In an article in The New York Times on December 2, 2007 (Herzenhorn, D., “How the Filibuster Became the Rule”) the GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told us how it would be whenever the GOP had that solid minority of 40 votes in the Senate: “I think that we can stipulate once again for the umpteenth time that matters that have any level of controversy about it [sic] in the Senate will require 60 votes.” In December, 2008, the titular leader of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, announced his wish for the incoming Obama Administration. It was four words long: “I hope he fails.” Working together, Limbaugh and McConnell have converted Limbaugh’s “hope” to pretty much of a certainty in terms of legislation and appointments. Very skillfully using the filibuster and the internal pressure he can exert on his members, McConnell has made the myth that “Obama caused the mess,” which you hear every day on Beckoning Savagely Le-vinitating O’RHannibaugh come absolutely true, preventing Obama from doing the really big things that need to be done if the mess is ever to be cleaned up. And all the while Obama just about never makes that point. The GOP’s Perfect Storm.
I know, I know. Obama did get passed something advertised as “health care reform” that makes some modest changes without affecting the central profitmaking function of the US health care delivery system. And there has been some modest “financial reform” that doesn’t touch the ability, for example, of investment firms to take mortgage loans made by banks and convert them into securities on which they can trade, regardless of the worth of the underlying bank loans. The ability of the investment managers to make money by trading pieces of paper is called “finance capitalism.” It was largely prohibited by the Depression Era Glass-Steagal Act, which happened to have been repealed under Clinton, a pet project of the totally unmourned Larry Summers. Finance capitalism has, however been left pretty much unimpaired. In fact, Dylan Rhatigan of MSNBC has told us that about 40% of the total profits made in 2009 came from so-called “finance capitalism” which just happens not to produce anything of substance like a car or a dress or a set of dishes. (For a more positive review of the actions of the Obama Administration, touching many other initiatives, see the forthcoming article in Rolling Stone.
But as is well known to readers of BuzzFlash, the stage for the current ongoing economic disaster for many people was set by the Bush Administration, carrying through to fruition the economic, industrial, and tax policies that were first put in place by the Reagan Administration. But, and this is a big but, on the way to Bush II they happened to have been furthered in major part, as pointed out above, by the Clinton Administration. They are indeed the polices of that Right-Wing grouping that currently dominates the Democratic Party in terms of financial and policy control, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). “Oh, Jonas,” you might say, “you are so boring. You just keep going after the DLC.” Well, you are quite right, I do. Because until the Democratic Party gets out from under them, or splits into two a la the Whigs of the 1850s, the GOP is just going to be allowed to go on its merry way, creating what for them is the Perfect Storm. And that is, once again: GOP policies get us into the mess we are in, while the way the Obama Administration for the most part deals with the GOP allows it to blame Obama for all the bad things that are happening.
So what is the “Perfect Storm” for them? They create the “gridlock in Washington,” primarily by using the filibuster rule over-and-over again, as McConnell told us he would, and then they blame it on “Washington,” generically, and Obama in particular. He told us in the campaign that he was “going to change the way Washington worked,” without bothering to get into the politics of the GOP, how they had made it work for their policies for so many years, and how they were determined from the outset to make it “not work” without taking any of the responsibility for that state of affairs. And the media of course play right into the “Washington is broken” portrait and the “bi-partisan mantra” without attributing fault because the Administration and the DLC let them.
In fact, a couple of weeks ago on “Face the Nation” with Bob Scheiffer, David Axelrod said, in response to a question from Schieffer about what they would do if the GOP took over the House, Axelrod actually said, “Well, we’re going to have work even more closely with them.” This is working closely with GOP House leadership that has already announced that their major initiatives should they take over there will be, one, launching an impeachment investigation because Obama may have offered Joe Sestak a job rather than having him run against Arlen Specter. Impeachment for political horse-trading, but this is the party that went after Clinton for having an affair with a consenting adult. And two, defunding national “health care reform” so that it cannot achieve even its modest goals, so no successes there for Obama. The Perfect Storm.
Then consider: “Job Loss Looms as Part of Stimulus Act Expires.” And why not? Any success would be Obama’s, and they want him to fail. What better way than to ensure that the unemployment numbers stay high? Then there is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to stop the construction of the New Jersey/New York rail tunnel for the overburdened New Jersey Transit. Even Bob Herbert of The New York Times treats this as simply “bad policy” and wonders how Christie could be so block-headed.
No, Bob, he ain’t block-headed. He is just carrying out true GOP policy, brilliantly. Construction of the tunnel would have provided jobs. It would have provided something in front of which Obama could stand in 2012; it would have been a major example of the massive infrastructure reconstruction program that this country so desperately needs, and worse yet, it might have even provided a photo-op for the Pres. and the Governor to stand together at an official ground-breaking. Good lord, no! Death for any politician from the Tea-Partied GOP. So, that cancellation contributes to the GOP’s Perfect Storm beautifully. An isolated incident? Hardly. For example, every GOP gubernatorial candidate running in a state where Obama would like to commence construction of high-speed rail service (and we will never catch up with the rest of the world on this one) has announced, in advance, total non-cooperation, for the same reasons.
They have the authority, but they have no attributable responsibility. And that is primarily the fault of the Obama Administration which, as is well-known, from the git-go refused to place the blame for the mess we are in where it should have been placed and tried to play the “bi-partisan card” with a party that was not the least interested in partying. So while the GOP has worked hard to create the Perfect Storm, the DLC Obama has played right into it, up until now. This is primarily, of course, because the corporate interests that the DLC represents are pretty much the same as those the GOP represents.
What is going on right now, before our very eyes, as we come down to election day is something quite fascinating in American politics. We are seeing two Obamas. There’s the one, one of whose principal spokesmen, Axelrod, says that if the GOP takes over the House and maybe even the Senate they are just going to try harder to work together. The President himself, quoted in an extensive article by Peter Baker in The New York Times Sunday Magazine of October 17, 2010: “It may be that regardless of what happens after this mid-term election, they feel more responsible . . . [giving up] the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs.” Ho, ho, ho, Mr. President, whom are you kidding? Jim DeMint, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Darryl Issa and so on and so forth have told you exactly what they are going to do. They are going to continue creating the GOP Perfect Storm, creating/worsening problem after problem and then turning around and blaming it all on you, in major part because there has been no real Democratic Party counter-offensive.
But then there’s the Obama out on the campaign trail, hitting the GOP hard, for the right reasons and on the right issues, repeatedly, especially in recent weeks going after them on the secret/foreign contributions engineered by the US Chamber of Commerce. (Not secret? Not foreign? Well, USOC, just open your books, even just a bit.) It’s as if he is reflecting within himself the basic split in the Democratic Party, between the DLC and the true Democratic Progressive tradition. It is the latter, of course, that can safely get our nation through the GOP’s Perfect Storm. But right now, a Perfect Storm it is, and as Bob Dylan said so many years ago, “you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” Lincoln in 1862, before the mid-terms and before the Emancipation Proclamation, waffling on which way to go before getting rid of McClellan and getting on with the war? Let’s hope so.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for BuzzFlash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement; and a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC.