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Vote Against Obama in Iowa

7:03 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a crime against our constitution. It allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military inside the US – without a trial. It’s one of the worst laws ever passed in the US and it passed with nary a peep of opposition. I’m positive that a huge percentage of the population is not even aware of it, partly because the establishment media didn’t even bother covering it.

But it appeared for a while that the one guy fighting against it was President Obama. I was incredibly encouraged by that. I shouldn’t have been. It turned out at the end that he was threatening to veto the bill because he wanted it to have even more executive power, not less. This president has been a disaster for civil liberties. Every time I think about the fact that he used to be a constitutional law professor, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Indefinite detentions, summary executions of US citizens abroad without a trial, warrantless wiretapping and much, much more. All of the things we were outraged Bush did – and then some. Honestly, it makes me feel a little sick that I voted for him. At least, I could say that I fought tooth and nail against Bush.

And civil liberties abuses are the tip of the iceberg in disappointment with this president. Then there is the comedy of financial reform which doesn’t reform a damn thing. There are the zero prosecutions of the top bankers who destroyed our economy through their fraud, took our money and now spit in our face with it. There is the extension of the Bush tax cuts. There is the cave in on nearly every negotiation (the payroll tax cut being the exception that proves the rule (by the way, he “won” on more tax cuts, a profoundly Republican idea)). His crowning achievement of healthcare reform was a proposal originally written by the Heritage Foundation. There isn’t a Republican idea that President Obama didn’t want to cuddle with and adopt as his own.

Now, the argument goes that he might be bad, but the Republicans are worse. Of course. Right now, Newt Gingrich is on the campaign trail arguing that Mitt Romney isn’t kind enough to the rich. I’m not kidding. He is trying to make hay out of the fact that Romney takes capital taxes down to zero percent for only people making below $200,000. Newt thinks that’s discrimination against the rich and he would take it down to zero for everybody. Then he would make your kids clean the rich kids’ toilets in school.

I follow politics for a living; I’m not unaware of how hideous the Republican choices are. But that doesn’t mean that we should pretend that President Obama has been brilliant because we’re scared of the big, bad Republicans. That would be fundamentally dishonest.

And to be honest, I’m really disappointed that he does not have a primary opponent. This country is dying for someone who is going to take on the establishment. Who is that going to be on our side – Barack Obama? On that, I know whether to laugh or cry. Every time I think about the idea that President Obama might be against the establishment, I laugh and laugh and laugh. There is never been a guy who was this enamored with the establishment. If he had wrestling nickname it would be The Establishment.

The guy who appointed Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley (and a list of hundreds of others, including two new Fed appointments, one of which is a Republican who worked for the Carlyle Group) is not a guy who is interested in changing the system at all. Change was a cutesy slogan he used to trick us into thinking he was on our side.

I would have loved a progressive alternative, but apparently we are not going to get one (except for Rocky Anderson running on the Justice Party ticket). Primaries are the perfect place to send a message without taking away votes in the general election. But it didn’t happen because the Democratic establishment says we must fall in line because we wouldn’t want to hurt the agenda of the president. The agenda of the president sucks and is deeply Republican. I’d love to at least get him to reconsider that agenda for a second.

But there is one thing we can do right now that doesn’t really hurt the chances of the president getting re-elected and doesn’t help Republicans one bit. It is an idea that Occupy Iowa came up with. In the Iowa caucuses you can vote for “uncommitted.” In fact, since the 1970′s “uncommitted” has won twice on the Democratic side and it beat Bob Dole in 1980. Of course, the Republican Party has shut down this option on their side. They say you can vote that way in the GOP field but they will not register those votes or send those delegates. Of course, they’re the GOP; they have no interest in your dissent.

But if all of those people were to go and participate on the Democratic side they might have an effect. If “uncommitted” beat President Obama on the Democratic side in Iowa that would make some news. That might even get the attention of The Establishment. So far, he has only responded to right-wing pressure. He is the consummate politician, so if there was actually a little bit of pressure on his left he might have to respond to it, especially during an election season. Wouldn’t it be amazing if President Obama acted like a progressive on some issue because he was worried about the voters?

