Felicia Muftic – Bully for Obama
October 26, 2009
My all time favorite Republican is Teddy Roosevelt.
Sure, he was the first to propose universal health care, to bust the railroad trusts, and to formalize preservation of the beautiful places of America. He even received the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese war. Above all he made famous a modus operandi: “speak softly and carry a big stick”.
A hundred years later the party of TR has done a 180-degree turn on issues such as health care, environment, trust busting, and diplomacy. It is a Democrat who speaks softly while Republicans roar, stirring up fears based on stretched truths and touting use of military strength already stretched, as well.
President Obama is speaking softly, but is he carrying a big stick? We may never know for years until Obama writes his memoirs, but his public modus is obvious: He drops hints about credible action while he plays coy about the extent of his support, leaving pundits and vested interests reading between the lines and charges from Republicans of dithering and weak leadership.
If hardball is being played, it is likely done behind closed doors or left to members of Congress. There is no lack of available threats to draw from and a there is always a Rahm Emanuel type to deliver them – quietly.
Democrats have discovered a threat as large as a Stone Age club to use in the health care reform debate. It is anti-trust action. Lately there has been a realization that health insurers have been exempted from prosecution since 1945 and that most states have only one or two insurers that dominate their markets.
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Denver’s Congresswoman Diana DeGette has introduced legislation in the House and the Senate is following suit. The public option is also being revived as a monopoly busting tool. Obama himself has begun to talk openly about the monopoly issue. Anti-trust action is a bargaining chip that packs a punch.
Since so many of the blue dog Democrats who are opposing health care reform come from states with a large presence of insurance industry centers, threat of anti-trust action might just make a public option look like the lesser of two evils.
Did Obama shake a big stick at Afghan president Hamid Karzai last week? One day Karzai refuses to bow to a runoff election when the United Nations threw out a million fraudulent votes, and the next day he agrees. Standing by Karzai’s side throughout was Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Kerry must have delivered a very powerful message from President Obama.
We can only guess what it was by listening to the “leaks” from the White House concerning the “debate” about whether to commit 40,000 U.S. troops. At issue: Plan A: to prop up the central government or Plan B: whether to strike deals with “good” local warlords and restrict action to counter terrorism, searching and destroying Al Qaida.
Could Karzai have seen the debate as a credible threat?. After all, without a legitimate duly elected central government, there would be no Afghan troops or police to train to take over from our troops when we exited. Without our troops’ support, Karzai would be facing warlords allied with the United States and the we would fall back to plan B. If so, this is a complex game that is far beyond the hawk/dove simplification that more radical wings of our political spectrum portray as the nature of the administrations’ decision.
Obama has barely begun to waive any sticks at all at Wall Street, with good reason. The “consumer protection agency” backed by the president is now on the Congressional burner and is being fought by the financial industry’s lobbyists, the toughest in the Beltway. The administration could back legislation that would require executive salaries to be approved by shareholders, break up “the too big to fail” banks and financial institutions by limiting their ability to entangle their financial instruments, and limit their risk avoidance methods. There could be a mechanism to allow banks and companies to fail while insulating the rest of the economy from shock. However, many of these measures require Congress to get guts to buck lobbyists, and may limit Obama’s threats to the use of his own administrative powers.
Teddy Roosevelt made his name leading a cavalry charge up San Juan Hill, but he is best remembered by the reforms he undertook in Washington during the eight years he was president. President Obama charged a nation to change direction and some voices are criticizing him for not doing all he promised in nine months. Even Hercules was given a day to clean out the Augean stables. Let’s cut President Obama slack, give him some time, and speculate he may quietly be using some big sticks to advance his Herculean agenda.
– For more on health care and other issues, visit the Muftic Forum blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com and for Ted Muftic on the economy and background information on Afghanistan by Jim Frasche, visit their pages at http://www.mufticforum.com