Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Progressive Dissatisfaction

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

Expressing disillusionment with Obama's top appointments in a December 7 article in The Washington Post entitled "This Wasn't Quite the Change We Pictured," David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, says that it's "no surprise that many progressives are -- depending on whom you ask -- disappointed, irritated or fit to be tied" (the original Mother Jones, 1830-1930, self-described "hell-raiser" and legendary socialist organizer, i.e., "community organizer," was denounced in the U.S. Senate as "the grandmother of all agitators").

Hillary Clinton, "who supported the Iraq war until she initiated her presidential bid, has been handed the Cabinet's big plum: secretary of state," writes Corn, while "Bush's second defense secretary, Robert Gates, will become Obama's first defense secretary."

Obama's pick for national security adviser, retired four-star general James L. Jones, "probably would have ended up in a McCain administration, and his selection has not heartened progressives," laments Corn.

On top of the aforementioned alleged warmongers, Obama's economic team is too pro-establishment, pro-capitalist and un-progressive to please the D.C. bureau chief at Mother Jones. The chair of Obama's National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, "opposed regulating the new-fangled financial instruments that greased the way to the subprime meltdown," writes Corn, and is "being rewarded in an it-takes-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief manner."

To head Treasury in the Obama administration, Timothy Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, "helped oversee the financial system as it collapsed," Corn asserts, while Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary, is described as "a director of bailed-out Citigroup and a poster boy for both the corporate wing of the Democratic Party and discredited Big Finance."

Paul Volcker, Obama's pick to head the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is portrayed as "the former Fed chairman whose controversial tight-money policies ended the stagflation crisis of the 1970s but led to a nasty recession."

For folks like Corn, the victim wing of the Democratic Party should be in charge, not the "corporate wing."

Wondering whether "convention has triumphed over change -- and centrists over progressives, Corn asks if these appointments amount to "the kind of change that progressives, who were an essential part of Obama's political base during the campaign, can really believe in?"

Where's the promised "change" and "hope" with a revitalized Hillary, along with the recycled Rubin and Summers? "It remains a mystery to me why Obama would want to bring into his Big Tent the Clinton circus, which frequently features excessive spin, backstabbing, leaking and messy melodrama," writes Corn. "Sen. Clinton is a smart woman who has stature and globetrotting experience. But as health-care czar in her husband's administration, she set back that cause, which is near and dear to the hearts of progressives, by nearly two decades."

Like a disheartened wallflower, Corn asks, "So with these hawkish, Rubin-esque, middle-of-the-road picks, has Obama abandoned the folks who brought him to the dance?"

At The Nation magazine, similarly, the pro-socialism scribes were quick to paint Obama's cabinet picks "recycled Clintonism" and "a kettle of hawks."

Asks Camille Paglia, author, social critic, feminist, and professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia: "What do the Clintons have on Obama? Surely we might have expected a better mix of fresh faces and progressive voices."

At a symposium at the New York Public Library on November 10, writer Joan Didion spoke of "naivete, translated into hope" in the election. "I couldn't count the number of snapshots I got e-mailed showing people's babies dressed in Obama gear," she said. "I couldn't count the number of times I heard the words 'transformational' or 'inspirational,' or heard the 1960s evoked by people with no apparent memory that what drove the social revolution of the 1960s was not babies in cute T-shirts but the kind of resistance to that decade's war that in the case of our current wars, unmotivated by a draft, we have yet to see."

Margaret Kimberley, editor and senior columnist at the progressive Black Agenda Report, seems particularly fit to be tied: "Caught up and rendered silly by Obamamania, black progressives who should know better have unilaterally disarmed themselves in surrender to a media-amplified euphoria that most resembles a group drug fest. The faculties of memory and common sense shut down, as longtime activists effectively repudiate their former lives to join the mindless bacchanal swirling around Barack Obama's thoroughly corporate candidacy."

It is "past time for the love fest to end, and hard questioning to begin," declares Kimberley. "We won't take pleasure in seeing black America end up with a bad case of buyer's remorse."

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.