By the way, this strategy also has the benefit of being accurate. I am “uncommitted” toward Obama. I’m uncommitted from supporting a guy that has walked all over our civil liberties, that thinks tax cuts are the only answer, that gave all of the money to the bankers and asked for nothing in return, that thinks the right-wing establishment has all of the answers. Uncommitted is the kindest word I have.

If you live in Iowa, please send a message to the President for the rest of us. We voted for change last time, apparently you didn’t hear us. If you don’t hear us soon, you might be the one that gets changed.

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Is Obama Playing Rope-a-Dope?

4:53 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

"Rope-A-Dope"

"Rope-A-Dope" by waerbaby on flickr

Here was the headline on Yahoo tonight: Obama bows to Boehner on jobs speech

I can tell you what any progressive who has been paying attention thought, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

President Obama has now changed the day of his address to Congress to accomodate the Republicans. They were having a GOP presidential debate on the original date he picked. So, Boehner told him to move his speech. He is the president for Christ’s sake. Of course, they should have accomodated him, not the other way around. But as usual, President Obama bowed.

So, this leads to the eternal question of whether Obama is just weak or if he is a brilliant strategist who has been playing rope-a-dope all along. I am so silly that I still had hope. My hope this morning was that Obama was laying a trap for the Republicans. He picks a day for his speech that is the same as the GOP debate. Then if Boehner says he won’t let him give the speech on that day, he seems so petty and harsh.

That way, either the president gives his big speech on jobs and bigfoots the Republican contenders or the Republicans look disrespectful and petulant for turning down the president. Well, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, that’s not a bad manuever. But it turns out that’s not what he was doing at all. He just stumbled into this problem and then stumbled out when he let Boehner dictate when he could and could not have his speech. That looks so sad.

You see, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, at some point you have to actually swing. When your opponent has worn himself out knocking you around the ring — you counter-attack. But that counter-attack is never coming. We’re holding our collective breath in vain.

Why is this definitely not rope-a-dope? Read the rest of this entry →

Is it Time for Democrats to Fight Obama?

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

You want to hear something really depressing? If John McCain had won the presidency, there is almost no chance he could have gotten the Bush tax cuts extended for the rich. Think about it. How was a Republican president going to get an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate and House to pass those tax cuts that they hated under Bush?

No, only a Democratic president could get a Democratic Congress to agree to tax cuts for the rich. So, in this sense, progressives are worse off for having a Democratic president than a Republican one.

Then, at least we would have known who we were fighting. Remember, Bush could barely, barely get these same tax cuts passed when the Republicans controlled both the Senate and the House!

Funny how the rich and powerful win no matter who is in charge and what party they claim to be from. And think about how much the political spectrum has shifted to the right that Bush had to use reconciliation and then barely got the tax cut through a Republican Congress whereas now a Senate with basically 59 Democrats just passed the same tax cuts with ease. Washington has fallen off a right-wing cliff and the media hardly noticed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision:

“We had the president–George W. Bush–we couldn’t get it done then and we’re getting it done here.”

Ouch. Their victory is so overwhelming that the Republicans are brazenly bragging about how they couldn’t even get Bush to do what Obama has done for them.

Finally, you have to ask why Democrats who were willing to fight Bush are crumbling in front of Obama? He claims to be the leader of your party, but honestly who cares? If he is doing the exact opposite of what you claim to stand for, why does it matter what he calls himself?

Democrats would certainly have fought a surge in Afghanistan if Bush was in charge. They would be complaining about warrantless wiretapping if Bush continued that program instead of Obama. They would have hated the monopoly that drug companies got in the health care legislation (because they went nuts over it when Bush made the same deal). And they would have gone apoplectic over these huge tax cuts for the rich. But under Obama, the defense contractors, the rich and the powerful have gotten almost everything they wanted and nary a peep was heard from the Democrats in Congress.

