On Gate-Keepers and Pragmatists

At the beginning of Obama’s term, when he talked about governing as a pragmatist, I perhaps foolishly believed he meant not pragmatism as DC understands it–as a principle-less squishy middle–but as the Pragmatist school of philosophers would mean it–as someone fundamentally open to and respectful of the ideas and viewpoints of all. Mind you, it was clear that his top advisors–especially David Axelrod–used the word pragmatist in the tired old DC way. But out of whatever idealism or naivete, I believed a smart guy from Hyde Park like Obama, who fancied himself an education reformer, couldn’t help but to have internalized the tradition of Dewey.

Thus far in Obama’s term, it hasn’t worked out that way.

That’s because, regardless of what Obama believes or has internalized, Big-P Pragmatism requires a certain kind of process–an openness to multiple viewpoints–and such process has not existed because of the gate-keepers at Obama’s White House thus far.

Now, to Obama’s credit, every single account of Obama’s decision-making includes some description of what a good listener he is. There’s always the scene where Obama listens intently to the disparate viewpoints on a subject, makes those people believe he has heard them with respect, and then makes his decision.

There are the multiple stories that relate events that take place before such sessions, wherein someone–most often Larry Summars but also Rahm–instructs a person in no uncertain terms that they will not be able to present their viewpoint to the President. There are even stories about minor progressive successes–such as Elizabeth Warren getting Obama’s support for the Consumer Finance Protection Board–that include a person finding a clever way around Summers or Rahm.

Now there’s always the very real possibility that for all that Obama fancies himself a Pragmatist, his unacknowledged very real ideological stances won the day. It may well be that Obama will never succeed in behaving as a Pragmatist because he’s just a lot more ideologically centrist than he thinks he is.

But a significant part of the problem is that for most of his term (I suspect, but don’t know, that Pete Rouse was much better on this point), he has had gate-keepers who either are fundamentally ideological beings (Summers) or are the squishy DC kind of pragmatist (Rahm), who prevented him from pursuing a process that allows real pragmatism.

Which brings us to Bill Daley.

I oppose Bill Daley because he has been, ideologically, on the wrong side of just about every issue. I oppose him because the last thing Obama needs is another bankster in the White House. I oppose him because the optics are horrible. I oppose him because when the next JPMorgan scandal hits–there are a number brewing–it will taint the White House by association.

But given my understanding of Obama’s failed pragmatism, I do take Howard Dean’s comments on Daley seriously.

The core issue is the contempt that not just the progressives were treated by–a lot of people were treated by–a bunch of senior advisors around the President who’ve been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing.


It was more than just Gibbs or Rahm, it was the whole mindset that was going on there. That will change dramatically especially if Bill Daley comes in, who I don’t agree with a lot of stuff politically but I do think a) he’s a grown-up and b) he gets that you don’t treat people like you know everything and they don’t.

Now, Dean is a pragmatist (though with none of the intellectual conceit about being one that Obama has). And so while I disagree with Dean’s characterization that Daley qualifies as someone from outside of Washington, I am very struck by Dean’s description of contempt being the key issue here.

The Chief of Staff’s job is to serve as a gate-keeper. Any Chief of Staff (or Economic Advisor in Summers’ case or Vice President in Cheney’s) can use that position to ensure that only their ideologically-favored choices are presented to the President. Or he (always he, it seems) can make an effort to serve the President’s claim to real pragmatism.

I’m not all that optimistic about Daley. All the myth-making about Obama’s bad relationship with the business community and the seeming certainty that hiring a bankster like Daley will fix that suggests that the whole point of this is about even further narrowing the ideological gate through which ideas and people get presented to the President.

But it is true that Obama’s real skill at listening isn’t worth a damn thing if Rahm or Summers are guarding his door. Let’s hope Daley will change that.

  1. Peterr says:

    Sounds to me like the business community understands the WH negotiating techniques, and has leveraged that understanding into getting what they wanted with absolutely no cost to them.

    Appointing Daley is yet another instance of preemptively caving to someone who challenges the WH from the right, and it will end up getting the WH absolutely nothing from the right in return.

  2. Rayne says:

    Interesting — it’s almost as if Dean was setting the frame for the next phase. His words feel like they’ve been rattling around in his head for quite some time, crystallized in the single word, contempt.

  3. 1der says:

    Two views on Obama and his open-mind:

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of President Obama?

    JOHAN GALTUNG: I have never believed in him. Never. I have lots of editorials and things written in the election year. I think that I sense something slightly megalomaniac in him, which is disturbing. The idea of being able to unite all of the US, just as he unites skin colors and faiths and origins in his body, and for that reason, leaning over backwards to negotiate with the Republicans and taking on Republican points, whereupon the Republicans vote no. Now, maybe the Republicans will now change from being a “no” party to some couple of “maybe” or “yeses,” maybe. But in the meantime, he has lost the support of the people who are voting for him. If I had been working like mad in 2008 to get him elected, because of some beauties in his rhetoric, and had experienced what I have experienced now, I would not work for the midterm elections.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think he has gone back on, in terms of his promises?

