Interview done on the rob kall radio show, live, on WNJC 1360 AM, December 10. 2008
To hear the interview, click this link (good until Jan 10): Conference Recording
Transcribed by Carla Gilby, Amanda Moreno, Paula Sayles, Linda Carraway, Jim Magee. Edited by Jay Farrington.
Rob: Okay. Hi, this is Rob Kall, The Rob Kall Radio Show, WNJC 1360. We've got a very interesting show tonight. A couple days ago, Steve Hildebrand, the Deputy National Campaign Director for the Obama Campaign, wrote an article, A Message to Obama's Progressive Critics. It raised a huge uproar, enough of an uproar so that it was discussed in all the major news outlets, it got talking heads and pundits talking about it. So, I invited Steve Hildebrand on the show and he's going to be with us in a couple of minutes. I'm going to read to you what people reacted to the most. He wrote it, so he'll know about it, but I want to read it to you. He says,
"I could go on and on. The point I'm making here is that the new President, Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our party to draw conclusions about the cabinet and White House appointments that President-elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you that isn't the way he thinks and it's not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our President surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people, not just those on the left."
This got people outraged. And the response was all over the place. David Sirota wrote,
"Most progressives questioning Obama have done so rather gently and have done so on the pragmatic substance. For instance, people wondering about the appointment of Larry Summers to a top economic position in the White House have wondered whether it was such a good idea to empower such an ideological free market fundamentalist, pro-free trade, pro-deregulation, whose policies as Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary played a major role in creating the economic crisis. That is, most have wondered why Obama thinks that kind of ideologue is the most qualified person to deal with our economic situation, rather than, say, a pragmatist like James Galbraith or Joseph Stiglitz who has been right all along."
So, that was a gentle one. If you look at DailyKos in the comments, OpEdNews in the comments and the Huffington Post, people have really vilified Steve. I'm expecting him to call in a minute and then we can get down to the conversation here. It's a challenging time. You know, I personally, I, by the time the primaries got to Pennsylvania, I was an Obama supporter. But I was just as much a Hillary opponent, because Hillary to me was, represented the more right-wing side of the Democratic Party and I saw Obama as a centrist. I certainly was never under the illusion that Obama was a progressive or a liberal, like the Republicans were saying. So, to me, I haven't been really surprised. I've been a little disappointed, but I haven't been surprised by the kind of appointments he's making. And I've written about it complaining because I'd like to see him move further to the left, but I haven't been outraged, I haven't been upset about it, but there are people who are. A lot of them. The percentages of people who identify themselves as liberal range in the polls from I think 18 to 24 percent and that's a lot of people. Twelve, fifteen million people who voted, maybe. So, it' s an interesting situation. Are you there, Steve?
Steve: I sure am, Rob.
Rob: Great! So, you know, let's start things off here. You've been accused of using what amounts to a four-letter acronym which means "shut the 'f' up" to progressives.
Steve: And that certainly is not what I intended. I was expressing my opinion and I wasn't telling other people what to do or what not to do. What I was suggesting is that, you know, Barack Obama ran on a platform to become President on change and on bringing people together and, he was supported and elected by some, you know, fifty-four, fifty-five percent-- I can't even remember what it was-- of the American people, and that, at a time when our country is facing so many very big problems that this is a time where the House and the Senate, political leaders all over the country, and Americans from all backgrounds really do need to come together if we want to solve these very big problems of healthcare for all, getting out of the war in Iraq, solving this economic crisis, dealing with climate change. There are a lot of big issues. And all I'm suggesting is that, this is a great time in this country for people to come together and solve the problems. This is not a great time for people to be sniping and trying to push their own agenda.
Rob: Well, you know, the other side of this, though, is that, you know, we won. And that, Obama won, not with the majority, perhaps, of liberals and progressives, but he wouldn't have won without them, certainly, and probably thirty to forty-five percent of his supporters were liberals and progressives, of the people who voted for him.
Steve: And I think there will not be any problem with President Obama representing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. When he takes on the economic problems that we're facing, the people that are going to benefit most are lower income and middle income people, the working families of this country. And, if he doesn't take on this economic crisis, and deal with it first and foremost, those people are going to be the first to lose their jobs. They're going to be the first to lose their healthcare. They're going to be the first people that lose their homes, if they haven't already lost them to the mortgage crisis. And so, we as progressives, and I consider myself to be a very liberal person, rallying behind Barack Obama, and helping him get that economic crisis solved, is a pretty critically important piece, I would think, to liberal people in this country...
Rob: But the...
Steve: His calls for healthcare, for climate change, for getting health care for all people; these are progressive ideals and this is going to be the first and foremost on Barack's agenda.
Rob: I think, though, that what people read into what you wrote was that progressives shouldn't be discussing his appointments. Sort of, shouldn't be saying that they want him to appoint liberals or progressives to the remaining ones and that they shouldn't be complaining about the ones that he has appointed.