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Arguing Obama: Alter, Kuttner Debate

We take the pulse of the Obama presidency with two big takes on the White House now — from Jonathan Alter and Robert Kuttner.

President Barack Obama, right, and LaFourche Parish president Charlotte Randolph take a tour of areas impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill on Friday, May 28, 2010 in Port Fourchon, La. (AP)

Barack Obama rode a tidal wave into office, into the White House. Now, a year and a half in, he’s up against a tide of oil lapping in the Gulf of Mexico. 

President Obama has taken on big issues, and battled through, his way, on the economic meltdown, on health care, on financial reform. 

Is he a transformative president, at a time when he promised, and the country needs, transformation? 

The jury’s still out. And now the oil is gurgling, mocking from the bottom of the Gulf.  

This Hour, On Point: Jonathan Alter and Robert Kuttner on the Obama presidency and the oil spill challenge.

Guests:

Jonathan Alter, columnist and senior editor for Newsweek and contributing correspondent for NBC News. His new book is “The Promise: President Obama, Year One.” You can read an excerpt.

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect magazine. His new book is “A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and The Struggle To Control Our Economic Future.” You can read an excerpt.

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  • Brett

    Success for a presidency is difficult to judge in its time; it’s even difficult to judge in some respects after many years have passed. We’ve mythologized the presidents we consider to have been great presidents. They’ve all been human, though, and humans are fallible.

    Being president seems to take an array of qualities, and some seem to possess more of those qualities than others. They all have had to balance striking the right political chords–the proper tone (both in terms of populism and in terms of massaging colleagues) for any given event/catastrophe–with the executive management/administration of the job. As citizens/voters, we tend to judge them based on our perceptions of how they handle those two primary elements.

    I doubt that any person stepping into a modern presidency will be able to sustain majority popularity throughout his/her presidency. So many promises (these are really more like predictions than goals that will be achieved) have to be made in campaigning to get the attention of the American people, promises that no candidate could possibly know will be fulfilled. Whether a first or second term, each position is unique, and there’s a lot of on-the-job training.

    I suppose Obama has made some political missteps. But, in many instances, this is in populistic, appeasement terms. If, for example, he had taken responsibility away from BP immediately after the oil rig explosion and brought in the government to take care of the problem, he would have been accused of overreaching his authority and trying to take over yet another industry. By the same token, because he hasn’t continuously camped out on the shores of the Gulf in a Hazmat suit, people feel he hasn’t responded with enough care or with enough urgency. Or they feel because he received campaign donations from BP he has allowed them to wreak havoc. Or they feel he has been part of some grand conspiracy to make this happen for some political gain.

    I also find it a bit disappointing that people are quick to either paint him as too progressive or too centrist. I personally would like to see him be more of a progressive president, but he is supposed to represent a balance of all Americans. And, of the ones who complain he is too progressive: you simply don’t know what those terms “progressive” and “centrist” mean!!! There is a kind of paradox in there, somewhere: presidents SHOULD lead from the center, yet if they do, they are perceived as ineffectual, of not getting things done in dramatic sweeps…

    As far as Obama getting re-elected? It’s difficult to foresee what the political climate will be like in 2012 at this point. If the economy has recovered to the point where unemployment has come down quite a bit, gas prices are low and people feel (falsely) that they can once again accumulate a lot of debt, then he will be perceived in enough of a good light to win a second term. If not, some other poor schlub will be voted in based on how much charisma he/she has, how many attractive and plausible promises he/she can “guarantee,” and how well he/she can be perceived as being different than the previous president.

  • Cory

    Let me get this out of the way for Joe, Janet, Stacked, Informed American, Natalie, Rachel, Tea Baggers, Dick Cheney, and other like minded folk…..

    This has been a failed presidency, Obama is a socialist, the founding fathers are spinning in their graves, Obama must be impeached, just wait for 2012 you lefties, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

    Have I sufficiently covered it and saved you all the time of your re-tread comments?

  • Lee

    I honestly am tired of the constant cant that Obama is a socialist.
    I suggest that those of you who throw this term around go and read up on what a socialist really is.

    Obama is so far from being a socialist that it’s absurd to categorize him as one.

    He is a centrist with slightly left leanings. I challenge anyone to point out one truly socialist thing he has done.

    And of course, the call to impeachment is one that the Republicans have made whenever a Democrat is legitimately elected.