    JOHAN GALTUNG: Practically speaking, everything. Guantánamo is still there. Rendition is still there. There is the saying that no torture should take place; I haven’t seen the mechanism to ensure that that’s the case. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/16/johan_galtung_on_the_wars_in

    And Garry Wills: NYT: You were invited to the White House for an off-the-record dinner during Obama’s first year in office, along with some other presidential historians. Can you tell us what advice you gave him?
    WILLS: I said, “Don’t go into Afghanistan.”

    NYT: We were already there, so I assume you’re referring to the deployment of additional troops. How did he respond?
    WILLS: He was very prickly. He said: “I’m not a naïve optimist. I know of the difficulties. They’re all being considered and taken care of.” He really cut off this conversation.

    NYT: That’s surprising, especially since you describe him as a placater.
    WILLS: He’s kept a pretty tight little circle around him. By the way, that meeting with us was supposed to be the first of many. There have been none after. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/magazine/31FOB-Q4-t.html

    • jedimsnbcko19 says:

      good info!

      David Dayen

      “Corporations had their most profitable quarter in history at the end of 2010. Trickle down!”

      How much more love can OBAMA give to Corporations?

      I must be missing something, WALL STREET did crashed in 2008

      A lot of Wall Street Grown Ups like Bill Daley F UP the USA

      and the GROWN UP taxpayers of the USA had to bail out the STUPID grown ups who run Wall Street like Bill Daley.

      Howard Dean we all know grown ups most don’t belong to a club that loss 13 trillion plus of USA wealth.

      • Kassandra says:

        And where is the “personal responsibility”? only for the people who don’t “deserve it” I’d sure like to see THAT litmus test.

        When the progressives asked Obama why his HAMP program wasn’t working and he said he didn’t want people who”didn’t deserve it” to get away with keeping their homes. I thought of the law and order crowd who would rather see 100 innocent people put to death rather than one guilty person walk away.

        Obama is a very arrogant man; and, probably megalomaniacal as well.

        • lefttown says:

          Obama is a very arrogant man; and, probably megalomaniacal as well.

          Wikipedia notes that Bertrand Russell wrote: “The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved.”
          These past few weeks I’ve been calling Obama a narcissist. Now I wonder if “megalomaniac” isn’t a better description.

          • Kassandra says:

            I’ve found that personality disorders are not neatly defined but many times several are represented in one individual. It’s sort of a “stop! you’re both right” kind of thing.
            I sometimes wonder if mental illness is a gradual thing and if not addressed, morphs into worse and worse character disorders.

  4. joanneleon says:

    I appreciated your analysis. And I think you’re saying that because Daley is not Rahm or Summers, there’s a better chance that Obama won’t treat progressives and others with contempt, and that Daley will manage these relationships a bit better.

    What I don’t necessarily agree or see the strength of your argument in is that this will result in Obama listening to more viewpoints or even having access (via the gatekeeper) to more viewpoints and therefore becoming more of a real pragmatist.

    As for Dean, I think that he has become less and less coherent since he left the DNC. And I really do believe that this favorable opinion on the Daley choice is just one more attempt by him to get a seat at the table. I think he sees this as an opportunity to begin to have some influence at the White House, something he never had a prayer of while Rahm & Co. were around. I think that may be the reason why Dean cites the “contempt” as the core issue. It’s a core issue for him, personally but is it a core issue overall?

    I’m not big on Dean’s judgment on this one at all. In fact, and this is unusual for me WRT Dean, I’m not big on his honesty on this either.

    He’s not going to get a real seat at the table. If he is given any access at all, it will be solely with the intent of trying to get him to bring progressives and others on the left back into the fold. They know they’re in trouble for 2012. They need someone to hold the party together with platitudes and no real change in what they plan to do. My guess is that Dean has sensed or has been told that he’ll play a bigger role in these next two years. In exchange for his help herding the cats and for help in preventing a primary. And good luck with that after they put Social Security on the chopping block. In a sense, Dean is beginning to look like Charlie Brown making another attempt at kicking that football, but I also think he’s too smart to know that they’re not going to yank it away again.

    • Rayne says:

      Don’t you think it will be even more obvious Dean’s being cut out if he’s still persona non grata even with Daley as COS?

      That could well work in Dean’s favor, if not Obama’s, and we should see this clearly in a matter of 90 days.

  5. Watt4Bob says:

    I oppose him because when the next JPMorgan scandal hits–there are a number brewing–it will taint the White House by association.

    I’d guess that this is at least a small feature as opposed to bug.

  6. Peterr says:

    How Daley will remove himself from any discussions that involve his former employers is a mystery to me.

    We’re in the middle of a huge economic mess, for which Chase and the TBTF banks bear sizable responsibility.

    We’re in the middle of setting up the CFPB, which will impact Chase and the TBTF banks very strongly.

    We’re in the middle of setting up procedures at the FDIC and the Financial Stability Oversight Council on overseeing Chase and the TBTF banks, which will have tremendous implications for all concerned.

    With all this going on, Daley’s just going to step out of the room while these discussions take place? If someone comes to him and says “I’d like a meeting with POTUS to talk about this stuff,” will he turn the decision about granting or denying the meeting over to someone else who doesn’t have these conflicts of interest?

    With all the potential for recusals, it sounds like Daley’s just found himself a nice part-time job.

    • emptywheel says:

      Hey, it worked for Elena Kagen!!

