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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on the Election

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Posted on Nov 4, 2010

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Kasia Anderson: Welcome, once again, to our Truthdig chat with Robert Scheer. Hello, Robert Scheer.

Robert Scheer: Hello.

Anderson: And I guess we’ll just get right down to questions about this week’s column. How’s that?

Scheer: Good. 

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Anderson: The first question is from Bob from Fulton, Mo.: With the president already on record more or less intending to govern as a moderate Republican, what should progressives do in the next two years to influence the conversation?

Scheer: Well, a moderate Republican in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower, who was far better than any of the presidents who came after him, would be welcome. You know, even Richard Nixon favored a guaranteed annual income. What I’m worried about is Obama may do what Clinton did, which was move to the right—to the right of Richard Nixon, to the right of Dwight Eisenhower. And it was Bill Clinton, in response to his reversal in the ’94 election, who ushered in the disastrous radical financial deregulation that caused this whole problem. And Obama, in his extreme stupidity—and I use those words advisedly—turned to the same fools that created this mess under Clinton, to Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, the protégés of that raging genius, Robert Rubin, and gave us this stupidity that said that Wall Street did not need any brakes on the system, any road rules, any rules of engagement.

And as a result, we have 50 million Americans that have either lost their homes or have their mortgages underwater and are thinking of walking away from their homes. We have 44 million Americans living under the official poverty line. We have a disaster going on here, and the people who call themselves progressives, that have sold their soul to the Democratic Party, seem to have an inability to recognize this. They’re yapping cheerleaders. Even Jon Stewart, who I’ve respected in the past, would have Obama on just before the election, and accept this nonsense that, oh, “Summers did a heckuva job.” He only quibbled about the word? This is a disaster that we’ve had. And as a result, the right wing, which can be very dangerous—if they start blaming immigrants, if they cut back needed social programs, yeah, they’re a real danger. And if we don’t do what we have to do to get out of this mess, it’s a really big problem.

Anderson: [Question from Truthdig member chacaboy]: There’s a preamble here. It says, “If Obama had not shown so much deference to Wall Street and the military and such eagerness for an exorbitantly expensive occupation of Afghanistan and excessive military budget, I could have sympathy. But as it is, I cannot distinguish Obama from most Republicans, including George W. Bush.” So now he says: “I would like to ask if there is any truth to the idea that we have something to lose by our critique?” I guess progressives critiquing Obama is the context there. “Is there anything to the argument (i.e. columnist Ruth Marcus) that Obama passed a stimulus package, he got health care done, and he passed financial regulations, and to withdraw support from him now would be to lose more ground by throwing the baby out with the bathwater?”

Scheer: Well, you know, we live in a democracy, and the key to democracy is that we not surrender our common sense or our ability to think. And what she [Marcus] said in that article was just gibberish. I mean, what are we talking about? First of all, the American people have rejected health care. At least half of them find it terrible, and the other half seem to be quite tepid about it. I’m tepid about it. You know, yeah, there are some good things in the health care thing, but there’s no cost control. It forces people to buy health insurance from insurance companies that are not going to do us any favors. This administration gave us something called health reform which is really, at best, mild, and at worst quite costly and disastrous. It certainly is not the thing they should have moved on when they had a banking meltdown, when we had a disaster in the economy. It was a feint. It was an attempt to find some win-win thing which didn’t work out. Health care should not have been the big item on the agenda; it was done for opportunistic reasons, you know, because they didn’t want to confront Wall Street. And instead of spending his capital on making the Wall Street system correct and putting sensible regulations in, he settled for very mild regulations on Wall Street and a very weak consumer agency; he couldn’t even push through Elizabeth Warren as a confirmed appointee with some real power. And as a result, you know, health care basically did not help him, and it’s been mostly a distraction. And the right wing has used it—you know, “socialized medicine” and all that garbage; of course, it’s nothing of the sort.

And so the real problem is that Obama has not only failed to deal with our meltdown; he’s exacerbated it. The stimulus was not effective. An enormous amount of money has been spent making the banks whole. I don’t know why these columnists can’t look at the numbers—the apologists for Obama—why don’t they talk about the over $2 trillion that were spent to take toxic assets off the books of the banks, but not a penny—not a penny really being spent to make people whole who are hurting. Where is the mortgage forgiveness, where is the moratorium on mortgage foreclosures? We don’t even know who owns these homes, 65 million homes, thanks to a system that Bill Clinton helped put in place, with the great liberals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cooperating with the swindlers at Countrywide Mortgage, put in place this Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems so 65 million American homes are owned by a computer bank in Reston, Va., owned by the banks, and we don’t even know who owns these homes.