    Again I ask, what is the impeachable offense?

    Those who disagree with Obama seem incapable of rational conversation. They descend into incendiary claims with no justification or reason.

  • cory

    Brett,

    Good stuff (as usual). I especially liked your last paragraph.

    Most of us, myself included, just don’t want to hear about or deal with reality. Our politicians are more than happy to play up to that. This is why we elect pro wrestlers, oil tycoons, and vapid neo celebrities like Sarah Palin to office. Style often wins the day over substance.

    As for our current president… The best I can say so far is that he is trying and that he has attempted to bring some much needed intelligence to the office. My biggest criticism would be the early and overreaching attempts at bipartisanship. His opponents were patently uninterested and he should have given up on that much sooner. It really pushed back his agenda many months. As for re-elction, it is a coin toss that will be determined by events that may not even have occured yet. Hell, Palin or a libertarian could win if things go badly enough and the Joe Sixpacks are afraid/angry enough.

  • Harry, Madison, WI

    At the outset of the debate on health care legislation, Barack Obama made it clear that a single payer system was off the table. Many progressives who worked very hard to get him elected felt that this concession was made far too early in the process, and that he did not get much (if anything) in return. This is one example of why there is some level disappointment. Is it because his approach assumes (naively, many feel) that the corporations and the right are “reasonable”, does he feel beholden to corporate interests, or is there a deeper political calculus?

    Many feel Obama should be doing a better job of articulating how a progressive agenda could bring positive change and solve many of the problems we face.

  • richard

    The post-nazis blocking posters from this board need to explain the policy, otherwise we are left to believe it’s arbitrary at best.

  • Brett

    cory,
    Agreed; I would have abandoned bipartisanship early on. It also is nice to have a president with intelligence for once in a decade.

  • Todd

    “Have I sufficiently covered it and saved you all the time of your re-tread comments?”
    Posted by Cory

    Yup, and I think you saved yourself some time too! ;)

  • pw

    Maybe Robert Kuttner and Jonathan Alter know more than we do about the less visible obstacles Obama has been facing, but maybe not. For a start, the White House is not Santa’s workshop.

    Of course, if only Obama were a little more to the center, a little more progressive, a little whiter, a little angrier and little less Harvardy, a little more “real” American, a little less communist, a little more patriotic, a little more like the kind guy you’d like to have a beer with, etc. etc.

    Sheesh! Sisyphus had it easy in comparison.

  • cory

    Richard,

    Agreed!

  • Janet

    Did Keith Olbermann co-write this book? It will be difficult to listen to this puff piece but perhaps some sane callers with be allowed to ask why are we still in Iraq and why is Gitmo still open?

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com AKILEZ

    I am just wondering HOW COME BP Never Use Deep Sea Divers to plug the Leak.

    They can hire professional drivers to do the job.

    Hire Navy Seals or Frog Man to do the job
    Get a Submersable not robots to do the job.

  • Bruce C

    We expect our presidents to be strong, but Obama seems weak and reactive. The whole BP thing is the most recent example of this.

  • Dania

    I maybe wrong but I do not remember George Bush’s presidency being under such a microscope all the time. Why is this president judged and evaluated constantly. He is the first black resident but I wouldn’t like to believe that this continuous score card is racially motivated. Or is it?

  • Eric

    I would like to know if it’s technically feasible to use explosives to implode the well and plug the oil leak. BP has not discussed this option, presumably, because it would prevent them from ever recovering more oil from the well. Currently, it’s the company’s decision, not the President’s, but if Obama did as Robert Reich is suggesting and take the company into temporary receivership, he would gain this authority. Is this a matter of political will?

  • Johnny Rock

    Slow and steady wins the race.

    As the long term benefits of the stimulus (look at GM) and health care reform become evident to the vast middle in this country, the hyperbolic, hyper-ventilating far Right will be seen as a joke by all but Glenn Beck kool aid drinkers.

  • liza

    People say Obama needs to “get angry”–but they are forgetting that for a black man to get angry is not a simple matter. The image of the angry black man is going to scare lots of people, even if they agree with him.

    Obama has tackled major issues that have been crying out to be addressed, and inherited a load of problems created by deregulation and by too-cosiness of government and business and banks. Now that Louisiana needs help, even the governor wants the federal government involved–the same governor who said government WAS the problem, and who looked to business as the answer. If we don’t have government representing ordinary people, which I think Obama is TRYING to do, then we are left, by default, being governed by the largest corporations. Bye Bye small business.