      I consider the “hiring a JPM exec” an unforced error, unbelievable stupid for this reason AND the inevitable scandal taint he’ll have.

    • lefttown says:

      ‘Pragmatism’ is just another one of his sell-tested, deliberately deceptive slogans.

      Yes, yes, yes. And Howard Dean is now a Veal Pen Honcho.

    • lindytindy says:

      Yes, pragmatism is just another smoke screen phrase…it amazes me that people are still waiting for the ‘good’ Obama to emerge. Obama is a tool of Wall Street, plain and simple. Look at his accomplishments without the filter of wishing he was a progressive. He is the farthest thing from that. Actually I think he is a fascist. Everything he has done is to strengthen the ties between Wall Street and the other major industries with big government with more and more control over our lives. So when I hear liberals continue to support him as the lesser of two evils, I want to puke. He is Bush squared in terms of his true ideology. Yes, I too was fooled and voted for him. What else could one do with a choice like McCooter as the alternative? Obama is a dangerous megalomaniac, like so many of our Presidents, more than a little bit nuts. Dump Obama in 2012, we need a much better alternative.

  7. ottogrendel says:

    A tight group of advisors that creates at best a pro-corporate, ideological filter and at worst an echo chamber surrounding a “leader” who imagines himself above the law and the citizenry sounds like what other administration? Good cop, bad cop.

  8. allan says:

    a smart guy from Hyde Park like Obama

    like Cass Sunstein
    like Casey Mulligan
    like John Cochrane

    You lie down with Chicago Boys, you get up with flies.

  9. szielinski says:

    I’m finding it hard to fake a pragmatic response to this:

    But it is true that Obama’s real skill at listening isn’t worth a damn thing if Rahm or Summers are guarding his door. Let’s hope Daley will change that.

    So: I strongly suspect you wishes for Daley and Obama have produced a delusion about Daley and Obama.

    Obama may be a Pragmatist when he’s sitting in his comfy chair sipping on a glass of brandy, but he’s also a neoliberal, and his staff choices have always expressed his ideological commitment to that brutal form of capitalism.

    • ackack says:

      Fail to see how one could label our president (insert word)-LIBERAL ANYTHING!

      It is hard for me to take seriously any comment which includes calling Mr. Obama a liberal, given all the evidence to the contrary.

      Perhaps you could enlighten me.

      • szielinski says:

        Fail to see how one could label our president (insert word)-LIBERAL ANYTHING!

        labeling Obama a neoliberal does not mean I complemented Obama, it means I condemned him for contributing in to the class war being waged on the poor, working and middle classes.

        So, it’s not clear to me what your complaint is.

        • Kassandra says:

          He doesn’t understand that Neo-Con, in the rest of the world is called Neo-Liberal. Because it’s liberal to the corporations, not the people.
          So few in the US still don’t pay attention to what happens in the rest of the world. And, right now, the rest of the world is doing the reporting that our “free press” does not do.

          Like this for instance:
          Gulf of Mexico oil spill: BP relief as White House report spreads the blame
          Or the dead animals all over the world hear any of that on our NOOZ?

          • ackack says:

            Point taken K.

            However, please don’t lump me in with those that have no sense of the rest of the world. I pay attention more than most to what occurs outside our borders.

            Ignorance of a political term used outside the US by a citizen of the US should not be a surprise.

            My point is made, though. While I may now have an understanding of that term as used, the general population of the US only sees ‘liberal’, and clearly has not the subtlety of thought to discern much of a difference between neo- or not.

            • Kassandra says:

              Hey, we’re all just trying to learn and teach each other. no disrespect intended.
              None of us can see more than the tip of the iceberg at this point and maybe that’s a good thing or we’d all go stark raving nuts.

              • szielinski says:

                Words like liberal, neoliberal, conservative, neoconservative, progressive, reactionary, socialist, revolutionary socialist, social democrat, etc. ought to help clarify political discussion. But they don’t in most instances.

                So, for most Americans, a strong commitment to liberalism as it has been understood and practiced in the United States since the New Deal would be a good thing. That’s why the right has attacked the word and the practice since that time. So, a defense of American liberalism amounts to a defense of American social democracy.

                Neoliberalism is a much different matter.

                In the end, these terms lack a precise definition. They probably create more confusion than not. I thus believe the discussion of the issues is far more important than the precise meaning of these names since that meaning can never be made precise enough to avoid debate over their meaning!

                • fritter says:

                  They are confusing a economic term (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberal) with a political term (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism). Your usage was correct. These words have meanings that are pretty easy to look up. Obama is most certainly a Neoliberal along with practically all of our government. It can be debated whether that’s a good or bad thing, but its pretty obvious its the case. Just as that he is not Liberal unless you mean in the let them eat cake sense.
                  Daley is a feature, not a bug, as Glenzilla describes well.

                  • ackack says:

                    Thank you. But I must still make the point, if being a bit obtuse in so doing, that conservative more accurately describes the man, and is a term generally understood in the public discourse. To essentially re-label the same position only serves to cloud the issue.

                    And, exposing my age a bit, I must take a little exception to your references, as I still find it difficult to take seriously wiki anything as a reference.

        • ackack says:

          Just that I’m looking for a way that this president could be termed a liberal.

