You are browsing the archive for Bill Moyers.

Thank You Bill Moyers!

9:40 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

On Friday, April 30, 2010, Bill Moyers broadcast his final program of the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. This diary is a thank you for all of the years of insights and the wonderful interviews that Bill Moyers has provided to American citizens.

Moyers was born in 1934, served as a summer intern to then Senator Lyndon Johnson and later became LBJ’s press secretary from 1965 to 1967. His journalistic career began when he served as publisher of the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. He moved it from a conservative to a progressive publication and brought in Pete Hamill, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Saul Bellow as writers. Under Moyers, circulation increased and the publication won 33 major journalism awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

Moyers later did commentary work for both CBS news and NBC. But he is best remembered for his affiliation with PBS which began in 1971. On April 25, 2007, Moyers returned to PBS with Bill Moyers Journal (he had done a show under this name earlier for PBS too). The first episode, entitled "Buying the War", had Moyers investigating the what he called the general media’s shortcomings in the runup to the War in Iraq.

His awards, according to Wikipedia include:

Recipient of the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award, "Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns," according to the official announcement, which also noted that "the scope of and quality of his broadcasts have been honored time and again. It is fitting that the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honor him with our highest honor—the Lifetime Achievement Award."[37] He has received well over thirty Emmys and virtually every other major television journalism prize, including a gold baton from the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a lifetime Peabody Award, and a George Polk Career Award (his third George Polk Award) for contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including a doctorate from the American Film Institute.[1]

One of the most insightful interviews that I have seen was Moyer’s interview with both Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner on his PBS show of December 18, 2009. To see it, or read the transcript of it, click here.

Here are but a few highlights of Moyers’s comments from that show which indicate that he was less than pleased with Barack Obama’s performance as President:

BILL MOYERS: If you were Republican, wouldn’t you feel right now that it’s going your way? I mean, the Democrats control the White House, they control Congress and the only thing they’ve been able to make happen this year is escalate the war in Afghanistan.

On the health "insurance bill" that eventually emerged under Obama:

BILL MOYERS: Matt, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a very progressive member of Congress who’s been at this table wanted a public option. He says this health care bill appears to be the legislation that the president wanted in the first place.

On how Congress is corrupted by donations and money:

BILL MOYERS: But members of Congress, they take the same contributions from the same insurance and real estate and drug industry. You look at the list of contributions to members of Congress- they are as saddled by obligations as the President, right?

On Obama not being an agent of change:

BILL MOYERS: But what if by nature, that’s not what he wants to do? What if, by nature, he prefers to head the establishment, than to change it?

And this interchange with Taibbi and Kuttner on how Obama mouthed banking reform but was really in bed with corporate interests:

BILL MOYERS: I was thinking about both of you Sunday night when President Obama was on 60 MINUTES and he said…

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: Then on Monday afternoon, he had this photo opportunity in which he scolded the bankers and then they took it politely and graciously, which they could’ve done because the Hill at that very moment was swarming with banking lobbyists making sure that what the President wants doesn’t happen. I mean, what did you think as you watched him on 60 MINUTES or watched that press conference?

MATT TAIBBI: It seemed to me that it was a response to a lot of negative criticism that he’s been getting in the media lately, that they are probably looking at the President’s poll numbers from the last couple of weeks that have been remarkably low. And a lot of that has to do with some perceptions about his ties to Wall Street. And I think they felt a need to come out and make a strong statement against Wall Street, whether they’re actually do anything is, sort of, a different question. But I think that was my impression.

ROBERT KUTTNER: I was appalled. I was just appalled because think of the timing. On Thursday and Friday of last week, the same week when the president finally gives this tough talk on "60 Minutes," a very feeble bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and crucial decisions are being made. And where is the President? I mean, there was an amendment to put some teeth back in the provision on credit default swaps and other kinds of derivatives. And that went down by a handful of votes. And to the extent that the Treasury and the White House was working that bill, at all, they were working the wrong side. There was a there was a provision to exempt foreign exchange derivatives from the teeth in the bill. That–

I’m not sure about you, but I cannot think of another political observer/journalist who is considered part of the mainstream media who has been so prescient, so critical and so insightful of what is happening in American society. The only one who comes close is Amy Goodman of Democracynow but Goodman has always been seen and treated as an outsider. Not so Moyers. Maybe it’s because of that folksy way that he has, maybe it is because he seems to be able to get along with everyone while still preserving his integrity. Somebody should ask him how he has done that for all these years.

