Delusions of the Obama Administration

Dan PfeifferJonathan Chait published an “exit interview” with Dan Pfeiffer, On Learning to Ignore Republicans and How the White House Gave Up. It contained some interesting quotes that I’ll get to in a moment. But despite Chait’s claim, the interview wasn’t that revealing because it only reinforces something I’ve known for some time: that the Obama administration got all the way to the Debt Ceiling crisis of 2011 before realizing that they couldn’t negotiate with the Republicans. I thought they were naive to ever think that. But certainly after all the Obamacare negotiations when not a single Republican voted for the law should have told Obama and his team everything they needed to know.

Instead, they had to wait until the Debt Ceiling crisis to learn this. And think about that. If we had (and I certainly don’t rule out our doing it in the future), it would have done untold damage to the world economy. Keep that in mind as you read the following quote from Pfeiffer about what he now thinks about the Republican leadership:

I’ve always believed that the fundamental, driving strategic ethos of the Republican House leadership has been, “What do we do to get through the next caucus or conference without getting yelled at?” We should never assume they have a long game. We used to spend a lot of time thinking that maybe Boehner is saying this to get himself some more room. And it’s like, no, that’s not actually the case. Usually he’s just saying it because he just said it or it’s the easiest thing to solve his immediate problem.

I think this is entirely correct. And these are the guys that the Obama administration allowed to almost crash the economy. And we are still living with this. It isn’t just Boehner who is worried about solving the immediate problem. I’m already thinking of the next time that Boehner and his hoards are going to hold the world hostage over the debt ceiling. Coming this Fall at a capitol near you!

Pfeiffer contrasts what people who have worked in the Obama administration have learned compared to what former Clinton staffers took from his presidency. The Clinton people came into the administration thinking that the Republicans could make deals. Well, that was doubtless true in the mid-1990s. But this also shows why it might have been a good idea if Obama hadn’t filled his administration with a bunch of Clinton New Democrats. After all, they are all people who — when they are alone with them — agree with Republican politicians on economic matters. They are all one big happy neoliberal family, even if the Republicans claim to be something else to their voting base.

And this relates to the ultimate lesson that Obama has learned: that it is a fool’s game to try to appeal to the supposed middle between Obama’s moderation and the Republicans’ proto-fascism; going progressive is what works best. Here’s another great quote from Pfeiffer:

As we were preparing for the potential that we would lose the midterms, a lot of the advice we got around town was, “You have to show major contrition; heads have to roll; you have to give some sop to the Republicans.” The president’s view was, “No, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to go out and we’re going to be the opposite of contrite; we’re going to be aggressive in our policies and our politics.” And that worked. It caused people to cheer. But that’s the exact opposite of the sort of advice you’d get in this town.

But then one has to wonder why the administration was ever listening to the Villagers? I’m not brilliant and I haven’t followed politics closely for very long. But regardless of what side, it has been clear to me that these Very Serious Fools don’t know anything. I was saying the same thing after the 2012 election when they were all claiming that the Republicans needed to change. I wrote again and again that there was no reason for the Republicans to change and in the end, the Republicans did not change — at least not in the way that the Villagers wanted them to.

The Villagers are involved in a kind of dream magic. They think that if they talk about their dreams of Tip and Ron having drinks together, their collective “centrist” — actually socially liberal, economically conservative — wet dream will come to pass. What kind of naivete does someone have to have to think that the world actually works like this?

Well, there was one telling quote:, “[Obama] had hopes of being able to change the polarization, not just in the country, but in Washington.” So changing polarization in Washington is harder than in the country? Washington isn’t part of the country? I think it is that kind of thinking that is the root of the problem with the Obama administration. They are involved in their own kind of dream magic. But I’m glad they’ve grown up a bit.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Delusions of the Obama Administration

  1. Question is, if we ever get another Democratic administration, will they start again from square one with this “compromise” BS? I’m guessing yes; until there are no more elections to be won.

    • At least if it is Clinton, I don’t expect to see that kind of naivete. But the problem regardless is that no one who has the job really disagrees all that much with the Republicans. Neoliberalism is a pox on the world.

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