knots by its own ludicrous rules allowing a single Senator gigantic power to delay executive appointments. It seems ridiculous after a year, but there are literally hundreds of posts in the Obama administration that are unfilled or pending Senate confirmation.

Of course, too, there is the endless use of the filibuster that doesn’t actually require Republicans to do any real filibustering, which has basically changed the rules to say that 60 votes are needed to pass anything. And then, even when Democrats actually had a nominal 60 votes, they spent all their time squabbling over what they were going to do with their new-found power. Fortunately, that luxury is now going to be denied to them.

Meanwhile, the absurdity of a Supreme Court decision granting corporations unlimited power to finance political campaigns highlights just how much of a joke that institution has become.

Then there is the impact all of this has had on the American people, who were anxious for real change quickly. Well, they just gave up. The coalition that brought Obama to power was eager and willing for quick reform.

It didn’t happen, and now they’re sitting on their hands.

They await real action from Obama. They were willing to do a lot of the work, but when they saw Obama being too distant, too aloof from the process – merely asking the Congress to send him a health bill – they got mightily pissed off when the delays and obstruction from the opposition actually worked.

Last night’s State of the Union may be a sign that Obama is going to be a bit more hands on in future. Obama must surely realise that if he doesn’t concentrate wholly on delivering domestic goods for the American people over the next year, his party will be decimated in the coming elections, and then he’ll soon see what real obstructionism is all about.

A year ago I would have said Obama was an absolute shoo-in for a second term. But if he doesn’t change the agenda, seize the initiative and bring his errant party under control, he will have a real battle on his hands come 2012.

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Goin’ Back To Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 20, 2010 @ 15:05

A song about a failing Democratic party being washed away on a tidal wave of apathy...

… sang the Bee Gees. And that’s exactly where failed Democratic candidate Martha Coakley will be staying today, after her humiliating defeat at the hands of the Republican machine.

The Democrat blogosphere is filled with much analysis today. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Reactions have varied from “it was a little local difficulty”, to a warning shot across good ship Obama’s bows, or the downright facetious, arguing Democrats never really had 60 votes anyway

Last night in my last post I was 50-50 about a Democrat win. Hence why I even tempered some of my usual scepticism. If this were an election in Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, i.e. a true swing state, then I would have had no doubts about a Republican win. But Massachusetts? Come on.

Some Democrats are trying to argue the solution now is to be true progressives, and go on a radical binge. Maybe. But Obama’s authority is now deeply undermined. The time to do that was at the start of the Presidency, when his mandate was at its strongest.

Congress, hardly known for its institutional bravery, is going to see this as an excuse to do nothing for the rest of the year. Why should they? After all, they try to do something for the American people and they get it shoved back in their face.

The problem is that, in this case, that is exactly what the Republicans want. Since Day 1, their agenda has been to slow down and stop anything and everything the Democrats want to do, because they know every little victory for the Dems amounts to a much bigger picture of demonstrating the change they want to bring to America.

It would be hard to believe that the American public’s minds have changed all that much in the space of 14 months. Back then there was genuine enthusiasm for a real fight to take down the special interests that are ruining America. How else could Obama have achieved such a ringing endorsement from the people? The message was CHANGE. The outcome has been anything but.

And, of course, I am exaggerating a little. Obama and Congress have indeed brought change over the past year. The verge of healthcare reform, no matter how much of a corporate boondoggle it is, is still an achievement. Actions on fair pay, the winding down of Iraq and Guantanamo, as well as that all important Supreme Court vacancy. Progress. Good stuff.

On the ground, however, circumstances changed. The extraordinary nature and depth of the recession demanded a change of emphasis. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And laying the smackdown on the banking sector that had just taken the American taxpayer for a serious ride. That would still have all fitted his campaign strategy perfectly.

Obama missed the boat there.

Instead, they got mired in an eight month battle which displayed the worst excesses of partisanship, the divide in the Democratic party, and exposed a massive streak of entrenched special interest lobbying at the heart of the very same party whose ostensible figurehead – Obama – was elected to sort out.

The modern age of politics is as much about the message as it is about actually governing. We decry it, but we can’t deny the reality. Obama has let his agenda get seriously off kilter with what the American public wanted from him. Instead the message got lost, and the only good deeds that were being done were just not enough to sell the change rhetoric to an increasingly disinterested, cynical and misdirected electorate.

