Friday, January 07, 2011

Corporatist Chicagoan

We can only be happy President Obama did not appoint a black to be Chief of Staff.

If he had, The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman might have reported "X is an African-American through and through, with a fierce faith in friends and loyalty. He is a big-city guy, at home in big-city haunts."

Substitute "Irishman" for "African-American" and you have one of the most fawning lines of Howard Fineman's love poem to the President's new Chief of Staff.

Nor is it terribly disturbing that Fineman describes Daley as "a Democrat who (knows how to) acquire and hold power," though as Digby quotes Jeffrrey Toobin in the latter's book about the 2000 recount

Even though the automatic recount had cut Bush's lead dramatically in the previous three days, Christopher and Daley offered little hope that the margin could be eliminated completely. "Look you got screwed," said Daley, "but people get screwed every day. They don't have a remedy. Black people get screwed all the time. They don't have a remedy. Sometimes there's no remedy. There's nothing you can do about it...

Lieberman did not share the advisers' reluctance to push forward on all fronts. This became a recurring theme of the post-election period. The Connecticut senator always sounded like a warrior --- in private settings. (Much to the frustration of the Hawks on Gore's team he sounded much different before the cameras.)

Gore too railed against the prophesies of hopelessness he was hearing from Daley. He drew a series of concentric circles on the butcher paper to illustrate what he saw as his responsibilities.Inside the smallest circles were Gore and Lieberman; their closest supporters were in the next circle, then Democrats generally, finally the country as a whole. Gore said his actions had to serve all those groups not just those closest to him. An immediate surrender would be a violation of his obligations to all those who supported him, he said ---- all the people in the circles...

In the end Gore thought they shouldn't make "any momentous decisions." But it was clear that Daley and Christopher felt any victory for Gore was impossible even though more people had gone to the polls there intending to vote for the Vice President than for Bush. Gore and Lieberman couldn't wage the battle alone, of course, and their two principle deputies were telling them, in effect, to give up.

This Saturday had begun with Bush and Gore locked in a closer contest than earlier in the week.Indeed, the Vice President had made gains over the past three days. But the day ended with James Baker leading the attack --- and Bill Daley and Warren Christopher making the case for surrender.

Nor is it Daley's opposition to health care reform. If President Obama wants to appoint to an extremely influential position a guy who was against the signature achievement of the Administration, one of which Obama periodically reminds us, it's his prerogative.

Nor is it the role Daley played in, as Fineman puts it, helping "Bill Clinton pass free-trade agreements, even though Democratic union bosses hated them." A Wall Street Journal survey in September found, according to Public Citizen, that 53% of the public believe free trade deals have hurt the U.S.A. while only 17% believe they have benefited the nation. There must be tens of millions of those contrarian "union bosses," but it long ago became clear that Obama wasn't serious when he promised during the campaign to reconsider NAFTA.

But really, now, does Bill Daley actually "believe(s) in the government's role in helping people survive and live a decent life?"

If "it depends on what the meaning of is, is," it probably depends on what the meaning of "people" is. Kevin O'Connor revealed in December, 2009

Mellody Hobson, president of the mutual fund company Ariel Investments, and JP Morgan executive William Daley are both affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. Both Daley and Hobson served on the Center’s predecessor committee and signed a letter from the Center urging the Obama administration to adopt Wall Street-friendly regulatory reform. Hobson and Daley were two of the only Democrats to sign the letter, judging from campaign finance data; it’s an overwhelmingly Republican bunch.

The following April, The Wall Street Journal reported

when White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called a top JP Morgan executive to ask for the bank's support in creating a new consumer-protection agency, the executive—former Commerce Secretary William Daley—said no, according to people familiar with the conversation. His boss believed that sufficient consumer safeguards were already on the books.

For all we know, Daley merely was passing on to Emanuel the official position of his boss, while the fellow who is a board member of the pro-corporate Third Way and of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. and former lobbyist for a telecommunications powerhouse really is in favor of consumer protection. Add it all up and it lends credence to the GOP charge, as Salon's Alex Pareene puts it, "that the White House and the Democratic Party are pawns of the big banks, or that Big Government and Big Business are in a mutually beneficial corrupt relationship."

And that in turn has a major impact on elections and of the perception of the two major political parities. In their analysis of the 2010 elections, Ruy Teixeira and and John Halpin report this astounding statistic:

More voters (35 percent) blamed Wall Street for today’s economic problems rather than President Bush (29 percent) or President Obama (23 percent). But these Wall Street-blaming voters supported Republicans by 56-42 percent. The Obama administration’s association with bailing out Wall Street bankers, who are heavily blamed for the bad economy, apparently had a negative effect on Democratic performance in this election.

Iit is difficult to determine how much impact, directly or indirectly, the selection of Bill Daley will have on the public perception of the Democratic Party. But the appointment represents the rebranding of the Party, which will have dire consequences, whether or not Barack Obama succeeds in his quest to be re-elected.

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