Friday, October 09, 2009

Push Polling And Its Pernicious Politics

It takes a lot more than money, believe it or not, to keep up a plutocracy. One of those things is fake public opinion perceptions. The days of buying that appear to be numbered, if Rachel Maddow's performance is any indication. Her treatment is worthy of any college course on statistics or social science.

The progressive community has railed for many many years about the pernicious effect of "push polling" -- a poll designed to influence the results that the pollers want to see. But only Rachel can boil it down and slice and dice it like this (with the help of the inestimable and uncompromising Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com):

I have nothing more to say:

video

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Obama Must Clean House... & K-Street

I am not heartened to read Frank Rich this morning, whose piqued beltway-meets-cultural analysis voices much of what has been building in me and I think others like me who vested so much in the president's election.

SNL's opening skit last night captured a gathering sense of a "do-nothing" president:



http://www.hulu.com/watch/99945/saturday-night-live-obama-address

Now Frank Rich this morning puts a finer point on it:

Barack Obama promised a change from this revolving-door, behind-closed-doors collaboration between special interests and government. He vowed to “do our business in the light of day” — with health care negotiations broadcast on C-Span — and to “restore the vital trust between people and their government.” He said, “I intend to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” That those lobbyists would so extravagantly flaunt their undiminished role shows just how little they believe that a new sheriff has arrived in Dodge.

I have patience on ending Iraq completely, I have patience on ending Afghanistan (not escalating it), I have patience - growing thin - on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Frankly I do not have any more patience on health care reform including a Public Option. No patience at all. So I can be a grown-up and have mixed expectations and desires.

However. That Obama has let so many of the regular insider influence-peddling crowd continue feeding at their K-Street trough is absolutely stultifying and beyond any reasonable patience in light of what the president promised in his 2 years of campaigning (and 2 years of accepting my money to do so).

Obama is not a failure. He is not an outrage. I never expected him to walk on water. But 9 months into office, I did expect more than we have.

He let Republicans gut the financial recovery package and now the unemployment rate is the highest in 26 years, surpassing last month's rate. We *always* knew the goal of the package was to create jobs. Now this? 9 months. Too soon? I don't think so. I believe the economy is stabilizing, but the pain isn't. Where are the JOBS?

News flash: tax cuts don't create jobs. And yet the president let Republicans -- for that mythical "bipartisanship" pixie dust -- gut a meaningful reform package. Was he afraid of the tea baggers? A lot of good that did him. And now we don't have JOBS. And people are starting to NOTICE. Seeing a pattern? Me too. Seeing a clusterfk? Me too. Because the financial industry, "health care" industries, congress, and lobbyists are all gathered at and rollicking in the same trough... unbothered.

From Rich:
Elmendorf was chief of staff to the former Democratic House leader Dick Gephardt. A quick visit to opensecrets.org reveals that Elmendorf Strategies’ client list includes Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, among other players in the coming battle over financial regulation reform. Then again, as The Nation details in its current issue, Gephardt has also lobbied for Goldman, among many other corporate clients in opposition to the populist policies he once championed.


Yeah: DICK FREAKIN GEPHARDT! The "liberal" of the 2004 cycle. The Democratic populist to beat all Democratic populists. That would be like Howard Dean joining United Health as its chief spokesperson. Am I blaming President Obama for Dick Gephardt's asininity? No. Should Gephardt have been chased out of town with the rest of the revolving-door-lobbyists by now? Hell yes. But who was Obama's first choice to lead health care reform?

Tom Daschle.

The second Post article... described the scene, as well as the rabbit ragu, at Ristorante Tosca, the lobbyists’ hangout on F Street in downtown Washington. ...

The stars of Tosca’s “Power Section,” we learned, include the Podestas, Tom Daschle (“not technically a registered lobbyist” but, as The Post put it, “a ‘special policy adviser’ — wink wink”) and Steve Elmendorf (who “eats lunch out only at Tosca”). Elmendorf was chief of staff to the former Democratic House leader Dick Gephardt.


Okay, I get it. Not Obama's fault either. Fine. {Growing more impatient...}

But what about John Podesta, the designer of The Obama White House transition and former COS for President Clinton? Do you think the following seems like a president concerned about changing the game of lobbyists in D.C., a president determined to throw a brick in the revolving door between congress and K-Street? Do you think Obama asked the Podestas to even just can the lobbying for a while?
One of the articles focused on Heather Podesta — “The It Girl of a New Generation of Lobbyists” — who lobbies for health care players like Eli Lilly, HealthSouth and Cigna. Podesta is half of what The Post has called a “mega-lobbying” couple. Her husband, with his own separate (and larger) lobbying shop, is Tony Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, the Clinton White House chief of staff who ran the Obama transition. Back in November, Tony Podesta told The Times that only “very unsophisticated” clients would hire his firm because of his brother’s role in assembling the new administration.


Really? Because both of their client rosters are up about 60%. Mr. President!? Really?!

It's sometimes hard to find the gem quote in a Rich article, but this has to be it, and the most pernicious dark element is that the sheriff we need is one who can deliver health care reform right now and the people needing enforcement are the "health care" lobbyists.

Rich:
Barack Obama promised a change from this revolving-door, behind-closed-doors collaboration between special interests and government. He vowed to “do our business in the light of day” — with health care negotiations broadcast on C-Span — and to “restore the vital trust between people and their government.” He said, “I intend to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” That those lobbyists would so extravagantly flaunt their undiminished role shows just how little they believe that a new sheriff has arrived in Dodge.


And yes, this all strikes at the heart of Health Reform and the Public Option -- and part of its demise is being plotted according to Rich by the man who Obama first nominated to champion it and some other unlikely suspects:

The administration’s legislative deals with the pharmaceutical companies were made in back rooms. Business Week reported in early August that the UnitedHealth Group and its fellow insurance giants had already quietly rounded up moderate Democrats in the House to block any public health care option that would compete with them for business. UnitedHealth’s hired Beltway gunslingers include both Elmendorf Strategies and Daschle, a public supporter of the public option who nonetheless does some of his “wink, wink” counseling for UnitedHealth. The company’s in-house lobbyist is a former chief of staff to Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader. Gephardt consults there too.


Could we be getting more Bill Clinton triangles instead of JFK Camelot with this president? Could we be getting "Change We Believed In" but just aren't getting? I am not going to declare Obama sinister, failed, weak, or wrong.

But I am declaring that I do not like what I see... at all. And my patience going into the end of this year and into 2010 is growing very, very thin.

With Democrats like these...