POLITICAL observations & opinions

* excerpts from President Obama’s interview with Rolling Stone … this is the president we elected and we should be proud of what he has so far accomplished

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 1, 2010

We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable

******

The mess that Bush left

I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars.

Major accomplishments domestically

We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.

70% of what I promised has been accomplished

You look at all this, and you say, “Folks, that’s what you elected me to do.” I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we’ve accomplished.

Major accomplishments internationally

When you look at what we’ve been able to do internationally — resetting our relations with Russia and potentially having a new START treaty by the end of the year, reinvigorating the Middle East peace talks, ending the combat mission in Iraq, promoting a G-20 structure that has drained away a lot of the sense of north versus south, east versus west, so that now the whole world looks to America for leadership, and changing world opinion in terms of how we operate on issues like human rights and torture around the world — all those things have had an impact as well.

Fighting with Republicans versus getting bills passed

What is true, and this is part of what can frustrate folks, is that over the past 20 months, we made a series of decisions that were focused on governance, and sometimes there was a conflict between governance and politics. So there were some areas where we could have picked a fight with Republicans that might have gotten our base feeling good, but would have resulted in us not getting legislation done. I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn’t have a bill.

Consumer Protection

I just made the announcement about Elizabeth Warren setting up our Consumer Finance Protection Bureau out in the Rose Garden, right before you came in. Here’s an agency that has the potential to save consumers billions of dollars over the next 20 to 30 years — simple stuff like making sure that folks don’t jack up your credit cards without you knowing about it, making sure that mortgage companies don’t steer you to higher-rate mortgages because they’re getting a kickback, making sure that payday loans aren’t preying on poor people in ways that these folks don’t understand.

Helping middle-class and working-class families

And you know what? That’s what we say we stand for as progressives. If we can’t take pleasure and satisfaction in concretely helping middle-class families and working-class families save money, get a college education, get health care — if that’s not what we’re about, then we shouldn’t be in the business of politics. Then we’re no better than the other side, because all we’re thinking about is whether or not we’re in power.

No simple answers

One of the things that you realize when you’re in my seat is that, typically, the issues that come to my desk — there are no simple answers to them. Usually what I’m doing is operating on the basis of a bunch of probabilities: I’m looking at the best options available based on the fact that there are no easy choices. If there were easy choices, somebody else would have solved it, and it wouldn’t have come to my desk.

making the best of a very difficult Afghanistan

Afghanistan is harder than Iraq. This is the second-poorest country in the world. You’ve got no tradition of a civil service or bureaucracy that is effective countrywide. We have been very successful in taking out the middle ranks of the Taliban. We have been very successful in recruiting and beginning to train Afghan security forces. There are elements that are working, and there are elements that are not working. I don’t know anybody who has examined the region who thinks that if we completely pulled out of Afghanistan, the Karzai regime collapsed, Kabul was overrun once again by the Taliban, and Sharia law was imposed throughout the country, that we would be safer, or the Afghan people would be better off, or Pakistan would be better off, or India would be better off, or that we would see a reduction in potential terrorist attacks around the world. You can’t make that argument.

Climate change & energy

Climate change has the potential to have devastating effects on people around the globe, and we’ve got to do something about it. In order to do something about it, we’re going to have to mobilize domestically, and we’re going to have to mobilize internationally. One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we’re going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it’s good for our national security, and, ultimately, it’s good for our environment. We instituted the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards in this country in 30 years. We did this with the agreement of the auto industry, which had never agreed to it before, we did it with the auto workers, who had never agreed to it before. We are taking the equivalent of millions of cars off the road, when it comes to the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

On social issues, something like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Here, I’ve got the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff both committed to changing the policy. That’s a big deal. Now, I am also the commander in chief of an armed forces that is in the midst of one war and wrapping up another one. So I don’t think it’s too much to ask, to say “Let’s do this in an orderly way” — to ensure, by the way, that gays and lesbians who are serving honorably in our armed forces aren’t subject to harassment and bullying and a whole bunch of other stuff once we implement the policy.

Guantanomo & torture

When people start being concerned about, “You haven’t closed Guantánamo yet.” … that’s something I wanted to get done by now, and I haven’t gotten done because of recalcitrance from the other side. What I have been able to do is to ban torture. I have been able to make sure that our intelligence agencies and our military operate under a core set of principles and rules that are true to our traditions of due process.

Keeping our moral compass

What I’m very proud of is that we have, as an administration, kept our moral compass, even as we’ve worked through these very difficult issues. Doesn’t mean we haven’t made mistakes, but I think we’ve moved the country in a profoundly better direction just in the past two years.

