by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 2, 2009
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In the latest sign that the Republican Party has no ideas, no plan and no hope, their latest talking point against President Barack Obama is that he is trying to do too many things at once.
Considering that he's dealing with two wars, a collapsed economy and three decades of neglect of the public infrastructure, the president has a lot on his plate right now. But Obama has made it clear that to pull the economy out of its current slump, actions have to be taken on many different fronts.
So why, after only two months, is the president being criticized for trying to do too much?
The news media can share some of the blame for this situation. "It has become clear that the top threat to (Obama's) ability to accomplish his goals - from reversing the recession to reforming health care to building a greener economy - is not just an obstructionist Republican Party but a U.S. news media that remains largely tilted to the right," wrote Robert Parry, a former Associated Press reporter who is now editor of Consortiumnews.com. "There is the powerful right-wing media - with its many outlets in print, radio, tv and the Internet - but also a mainstream/corporate media that can't escape the old dynamic of framing stories negatively about Democrats and granting Republicans every benefit of the doubt."
But President Obama didn't help himself with his choices for his economic team. His first mistake was making Lawrence Summers his chief economic adviser and Timothy Geithner his Treasury Secretary. These two men pushed hard during the Clinton Administration to deregulate the banking industry. In other words, two men who contributed to the mess are now in charge of cleaning it up. The chances of seeing real reform of our banking system are slim as long as Geithner, Summers and other laissez-faire leftovers from the Clinton years are in the new Administration.
The Obama Administration won't even discuss restoring some form of the Glass-Steagall Act, the New Deal law that separated investment banks and commercial banks. It's not calling for higher tariffs to protect American industry and wages, or for bank nationalizations or for modifying anti-labor trade deals like NAFTA. For all the talk of change, there is the familiar scent of the status quo in the air in Washington.
"The mistake that many make is to confuse the trappings of symbolic power with the exercise of real power," wrote media critic Danny Schechter recently. "Truth be told, real power is exercised mostly by unchecked private interests, lobbyists and our media. They have the power to obstruct policies, stir up controversies and orchestrate pressure to kill measures they don't like. They are a well-funded minority and work skillfully in the shadows and through highly paid PR practitioners. Every politician knows that these non-elected power centers often have more power than elected decision-makers."
Even though most Americans still believe in what President Obama is doing and want him to succeed, there is growing anger as more people realize the extent to which the elites own our government and both political parties. The people who brought the global economy to its knees may ultimately get away with it, while the rest of us are stuck with the mess.
People should be angry. These elites, and the lobbyists who do their bidding, convinced the politicians they bought off to abolish decades-old legal and regulatory protections which previously constrained what they could do. Once they got the lawless environment they had long sought, the so-called "masters of the universe" were able to pillage our economy without the fear of being held accountable. And they are continuing to rig the game so they can get the bailouts and restructuring that will allow them to keep their money, power and influence. All we will get is the bill.
Barack Obama may be President, but he's not in power. Those private interests and lobbyists, and the media that serve them, are the ones that hold all the cards in this game. And as sharp and as canny as Mr. Obama and his team have been in these first two months, his enemies have magnified every misstep and downplayed every triumph.
The real record looks a bit different. Through masterfully delivered public addresses and carefully articulated policy initiatives, President Obama now dominates the high ground of American politics. Despite the overheated rhetoric on the right, he is firmly planted in the center of the political spectrum. He could be much more bold, but he has for the most part made the right moves.
The Republican Party has been reduced to defending policies only popular within its increasingly shrunken base. The only thing they have left is to attack and obstruct Obama's agenda, and the GOP will do plenty of that in the coming months.
The hopeful development is that most Americans aren't falling for it. Os President Obama is taking on too much? The same can be said for most Americans, who are being stretched to the limit in their daily struggle to get by in this economy. They want to see results, and see them soon. The rest is just politics.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com. For extra added thrills, read his ongoing daily blog on The Harvard Classics.