Fittingly, Moyer’s last show on PBS, the one that aired this past Friday, had Jim Hightower of Texas as his guest. Here’s a fascinating discussion between the two men (with a transcript from Truthout) on how the tea bagger movement differs from populism:

BILL MOYERS: How does the Tea Party differ from the people you’re talking about? We have two groups of Americans, both angry and defiant, and both calling themselves populists. What don’t they have in common?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Here’s what populism is not. It is not just an incoherent outburst of anger. And certainly it is not anger that is funded and organized by corporate front groups, as the initial Tea Party effort is, and as most of it is still today. Though there is legitimate anger within it, in terms of the people who are there. But what populism is at its essence is a, a just determined focus on helping people be able to get out of the iron grip of the corporate power that is overwhelming our economy, our environment, energy, the media, government. And I guess that’s one big difference between real populism and what the Tea Party thing is, is that real populists understand that government has become a subsidiary of corporations. So you can’t say, let’s get rid of government. You need to be saying let’s take over government.

How about this revealing set of observations from Moyers and Hightower on the Democrats and Obama:

BILL MOYERS: There’s someone we both know said to me just this morning, the Republicans work for Wall Street and the Democrats are afraid to work against them.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Isn’t that strange? You know, the– it’s odd to me that we’ve got a President who ran from the outside and won. And now is trying to govern from the inside. You can’t do progressive government from the inside. You have to rally those outsiders and make them a force to come inside.

If you want to read a nice tribute to Bill Moyer’s, here an excellent one from Michael Winship who has been associated with Moyers. He also has some good news. Moyers will still be around, will still offer us some of the best insights available:

With this week’s edition, Bill Moyers Journal goes off the air. But we’ll be continuing the conversation via our Web site at PBS.org/moyers. These weekly columns will be continuing for the foreseeable as well.

Thanks again Bill and keep those great comments coming!

Michael Moore Challenges Obama: Replace Rahm with Moore: Why It Won’t Work & What Michael Misses!

8:05 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

Michael Moore has a witty, "must read" column up over at his website and at the Huffington Post in which he challenges Barack Obama to replace Rahm Emanuel with–Michael Moore. "President Obama, Replace Rahm With Me: An Open Letter From Michael Moore" is a funny post and gets in digs at both Obama and Rahm.

But at its base, Michael Moore perceives Obama wrongly: Obama isn’t hostage to the right or hostage to Rahm, Obama isn’t some good guy who’s been misled. Rather, Obama’s a willing partner, even leader (he is POTUS, after all), in what his administration has done this past 14 months. Obama sold out long ago to Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs.

First, let’s have a look at Moore’s excellent writing over at the Huffington Post which starts with:

Dear President Obama,

I understand you may be looking to replace Rahm Emanuel as your chief of staff.

I would like to humbly offer myself, yours truly, as his replacement.

I will come to D.C. and clean up the mess that’s been created around you. I will work for $1 a year. I will help the Dems on Capitol Hill find their spines and I will teach them how to nonviolently beat the Republicans to a pulp.

And I will help you get done what the American people sent you there to do. I don’t need much, just a cot in the White House basement will do.

Now, don’t get too giddy with excitement over my offer, because you and I are going to be up at 5 in the morning, seven days a week and I am going to get you pumped up for battle every single day (see photo). Each morning you and I will do 100 jumping jacks and you will repeat after me:

"THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ELECTED ME, NOT THE REPUBLICANS, TO RUN THE COUNTRY! I AM IN CHARGE! I WILL ORDER ALL OBSTRUCTIONISTS OUTTA MY WAY! IF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DON’T LIKE WHAT I’M DOING THEY CAN THROW MY ASS OUT IN 2012. IN THE MEANTIME, I CALL THE SHOTS ON THEIR BEHALF! NOW, CONGRESS, DROP AND GIVE ME 50!!"

That’s funny! I can just see the good Congresspeople dropping and doing 50 push-ups (or Michael, for that matter!).

Later in his article, Moore goes on to say this:

Well, you and the Democrats have been in charge now for over a year and not one banking regulation has been reinstated. We don’t have universal health care. The war in Afghanistan has escalated. And tens of thousands of Americans continue to lose their jobs and be thrown out of their homes. For most of us, it’s just simply no longer good enough that Bush is gone. Woo hoo. Bush is gone. Yippee. That hasn’t created one new friggin’ job.

You’re such a good guy, Mr. President. You came to Washington with your hand extended to the Republicans and they just chopped it off. You wanted to be respectful and they decided that they were going to say "no" to everything you suggested. Yet, you kept on saying you still believed in bipartisanship.

Well, if you really want bipartisanship, just go ahead and let the Republicans win in November. Then you’ll get all the bipartisanship you want.

