Monday, February 16, 2009

Impressions of the Obama Administration -- So Far

Well, it's been a month since I've last blogged... life gets in the way sometimes, you know? Nothing horrible -- in fact, some good things politically -- but that's a topic for a future blog. In the meantime, I wanted to pass along a few tidbits of information as well as my impressions of President Obama's first few weeks in office. They have been eventful, to say the least.

The Stimulus/Recovery bill: The media is calling this a great victory for the new administration. Maybe, but at what cost? Yes, we needed both a stimulus and recovery package, that would create and save jobs and pour needed funds into our frozen economy. But the Obama Administration sold a lot of progressive ideals down the river in the name of bipartisanship -- a pipe dream at best given the tenor of congressional Republicans -- and the bill was hugely weakened as a result. It's too heavy on tax cuts and not enough pure spending -- which pretty much all economists say we need to make this plan work. They even agreed to cut some of the food stamps to try to lure Republicans -- food stamps that not only feed the increasingly hungry masses but also, dollar for dollar, are the most stimulative program you can fund. On the plus side, Obama went on the road and sold the plan campaign-style -- very smart, very well done, and just want the country needed to hear. My greatest fear about Obama all along was that he'd pull a Jimmy Carter and be too nice by half in the name of bipartisanship. I am hoping that after this experience, he will begin the uncomfortable realization that it takes two to tango, and while Obama has been extending his hand in friendship the Republicans have been sharpening their knives to cut the new president off at the knees.

Ledbetter: President Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed -- mostly because the Recovery Plan and S-CHIP weren't ready. But it still sent a powerful message that pay equity was an issue the new president took to heart -- he speaks about it quite eloquently, recalling his grandmother's experience. Indeed, Ledbetter campaigned for Obama -- making several well received commercials and speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She also rode the inaugural train, and was the second woman to dance with the president -- second only to his wife -- at the inaugural balls. The Obama's treated Lilly Ledbetter wonderfully well -- and like the shero she is. But Obama could have pushed the recalcitrant Senate to also pass the Paycheck Fairness Act -- a Clinton bill the then-Senator from New York wanted to finish before she changed addresses, and that had been passed in a good bipartisan vote in the House just a week before the Senate took up Ledbetter. Granted, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is a wuss of the first order, and Ledbetter lead sponsor Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was a huge roadblock -- she only wanted her bill, the sure thing -- but the president could have pushed more. I will do an entire blog on this issue when I have more time -- I am that disappointed in both the Senate Democrats and the president on this one. It was a change for true economic justice -- and a stimulus hit, too.

Cabinet Nominations: Well, gotta cut the guy a break here. No president gets them all through without some stumbles. It makes the leader of the free world more human, I think -- and shows early on how they will deal with such problems. Obama stepped up and owned mistakes -- good for him. So, generally a good cabinet. LOVE Hilda Solis. Her husband's minor tax issues are his alone -- they file separately, she has nothing to do with his business. Of course, the Republicans hate her because she is pro-labor. Well, tough shit. You lost the election -- what did you expect? The Senate needs to get off their ass and confirm her pronto, and the Republicans need to remember they aren't in charge any more (well, only Snowe, Collins and Specter are in charge, but I digress. Ha!). They already roughed up Attorney General Eric Holder -- they got their pound of flesh -- time to move on. As for Tom Daschle's withdraw -- I was not unhappy. I didn't think he was a great choice anyway -- all he cared about was health care and HHS is sooo much more and needs so much repair after the Bush years. I was not all that happy with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's confirmation. Granted, unlike Larry Summers he seems to think girls can do math, but his excuses about his taxes -- like Daschle's -- were disingenuous at best, flat out lies at worst. Truthfully, if Daschle has gone first he would have been confirmed, and Geithner would have gotten the brunt of things and might still be at the New York Fed. Timing, as they say, is everything. Last but not least, I was glad to see Obamanites throw Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) under the bus after his unexpected withdrawal. Gregg never should have been nominated, so this worked out for the best -- and showed Gregg for the climber he is. The bad news is, well, Gregg is still awfully smart and awfully conservative and now a hero in the Senate -- ugh -- which means we still have to deal with his smarmy ass. Give it two years and New Hampshire will send him the way of John Sununu.

White House Staff: Obama's White House Team is generally quite good and accessible. I see a lot of energy and commitment in these folks, and that's refreshing. I am especially partial to Melody Barnes, the Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Not only is she good people, but she's smart as well and a progressive at heart. You can read more about his West Wing team, and get a layout of the offices, in this great interactive feature from the Washington Post called
Inside Obama's West Wing. The First Lady has also put together a good team, a clear indication she will be doing more than Book Festivals -- not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, her first official act as First Lady was attending the signing and speaking at the reception for the Ledbetter bill. You can see some of her staff and the president's as well in this great spread from Vanity Fair.

VP Joe Biden: I love Joe, I really do. It's only been a few weeks and he's already spouted off with some zingers that have made the boss uncomfortable. Everything from poking at the Chief Justice for screwing up the oath of office to welcoming Big Labor back to the White House to jesting about how the openness and transparency of his office will be a big change from the last VEEP. He was a busy man working is home away from home, the Senate, on the recovery package. He has also been very involved in foreign policy matters -- no surprise there, and good for all of us. Lastly, he has been named the chair of the Middle Class Task Force, a new White House entity to look at pressing issues facing the middle class -- from jobs to balancing to work and family to pay equity and retirement -- and the executive and legislative measures needed to address these issues. He's a good choice for the job.

Well, I think that's enough for now. No doubt there will be more later. :)

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1 comment:

Gunfighter said...

Welcome back, Zaffy!

You've been missed.

I concur with most of what you said.