November 2010 elections

It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. … we’ve got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward. The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.

Change is hard

Bringing about change is hard — that’s what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we’ve got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.

If you’re serious, now’s exactly the time that people have to step up.

******

Read the entire article at .. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/209395

LMW COMMENT …

  • Many of us were excited in 2008 by the prospect of a president who could think, who would analyze clearly, who would make difficult decisions with a view toward the long term. In Barack Obama we got exactly that kind of president.
  • Has he accomplished everything we or he wanted? Of course not. But what he has done is remarkable.
  • Has the Democratic Congress been as helpful as it should have been? Absolutely not. But there have been significant legislative achievements.
  • And there is no question that most of the incumbent Democrats in the House and the Senate will be better for America than the “know nothing, say NO to everything” Republican and Tea Party candidates opposing them.
  • Politics is never perfect. Our Democratic candidates are not perfect. I for one think they have been far too timid in confronting Republican refusal to govern. But that does not mean they should not be re-elected.
  • The alternative is far worse.

******

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13 Responses to “* excerpts from President Obama’s interview with Rolling Stone … this is the president we elected and we should be proud of what he has so far accomplished”

  1. rogerthesurf said

    Really Lew,
    Didn’t you read the link I gave you and the 1000 plus other accounts of the facts that you can google from various sources?

    Maybe you can point me to a more authorative link that I do not know about.

    You are suffering from creeping socialism, its up past your chest but you don’t seem to have noticed it yet:)

    Cheers

    Roger

  2. rogerthesurf said

    “Private enterprise with the minimal needed regulation is the balance we should seek.”

    I agree.

    However that does not come across in your general opinions you express here.

    The truth is, that the more a goverment, or anyone tries to go against the market, the more likely it is to come back and bite you. The Fanni Mae and other bank failures can be traced to your government interference, and what did that do but cause a world recession. Possibly including the failing of GM and Chrysler.

    And of course trying to rectify the situation by pouring money into the banks that failed, was probably wrong solution, economically the same effect would have been obtained by giving the same cash to the people who couldnt meet their mortgage bills. Probably too obviously socialist but according to Keynes would have worked just as well.

    Support GM and Chrysler? Did you ever consider what would have happened if no support came from your government?
    Well of course GM and Chrysler would have been bought by some othe car manufacturer. For a knock down price of course, but thats the reward for poor management.
    Who would have been effected? Well the management of GM and Chrysler would probably be looking for new jobs but not many would be shedding a tear over that I would think. Some auto workers would have been laid off, but probably only the same number as happened anyway. So no real social reason for supporting them with the tax payers money then?
    The reason for supporting them was political-American prestige! Votes for the president and his party. It is no doubt that letting GM and Chrysler go under would be disasterous politically!
    So there is a large taste of what we get in my country. Politicians using the tax payers money to buy votes.
    Not sure if that is socialism or inevitable really, but it sure costs the man in the street some!

    Your assertion that you are willing to be educated is a little disapointing as you are showing little inclination.
    How do I know about PRC for instance? Oh well I do have inlaws, some of who were in influential positions from there, so I have learnt a little first hand. Perhaps you should ponder a little more on what is happening there, (and they still have a long way to go) and consider the stark contrast with life there currently compared with pre 1978.

    Perhaps it would be reasonable also to learn from someone who has seen varying degrees of socialism in his own country and recognised the darker consequences.

    Cheers

    Roger

    • Lew Weinstein said

      ROGER

      The bank failures and the U.S. mortgage crisis were demonstrably caused by too little regulation, not too much. Failure to insist on adequate bank reserves, mixing of commercial and investment banking, failure to mandate clearly described investment instruments … the list goes on. Without the reins of appropriate regulation, bankers opted to take far too much risk. And what they were risking was in large part other people’s money. This began with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and it is largely a Republican “let-business-alone” philosophy, although Bill Clinton shares an unfortunate part of the blame.

      Is there a car manufacturer anywhere in the world that doesn’t benefit, or seek to benefit, from government support or market intervention in its favor? Business is generally hypocritical about the involvement of government. If it helps me, it’s ok. If not, it is the end of the world of profits as we know it. That said, a strong manufacturing base is an important national goal. Had we not supported the car companies, we would have had massive unemployment with extensive ripple effects, in the U.S. and around the world. We made a short-term investment, the companies re-structured and turned around, the investment is being repaid. How can you argue against that?