I’m sure Cameron’s team will be observing the lessons from Obama’s past year closely…

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All Eyes On Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 19, 2010 @ 22:59

No time to blog properly today after a surprising deluge of work, of the piss-taking variety, but my political antennae are currently firmly tuned to the special election for Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the Senate.

If a Republican manages to win, in one of the bluest states in the Union, it will spell curtains for Obama’s midterm efforts in November. It will mean that it is already too late for the Democrats to convince the coalition that brought him to his epic victory in November 2008 to come out for him again.

But it is too early to write the obituaries. Maybe the Democrats will manage it after all. Maybe they’ll even get a stonking win and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Even if they do though, this is a sign of how difficult the fight is going to be this year. The Republicans are strongly motivated. Democrats are beleaguered after a year of internal warfare and ceaseless pandering to the right and the special interests, after being elected on a promise to deliver major reform to the country.

Some might counter that a Democrat loss may be the kick up the backside they need.

Possibly. It’s hard to be sure. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

In any case, Obama is not a man to take risks.

My disappointment rating moves up just another notch…

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Back In The US(S)A

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 22, 2009 @ 10:33

Death panels? Sounds like something you get from IKEA...

Because British politics is boring me again – I’ll believe the leaders debate when I see it – it’s time to look at what’s going on in the States…

Recent developments have resulted in the Senate’s leadership managing to give just enough bribes and throw enough of the progressive parts of the legislation into the fire to assure themselves of passage. Having greased the wheels with pork fat, the Democrats now have the 60 votes necessary to break the endless Republican filibuster.

This is good news. While the legislation is an utter dog’s breakfast, it is a step in the right direction. The legislative sausage-making process usually highlights the extreme division between incrementalists and revolutionists. I generally count myself in the latter camp – incremental change is invariably used as an excuse to never reach the goal – but as far as the USA is concerned, there is no such thing as revolution in legislative terms.

The main reason being, of course, the nature of the US Constitution. A constitution I’m a big fan of, except for the obvious bits us lefties hate. Damn you, Second Amendment!

The whole point of the American system is to slow change to an utterly glacial level. Some argue the most radical reforms have come as a result of judicial decisions, and that would be fair comment. And in recent years, the pace has slowed even further due to the extreme lengths Republicans in the minority in the Senate are using the power of the filibuster. The filibuster, which is of debatable constitutionality, and is now the normal order of business, even though that was never its intended purpose.

So getting anything through Congress, in the face of Republican opposition which has sullied the level of the debate to new lows: socialism, death panels, enormous deficits (despite them being created by Bush), is a major achievement. A Republican opposition which chose from the outset to do its best to destroy the healthcare reform agenda rather than engage in a debate the country desperately needs to have.

The worry to liberals like me, however, is that this is probably as good as it’s going to get. And this is why Obama should have engaged harder in this process. He has to appreciate that this is very likely to be his high water mark in terms of the support he’s going to get from Congress. It’s all downhill from here, and by the end of his second term (let’s stay hopeful) he’ll very likely be dealing with a Republican Congress, more right-wing than ever.

What next, then? Well, the hope of progressives has always been that the Senate and the House would come to a compromise between their bills, one very centrist, the other a bit more radical, though still very mild. That isn’t going to happen. The Senate will not accept more than a minor tinker to their version. And the Progressive caucus in the House will give up their pretend opposition to more gifts to the insurance industry, as they always do.

So America will get some healthcare reform. This is very good progress. But there will be no appetite for reopening the issue any time soon.

And meanwhile, other issues will return. Climate change. More stimulus. Immigration reform. More opportunities for the Senate to delay and destroy the only chance America has for genuine reform in the next decade.

Methinks Obama really missed the boat here…

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Grow Some Balls, Obama

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 17, 2009 @ 22:55

Wanted: one of these in order to start political revolution...

Wanted: one of these in order to start political revolution...

Time for a little digression into American politics…

For those of us who’ve been following the US healthcare reform debacle, things appear to be coming to a head. The House of Representatives is probably going to insist on a very strong set of reforms, with serious involvement for the public sector. Meanwhile, if the Senate had their way, they’d dump a load of old horseshit on Obama’s desk, a steaming bow-tied turd which might make Rahm Emanuel happy but no one else…

The problem appears to be that the Senate, as usual, is utterly rudderless. Some of this is in their inherent constitutional nature. Too many chiefs… there are so few Senators that almost every member of the majority party has some senior role, chairmanship of a (sub)committee. Meanwhile, there are a gaggle of Republican Senators whom the Democrats appear to spend all their time trying to entice into bed with them. All because the Democrats don’t have the guts to pass anything on their own because they don’t want to take all the blame if it goes wrong.