It’s written well, Michael, and it sounds great. I especially like your P.S.:

P.S. Just to give you an idea of the new style I’ll be bringing with me, when a cornhole like Sen. Ben Nelson tries to hold you up next time, this is what I will tell him in order to get his vote: "You’ve got exactly 30 seconds to rescind your demand or I will personally make sure that Nebraska doesn’t get one more federal dollar for the rest of Obama’s term. And then I will let everyone in your state know that you wear Sooner panties, backwards. NOW DROP AND GIVE ME 50!"

What a hoot that is!

But unfortunately, Michael, you’ve made a mistake(s)[see below where you wrongly credit Rahm with the 50 state strategy]. You haven’t looked at facts. You haven’t looked at Obama’s real background. The scenario that you paint–Obama’s a good guy surrounded by bad advisers like Rahm who have misled him–is wrong. Please have a look at Bill Moyer’s Journal interview with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner (see link below) and Obama’s speech before the Hamilton Project in 2006 (links below) to see the real Obama.

Obama, after all, is the guy who picked Rahm as his Chief of Staff. Just like he let the Republican Robert Gates (who was chosen by W) continue in the most important position in his Cabinet–Secretary of Defense. Just like Obama kept on almost all of W’s generals, and even promoted most of them. Remember too, that Obama wanted that great libertarian and humanist, Judd Gregg, who opposed both Obama’s economic stimulus plan and just recently a one-time $250 payment to Social Security recipients who otherwise get no cost of living increase this year in their benefits, as Obama’s Commerce Secretary.

One must dig into facts, into actions, more–Michael–to understand the real Obama. Pick up just about anything Matt Taibbi has written, or James Street’s excellent, "Obama as Predicted". Have a look at then Senator Barack Obama’s speech in 2006 at the opening ceremony of the Hamilton Project. Bob Rubin and Goldman Sachs funded the Hamilton Project and in his speech, Obama thanks "my friend Bob" and calls for more NAFTA-like agreements and cuts in entitlements. It’s not an coincidence that one of Obama’s first acts (Obama’s Geithner coordinated with Bush’s Paulson) was to support TARP 1 and Tarp 2. It’s not a coincidence that so many Goldman Sachs people are working next to Obama. It’s not just a coincidence that Goldman Sachs was one of the primary beneficiaries of Obama’s economic bailouts, either. It’s not a coincidence that Obama lied to the American public as a candidate when he said he wanted to reform NAFTA.

Nor is it a coincidence that one of the chief architects of deregulation, the guy that Harvard fired, Larry Summers, sits as Obama’s chief economic adviser. (NOTE: Both Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot share something: a disdain for coincidences. The super sleuths, though fictional, were right. With Obama, one has to follow the money trail too.).

The Russian people made the same kind of mistake pre-revolution. If one looks back at history during that time, common people all thought the Tsar was a "good guy" (despite his abysmal record) and that he was misled by bad advisers. Same well-intentioned but mistaken thinking in your post, Michael. In reality, the Tsar cared about the Tsar, not "his" people. Ditto with Obama. Obama has his Rasputin only because he, Obama, chose him and continues to support him.

I know you’re a nice guy and I’ve loved your documentaries over the years. I still laugh at the scene in "Sicko" where you use the bullhorn at Gitmo asking for help! Hilarious! Any time I see a bullhorn it reminds me of your good work. And those priceless interviews on the streets with Congressmen in your documentary on "Fahrenheit 9-11". Classic stuff! Better than "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." You outdid Capra with reality and that’s hard to do.

But since you’re a nice guy, one of the true good guys around, maybe you find it easier to believe that Obama is one too. He’s not (I’m not talking about Obama as person or as dad but as a leader). Not at least in the sense of whom he fights for. Obama was bought and paid for by Goldman Sachs and he fights for them, big banks, big insurance companies, and the military industrial complex. His record for the past 14 months makes that clear.

One thing that you got spot on, Michael, was the ending of your otherwise excellent post:

Let me be clear about one thing: The Democrats on Election Day 2010 are going to get an ass-whoopin’ of biblical proportions if things don’t change right now. And after the new Republican majority takes over, they, along with a few conservative Democrats in Congress, will get to bipartisanly impeach you for being a socialist and a citizen of Kenya. How nice to see both sides of the aisle working together again!

And the brief window we had to fix this country will be gone.

The only way to clean up the mess is not for you, Michael Moore, to take Rahm’s position, but to take Obama’s position.

Mike, please, please, for the sake of Flint and the rest of America, primary Obama in 2012. You won’t need a bullhorn then, you’d have the entire Bully Pulpit!

Then we’ll see real, not faux, change!