Here is the new memo – fight him, he’s not on your side.

When I asked Rep. Jim McDermott some of these questions last night, he seemed at a loss for what to do next. You can feel his frustration and confusion as to how we got here with a Democratic president. Here are some of his quotes:

“Well, I think a lot of us are, in the caucus, we’re not quite sure why this is happening. It doesn’t make political sense what he did, and it doesn’t make economic sense.”

“I think that we are in serious trouble because the president simply does not seem willing to go after some things that I think he’s going to have to if he’s going to get anything done for the people of this country. He simply has, in my view, given up the willingness to fight for economic justice in this country.”

“I think it’s going to take us a while to get over what’s happened here, and I really think… it is very hard to think how you’re going to deal with the next round here, because the president has now shown that he can be bullied, and I don’t want my president to be bullied.”

“And I think he… we would be all much better if we were able to say, you know, that we’re not going to back down, and that there’s no excuse for us giving up like this. I mean, that’s the hard part for me, is that it’s giving up without a fight.”

“[W]hen you start giving in on the kinds of things he’s giving in on, you really worry that there is no way back from that. And I’m, I mean, that’s why I said it was… this was Gettysburg, because it really is… that was the turning point in the war. And it really is a question of how you continue to rally your troops if you keep giving in on things that people really care about.”

Until you get to a point where you’re not sure he has the same idea of what “people really care about.” He might have a different idea, a Republican idea. Or at the very least, a Washington idea of what people care about – so-called centrist compromises that somehow always benefit the establishment.

To watch the interview click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2dida2x3Sw

The Hidden Cost of Capitulation

2:27 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

Now that the president has signaled yet another collapse in agreeing to tax cuts for the rich, there is a hidden cost to this capitulation. He is now stuck defending this deal for the rest of his term. I predicted this on the show yesterday and today it’s playing out exactly the way I imagined, with the president sending out advisers to talk about what a great idea it is to give tax cuts to the rich.

Once you sign off on a political position, you own it. This could be a corollary to Colin Powell’s doctrine on foreign policy. Powell said if you break it, you own it. In this case, if you make it, you own it.

The president claims he will fight hard against these same tax cuts two years from now. It’s hard to stop laughing long enough to make a point against that, but I will try. If you are sending out your people to talk up polls about how the right the Republicans were on the tax cuts for the rich now, how are you going to send out the same people to talk about how wrong they were – and how wrong you were – two years from now?

These are the things that make me wonder if President Obama has a firm grasp on basic political fundamentals. Yesterday he said that the political reality is that he just didn’t have the votes in the Senate (by far his favorite excuse). He even said “I can’t win” in the Senate. That’s a damning reversal for a man who ran on “Yes we can.”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Is Barack Obama Stupid?

5:49 pm in Government, Politics by Cenk Uygur

New CBS News poll out confirms every other poll we’ve seen on the topic – the American people are solidly against tax cuts for the rich.

53% of respondents said there should only be tax cuts for the middle class and no tax cuts for people making over $250,000. That’s the number most people in the media are using, but that’s not quite accurate. Another 14% said they don’t want tax cuts for anybody, including the top bracket. So, the reality is that an overwhelming 67% of the country don’t want tax cuts for the rich (including 52% of Republican voters!). Only 26% said that everyone should get a tax cut, including the rich.

So, let’s do the math for people who are a little slow. That’s 67% to 26%. That’s a crushing 41% lead. If it was an election, that margin would be so large they would think it was rigged. The group that doesn’t want tax cuts for the rich is more than two and half times the group that does.

If that weren’t enough, there is an internal memo being sent around to Democrats on the Hill by Anzalone Liszt Research that shows that 77% of Americans would let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire if the extra money went toward helping small businesses and balancing the budget. 77%!!!