It’s very unappetising, and a terrible waste of the potential power they ought to be wielding with such dominance of the Executive and Legislative branches; an opportunity that Obama may never enjoy again.

But in truth, it’s classic Obama. Ever the pragmatist, always looking for another way of trying to convince the nation that he is the uniter. Showing us that he does things differently. Wanting to further the pretence that he is ushering in an era of post-partisan politics.

It ain’t happening. How much longer is he going to dance to the tune of the Republican party? A party who clearly have no intention of negotiating anything in good faith. A party that have spent their entire time doing everything they can to undermine him. A party that has no qualms about utter, bare-faced lies about “death panels” and hilarious hyperbole about the socialist era washing across from sea to shining sea.

So why is Obama prepared to continue negotiating, and perpetuating a lie that he needs to, with the “Grand” Old Party? There’s something very wrong about this Democratic notion that somehow, in order to legislate, they need to achieve supermajorities when the Republicans didn’t. Are they trying to hold some sort of moral high ground? Maybe.

But, sadly, such a position is not going to solve the shocking healthcare crisis America suffers from. It’s not going to be any good if healthcare reform fails and President Obama says:

Well, we nearly did it. But, despite having large public support, and having a supermajority of 60 Democrats in the Senate… oh and it being a major part of my mandate in the 2008 election… well, we just couldn’t quite do it.

I thought Obama was all about achieving the unachievable. Of reaching for the dream when all hope seems lost.

Suddenly, when it comes to riding roughshod over the vested interests of a handful of greedy Senators, he seems to have hit a brick wall, unable to expose them to the cruel light of public scrutiny, blaming them for their closeness to the vested special interests and being such a cosy little members club. Perhaps he didn’t spend long enough in the Senate to realise how it works: they’re all in there to feather their own nests.

If Obama suddenly hung out some of these Senators – enjoying their moment in the sun to absorb some extra financial contributions from the healthcare industry – out to dry, I suspect things would start moving again.

Obama needs to start throwing his weight around more in public. He needs to start exerting the moral authority of his office to achieve his agenda. He cannot sit back and hope the Congress produces the legislation he wants. He has the rhetorical ability to lead. He won the Presidential election, for goodness sake.

FDR did it. LBJ did it.

Times are so tough in America that they need the same kind of mentality from their President in order to get things done.

Otherwise, in one or three years time, Obama will have a Republican Congress to deal with.

And do you think they’ll be in any mood for “bipartisanship”?

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Pining For Palin

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 15, 2009 @ 09:30

Palin-Obama Presidential Debate 2012

Palin-Obama Presidential Debate 2012

No, not Michael Palin, unfortunately, but our gal Sarah.

Some opening remarks: she is crazy. I mean, absolutely crazy. How can anybody watch these two videos, where she unleashes a stream of consciousness, scrawled down onto a teleprompter, comprising a torrent of verbal diarrhoea,  ceaseless non-sequiturs, botched metaphors, effortlessly seguing from one subject to another, delivered in a breathless, swivel-eyed frenzy.

And relax. Now I’ve got that off my chest, I think I ought to turn this post over to the woman herself. These words are taken exactly from the second video linked above. How far can you get before you give up?

And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature’s finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it’s the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn’t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future. That is what we get to see every day. Now what the rest of America gets to see along with us is in this last frontier there is hope and opportunity and there is country pride.

Did any of that make any sense? Perhaps it’ll make more sense if William Shatner reads it. Can this person seriously be considered a candidate for the highest office on the planet? No, I’m not talking about Shatner, though he would make a pretty cool President.

But, apparently, she has a lot of fans over there. There are a significant number of Republicans who like her, so much so that her acolytes are preparing a strategy to get her into the White House.

Why else would she depart the governor’s mansion in Alaska?

It’s clear she has bigger ideas, and being stuck way out west was playing havoc with those very plans.

There were some, including me, who had thought her crushing defeat last November would be the end of her and she would drift away back into the obscurity from which she was plucked by a clearly batshit John McCain. After all, McCain could easily have dropped dead at any time over the next four years. No – it seems my hope of her disappearing is not going to happen.

But I think I’m going to credit Americans with some intelligence.

They may have elected George W. Bush. But I don’t think they’ll ever elect the Palindrone.

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