  • Gina

    Because AKILEZ, people cannot dive a mile below the surface. The pressure is too great.

    People who don’t know what’s involved with this need to stop being armchair quarterbacks and critics. Brett’s comment: “If, for example, he had taken responsibility away from BP immediately after the oil rig explosion and brought in the government to take care of the problem, he would have been accused of overreaching his authority and trying to take over yet another industry. By the same token, because he hasn’t continuously camped out on the shores of the Gulf in a Hazmat suit, people feel he hasn’t responded with enough care or with enough urgency.” is spot on, and so frustrating. Seriously, what is the man supposed to do?

    And as to what the guest is just saying, that Obama has done so much that is not getting coverage, that facts about the way job loss was stemmed, how to get Americans to *hear* that, and to know it? How do you fight the propaganda machine that has him painted as the “worst President ever” and “destroying the country”?

    And Janet, I would counter that it’s easy to make make promises and have good intentions, and then find out once it’s you in the position to lead and make decisions you find out there are many things involved and it’s complicated. That’s why Gitmo isn’t closed. Because wingnuts went crazy with the “he’s going to put all the terrorists in American jails!”

  • jeffe

    AKILEZ, as far as I know humans can’t dive at that depth.

    Obama is, has always been a centrist and his actions support this. What I see is a president that is very clever in seeming to be progressive but is really still in the hands of the banks, wall street, big pharma, and don’t even get me started on the health care bill which is a joke.

    Just wait until they start taxing the benefits of anyone who has what they call “Cadillac” policies. The new health care laws are not going to change anything, people are still going to go bankrupt from the cost of getting sick. The rich will be able to afford what they want because the market based health care mess is still in place.

    I urge people to watch Noam Chomsky’s lecture, it’s very interesting and is “On Point” with this topic.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/31/noam_chomsky_the_center_cannot_hold

  • Joyce Cummings

    Did I miss something? I thought Obama was also dealing with all kinds of international problems–including but hardly limited to the war in Afghanistan and the winding down of the one in Iraq!

  • jim thompson

    Tom:

    As a proud Republican supporter of President Obama, I would say that I am very happy to have voted for him and would do so again. I give him an A for his actions and an A+ for effort.

    This comes from a guy who was “on the bus” with Reagan in 1976 and 1980.

    I have high hopes and great expectations for this President and country and so far am not disaapointed.

    Jim Thompson, Fort Mill,SC

  • BHA

    I don’t understand why BP doesn’t just crimp the pipe closed.

    They already have to cut it off clean before they can cap it because it is ragged. They are expecting a 20% increase in oil flow once it is cut clean because it is already partly crimped and they are cutting below that point.

    They are wasting a lot of time and allowing a HUGE amount of oil to continue to pollute the ocean and shores while using high tech solutions rather than just shutting of the flow by ‘kinking the hose’.

  • Karen Nash

    The oil leak cleanup effort needs to look first to those put out of work by the 6-month moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf. There are about 4000 people directly affected, and as many as 40,000 spread out through the various support businesses. These are local subject matter experts, and require little or no training. This MUST be the first place we turn in this effort, or we risk the sort of needless waste that we saw in the Katrina response.

  • nj

    Let’s knock it off with this Gulf spill being the worst environmental disaster ever, a notion proffered by both guests and callers to this show.

    As just one example, many times more oil is spilled yearly in Nigeria than in the current Gulf rupture.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell
    “Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

    The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades”

    This is not to minimize what’s happening in the Gulf, but it points to the ethno-centric viewpoint of many in the U.S. Unless it happens to us, it somehow doesn’t exist.

  • AKILEZ

    US Government can dive that deep they have the Technology to do it. It is been proven.

    Or Again it is Above Top Secret not to be use only for Extreme measures only or when it is only the end of the world.

    They have the technology to go that deep if not humans something that can perform better than robotic arms with cameras.

    I bet in my own life there is a Technology to Plug that
    irritating miss in the gulf.

    US Government as the technology.

    ARE YOU HEARING ME NAVY AND AIR FORCE!!! Please help the people of the Southern States.