      Now … politicians use public money to buy votes. Yes they do, and they always have, in every country and in every form of government of which I’m aware. That’s the nature of politics, and as long as what the money is spent on bears a reasonable connection to what we like to call the public good, that’s not bad. What’s bad is the use of public money for private good, and the nature of campaign financing that allows huge non-transparent “bribing” of public officials. Until that is corrected, which may be never, we will have undue influence by business, labor, and other special interests. This is most harmful when it is business, because … public policy directed to private profits re-directed to campaign financing … is a vicious cycle.

      I think China is worth studying, and there is no question they are a formidable competitor. But it seems to me that this is largely because of the government’s intervention, not its free enterprise or political freedoms and civil rights, which I think are largely non-existent.

      America’s greatness is founded in large measure on the freedoms of its people to innovate and to profit from their innovations when they are successful. This in turn depends on an educational system and infrastructure which only government can provide. We are falling down on both counts, and this is the major threat to America’s future. This is what we should be debating in our political life, instead of focusing on an over-blown and self-serving antagonism to all regulation and/or government initiative.

      We need to address each issue on its merits, based on the details and realities and consequences of that issue and not solely within the constraints of a loudly proclaimed but not carefully analyzed political philosophy, be it of the left or the right. An effective balance between total freedom and excessive government control is a difficult to achieve and ever-changing objective, but absolutely worth striving for, since our future depends on it.

      BTW, which “general opinions” have I expressed on the blog that you think are inconsistent with the approach I have stated in our recent exchanges?

      LEW

      • rogerthesurf said

        Lew,

        While its true that I am not in your country and therefore I may not have as much inside knowledge as you do, but when I read the large amount of literature regarding the sub prime loans and Fannie Mae etc. it appears to me (if what they say is accurate), that not only is it easy to establish a link between these failures and the current hard economic times, providing one has studied economics, but it is also clear that this is not a case of government relaxing regulation, but a case of an incredibly socialist attempt to buy votes by a direct interference in the banking industry. This caused or compelled even, the bankers involved to carry out practices which were outside their normal prudent business procedures. I dont care which president or party was responsible, the fact remains that that the results are a case of reckless interference with an industry and its market for political reasons.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Mae
        (The above is only one of thousands of sites, newapapers and commentators who record the same facts.)

        I will answer some of your other points at a later time.

        Cheers

        Roger

        BTW if GM and Chrysler had suffered a buy out by another company instead of being propped up by your tax payers, it is 1. Unlikely that they would have stopped trading, 2. Any roll on unemployment would have been about the same as current.
        The only difference would be political, and less expensive for the tax payer.
        Did you ever study economics seriously?

        Cheers

      • Lew Weinstein said

        ROGER

        The U.S. mortgage crisis, which contributed so greatly to the global financial crisis, was the direct result of the failures of unregulated business (banking and investment) to monitor itself and pursue a rational risk-reward balance. Mortgages were given to people who could not afford them based on non-existent income which was never verified. Then this high risk debt was repackaged into financial instruments that nobody understood but which were classified AAA based on faulty or non-existent reviews by the rating agencies (Moody’s etc).

        You should not avoid these facts by a totally false and actually quite uninformed statement that the U.S. government engaged in “incredibly socialist attempt to buy votes by a direct interference in the banking industry.” The “reckless” behavior by government was the abandonment of financial regulation begun by Ronald Reagan and still supported by Republicans today. The re-institution of financial regulations followed the “reckless” behavior by bankers and was not the cause of such behavior.

        Learn your history. Pay attention to facts and not to slogans.

        LEW

  3. rogerthesurf said

    Sure,
    A great example is the Peoples Republic of China who are now the most capitalist nation in the world, who I believe have recently exceeded the USA in GDP and still growing rapidly.

    What a contrast from the socialist times 1949 – 1978 dont you think?

    You may also look at Japan during its heyday of the ’70’s and ’80’s as well.

    Cheers

    Roger

    • Lew Weinstein said

      And you cite these examples because they have been accomplished without complete government involvement? I don’t think so!

      Whether you call it capitalism or communism, the point is that huge economies in this global age cannot be sustained and grown without major involvement of the government.

      The question is how effective that involvement will be. Will it provide incentives or destroy them? Will it protect the rights and lives of the people who work for large companies and consume their products? Will it sustain civil liberties for all people, not just the wealthy? These complicated questions should be the substance of political discussion and debate, not simplistic slogans.

      • rogerthesurf said

        Lew,

        I thought you were interesting in being educated.

        I never claimed that any of the states I mentioned do anything without some government supervision.

