On Tuesday, Robert Gibbs made comments about the "professional left" being "crazy" for attacking Obama. Then he backpedaled away from those comments by saying, "I watch too much cable, I admit." If he was watching cable last week, this is what he might have seen:
Now, it looks like I'm attacking the president from the left since I say he should be more progressive. And I have written in the past about the value of doing just that. But the reality is that this isn't about left or right. That whole paradigm is wrong.
If I was more of a liberal, I might have been ecstatic about the 30 million new people that will have health insurance under Obama's reform. That's basically lower income people getting government subsidies.
If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at Obama for dragging his heels on fixing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But I know he's getting to that. As annoyingly political as his split the difference stances are on this issue and gay marriage (which he is comically opposed to), I can live with slow progress as long as we're on the right road.
If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at the amount of stimulus spending. They think it's way too low. I'm a real deficit hawk, so I'm torn on that issue.
This isn't about whether Obama is liberal enough. It's about whether he's actually going to challenge the system or just be a clog in it. The system is fundamentally corrupt. Our politicians and their staffs are bought by the highest bidder. They then use the government to funnel taxpayer money to the people who bought them. Conservatives are just as angry about that as liberals are.
So, that's why so many of us are mad that the president didn't fight for the public option. It wasn't that the public option is some sort of liberal magic cure-all. It's that it would have provided real competition to the private insurance companies. Instead Obama not only left the system exactly as it was, but instituted a mandate that would funnel even more people into the arms of those same companies.
The public option was a bellwether. It signaled which direction he was going in - and that turned out to be in a corporatist direction that leaves the system wholly unchanged.
We got more of the same when the drug companies got the same deal as they did under Bush - the government cannot negotiate prices with them and we cannot import drugs from other countries (i.e., another unnatural monopoly imposed by the government).
We got more of the same when the big banks got out of financial reform relatively unscathed. They're still too big to fail. They're still doing risky bets with taxpayer backed money. They're still in charge.
The large defense contractors are also just as large as they were before. Actually, they're bigger because Obama not only escalated the war in Afghanistan, but increased the already record breaking Bush budgets at the Pentagon. And the game remained the same.
Do you see a pattern here? Corporate and special interest money always wins out. That's what we're worried about! That is what we're challenging Obama on - because that is not the change we voted for.
I guess the president and his staff think they're clever because they played the same old Washington game a little better. I guess they think they couldn't have done any better. I guess they think that this is the best they could do given the state of Washington. But that's the whole point. We didn't elect them to accept the Washington status quo as reality. We elected them to challenge and ultimately change that reality. And it seems like, on that count, they didn't even try. That's what we're so disappointed by.