  • Drew Northup

    I don’t think that we can accurately judge Obama’s political past, present, or future based on the technical SNAFUs that are the oil spill and the disaster on Wall Street. As for foreign policy he’s been working hard to make progress in many ways. Alas I don’t think he’s yet comfortable pushing hard enough–especially in the case of Middle-East policy.
    His biggest liability is that he is backstopped and supported by mere mortals. A good current example of that is the failure to utilize Emergency Management assets and plans already on scene in the gulf coast states. This isn’t Obama’s express fault–the Coast Guard messed up in this case. What Obama can do is clearly and publicly demand that such assets be worked into the response plan starting immediately.

  • steve

    The bank bailout money has not been paid back in anything but the narrowest sense.

    Borrowing from the public treasury at preferred rates has allowed the bonuses given to GS for example.

    This money is a not a loan but a direct income transfer to the government-banking cabal from the US citezen.

  • Steve

    Please define us and them…

  • stewart McGaw

    To the point that the banks have paid back the loans, is there any truth to the assertion that the loaned us the money we loaned them for free, for bond rate returns?

  • Judy

    In my view, Obama is doing a terrific job. He might get further if the U.S. Congress would be more supportive in doing what is good for the whole of the country. (Same problem for the governor of New York.)

    The banks should be held accountable for duping people into more credit or mortgages than they can handle.

    BP should be accountable for the oil spill and fix the problem. (Off shore drilling is a terrible idea anyway.)

    The President can’t solve all our problems especially when Congress is fighting most of what he is trying to accomplish.

    Additionally, nothing occurs overnight except for natural disasters.

  • AKILEZ

    http://www.divingheritage.com/atmospherickern.htm

    There is a way to go down deeper

  • Rachel

    I was hoping someone would ask Mr Alter if there have been any promising offers for his failed opinion journal.

  • Dee Kieft

    I find the constant criticism of Obama appaling. Everyhing he does is wrong according to the right. All we hear is government is bad and the private sector is good, along with a balanced budget. He inherited a hornets nest. The private sector was a big problem in causing the recession and the gvt had to bail them out. If he didn’t bail out Wall Street and the financial sector, we’d be a lot worse off today. The 24 hour media is brutal and looking for any bad news or dirt for a big headline-Obama/Socialism is good fodder. I lived in Europe and Americans have no idea what Socialism or what high taxes are.I am a recovering Republican and embarrased at the disrespect they are showing the president. Obama is a global president and has had to repair the damage brought on by the Bush administration.

  • S. Sinclair

    Among the many things that Barack Obama is trying to change in this country is the now accepted notion that our president needs to be all warm and cuddly–a holdover from the Clinton “feel your pain” era.
    What Obama is offering, instead, is a classic model of leadership that hinges on–dare I say it–character. Can you imagine any other politician of the last 40 years telling the leader of the House that he was prepared to sacrifice popularity for principle? The last time any resident of the White House did that was LBJ with the Civil Rights Act.
    In this age of politicians whose primary goal is staying in office, What a concept!

  • Steve

    The “fopulists” ?

    I will make this point again and again…

    I am not a tea party activist nor a republican.

    BUT…

    the federal government has taken the power and the resources from the people of this country AND
    has not responded to the needs of the people of the country.

    Hence my dissatisfaction with government.

    For example…

    More than a year ago, many groups supportative of health care reform canvassed urban areas throughout Wisconsin.

    I had many conversations with very idealistic young people hoping for a public option.

    Though not a seer (but as someone who had been in their shoes for over a decade of my life) I predicted quite accurately the outcome of this so-called reform.

    The administration is staffed predominantly with the same people who have governed ineffectually for years.

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…
    I won’t get fooled again”

  • http://www.earthgood.org Toby Hoffman

    NJ,
    Reason this is worse is it is on the largest ocean nursery in the world, and because it also is the heart of the worlds global atmospheric womb. The Gulf of Mexico is like the chest and abdomen of the earth – the heart, mouth (Mississippi Delta) and anus (Gulf Stram)and everything in between. The entire Gulf coast estuaries are like the planet’s alveoli.

    This is much worse than Ixtoc,the Gulf War 1993 AND the Niger Delta – I agree with you Shell is killing the entire Niger Delta for forty years now and it is probably almost as bad as this debacle – because of the dispersants owned by BP (Nalco) which are ten times more toxic to everything than crude, and much more persistent.

    Third reason – Gulf Volume released (75,000 barrels per day)is like ten years of Niger in one mating season of the Atlantic Ocean. IF they don’t crimp (great idea BHA) or IMPLODE the well teh flow will increase to 100,000 barrells per day. The two relief wells if fail will gush 240,000 barrels per day.