And so last month we had the highest number of foreclosures, people are in great pain, and progressives still blindly support the president out of some idea that he’s the lesser evil. That’s a betrayal of democracy. We’ve got to call it the way we see it. And the best thing you can do for Obama is to have sharp criticism from the progressive side, and he hasn’t been getting it. He was able to roll over the progressives, he was able to take them for granted, and unfortunately some of those very same progressives were the victims of this folly, like [Sen.] Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. My God, I mean the poor guy was one of the few people who stood against this, and he got overwhelmed by this rage out there. So I really have no sympathy at all for this position. We keep going this way, and it’s going to be a real, a bigger Republican sweep in two years.

 

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By eir, November 8, 2010 at 2:18 am Link to this comment

Gonewest, Here’s an interesting little story from Jeff Steinberg of LaRouche PAC:

“Beginning in early 1998, Clinton and Rubin launched an international campaign to formulate a “new global financial architecture.” A combination of G-7 advanced sector and G-15 emerging economy nations formed the G-22, to study alternatives to the current, unregulated global system. Representatives of the 22 nations met in Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 1998, and established a series of ongoing working groups, to come up with plans for a new, more regulated international financial system.

These moves by Clinton and Rubin stood in stark opposition to the Greenspan-JP Morgan-Sandy Weill drive to bust up the last vestiges of restrictive bank regulation in the U.S.A.

When, in Sept. 1998, President Clinton traveled to New York City, to deliver a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, pressing for a “new global financial architecture” with far greater regulation and restriction of shortterm capital flows, all hell broke loose. Clinton was targeted for impeachment. Wall Street Democrats, led by Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.), joined with Britain’s Daily Telegraph propaganda mill, to press for Clinton’s resignation. The House of Representatives voted a bill of impeachment.

The issue was never the Monica Lewinsky affair. The issue was President Clinton’s publicly announced commitment to overhaul the global financial system, to the detriment of speculators.

And the punishment was swift. From the time that President Clinton delivered his statement of intent to overhaul the global financial architecture at the CFR in late September, to the time that the House of Representatives voted for his impeachment, took less than 90 days. The City of London’s demands for Clinton’s scalp over his threat to reregulate the global financial system—in cooperation with developing sector countries that had been viciously looted by speculators—was delivered.

There was never a serious question about the outcome of the impeachment trial of President Clinton in the U.S. Senate. The Democratic majority was never about to vote up the articles of impeachment, despite the Gore-Lieberman efforts to seize the Oval Office. On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted Clinton.

But the die had already been cast, and the drive for the repeal of Glass-Steagall benefited enormously from the Clinton impeachment distraction, which killed off any efforts at the new global financial architecture. On May 12, 1999, Robert Rubin resigned as Treasury Secretary, effective July 1 of that year. His replacement, Larry Summers, was fanatically committed to “Sandy’s law,” repealing Glass-Steagall. On Nov. 4, 1999, both the House and the Senate passed the Glass-Steagall repeal. A broken and distracted President Clinton signed it into law days later.”

In essence, Monica Lewinsky was a treasure that would prove to be worth trillions to the financial oligarchs.
 
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By bernard mauge, November 7, 2010 at 1:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

the whole thing about the president reaching out to the republicans first once he rode to power and again after his recent humiliating defeat is nothing more than the obvious reality of uniparty politics in America. There is no ideological divide between the two, just two entities reaching out to corporate power and money. With 96% reelection rate, the soviet communist party was 94%, we are living in a strange form of democracy where pretty soon riot police will escort us to the mall and make sure we spend it all on maxed out credit cards. Freedom to drown in your own debt poisoned by toxic food and toxic medias. And you call this demcracy! The middle class reminds me of the well off jews sent to the extermination camps. They were allowed to travel first class waited on respectfully until the trains reached their final destination. And then they saw the dogs, the hudge lights and they kew.

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By Gonewest, November 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You would lay Gramm-Leach-Bliley at Clinton’s feet? 

That bill passed 90-8 in the Senate and 362-57 in the House.

In the Senate 98% of the Republicans and 84% of Democrats voted yea.  In the House 98% of the Republicans and 75% of the Democrats voted yea.

Or are you suggesting Clinton should have vetoed that bill?

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, November 6, 2010 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

eir,
With access to a gold mine like Lyndon Larouche why would Dr Vaknin waste his time psychoanalyzing Barack Obama?  He fails to show how anything he says about narcissism applies to Obama.  Incidentally, Vaknin used the first person pronoun about two thousand nine hundred times in a one hour interview.  Physician, heal thyself.

To anyone who wants to understand Obama I would recommend THE BRIDGE, by David Remnick.  He doesn’t psychologize but from the way he presents Obama in a thousand different circumstances and in many different environments, one can easily draw one’s own conclusions about his personal psychology.