NOTE:

On the Hamilton Project please see these articles that appeared here at FDL:

1. "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine in New DLC Vessels" [includes video clip with Senator Obama's April, 2006, speech: bowing and scrapping to Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs ("my friend, Bob"); endorsing NAFTA and asking for more such trade pacts; and, asking for cuts to entitlements]

2. "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows his Links to Goldman Sachs, Entitlement Cuts", Part 1 and Part 2

Also highly recommended for insights into the REAL Obama:

1) Bill Moyer’s Journal program with interview of Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, 18 December 2009 [where a video clip of the entire show can be seen or you can read the full transcript of the program]

2) "Betrayal"–President Obama–is the Saddest Word"

3) Stanley Kutler, "The System Works, Obama’s Approach Doesn’t" at Truthdig

4) Matt Taibbi, "Obama’s Big Sellout"

5) Paul Street, "Obama, as Predicted"

SPECIAL NOTE TO MICHAEL MOORE:

In your article on your own website and at the Huffington Post, you wrongly credit Rahm with the successful 50-state strategy:

That’s certainly what he [Rahm] did in 2006. After six long, miserable years of the middle-class getting slaughtered and the poor being flushed down the toilet, Rahm Emanuel took on the job of returning Congress to the Democrats. No one believed it could be done.

But he did it. Big time.

Wrong, wrong, (with a bullhorn) WRONG! That was Howard Dean’s work and it’s also a fact that Rahm (and Obama) hates Dean for this and his other successes. That’s why Dean is not in the Obama administration. Recall also that Rahm was strategy maker for the 1994 Democratic fiasco and was nearly sacked by Bill Clinton for it!

Obama-Dem Party 2010 Strategy: Talk (but NOT act) Like Populists

7:08 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are below 50% (the lowest at this time for any president since Truman) and the Democratic party is in deep trouble as witnessed by its flailing in the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts.

So what’s their strategy going to be in 2010 when all seats in the House of Representatives will be up for stakes and an inordinate number of Senatorial positions too?

Obama’s going to talk like a populist and so will the rest of his administration. It’s actually a variation on Obama’s 2008 election strategy when he made promises (in short, talk) and pretty but vague speeches the central focus of his campaign. Nice speeches, yes! Actual achievements in the past year, real reform, nada.

The Washington Post carried an article by Liz Sidoti of the AP noting this in a story titled, "Analysis: Obama Using Populist Appeals in 2010":

President Barack Obama is using strikingly populist appeals to an angry electorate in Massachusetts’ Senate race, a likely preview of his November strategy to curb steep Democratic Party losses in Congress and the nation’s statehouses.

"When the chips are down, when the tough votes come, on all the fights that matter to middle-class families … who is going to be on your side?," Obama asked Sunday, shedding his executive-like tie as he campaigned for a struggling Democratic candidate – and tested a midterm election message.

His answer: Democrats work for the little guys on Main Street while Republicans do the bidding of Wall Street.

Obama’s press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, fleshed out this Obama administration-as-populists theme in the same article:

"That’s a lot of what 2010 is going to be about," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "People are going to have to decide whether the people they have in Washington are on the side of protecting the big banks, whether they’re on the side of protecting the big oil companies, whether they’re on the side of protecting insurance companies, or whether they’re on the people’s side."

Well let’s see what happens if we grade Obama by press secretary’s test. It’s pretty clear that Obama is on the side of protecting the big banks (especially Goldman Sachs), that Obama’s on the side of the big oil companies, and that Obama (given his mandated "health insurance reforms") is on the side of protecting insurance companies. So under Obama, the score stands at Fat Cats 3, The People 0. But that still will not prevent Obama from cloaking himself in populism which is exactly what he did recently, for instance, in promoting Martha Coakley for the Senate in Massachusetts:

Martha knows the struggles Massachusetts working families face because she’s lived those struggles. She’s fought for the people of Massachusetts every single day…She’s got your back. Her opponent has got Wall Street’s back…Let me be clear: Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate. They’ve got plenty. Where’s yours? That’s the question.

But the mainstream media has this wrong as usual. Actually, Obama began testing his "I’m really a populist" line of bull shit back in mid-December of last year. Remember when Obama was interviewed on 60 minutes and he said he did not run for office to "help out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall St"? That was a remarkable statement for a man who as early as 2006 was a darling of Robert Rubin (former head of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup) and whom Rubin invited to give the opening talk at the Goldman Sachs funded Hamilton Project. That was a remarkable statement from a man who took more money from Goldman Sachs than anyone else in his campaigns. And it was a remarkable statement coming from a man who has put more Goldman Sachs people in his administration than any other president. He indeed DID plan long ago to help out "fat cat bankers" and that’s exactly why they financed him in the Senate and in his presidential election campaign.

