S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Obama administration needing help


President Obama gathered a crowd of over 120 potential helpers at the White House on Thursday for the Forum on Health Reform. In what is being called the Health Care Summit, President Obama is starting the big push for health care overhaul, as NPR headlined. The President said,

"In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table. There will be no sacred cows in this discussion," Obama said as he opened his White House forum on what he calls the greatest threat to the foundation of the U.S. economy.

. . . people from all sectors — and with a wide range of viewpoints — were taking part in the program. They included longtime health reform heavyweights, including the cancer-battling Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and some people who helped kill Clinton's overhaul in the 1990s.

Also unlike Clinton, Obama is planning to send only broad principles to Congress of what he wants to see in the bill, such as increased coverage and controlled costs. The House and Senate will be left to do the heavy lifting.

President Obama needs help to stay "outside the bubble" that insulates him from the outside world. He fought successfully to keep his Blackberry, though limits were installed. The President mentioned yesterday, as he was answering questions at the Health Care Summit, that he reads ten letters a day sent to him by the public. The Washington Post had a great article on how this works a few weeks ago. To quote:

Each morning when he arrives at the Oval Office, President Obama asks his staff to deliver him a package containing 10 letters. It is a mere sampling of the 40,000 or so that Americans send to the White House every day . . .

Obama has learned during his first 40 days in the White House that he must fight to preserve such direct connections to the citizens he leads. Obama's life as president is outsourced to about 25 assistants, 25 deputy assistants and 50 special assistants who act as a massive siphon to control the information that reaches his desk and schedule the meetings and public appearances that shape his days. A correspondence staff sorts through his mail and selects the 10 letters that he reads.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner needs some help.
His office is not staffed at the level required, given the workload coming from the current economic crisis. Two nominees have recently withdrawn their names from consideration as political appointees. Annette Nazareth was to be Geightner's deputy and Caroline Atkinson was to be undersecretary of international affairs. Nazareth probably withdrew due to a potentially bruising confirmation process. The reason for Atkinson's quitting is unknown, according to

Julius Genachowski is President Obama's pick to head the Federal Communications Commission, according to NPR. (2/4/09) They have known each other since attending Harvard together. The nominee headed the technology arm of the Obama campaign. He has a history in private industry, as well as working for the FCC under the Clinton administration.

A number of Congressional Democrats find it difficult to help President Obama get the Omnibus spending bill to his desk to sign. After work on the bill is complete. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to work with the President to reform the earmarking process, according to CQ Politics. However, as Politico's Jonathan Martin reported Thursday, the bill has not yet been passed. To quote,

In the context of the trillions of dollars being thrown around in Washington these days, the renewed fight over earmarks is relatively small potatoes. . . . taunts vividly illustrate some of the pressures from divergent constituencies on the new president — pressures that are proving a good bit harder to reconcile in office than they were on the campaign trail.

Obama can either walk in lockstep with legislative leaders of his own party, people he needs to push his agenda. Or he can keep the good-government credentials that are part of his public image. But it will be tough to do both.

President Obama will continue to need the help of a strong Democratic party apparatus. Governor Tim Kaine is the new head of the Democratic Party, taking over for Governor Howard Dean, who has gone back to Democracy for America. J.P. Green wrote a very interesting essay at The Democratic Strategist, "Needed: More Discussion About Party-Building," (2/27/09). A couple of his points:

Most of the recent debate about the pros and cons of bipartisanship has centered around it's effect on the quality of legislation. But there is also a legitimate concern about how it impacts the growth and development of the Democratic Party . . .

It's a lot to think about. But a broader, ongoing and inclusive discussion of future directions in party-building would help lay a solid foundation for a new era of progressive reform.

Needing help is not a bad thing. The problems are serious and we all have a stake in the solutions. The health care system is broken, and so is the economic system. Though President Obama has high public approval ratings, Congress does not. And bipartisanship if far from a reality. One thing to remember is that we have just come away from an administration that prided itself on not needing help. Foreign alliances disappeared, and so did the rule of law under a president some are now saying was a dictator. Needing help now feels like a good thing, a breath of fresh air.

My all-in-one Home Page of websites where I post regularly: Carol Gee - Online Universe

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