Now, as a politician, how stupid do you have to be on the other side of this issue?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Cutting Social Security is the New TARP

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

Politicians who signed off on TARP lived to regret the day they did (especially Republican ones, just ask Bob Bennett and Mike Castle). Those votes will haunt the congressmen who supported the bailouts for years to come. That’s the same exact thing that’s going to happen to politicians who sell out the middle class by agreeing to cut Social Security.

Sign our Petition telling the President not to touch Social Security HERE

The chairmen of the Deficit-Reduction Commission just released a report that recommends that we cut benefits for current retirees by 3 to 6% and eventually raise the retirement age to 69. Why not make it 89 while you’re at it? At that point, Social Security will be completely solvent forever because only three people will live long enough to collect it. Remember, it’s not just that you can’t retire till later, it’s that you don’t get benefits for those extra two to four years – that’s a huge cut of your Social Security.

Plus, to add insult to injury they also propose to cap Medicare. Some worry this might even lead to rationing. This helps because the cuts to Social Security didn’t hurt enough.

These are all non-starters. Social Security currently has a $2.5 trillion surplus. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying. They have created a fake crisis about Social Security not being able to pay full benefits by 2037. So, the answer is to shred benefits now? How does that help?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

What Obama is Missing

6:25 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

I know everyone is going to yell at me for writing this now. I can hear it now, “We’re trying to win an election! You’re not helping! Criticizing Democrats now is akin to getting into bed with Karl Rove!” Ok, I hope not the last one, that sounds creepy, but you get the point.

The reality is while a lot of people are talking, we’re actually doing something. Along with PCCC and DFA, we are participating in TurkOutTheVote.com. That is part of their larger effort at CallOutTheVote.com to get people who care to volunteer and make calls to turn out the vote for strong progressives. Please help in that effort if you have any free time. Some of the elections are very close and talking to real voters helps tremendously.

Now, the reason I’m writing a piece critical of Obama at this point is because I just saw an excellent interview Jon Stewart had with him on The Daily Show. In fact, I thought it was the best interview of the president I have ever seen (my detailed analysis of the interview is here).

Stewart got him to address real, substantive criticism of his record for the first time. Almost everyone else that has interviewed him has either wildly misstated the case or challenged him from the right. Stewart asked all of the right questions. And the answers were very informative. This is what I learned.

Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t get it. He’s not alone; almost the entire Washington media doesn’t understand what the hell we’re talking about when we say change. Obama said that he got 90% of what we wanted in health care reform and that people are complaining we didn’t get the other 10%. I totally disagree with him on the percentages (I think it was closer to 40%), but that misses the whole point.

We’re not quibbling over legislative compromises. For example, I would have given the NRA exemption and every other exemption that was proposed to pass the DISCLOSE act. We’re not stupid, we understand the need to compromise and the fact that of course you can’t get all of what you want.

The real issue isn’t whether you changed some provisions and didn’t change others; it’s whether you changed the system or not. That’s the change we were looking for.

So, in the case of health care, as long as there was some effort to break the health insurance monopoly we would have all jumped in. We didn’t need single payer, we didn’t need Medicare buy-in for everyone, we didn’t even need the public option for everyone (all of those would have been great, but we were nowhere near them in this political cimate). We just needed something, something to start changing the broken system.

We would have settled for Medicare buy-in starting at age 55. We would have settled for the public option that only applied for 5% of the country, the last proposal. There were no wild demands, no mythical inflexible progressives demanding 100%. We just didn’t want the core of the system to be exactly as it was before. And unfortunately it is.

Yes, we got more coverage for more people. I’m not discounting the good sides of the bill, but at the same time you can’t be purposely dense to what we’re saying. Private health insurance is still our only option, drug companies still have massive monopolies, our premiums are still going up and we are still at the mercy of these corporations.

But health care is just an example; the real heart of the issue is how our elections are financed. The lobbyists are killing us. The Democratic voters hate them and so do the Republican voters. They buy our politicians and corrupt the whole system. That is what the Tea Party protestors are most angry about at their core (73% of Tea Party supporters are against the Citizens United decision that allows for corporations to spend unlimited money on elections). That is what progressives are most angry about at their core (86% of liberals are against Citizens United). The system is broken. Our politicians don’t work for us. Our representatives don’t represent us. That is what we wanted to change!