          He’s been clearly right-of-center on 90% of his actions, hardly liberal.

          IO believe when people describe him as a liberal they do a disservice to the term and its origins.

          From Merriam-Webster:

          of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party … associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

          This is where I’m coming from.

          I tire of seeing this word misused by the media and/or critics when discussing Obama except when saying, for example, “wow, President Obama isn’t the liberal president that candidate Obama said he would be”.

          • szielinski says:

            I didn’t identify Obama as a liberal. I claimed he’s a neoliberal.

            A liberal in the US as that term has been used for decades refers to someone who is committed to something like Social Democratic governance as it has been practiced in Europe.

            A neoliberal is someone committed imposing market discipline on “little people” while abetting profit-taking, capital accumulation, globalization and, most of all, rent-seeking financial capital.

            My use of these terms conforms to their common usage. So, I’m not unlikely to change my mind on this except when someone or some people make a compelling case for it.

  10. alan1tx says:


    All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans

    • jedimsnbcko19 says:


      “All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans”

      Now we all know why Wall Street went up in flames in 2008

      People like Daley are very bad in math!

      Daley should view the link below:


      New poll out indicates that the country is clearly, massively, overwhelmingly progressive. While they talk about cutting so-called entitlement programs in Washington, the American people have completely different priorities.

      When asked what’s the first thing they would do to balance the budget, Americans had an unmistakably clear answer — raise taxes on the rich. It came in number one by a mile, with a whopping 61 percent.

      Daley is a grown up that can’t do general math, with grown up like Daley running banks, one can easily see why Wall Street Crashed in 2008 and will Crashed again. :)

      • joanneleon says:

        Daley is a grown up that can’t do general math, with grown up like Daley running banks, one can easily see why Wall Street Crashed in 2008 and will Crashed again. :)

        Well, based on that quote, Daley is a grown up who thinks, just like his predecessors, not only that he knows better than anyone else, but that he can convince some hundred million people of his point of view, despite their lying eyes.

        Good luck with that. In good times you might be able to sell ice to Eskimos, or in times of great hope for change, but not right after you threw some 95+ percent of the country under the bus at a time when they’re struggling, and right after you butchered the New Deal. Yeah, good luck with that. There’s no end to the hubris of these pols.

      • Docbradd says:

        The American People’s priorities are completely irrelevant. Obama is not – NOT – running this country for the people, he is as much a corporatist as Bush43, and may think of himself as the second coming of Reagan. He is running it for the Banks and Corporations. If that isn’t obvious by now…

        To EW: While I cannot praise your intelligence and scholarship enough, I do disagree with your diagnosis re: Obama. I agree with Glenn Greenwald today (Fri. Jan 7) who suggests that Daley and Rahm are reflections of Obama, not the cause of Obama’s behavior. Obama is no pragmatist, not even a decent centrist. He is a Republican through and through, and ran as a Democrat as he had no chance of being nominated as a Republican. Call him the “Republican Manchurian Candidate.”

        I am taking the pledge. I will no longer vote for the apparent “lesser evil” and that means not voting Democrat in the next election. I would rather vote for someone who expresses views that are reality based – unfortunately, Noam Chomsky will never run.

  11. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Thank you Marcy! I actually respect Dr. Dean. He is a pragmatist! President Obama’s ability to sway me is on life support. I predict he will lose my support based upon his inability or unwillingness to even expend any real effort to keep the real promises he made to the American People. Barring a significant change in his governing efforts, I think he should be primaried by a real Democrat!

    • tammanytiger says:

      I lost all respect for Dr. Dean after he reinvented himself as a spokesperson for the Democratic Party establishment. The same establishment that showed him the door the moment his term as DNC head ran out.

      • oldoilfieldhand says:

        You are entitled to your opinion. Dr. Howard Dean tried to revitalize the Democratic Party and the “liberal Mainstream Media” (read corporate whores) crucified him. He’s from a part of the country that respects neighbors even if they have a different election sign in the front yard. We could use more of that! A pragmatist would realize that the party needs to be changed from within. Or maybe I mean a starry eyed dreamer…

  12. alan1tx says:

    Bill Daley:

    But now [Democrats] face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, “true” Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.

  13. tammanytiger says:

    DLC types argue that (a) the netroots and bloggers are doing great harm to the party and (b) they have so little influence that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously. I wish they’d choose one of these arguments and stick to it.

    • joanneleon says:

      DLC types argue that (a) the netroots and bloggers are doing great harm to the party and (b) they have so little influence that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously. I wish they’d choose one of these arguments and stick to it.

      This is so damned true, and I think it doesn’t speak well for the mindset and rationality of this particular set of politicians.

  14. alan1tx says:

    Bill Daley:

    In the meantime, liberals — and, indeed, all of us — should have the humility to recognize that there is no monopoly on good ideas, as well as the long-term perspective to know that intraparty warfare will only relegate the Democrats to minority status

    • dick c says:

      Do you think Daley knows, or cares if enacting policies that for the most part benefit only a small minority of wealthy individuals will do the job even quicker? It sounds like he’s another who’d rather do things the Republican way than break a sweat pushing long held principles. He’s just another fox in the hen house.

  15. jaango says:


    I don’t know whether to “commend” you or “berate” you. Perhaps, a tad of self-restraint on my part, is far more appropriate, in this instance.