    The world’s fisheries are already 95% destroyed. This could be the Death Nail.

    Fourht reason – the methane released may pass earth’s tipping point and kill all life within years.

  • BHA

    AKILEZ – They can get a submarine down to a mile but not a human outside a pressurized vessel. The pressure is over 2000 pounds per square inch. A person’s rib cage would be crushed well before they got to the bottom.

    The record for a human is 2,000 feet in a Atmospheric Diving System (ADS hardshell suit). Looks like the robot from Lost In Space. You can see a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY0p26cMnjI

  • http://www.earthgood.org Toby Hoffman

    Sorry – the Gulf Stream is like the Aorta of the Atlantic Ocean.

    AKILEZ I like your spirit!

  • AKILEZ

    I know about the diving thing just so mad about BP’s mess. We can never stop this problem. I hope one of the smartest person on Earth can find a way to stop the oil leak.

    If No solution by the end of this week.

    God Help America.

  • jeffe

    AKILEZ the current ADS suites only go to 2000 feet.
    I found this information in less than 3 minutes.

    1997: the ADS 2000, developed jointly with OceanWorks International Corp. and the US Navy, is an evolution of the Newt Suit to meet US Navy requirements. The ADS2000 provides increased depth capability for the US Navy’s Submarine Rescue Program. Manufactured from forged T6061 aluminum alloy it uses an advanced articulating joint design based on the Newt Suit joints. Capable of operating in up to 2,000 feet (610 m) of seawater for a normal mission of up to six hours it has a self contained, automatic life support system. Additionally, the integrated dual thruster system allows the pilot to navigate easily underwater.

    By the way the robots are as nimble as the suites. If you notice the suites have arms not dissimilar to the robots. Robotics has come a long way in recent years.

  • jeffe

    Sorry, seems I crossed posted on the same subject.

    Bottom line, I don’t anyone knows how to stop this the leak. I think this might be the case which is why they are failing. I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that the only way out of this disaster is the relief wells.

    nj is right, if you look around the world the oil companies have an palling record with leaks and extreme environmental mishaps. Chevron alone has affected countries around the world, like Nigeria, Ecuador and Burma.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/28/chevron_has_5_activists_arrested_and

  • AKILEZ

    Thanks Jeffe I researched the dive suit thing.

    If only Howard Hughs is still Alive we can solve the Gulf Oil Spill. I remember him on Glomar Explorer
    When the CIA wanted to recover a Soviet sub that had sunk deep in the Pacific, the Agency turned to Howard Hughes, to build in secret a ship to do the job. The ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer, was built in 1973. The mission of Glomar Explorer was to raise a Soviet nuclear submarine that had sunk in the Pacific, resting on the ocean floor 17,000 ft. down. The Soviet Golf-II Class ballistic missile submarine sank in 1968, approximately 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.

  • jeffe

    AKILEZ, you researched it and yet the depth limit did not come up? I think looking for the “white knight” is all well and good, but we need to look at the reality of this disaster. Even if BP caps this thing this week the Gulf is finished for years to come. The Louisiana fish industry alone generates 2.2 billion a year. I agree with Toby’s points, that this is potentially the end of one of the great fisheries and bird breeding grounds.

    I think Mr.Kuttner is right, this is a huge moment for all of us. The direction we take here is going to set the future for generations to come. I’m pessimistic that we will do the right thing.

  • mary elizabeth

    To Dee Kieft and others–It is so refreshing to see comments that continue in support of Obama. As you say, the hatred, disapproval, and utter cruelty is appalling.
    I continue to believe that he works for the common good, that his intentions are honorable. He has accomplished a great deal, with one hand tied behind his back-(obstructionism and desire to see him fail). He has addressed major issues that have been neglected for generations, yet when he does not solve these in one year, the spector of a “failed presidency” is raised.
    Would it be wise to scrap the whole health care system, revamp Wall Street, pull out of Afghanistan at once, stop all oil drilling, etc in one fell swoop?
    I see the “glass” of the Obama Presidency as half full, not half empty.

  • ThresherK

    We expect our presidents to be strong, but Obama seems weak and reactive. The whole BP thing is the most recent example of this.

    Nice recitation of talking points.

