November 28, 2008

Thankgiving Change

Well, it took several conversations, but I finally understand.  I've been finding it pretty inexplicable that people regard it as surprising that Obama's appointments are in the least bit unexpected, or inconsistent with his message of change.  I've been seeing on the blogosphere more of the former, but I'm having a hard time distinguishing these posts as actual disappointment, or lobbying for a leftward shift in the appointments. As folks at FireDogLake, Eschaton, DailyKos have been saying all along,  the guy ran as a centrist. It's not surprising that he is making appointments from the center of the party. Obama promised to get things done. He is not going to get things done if his appointees spend the first six months getting up to speed.

Jane  did a nice job on Rachel Maddow's show summarizing this point of view, in the video above.

(Nice to see a guest lineup that represents a little more of America. Just sayin'.)

In any case, I haven't heard much, other than in the traditional media, that these appointments are an indication that Obama has backed away from his campaign commitment to "Change,' by not choosing radically enough.   I thought this was just a lazy media narrative, and another application of the Clinton rules.  Since all Obama can do, visibly, at this stage is make high-level appointments, it's an easy story to write to say "Okay, so, where's the Change?" As atrios has pointed out, as well, this seems to reflect the media buying McCain's campaign's presentation of Obama as some kind of wild-eyed, socialist radical who would be putting David Sirota in as Treasury Secretary and Cliff Schecter as Chief Spokesman.

However, I didn't figure it out until the T-Day conversations, but there is something else going on here. When I tried to say that if you want change, good places to start are ending the radical policies of the Bush administration, returning to Constitutional precepts, the resuming the foreign policy consensus of the last 50 years (the "pragmatic," "realistic" Great American Hegemony Project discussed in each issue of Foreign Affairs), sane fiscal policy, a shift to a less regressive system of taxation, and the application of laws and regulations passed by Congress and signed by the President.  Pointing out this is quite a bit of change was met with, shall we say, skepticism.

Of course, I said that a little less succinctly, in the event. And used different pieces of it at a time.

The point is that most people do not seem to regard the last administration as significantly different in form or philosophy from the Clinton administration. They simply see it as less effective, and less competent.  And, frankly, not that much less competent. As the media focuses on the seeds of some of these policies of fiscal deregulation as set in the Clinton era,  the extreme nature of the Bush administration is going to become blurred. 

It's ironic that the left blogosphere assists in this blurring, with many people viewing the Clinton administration as not progressive. Just be aware that this was Ralph Nader's argument in 2000, that the two parties are essentially identical.  It was for this reason that Summers looks to have been a bad choice, even in a behind the scenes advisory role.  He and Rubin are seen as progenitors in the current narrative, even though Greenspan and the Fed look to be the source of most of the difficulty. Oh, and the Bush SEC relaxing leverage rules ( to 30-1) on uninsured institutions that were too big to fail.

But that's neither here nor there. The Change theme is going to cause trouble throughout the transition.  Not enough movement leftward for either lobbying or disillusioned lefties, not different enough for centrists who don't understand just how radical the Bush Administration was, and a source of derision of the "Drill baby drill" style from the right. "So where's all the change?"

The only response that can be made is that there have been a few dozen people, nameless, who have been working on the policy elements of the new administration for months. All indications are that policy is going to come from the White House, not the Cabinet.  And as much as Little Tommy Friedman would like to move the inauguration up, putting his Suck.On. This. nightmare into the past,  this will have to wait until January 20th.

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