    To wit, if I were to use the Template of Democratic Party “code talk” in which the Neo-Liberal is an actualized arch-conservative, both Obama and Daley, fit the pattern. Thus, Daley has been deemed to be, pretty much irrelevant, unless the sole purpose is to push forward the agenda of the Democratic Party’s “Code Talkers”.

    Take, for example, the “core values” of historic note and which is predicaated on “empowering the Individual” and done from the standpoint of Reproductive Rights and to Full-Employment, and from the furthering standpoint of an All Volunteer Army to a Qualitative and Quantitative Education Experience for our “littlest citizens”, amply demonstrates that Progressives, have fallen far short of my expectations.

    Consequently, Latino and Native American voters are being “held hostage” to the arch-conservatives in the Democratic Party, given that the presumed and incompetent “progressives” will not effectively address Comprehensive Immigration Reform. And in this regard, the notional for “contempt” is virtually non-existent, but what is existent is two fold and for a cavalier dismissal and an abject rejection. So, Dean’s crappola continues apace, just as Jacob Weisberg’s and David Corn’s “orgasm” over Bill Daley, is good for a rip-roaring belly laugh.


  16. ADC14 says:

    Make no mistake-banksters like Daley don’t make money by being smart or pragmatic, they make it by breaking the law and screwing people. His choice of Daley, though wholly predictable, is obscene given the origins of our economic mess.

    • frmrirprsn says:

      No, no, no! The most competent of the banksters make the real money by rotating into government long enough to make it legal to screw people.

  17. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    Great Quotes

    Bill Daley:

    But now [Democrats] face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, “true” Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.

    Does anyone know what CENTRIST Dem Stand for? we all know what they don’t stand for anything progressive.

    What makes centrist dems different from republicans? nothing (all one has to do is look at Obama track record as president)

    Howard Dean must be desparate! for some OBAMA loving.

    Calling Howard Dean? Obama is toast

    everyone who ever wanted to be president is now thinking about running for president in 2012 (so much for OBAMA being un-beatable)

    today Donald Trump threw his hat into the race

    anyone with half a brain can see the writing on the wall,

    (the following is not a racist statement just a fact )

    a black dem canidate cannot piss off his liberal base and win anything! let us be real here people.

    • alan1tx says:

      Bill Daley:

      While it may be too late to avoid some losses in 2010, it is not too late to avoid the kind of rout that redraws the political map. The leaders of the Democratic Party need to move back toward the center

    • Watson says:

      “Calling Howard Dean? Obama is toast”

      I think that Obama is like Bush in 2004.
      Bush could have been toast, but there was no toaster.

      • jedimsnbcko19 says:

        remember BUSH ran a BASE campaign.

        Bush did not move toward the center in 2004, to make liberals feel good.

        BUSH WENT hard right in 2004 ask Karl Rove (I remember this very well. John Kerry ran the dumbest campaign in the history of man kind)

        2012 will be a base election like all elections and Obama is a man with no base what so ever.

        Been to a tea party rally lately, Obama is trying to capture votes from people who drink tea. GOOD LUCK! with that idea Obama

        You cannot ignore the 200,000 pound pink elephant in the room when managing OBAMA, few people in the beltway know this, Obama is a black candidate.

        Count the number of black senators? you will get a number of 0.

        Black candidates seldom when statewide re-elections and most don’t break the rules Obama has broken.

        Howard Dean said something that everyone in DC knows, OBAMA needs 2008 energy to win in 2012. Not going to happen. so Obama is toast.

  18. emal says:

    Interesting thoughts and comments. That said imo the fact remains that once again Obama picked and surrounded himself with another more ideological pure “democrat” as one of his most closest and trusted inner circle advisors. So even if Howard Dean believes that Daley will be better at letting all voices get a chance to be heard, even despite Daley being a ideologically republican, it won’t change anything.

    The fact remains that at the end of the day, that voice and ideology is going to get the most airtime with the president just by nature of the position. And if that opinion is mimicking republicans one well then we all know how that’s going to turn out.

    In addition, I believe this is just another tell about who Obama really is…there’s no hiding the fact, those he picks to these key position represent who he really is here, and that’s not a Democrat. So even thought all that outward appearance and contempt might go away for a time with Daley they’re, the true beliefs and ideology will remain and that’ll translate into republican policies. And all the lipstick in the world can’t change the fact it’s still a pig.

  19. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel:

    Great post, Sister Marcy, because to frame the discussion within the confines of pragmatism and gate-keeper(ism) using Howard Dean’s view of Daley, puts the photo into clear focus. First of all, I view Howard Dean as both a philosophical Pragmatist and a political pragmatist and I respect his political instincts and his experience. Having said that, I share your concerns about Daley’s reactionary tendancies which I believe are pre-disposed by his political genetics but I also share Dean’s understanding that Daley is an old fashioned political doer which means that he will NOT piss on the base of voters he needs to get himself or his shill elected and won’t disenfranchise those new voters (Hispanics and youth) and allow the lunatic, loose cannon Teabaggers to sack the banking palace that he and his cronies have carefully built over the last 30 years.