What is further remarkable, as Robert Kuttner pointed out to Bill Moyers on the Bill Moyers show on December 18, 2009, is that Obama was talking his populist anti-banker talk at the very same time his administration was working to weaken legislation designed to control the worst excesses of the banking sector. From the Bill Moyers interview with Kuttner and Matt Taibbi:

BILL MOYERS: Then on Monday afternoon, he had this photo opportunity in which he scolded the bankers and then they took it politely and graciously, which they could’ve done because the Hill at that very moment was swarming with banking lobbyists making sure that what the President wants doesn’t happen. I mean, what did you think as you watched him on 60 MINUTES or watched that press conference?

MATT TAIBBI: It seemed to me that it was a response to a lot of negative criticism that he’s been getting in the media lately, that they are probably looking at the President’s poll numbers from the last couple of weeks that have been remarkably low. And a lot of that has to do with some perceptions about his ties to Wall Street. And I think they felt a need to come out and make a strong statement against Wall Street, whether they’re actually do anything is, sort of, a different question. But I think that was my impression.

ROBERT KUTTNER: I was appalled. I was just appalled because think of the timing. On Thursday and Friday of last week, the same week when the president finally gives this tough talk on "60 Minutes," a very feeble bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and crucial decisions are being made. And where is the President? I mean, there was an amendment to put some teeth back in the provision on credit default swaps and other kinds of derivatives. And that went down by a handful of votes. And to the extent that the Treasury and the White House was working that bill, at all, they were working the wrong side. There was a there was a provision to exempt foreign exchange derivatives from the teeth in the bill. That–

MATT TAIBBI: Foreign exchange derivatives are what caused the Long Term Capital Management crisis–

ROBERT KUTTNER: Sure.

MATT TAIBBI: A tremendous problem.

BILL MOYERS: Ten or 12 years ago, right?

MATT TAIBBI: Right.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. And, Treasury was lobbying in favor of that. There was a provision in the bill to exempt small corporations, not so small, I believe at $75 million and under, from a lot of the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requiring honest accounting. Rahm Emanuel personally was lobbying in favor of that.

BILL MOYERS: So you had the Treasury and the White House chief of staff arguing on behalf of the banking industry?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. Right. And so here’s the president two days later giving a tough speech. Why wasn’t he working the phones to toughen up that bill and, you know, walk the talk?

But Obama’s game has never been to "walk the talk"; he’s all talk, all pretty speeches and no real action as we have seen on a spectrum of issues in the first year of his presidency.

So what we will get this coming election year from Obama and his Democrats, is an even heavier dose of "Obama the Populist" which is all smoke and mirrors. One only has to look at who’s in the Obama administration (Rahm Emanuel, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Robert Gates); who Obama’s Senate mentor was (Joe Lieberman); and who he looks to spearhead his policy initiatives in the Senate (Max Baucus, Harry Reid) to realize this this populist is all talk and no walk.

UPDATE #1: Dems Likely to Weaken Financial Oversight Bill by dropping Consumer Protection Agency.

Since writing this diary, I’ve read a good article from the Wall St. Journal posted over at Huffington Post (lead story there under "Senate may cave to Wall Street again, Dodd may gut consumer protection agency" ) which indicates Sen. Dodd is considering scrapping the idea of creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, an initiative at the heart of the White House’s proposal to revamp financial-sector regulations. An excellent example of populist huffing and puffing coming from Dodd, Obama and the Democrats, but another cave-in to Wall St. This breaking news at Huffington Post is accompanied by another article with critical remarks made by Elizabeth Warren who says in part that:

Such a move would undermine the integrity of the reform project overall and set up the United States for another cycle of financial predation, crisis and bailout, Warren said.

FURTHER READING/INFORMATION:

On Obama, banks and the Hamilton Project:

>1) Kirk Murphy, "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine in New DLC Vessels" at FDL. NOTE: includes video clip of then Senator Obama talking in April, 2006, about "my friend Bob Rubin" and the need for more NAFTA-like trade pacts and the need to cut entitlements.

2) Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows his links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 1", at FDL;

3) Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun‘: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows his links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 2" at FDL;

On Understanding Obama:/>/>
1) Paul Street, "Obama: As Predicted" Z-NET.

On Bill Moyers Journal:

Full text of the Bill Moyers Journal program of December 18, 2009 (both transcript and video) (I highly recommend watching the whole show, Moyers is outstanding as are his panelists. This is what journalism should look like.):

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/12182009/profile.html