And what was done about that? Nearly nothing! Yes, Obama administration brought a little more transparency to the process initially (though after Citizens United we’ve taken a giant step backwards – and that’s a part of why that is one of the most unpopular decisions in Supreme Court history). Yes, the administration mostly banned lobbyists for working for them directly. But there was no major piece of legislation to fix the heart of the system.

If we continue to let special interests, corporate interests and lobbyists buy our politicians, there’s no hope on any of the issues. Then Obama is right, the best we could hope for is a little bit of change in the different fields. If you accept that false premise, then Obama did the best he could do within those constraints.

But we didn’t elect him to accept that premise, we elected him to change that premise. That was the change we were waiting for – and didn’t get.

Unfortunately, based on President Obama’s answers to Jon Stewart he still doesn’t get it and has no intentions of pushing that agenda in the next two years. And he will probably be just as flummoxed then as to why people aren’t satisfied with his efforts. Your timidity isn’t based on your specific policy proposals; it’s based on your lack of vision.

If he fought tooth and nail for complete public financing of elections in the next two years, even if he didn’t win, we would all back him 100%. We don’t need 100% success, but we do need you to at least head in the right direction. And we need you to understand what we meant by change.

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Obama Scapegoats His Own Voters

3:05 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

I don’t want to bore you with the details of why they didn’t fight for real change and how they accepted Washington exactly as it was and made no effort to change its underlying structures and assumptions. We’ve been over it a million times. No, today the interesting part is why they brought up this old fight in the first place.

This was not a gaffe. It was not a slip about the "professional left" from someone who had grown frustrated. This was a coordinated strategy. Biden and Obama even used the same talking points. They hit their base for complaining and then both said it was time to "buck up." That’s not an accident; that’s planned.

One possibility is that they think yelling at their voters before an election is smart electoral politics. Accuse them of whining and taking their ball and going home. Treat them like children and maybe they’ll comply? These are Democrats we’re talking about so maybe they thought their voters would respond well to abuse. It is after all what Republicans have been using on Democratic politicians all of these years to great effect.

But I don’t think that’s it. That strategy is hardly inspiring and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever seen a political party yell at their voters like this before an election. It’s bizarre.  . . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Why Does Barack Obama Love the Establishment So Much?

4:03 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

These are hopeful days. The four horsemen of the establishment look like they are leaving the White House. Peter Orszag, who apparently was the most conservative of them all (and who just lobbied for more tax cuts for the rich), has left his position as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Larry Summers is leaving his position as director of National Economic Council. Rahm Emanuel might be out by October. And Tim Geithner is also rumored to be leaving after the election.

There are hardly four Democrats in the whole country who were more pro-establishment, anti-change, pro-corporate power, pro-Wall Street than those four. I’m being literal. Bob Rubin might break into the top four, maybe Evan Bayh, maybe Harold Ford, Jr. But the four that are leaving the White House are undoubtedly in the top ten most corporate friendly Democrats in the country.

So, that leads to the question of why did Obama pick them in the first place? Why did the guy who promised to change the whole system bring in the guys who are most wedded to the system? Why does Barack Obama love the establishment so much?

This is no longer an academic question. In the words of President Obama, I don’t want to look backward, I want to look forward. This is the time for hope. So, all of these guys are leaving and I am perfectly happy to let bygones be bygones. The real question is — who is going to replace them?

Unfortunately, so far the answers aren’t good. Jacob Lew has been nominated to be the head of the OMB. During his Senate hearings he said this about deregulation:

"[T]he problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation … [I] personally [don't] know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don’t believe that deregulation was the proximate cause."