    This is not to say that Daley is not capable of consciousless political murder but I believe that he is too smart not to recognize his ouwn political and economic interests and how to protect them. Daley, I believe represents one side of the split in the ruling oligarchy and the last time we saw a split like this Richard Nixon was run outta office and the Viet Nam War ended. Ironically, Daley now represents the same northeastern banksters who ran Nixon out and stopped the bleeding of that endless Asian war.

    I hope I’m not grabbing at some Chiffon argument to keep myself from jumpin’ off the cliff over this appointment because I certainly know that Daley preresents the most treacherous and amoral in our political gene pool but if he succeeds in solidifying the base of”new” Democrats that Obama mobilized in 2008 then I think we may live to fight another day in a Democratic Party uniform.

    Great post, Citizen, keep ’em comin and…


  20. madma says:

    I think dean is being used because of the progressive support he had in his run for president. anything to keep the democrats on board. Just another deflection so no one runs from the left, while at the same time destroying the masses for the wealthy.

  21. tanbark says:

    Word, Marcy:

    We didn’t need a good listener; we needed a righteously pissed-off “ideologue”. If Obama had been that, instead of being dead in the water, the salvage operation for 8 years of republican lunacy would be moving right along, and Obama would be a shoo-in for a second term, instead of his being the poster boy for a failed president.

  22. TalkingStick says:

    It’s all “optics.” I don’think any of this makes a rat’s ass of difference in what Obama intends; which is to continue to sell the country off to corporate monopolies.

    Dean’s actions don’t disturb me or lead me to question his motives that much. I trust his liberalism. His failures and some of the grating rhetoric I believe stem from his belief he can best promote progressive and liberal agenda from within. Just my opinion but I think an outside group with power and a loud voice will have more influence. In fact Gibbs and Emanuel may have done us a favor by disrespecting us.

  23. Shoto says:

    I saw Maddow interview Dean last night and my bottom-line impression was that Dean expects the “progressives” to get in line. I immediately thought, “in exchange for what, exactly?” (I must have missed that part.) In fairness, he also said that he might end up “eating crow” sometime down the road. However, there was also that overriding, “take him at his word for now” clause. All I can say is: Prove it, Mr. JP-Morgan, “reach-out-to-the-business-community” Boy.

    May I stop holding my breath now? Mmmmmm….oxygen….

    • billyc says:

      I saw that same interview, also. Did you notice how politely Rachel disagreed with Dean by suggesting that Obama’s appointment of Daley was a form of “hippie punching?” Dean’s suggestion that we wait before we criticize Daley grates on my nerves.

  24. KarenM says:

    None of this bodes well for the future of the Democratic Party… much less for the future of our once-great nation.

    Emigration, I confess, looks better and better. I have always had to struggle financially, and if that’s to be the recurring theme here, I’d like to be somewhere with a decent health care system as I age.

    • Kassandra says:

      If I could sell my beloved house, i would try to do what I knew I should have done when Reagan came in in ’80….leave.
      hard to emigrate when you’re dirt -poor. I suspect soon we’ll be in Society mode and won’t be able to.
      It seems our government has taken many ideas from other totalitarian regimes and blended into a form unique to capitalism

  25. econobuzz says:

    Now, to Obama’s credit, every single account of Obama’s decision-making includes some description of what a good listener he is.

    Oh bullshit. These accounts are pure bullshit. He’s only really listening to folks who agree with him. The others, well, he’s just letting them piss in the wind.

    Think about it: On what subject has this asshole listened to the majority of folks who elected him? Yeah, if you can get in the door, he pretends to listen. And that makes folks feel real good. But he’s only really listening to those with money and power.

    • bc1946 says:

      Right on!

      Obama is nothing but a POS and the sooner we get rid of this POS the better! I’m hoping that boner and issa will do some good for the country and impeach his ass! I for one won’t be defending the donkey party anymore!

  26. Watson says:

    I’d like to see a left primary challenge to Obama in 2012.

    It would force the MSM to give some “Road to the Whitehouse” airtime to the interests of the have-nots who are supposed to be the Dem constituency.

    But I think that it would have to be by a black person (Conyers?) to finesse the charges by Ishmael Reed and others that progressives who don’t support Obama are racist. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/opinion/12reed.html?_r=1)

  27. janeeyresick says:

    Well, I do think you may be able to judge a man by the company he keeps. We all found out everything we needed to know when the Cabinet and major appointments were announced. Daley is more of the same. I laugh when I think of how those first appointments were characterized by a few as some kind of Lincolnesque Kearns Goodwin “Team of Rivals” where Obama would be sure to get viewpoints of those with disparate views from his own. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. He himself is a Republican lite DINO who rode in on a Trojan horse when he misrepresented almost every single view he held on every major issue. Look at who he appointed to head his EXECUTIVE (unasked for by anyone and specifically voted down by the Senate) Deficit Commission, for God’s sake!

    This man has done more in two short years to complete the Republican smash and grab and privatize and wealth transfer agenda than any mere Republican could have possibly accomplished.

    As to Howard Dean. There is the old Howard, man of the people, truth speaker, apple cart upsetting, Dean scream guy which the media recognized as an actual potential change agent and finished off with their high tech media enhanced death by ridicule. So he goes off and builds an incredible fifty state apparatus that puts into power those who subsequently marginalize and ignore him.