    So, you’re okay with the government putting BP into receivership and seizing their property? Aren’t you gonna wonder how a couple of oilmen (Bush and Cheney) let this get to where BP could privatize all that oil for a pittance without being held responsible for a backup plan?

    Yep. Obama didn’t wait for days, didn’t wage a PR war (Bushco’s first response to Katrina. Not to do something to aid the Democrats who were Gov. of Louisiana and Mayor of New Orleans. But a full-out Karl-Rove-designed PR offensive.), and isn’t hawking photos of him looking out the window of Air Force One to fill his campaign coffers.

    Yeah, Obama is soooo weak and reactive.

  • Herbert Poppycok

    I thought the topic was the Obama presidency-so far. I seem to have stumbled upon some sort of deep water diving or well capping blog.

  • Jim in Omaha

    In our system of government, a President can make significant policy only with the consent of Congress. Democrats have been in control of our government for Obama’s entire term so far. Our government sold out to the financial sector that literally caused the current global financial meltdown, sold out to the insurance sector in passing health care reform, sold out to the military sector, which hasn’t defeated an enemy in 65 years, in deciding how to handle Iraq, Af/Pak etc., sold out to the tax-cuts-are-always-the-answer sector in crafting a stimulus package, sold out to the oil industry in determining energy policy ….. As a life long Democrat and current party official, I say that the President and his (and soon to be my former) party have absolutely been a failure.

  • jeffe

    Herbert in case you have not noticed but there is this huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The deep diving is relevant as in case you have noticed, we have a Navy as well. To sum up on how this relates to Obama’s presidency this happened on his watch. It’s clear to me that his administration let the Mineral Management department to remain the dysfunctional body that it is. Had they done the job they were supposed to do this rig would have been shut down months ago.

  • Linda–Louisville KY

    I wonder how much of President Obama’s apparent lack of anger is because he is a black man in America–where in dealing with police and/or other authority figures, showing anger can be dangerous or potentially lethal. I think he has learned to make his arguments intellectually instead of emotionally because that is more effective in a racially charged environment.

    By the way, I’m a middle aged white woman.

  • paul

    One of the guests remarked that the previous health care system was “cruel”.

    I’m wondering if any one else can see the parallel between fixing every (perceived) cruelty with the power of the federal government, and fixing the ‘cruelty’ of starving stray animals by feeding them?

    When you defend everything, you defend nothing.

  • cory

    I think someone who loses everything and is bankrupted because they get cancer and have no or lousy insurance is a cause worth defending.

    Corporations as persons is a cause NOT worth defending.

    I don’t think making these distinctions is all that difficult.

    Do you have good health insurance, Paul?

  • Marc

    He inherited a mess from Bush. Then he made it dramatically worse by just about any measurement. We’re still in Iraq. We’ve increased our role (and costs) in Afghanistan. We have a health care bill packed with give-aways, high costs and no single payer. He’s hired the people who created the mess on Wall Street to solve the problem. Finally, he’s increased the debt far more than even Bush could – and I think this dwarfs any other mistakes. To the good, he’s much more articulate and better liked by other countries (not an insignificant achievement). He’s made progress on arms reduction and at least is trying for financial reform (though I don’t know if his proposals are good – just don’t know the details.

    His role with the BP oil leak is irrelevant. I don’t expect the federal government to fix these kind of immediate problems, just like I didn’t blame Bush for New Orleans. The fed government is a bulky, slow moving behemoth. Not much a president can do about this. Long term he needs to look at the energy policy that leads to offshore drilling – but that will take time.

    Our debt and wars make him a failure. Over the long term, dealing with this money we owe will impact everything else of significance we may attempt – energy policy, china, immigration, taxes, health care, whatever. Given the long term effects, I’m amazed this has hardly come up in these posts (ok, not really given our attention spans).

    Oh and I blame the congress (both sides) at least as much as Obama. But that’s not the subject today.

  • John Vlahovich

    I listened to today’s program twice and came to one conclusion. The very people who were so happy in 2008 that candidate Obama promised that political business as usual would be finished if he were elected are now faulting President Obama for not continuing political business as usual. I just finished a Christian Science Monitor article in which press pool people faulted the president over his lack of press conferences because he prefers lengthy one-on-one discussions about serious issues with individual news people. I for one find his ignoring of the 24-hour news cycle quite refreshing.

