By Peter Wallsten
February 16, 2009
Reporting from Washington -- Slowly over the last few weeks, some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters have come to an unhappy realization: The candidate who they thought was squarely on their side in policy fights is now a president who needs cajoling and persuading.
Really? Only over the past few weeks? Seems to me that Obama's back-pedaling has been going on since November. And that's just on the campaign pledges he still held in October after having abandoned his pledge to stick with public financing of said campaign.
But Obama's broken promises, and his supporters' reaction to them, are only half of the subject of this post. I want to point out what gets passed off as "news analysis" in The Los Angeles Times. Take a gander at the second paragraph.
Advocates for stem cell research thought Obama would quickly sign an order to reverse former President Bush's restrictions on the science. Now they are fretting over Obama's statement that he wants to act in tandem with Congress, possibly causing a delay.
Look at how that's worded. That's right. The old "Bush-has-outlawed-stem-cell-research" canard rears its head again.
Apparently it's impossible for so-called "analysts" like Peter Wallsten to comprehend, once and for all, that it was Bush who lifted Clinton's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research -- a ban which was put in place because, among other reasons, the research, unlike adult stem cell research, has yet to show any real progress of producing anything but a tumor.
Since Bush was, in fact, the first president to federally fund embryonic stem cell research, if Obama were to "reverse former President Bush's restrictions" (funding research on existing lines), that would put Clinton's full ban on funding back into effect.
This, of course, has nothing to do with any alledged "restrictions on the science", which are free to go forward sans subsidies.
Wallsten is either ignorant of these facts or chooses not to disseminate them, and neither occasion is condusive to the provision of revelatory news analysis, abject pleonasm notwithstanding.
The next paragraph doesn't reflect on Wallsten so much as on the "critics of Bush".
Critics of Bush's faith-based initiative thought Obama had promised to end religious discrimination among social service groups taking federal money.
But Obama, in announcing his own faith-based program this month, said only that the discrimination issue might be reviewed.
Because nothing does more to eradicate religious discrimination than to codify religious discrimination. I mean, really. Faith-based rehab programs are, by far, the most effective. In the past they've been denied federal assistance because they are faith-based. Some, now, want their funding to continue only if the programs are made to hire outside of their faith -- or any faith -- which is the basis of their success in the first place. Duh.
And Obama's recent moves regarding a lawsuit by detainees have left some liberal groups and Bush critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, feeling betrayed, given that Obama was a harsh critic of Bush's detainee policies when running for office last year.
Aah, but the campaign is over and now Obama has to actually, you know, govern. And, for some reason unfathomable to "liberal groups and Bush critics", unleashing terrorists into the small world-at-large doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore, nor does giving them public trials where covert methods and the identities of informants will be exposed.
The anxiety is also being felt in the labor movement, one of Obama's most important support bases. Some union officials and their allies are frustrated that at a crucial point in negotiations over his massive stimulus package, Obama seemed to call for limits on "Buy American" provisions in the bill aimed at making sure stimulus money would be spent on U.S.-made materials.
Yes, Obama did call for protectionist Buy American provisions in the stimulus bill, until Asia and Europe threatend retaliations leading to an all-out trade war. Some info HERE.
"There is no company that is going to benefit more from the stimulus package than Caterpillar, but I am telling you that by embracing Buy American you are undermining our ability to export U.S. produced products overseas," said Bill Lane, government affairs director for Caterpillar in Washington. More than half of Caterpillar's sales -- including big-ticket items like construction cranes and land movers -- are sold overseas.
"Any student of history will tell you that one of the most significant mistakes of the 1930s is when the U.S. embraced protectionism," Lane said. "It had a cascading effect that ground world trade almost to a halt, and turned a one-year recession into the Great Depression."
Back to The L.A. Times:
Obama has long said his administration will be driven by competence, not political ideology. He has blamed the nation's problems on a failed and highly partisan political system, and has said that solutions should come by building coalitions that cross the traditional battle lines in Washington policy fights.
Gee, that's what Bush said when he first came to Washington. Of course, having bipartisan legislation requires both sides of the aisles in Congress having a meaningful contribution. But as we just saw in the House, with Republicans being shut out of the crafting of the stimulus bill, it was the opposition to the stimulus that was bipartisan, not the support for it. That's not Obama's fault, of course, but he could have announced his refusal to sign a bill that was not bipartisan if only he hadn't spend the past month telling us that the world would end if the stimulus bill wasn't passed immediately.
Regarding Obama's reneging on the "Buy American" provisions:
Obama's new language was "a little disturbing," said Jeff Faux, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, which has received funding from labor unions.
He said the president had "moved so quickly to concede on this question without really drawing the debate out."
"Drawing out the debate"? There's no time to debate! Don't you see that we're in a crisis that's about become a catastrophe if we don't put our great-great-grandchildren's tax dollars to work for us now!!
Now, some labor advocates worry about how aggressively the new president will push to fulfill other key campaign promises, such as passage of the so-called card check legislation that would make it easier to form labor unions.
If by "make it easier to form" you mean "systematize bullying by", well....
Read the full article for more quotes on stem cells, faith-based rehab initiatives, "Buy American", etc, for Peter Wallsten's repeated assertion that staying out of a church's internal business (as opposed to denying them funding on religious grounds) equals "religious discrimination", and for Barry Lynn's despondent conclusion.
A word curiously absent from this article: Iraq.