    I think there is a new Howard, sadly, being slowly overcome by the pod rolling after him trying to take over his body as a host for the new I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Republican-DLC Body Snatchers. He compromised himself with his biologics shilling without revealing his paid consultant status which was a definite clay toe making it’s first appearance. He clearly stated that any healthcare reform without a public option was a POS piece of legislation(paraphrase) and then had to roll that one back and say no, hey, it’s really good and we should all be proud and happy (another paraphrase – sorry just don’t have the energy to go chasing down the actual quotes.) Now he’s saying that Daley is fine because at least he won’t sneer while he kicks us in our collective gonads, he will do it respectfully. A sneer is just a sneer, a kick is still a kick. . . as time goes by.

    I want old Howard back. He needs to understand that his new wafflicious punditry is undermining his remaining market value as truthspeaker to the Democratic masses.

    • cate says:

      He himself is a Republican lite DINO who rode in on a Trojan horse when he misrepresented almost every single view he held on every major issue.

      I agree with most of your comments on Obama but to me he is a hard-right Republican, further to the right than Bush and far more arrogant. I used to listen to what Dean had to say but he has morphed into a weak sheep of a party loyalist.

    • tanbark says:

      Jane, I think you spiked it, too, but I don’t want EITHER Howard back. He’s outed himself as a political chameleon and handmaiden for the people he used to nail, for what they really are. Since he’s now climbing into bed with them, I’ll take a pass, and consign him, along with Obama and the Clinton’s, to the “centrist” dungheap.

    • ottogrendel says:

      Thanks for the link.

      “Obama Picks” . . . ? If one assumes that government is the shadow cast by business, how accurate is it to assign dynamic verbs to Obama’s behavior?

  28. TarheelDem says:

    The Chief of Staff’s job is to serve as a gate-keeper.

    This is what I disagree with. The Chief of Staff’s job is to administer the Executive Office of the President.

    The President is his own gatekeeper and delegates to whoever that task. My sense is that that function really is being fulfilled by Valerie Jarrett. But if Jarrett is not the gatekeeper, she is the one actually doing the day-to-day administering of the Executive Office of the President.

    Presidents who have chiefs of staff who are neither seen, heard, nor interviewed tend to do better at serving the public. The first proof that this was the case was Hamilton Jordan. The previous proof was the chiefs of staff who were only seen, heard, and interviewed as a result of a personal or public scandal. Sherman Adams, Bobby Baker, John Haldeman.

  29. bluevistas says:

    whatever Dean’s intent is regarding Daley, it won’t take long for us to witness how open Daley is to progressives and liberals.

    We’ll see rather quickly whether he’s Rahm-like or not.

  30. stellacorso says:

    Dean’s just looking out for #1, can’t blame him too much for that (alot of people looking for better jobs these days), but I certainly don’t buy his take on Daly being a better gatekeeper. If you listen closely, it’s just that Daly will be a more polished, polite one. Daly has just as much contempt for the left, he just doesn’t call them effing retards, and the lefts’ access to the WH, if at all improved, will be for purely appearance & reelection sake.
    Daley is simply serving O’s agenda. johan galtung’s comment, “sense something slightly megalomaniac in him” – When O was still a senator and running for prez, I saw a man who’s every move seemed motivated to get up the next step of the ladder. How many times did he use the totally weaselly vote of ‘present’? That was my 1st big clue to what type of ‘leader’ he was / is. His mother’s vocation taught him to have some semblance of civic responsibility, but grandma’s legacy overrides and limits the reach of any such philanthropy.

  31. onitgoes says:

    Sigh. Good post; good commentary. I gave up on the formerly good Dr. Dean some time ago. IMO, Dean is part of the Veal Pen and nothing more. Should Dean change his ways, I’m willing to reconsider. But this latest fluffing for Daley’s appointment does nothing but indicate that Dean is ever willing to wave the pom-poms for the Barackstar. No thanks.

    Daley is just more of the same old, same old. I’ve always said that Obama is doing what HE has chosen to do. Obama is not somehow *influenced* by the cabal surrounding him. Rather Obama chose his inner circle based on the fact that they are all NeoLiberals (or NeoCons or whatever) just like Obama is.

    Whether Daley kicks us DFHs in the nuts with a sweet smile on his face or does so with a sneer is irrelevant. Daley is NOT a friend to the “small people;” Daley is there to ensure that the rich & powerful get to rip off the middle & working class more. Period.

  32. retired41 says:

    Dean was on all the tv networks. He was working hard to pump the Daly hire. It seemed very staged. Did Obama take Dean on Airforce One ride?

    I did not think “O” was going to hire any lobbyist during his tenure? Oh, I forgot he is just another Politician.

    Obama continues his disdain for his base and pokes us in the eye again.

    It is a food fight between the Dems/Repugs to get as much Wall Street and Corporate Money $$$$ as possible and to hell with the 98% of Americans.

    Those offshore Bank Accounts and Freezers should be full of Money by now and we thought Karzai’s top aid was corrupt for taking 52 million dollars to deposit in a bank in Dubai. Execuse me, that was the only time he was caught and how many trips to foreign countrys has been made. What we know is terrible, but what we don’t know would be shocking.

    Hope Wiki-Leaks is able to expose our bought and paid for Politicians.