        First of all if you took the trouble to read the link I supplied http://www.michaelbassett.co.nz/articles.htm

        you will see some of the evil consequences that develop when socialism takes hold. I can personally vouch for what he says because I was there during the same period.

        Secondly the Peoples Republic of China went from complete socialism until 1978 when the government there realised that it was not working (indicated by widespread starvation and poverty) and proceeded to start dropping socialism as quickly as practicable.

        Comparing this with the USA? The first thing that they did was to start divesting the government of all its production and service roles. These have passed or are in the process of passing into private hands, with some remarkable success stories where employees have bought the facility and managed to pick up enviable contracts.
        For instance, I am quite sure that the government of the PRC would not buy out any of their banks or auto makers if they were failing.
        I think the PRC is a valuable example, for nearly 40 years, with a well meaning government, they starved. Now the government has drawn back and in less than 25 years they have surpassed the USA and are still steaming on.

        Of course a government must exist to administer justice and law and order and prevent excesses of monopolies etc. but to invest tax payers money in banks and car makers? just to name a few. In my opinion this is the beginings of rabid socialism and a descent into poverty for most citizens if history is anything to go by.

        Can I suggest you read some Milton Friedman. His policies were pioneered here after an extreme outbreak of socialism bankrupted the government here in 1983. After an adjustment period, things improved markedly until we elected another rabidly socialist government about 20 years later.

        You talk about incentives? Where is the incentive to run a business wisely if you know the government will use the tax payers money to bail you out if you are careless?

        The final questions you ask are dealt with in the link by someone who was there.

        Cheers

        Roger

    • Lew Weinstein said

      ROGER

      I am hardly in favor of government ownership of whatever can be done by private enterprise. I would favor private railroads, for instance. But without government incentives to build mass transit, is it likely to happen? The 19th century example of the railroads was done with private capital but also with the huge incentive of government land.

      Likewise, our experience is clear that business left unregulated will be predatory and contrary to the public interest in areas like safety standards, child labor, minimum wages, and other aspects of what makes America a great place to live. Private enterprise with the minimal needed regulation is the balance we should seek. Without some regulation, there is every incentive for business to maximize profits at any cost to its workers, the environment and our future.

      I am no China expert, but I seriously doubt that there is anything like totally free unregulated capitalism in China, nor do I think it would work.

      Now, let’s talk bailouts of the banks and car companies. These were emergency measures designed to keep us from falling into a total depression. They worked, and the money is coming back. At the end of the day, TARP is now expected to show a modest overall profit for taxpayers. General Motors and Chrysler are repaying their loans while working to become viable companies. I would say that was a very successful use of government intervention which was supported at the time by both Republicans and Democrats.

      Government regulation will never be perfect. Being government, it will never even be efficient. Those are unachievable goals. But it can, if properly balanced with incentives for private initiatives and profits, keep companies focused on important national goals other than profits alone.

      LEW

  4. rogerthesurf said

    Sounds like a pretty extreme socialist to me.
    I should know as we have plenty of those in my country and I can recognise any politician that is out to bribe the electorate with their OWN money.
    We used to admire the US for its freedom and its dream.

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

    • Lew Weinstein said

      If you think helping those among us who are less fortunate is socialism, then the US has been socialist in many ways since FDR, including Republican initiatives under Eisenhower, Nixon, and both Bushes.

      If you think investment in education and infrastructure and energy is socialism, then I say that’s the kind of socialism we need, because there is no other way the US will maintain its position of leadership in the world or the prosperity of all of its citizens and businesses.

      It would really be better if you would try to think clearly about issues instead of simply calling out names and slogans that don’t apply.

      • rogerthesurf said

        I think very clearly about these issues thank you very much.

        Especially as I have lived with various levels of socialism in my own country all my life, seen its failures etc so I know where you guys are heading.

        1. “helping those among us who are less fortunate” using the tax payers money, is socialist and will ruin your economy and society.
        2.Investment in education and infrastructure at the tax payers expense once again is socialist, and especially if it is excessive will get you nowhere.

        Of course these things need investment, but the taxpayers money is the very worst way to do it.

        The following link from a former socialist MP in my country will describe to you his experiences in this better than I can.

        http://www.michaelbassett.co.nz/articles.htm

        Also implied in your reply is that you think that Socialist = caring society and Capitalist = uncaring about the people. Note how this point is addressed in my link.

        Cheers

        Roger

        http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

      • Lew Weinstein said

        I’m willing to be educated. Can you give me an example of a nation (since 1900) which achieved prosperity and power without government involvement in the areas you disparage as “socialist”

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