That’s crazy. Saying deregulation was not the proximate cause of the economic crash is like saying if you jump out of a building gravity will not be the proximate cause of your death. I’ve had many Republicans on our show that have admitted deregulating the banks so they could take enormous risk was not a good idea. Lew’s position is beyond Republican.

Some might think that Lew is motivated to take that position by his former (and possible future) employer, Citigroup. They paid him millions of dollars when he was an executive there, including a $950,000 bonus after Citigroup got bailed out by taxpayer money. But I don’t think Lew is driven by personal greed (though I don’t know the man, I’m just giving him the benefit of the doubt). I think he is the product of his context. He lives in the Washington/Wall Street bubble. And inside that bubble, everybody gets rich off of deregulation and it makes perfect sense to them.

So, why does Obama keep insisting on hiring within that bubble? Now, we hear that Summers replacement is likely to be a corporate executive because Obama feels he has been criticized for being anti-business. That is unreal. How easy is this guy to manipulate? Or does he want to be manipulated in that direction?

Who is calling Obama anti-business? The same Wall Street guys who robbed us of billions (some would argue trillions) and want to do it again. Why on God’s green earth would you continue to listen to those guys?

Yes, they have some lackeys in the establishment press, too. I’m sure Mark Halperin would write a blistering article if Obama dared to pick an actual progressive to fill any of these positions. But my God man, why in the world would you give a damn what Mark Halperin and his DC buddies think?

You’re losing the whole American population while trying to cater to these clowns. Get your head out of … the DC/NY bubble. The rest of the country doesn’t think you’re too tough on business; they think you haven’t done enough to help them — the middle class.

So, I ask this as an earnest question — why is Barack Obama obsessed with appeasing the establishment? Was he being completely disingenuous when he ran on change? How could he possibly have thought that Larry Summers or the corporate executive who might replace him would bring us real change?

Look, I ask all of this not to complain or because I am part of the so-called "professional left" but because it matters to the very important decisions he is about to make.

For example, if he picked Howard Dean to replace Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, we would all know we were going in the right direction. Not because Dean is a panacea, but because it would mean that Obama is getting serious about change and taking on the power establishment.

You know Dean would stand up for the middle class. You know all of the political pundits in DC would hate him. Now, does anyone think Obama has the courage to defy Washington conventional wisdom and appoint Dean? That’s what I thought. Even if you love Obama with all of your heart, you know he’d never have the guts to pick Dean. That would make Washington and New York very angry with him. And he hates that. He has to be loved by those guys. They’re the ones in his bubble.

I ask all of these questions because I am desperate to figure out how we can get President Obama to deliver on the change he promised so we can finally deliver for the middle class in this country instead of the wealthy and powerful that surround the president in Washington. What makes him tick? How can we get him to fall out of love with the establishment? How can we get him to have the courage to govern like he ran for office — with passion and conviction to help all of us instead of the Washington power elite?

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Why Rahm Was 100% Wrong

3:04 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

The Rahm Emanuel strategy was to cut deals with power brokers in Washington and ignore what liberals wanted. This was best illustrated when he called liberals "fucking retarded" for trying to push for real change. His attitude was that you could ignore progressive demands because – where could they go?!

Well, it turns out that the answer to that question is – home. Now there are several polls out showing a 5 to 10% difference between registered Democratic voters and likely Democratic voters. Democrats are basically tied with the Republicans on registered voters. But they get clobbered on likely voters. Why? Because voters who are disillusioned aren’t likely to vote.

Why are they disillusioned Rahm might ask when we gave them health care reform and financial reform? The answer is because they’re not nearly as dumb as you think they are. You think you can just call something reform and people are going to buy it? That’s not going to fly, especially in the new media age.

We all know that Obama struck the same exact deals with the big drug companies that Bush did. Obama had campaigned against those specific agreements, but once he got into office he was convinced that we couldn’t upset those deals and that we just had to shoot for a tiny bit of change. That we couldn’t change the way Washington ran, we could just play the old Washington game a little better. That is the essence of Rahm Emanuel. . . .

Read the rest of this entry →