  33. tetercreek says:

    When I hear the name “Dailey” I remember that vicious old man, his face contorted with rage, screaming obscenities at Abraham Ribocoff as the process of taking control of the Democratic party from him and his cronies was beginning. The “liberals” briefly, very briefly, succeeded in taking away the party and trying to democratize it in reality, not just in name.

    Looking around on the net last night, I found a picture of the old man and his son Richard M (the recent mayor) sitting side by side on the convention floor both shouting in rage. I don’t know where William was that night, but I expect he shared the attitude.

    From that day, the old line power and money democrats, the racists, the war mongers, the white ethnic power machine group have been working without ceasing to get the party back and to get rid of the “liberals”, “peace-nick hippies” who cost them those years in power, and lost all their racist friends in the south who became Republicans. And to get rid of the liberals’ welfare and civil rights programs that cost them so many votes.

    It is supremely ironic that the first black president should bring them this ultimate symbolic triumph of Richard J Daley’s son in the White House. I can see the old man sitting in that folding chair down in Hell, smiling with pride.

  34. Mary says:

    Now, to Obama’s credit, every single account of Obama’s decision-making includes some description of what a good listener he is. There’s always the scene where Obama listens intently to the disparate viewpoints on a subject, makes those people believe he has heard them with respect, and then makes his decision.

    This is his “finger-steepling” He is a poseur, affecting the “serious person” air but much better at the posing than at the processing.

  35. jaango says:

    Does the definition of Neo-Liberalism vary?

    Nah! And here’s why.

    A compare and contrast of these three persons, exemplifies my point that a Neo-Lib is an arch-conservative.

    1. Jimmy Carter as a “centrist”?

    2. Barack Obama as a “neo-liberal”?

    3. Senator Tom Harkins of Iowa as a “progressive?”

    Thus, imagining a Tom Harkins governing America as a “neo-liberal” would never happen. He would govern America as a “progressive” and that’s because of his many years of history. However, a Barack Obama failing to govern as a “progressive” has been proven in this past two-year time frame, and is not going to govern as a “progressive” in the next two years.

    Now, is anyone in the Progressive Community, willing to survive and prosper in a Republican administration, starting in 2013? Consequently, what does a Daley as ‘gatekeeper’ and ‘pragmatist’ even matter, knowing that the next ‘gatekeeper’ and ‘pragmatist’ will be taking “orders” from another different and distinct neo-lib. Of course, another “racial and ethnic” and whether Chicano or Native American, as President, now has a “playbook” to carry forward the Neo-Liberal “cause”. Therefore, racism or bigotry is not “in play” with the Daley appointment. And yet, for ‘racial and ethnics’ the “core values” matter more than the skin pigmentation, and Obama has brought that home to everyone in the Progressive Community and done with the brute force of Tom DeLay’s “hammer”.


  36. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Just as in Dallas – where the gap between Saturday night revelry and Sunday morning piety is gargantuan – in the White House, there’s a similar gap between hearing and listening.

    Mr. Obama appears to hear many voices, but his actions reflect only those of his deepest insiders, ideological and pragmatic [sic] as they are. Which means that Mr. Obama cannot be listening to the voices his insiders detest, those who reflect the historical priorities and the once ideological and policy base of his party.

  37. rkilowatt says:

    [From past experience],I had a gatekeeper. Her function is to protect/screen me from “harm”:

    1. Protect me from others stealing my attention [time].

    2. Protect me from association with persons and matters that can put me at unnecessary risk.[Bribes, blackmail and other forms of contamination, etc].

    3. Protect me from specified, or questionable, unwanted communication.

    Often, this is accomplished by having others summarize data in 5- to 30-second notes for my inspection and choice to learn more.

    My gatekeeper does not control or stop my exposure to viewpoints that might be helpful to me in my own honest appraisals of my concerns.

    In matters of State, contemporary use of official Secrecy Classifications has made the BigMan an information-prisoner, as his legal access to others who do not have “Clearance” blocks his way to indpendent [out-of-control] appraisals and advices.

    E.g. FDR personally chose “outside” sources of information deliberately to discuss and/or cross-check what official sources were telling him. He had his own spy-network. Hint-his background included years of meeting persons of high-level, first-hand knowlege.

  38. Stephen says:

    One point I would like to throw out after reading all the comments. If Dean, was at all considering a run on Obama, would he play this any other way? He has made statements that are very revealing regarding “contempt” and to denounce Daley at this point might be a mistake. This man must realize as many of us do that this country is going down the tube. I hope Dean is covering all angles with the future in mind. Maybe the Social Security issue will be the tipping point for Dean. I also note, that throughout the comments barely a mention of Hillary and Bubba. Yes, comment # 56 does hit the nail on the head for me as well. Its amazing when one reflects on the fact that Obama had much of the country, and I dare say the world behind him. He had the support of many of the progressives, the lefties, the centrists, as well as many conservatives. Why did he take the treacherous and deceitful path to where we are now, especially after considering the perpetual warring, the thrashing of the rule of law and the constitution not to mention the foreclosure fiasco. I believe Obama is a very dangerous man. Finally I see Barry has also picked Gene Sperling as chief economic advisor. He was a consultant to Goldman Sachs and was an economic advisor during the Clinton administration. The hits keep coming.