  • Bush’s fault

    Obama looks tired, bored, disengaged, wishing he’d lost the election, depending on the clip…Holder is proving himself just another tool who lacks command and energy, Gibbs is just another redneck who thinks he can talk on his feet, Napolitano is in WAY over her head…so who’s really running things…not this bunch of Peter Principle poster kids.

  • Paul

    You’re right cory. In fact, I’ll go further and say that it’s become TOO EASY to make these distinctions. And no, I have no insurance whatsoever.

    However now that I’ll be forced to have it, I, and everyone else, will try our best to use every bit of it in order to get our money’s worth, which inevitably WILL lead to rationing. All that will matter is who you are or who you know. (And we can be sure that your example cancer patient will not be one of the elite.) And you, I, none of us, will be able to hedge against that by means of hard work and prudent planning.

    And therein lies my point. Instead of utilizing resources wisely, we increase suffering amongst the many “strays” because we can’t help ourselves…We succumb to our emotional desires to right a “wrong”, and cause more suffering because of it.

    Meanwhile we stray further and further from the ideals of the founders and doom ourselves to leave our children fewer liberties than we inherited.

    How long until we are just another mediocre nation like any in Europe?

  • ek brooklyn

    it seems to me that Obama is a control freak. that’s why it takes him long to pick the nominees and to commit to action.

  • informed American

    Thus far, running this country into the ground has been the only thing that Obama has done competently.

  • informed American

    It’s official, the Obama presidency is a complete disaster.

  • cory

    Paul,

    1. How exactly does one overuse health care?

    2. I refuse to accept natural selection as the guide to managing human civilizations.

  • cory

    Informed American,

    Feel free to take the night off, I covered all the usual rants in my 859am post. I believe your last two posts are covered by the “failed presidency” category.

    You’re welcome!

  • jeffe

    Paul if you could have decent coverage, such as they do in Canada, Germany, France and the Netherlands which was part of a means tested fee or tax would you take it? Or do you think that health care is not a right and people should just afford it or not.

    I for one think it’s inhuman and speaks volumes to how we as a society have developed. People have no problem letting the government waste billions on wars that have gone on to long and are to costly, but they argue that a good NH system is socialism. Well I for one would rather my tax dollars be spent on the health of the nation and not wars.

    By the way you mentioned that you did not have health insurance and that you seem to object to being forced to have it. I object to this provision of the health care bill but for different reasons. The bill is give away to the insurance corporations and does nothing to control cost. The mandate is an absurd provision. However on the other side of the issue is if you get into an accident someone is going to have to pay. Not having insurance and the idea of choosing to forgo it is not a rational argument nor an answer to the health care mess we face in this country.

  • Nanette

    I just started reading David Remnick’s new Obama bio, “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.” I’m pretty sure Tom, or at least NPR, had Remnick on his program when it first came out. I think reading all three books, Alter’s, Kuttner’s and this one would give anyone a solid understanding of where Obama has been, and the process through which he is likely to make decisions on the future.

    What I especially appreciate about Remnick’s book is how he places the president’s life and his rise to power in the context of the Civil Rights Movement. The book has has renewed my appreciation of the magnificence of Obama’s election. This black man is living in a house that was built primarily by black slaves, people who were often known only by their first names, and who were carelessly documented, if at all, in their owners’ lists of property. Reminick shares some remarkable stories about the people who cared for and were trusted so completely by earlier presidents and their wives, at the same time they were denigrated as unworthy of freedom or self-possession. His stories about Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, and James Madison’s “body servant” Paul Jennings are particularly poignant. Both were fathered by their mothers’ owners, for one thing. How in the world did those Southern men live with themselves?

    I don’t mean to suggest that we should let Mr. Obama’s remarkable election blind us to his weaknesses, mistakes and the considerable challenges he has yet to meet adequately. I just think the fact that this man was elected at all provides us with justifiable grounds for at least a little optimism about the American people’s judgment and our nation’s prospects. We have shown that we are capable of dramatic transformation. With the right leaders (and I do remain hopeful about Obama’s ability to meet his challenges successfully, despite his missteps) we can accomplish some great things together.

  • jeffe

    don’t mean to suggest that we should let Mr. Obama’s remarkable election blind us to his weaknesses, mistakes and the considerable challenges he has yet to meet adequately. I just think the fact that this man was elected at all provides us with justifiable grounds for at least a little optimism about the American people’s judgment and our nation’s prospects. We have shown that we are capable of dramatic transformation. With the right leaders (and I do remain hopeful about Obama’s ability to meet his challenges successfully, despite his missteps) we can accomplish some great things together.

    This sounds so, so cozy and warm… Sorry I’m being sarcastic. Obama is not quite what you seem to think he is. He was elected because Bush was so awful and the alternative was a crank old man from Arizona and that mouth piece from Alaska. Obama has sold the nation out.
    The wars, health care and now this disaster in the Gulf.
    He is not showing himslef to be good strong leader, as FDR did. This president is losing the momentum to anything. He used the progressives and the youth vote, this is, was a huge mistake on his part.

  • MordecaiCarroll

    Am only about a half hour in, but so far I find Kuttner’s take on the Obama presidency more compelling and honest than Alter’s.

    I like Alter, but with regards to the Obama Presidency he sounds like an “inside the beltway” / Washington insider (in the vein of Bob Woodward in the early years of the Bush Presidency – mildly critical of small points, but basically very much an admirer).

  • Tim in Ann Arbor

    Ironically, as a moderate-to-conservative, Midwestern, urban Democrat, I think that Bob Kuttner (who I think is a great economist and journalist) is hoping in vain for Obama to change his stripes.
    The Obama administration has been, is, and will inevitably be only marginally less of a handmaiden to the economic powers_that_be than a moderate Republican administration would be [say, that of G.H.W. Bush or that of some hypothetical (but now virtually extinct) East Coast Republican).

    BEHOLD the Obama administration now stonewalling about the extent of oil spreading around the Gulf:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/jan-june10/oil1_06-02.html ;
    (Starts at an e.t. of ~3:49.)
    Interpretation:
    NOAA Administrator Lubchenco:
    ~”Underwater plumes? What underwater plumes?”
    For several weeks, there have been growing discussions among, and reports by, scientific experts (oceanographers, marine biologists, etc.) about the huge and still growing underwater plumes of oil and globs of oil agglomerated with various marine solid materials,
    and now, only a few day after BP CEO Tony Hayward publicly denied the existence of these underwater plumes,
    the Obama administration’s NOAA Administrator is saying:
    ~”Underwater plumes? What underwater plumes?”

    (WHO’s controlling WHOM?)

    Relative to any reasonable set of expectations for an Obama administration based on Obama’s rhetoric and stated policy positions/preferences prior to his election, Obama has been a traitor.
    AS PRESIDENT, Obama has repeatedly bypassed _innumerable_ opportunities for ‘teachable moments’ in regards to the policy and administrative failures and the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the GW Bush administration in particular and contemporary reactionary right-wing Republicanisn in general.
    While I was on a day cruise among several islands in Fiji last July, several Aussies and Kiwis asked me how Obama was doing. I told them that I thought Obama had made some good decisions on 2nd-tier and 3rd-tier issues, but, on each & every top-tier issue, he has consistently caved to the relevant powerful but narrow special interests.

    Obama:
    (a) lacks any core values for which he’s willing to go to the mat;
    (b) has an extreme aversion to the stress and strain that accompanies conflict;
    (c) considers himself to be a Brahmin who can get away with avoiding most things that he personally doesn’t like to do.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yevni5SsK5U&feature=channel Upfront Productions

    Everyone should take a look at this Barack Obama film clip from the documentary entitled, “Road to the White House” by filmmaker Keith O’Derek.
    This trailer shows the path that has paved the way for Barack Obama and all of us Americans to live a life with the freedoms that we enjoy today. So many people have lost their lives and we should appreciate our freedom everyday.
    We have the right to vote, religion, love, work, learn and to dream.
    What a life!!!

  • Wooferine Barker

    If you don’t like this country, you are always free to leave. You would
    not be allowed to criticize the government if you lived in China or
    Russia.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 24, 2014
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, talks with Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Covina at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, April 21, 2014. Hernandez proposed a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to again allow public colleges to use race and ethnicity when considering college applicants. The proposal stalled this year after backlash from Asian Americans. (AP)

California as exhibit A for what happens when a state bans affirmative action in college admissions. We’ll look at race, college and California.

Apr 24, 2014
A Buddhist monk lights the funeral pyre of Nepalese mountaineer Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, during his funeral ceremony in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014.  (AP)

A Sherpa boycott on Everest after a deadly avalanche. We’ll look at climbing, culture, life, death and money at the top of the world.

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Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

 
Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

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