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By eir, November 6, 2010 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

“And this guy—I’m really confused by Obama, because I watched his press conference; the guy is incredibly appealing, he has all the right moves, you know, he’s logical, he’s smart. I wonder, where is his soul? You know, where is his feeling? Is he in touch with this? Did he learn anything as a community organizer in Chicago—which was really a brief time in his life, you know. I mean, Honolulu doesn’t have that kind of visible poverty, but it does have poor people. And, you know, is he in touch at all with the reality of the American experience now, which is quite painful for many people? They’re scared.”

This analysis of Obama by Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of the best seller, Malignant Self-Love, is illuminating, and I would imagine would be especially so for people who find his type of personality confusing.  It’s fascinating:

Dr. Sam Vaknin on Obama’s Narcissism

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By SoTexGuy, November 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

The ‘making nice with crocodiles’ remark is priceless.. and poignant.

Later.

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By smitty8, November 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

Excellent and important article, although I
think RS is clearly wrong when he says, “You
can’t fool the American people.” A central
problem is how easy it is for Fox, Clinton,
Obama, et al,  to do just that, as confirmed
by the vote and such things as the perception
of the 2000 page insurance company sponsored
Obama health scheme as “socialized medicine.”

Instead of an energized left capitalizing on
the anger out there, we get the right doing
the same thing, to their advantage and to the
detriment of the suckers. And what do us
liberals get - insipid, boring, non-newsworthy
“marches” such as the two recently in DC. I
was at the first and felt like I had heard the
same speeches, delivered in the same tired
fashion 40 years ago. No wonder it was
relegated to the bottom of page 18 in the NY
Times.

The challenge to the left is to try to stop
doing what does not work - to wake up and look
around at what DOES work and to try to stop
doing the same old thing and expecting
different results.

It is especially sad how many pathetic
liberals continue to blame Nader for Gore’s
loss when it was Gore and his advisors who
chose to pander to the middle/right, including
picking the ‘stick-in-your-eye’ Joe Lieberman
for a running mate, rather that respecting the
importance of Nader’s message and seeking his
support. Gore ran a weak, tepid, cautious
campaign rejecting the support of Nader’s
ideas which, as history proves, were
prescient.

If Obama had shown real leadership, fulfilling
his promise of ‘hope’ instead of betraying his
base and foolishly thinking that he could make
nice with crocodiles he should have been able
to make real change or to see Republicans take
the hit for blocking it. What to do now? Major
opportunity was lost. Now we are faced with
coping. If only the left would get together
and speak with one voice where we agree
instead of dividing into factions over
disagreement of details.

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DavidByron's avatar

By DavidByron, November 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

He says he was wrong and Nader / Hedges were right but then goes right on and disagrees with them again and for the same reasons and to the same effect.  Doesn’t he get tired of being wrong?

As for US feminism they are basically just right wingers these days and Obama moved the SC to the right like every single other president in living memory.

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BarbieQue's avatar

By BarbieQue, November 5, 2010 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

A Most excellent read. It takes a real giant to not only change ones thinking but apologize as Mr. Scheer did to Nader and Hedges.

I would, respectfully, like to add regarding the following:

“...The tea party movement is wrong, in that they talk about big government, but they don’t attack the big military, which is at Cold War levels…”

The (real) Tea Parties earliest roots are from the Ron Paul campaign, the money bombs, the blimp (oh the back and forth that went on about that on those forums…yeesh) the massive response to every internet poll (hannity still hasn’t closed his right eye fully).

One of the reasons Ron Paul had such massive support was because all he talked about was shrinking government and bringing our Soldiers home and getting out of everywhere we’re in. Which no one but Mike Gravel was doing, maybe Kucinich a bit but not enough to make a crowd send blimps up over cities.

The current day tea party has been corrupted by the likes of that dufus Glennnnnnn Beck and that sly lying sob Huckleberry Finn.

But: The Roots were as anti war as it gets

Tea Party Roots:

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2007/12/ron_pauls_tea_p.html

please note the date

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, November 5, 2010 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

Excellent analysis by Mr. Scheer.  If I could have asked him one question, it would have been why it is that so many self-styled progressives—himself included—continue to view the so-called Democratic Party as some sort of vehicle for desirable change in this country?  Yes, the more local you become, the more plausible that perspective appears; however, at the highest levels, nationally, the Dems have never delivered.  Never.  Even during the Sixties, it was only the real fear of complete social breakdown that drove the legislative victories we saw.  And we are so far from that level or perspective now, that I can’t see chasing the Dems as anything other than analogous to what Obama did by stuffing his cabinet full of the very characters who manufactured our current disaster. 

In short, the Democratic Party is to progress what Geithner, Rubin, and the lot were to Obama’s policies.  It makes no sense to try relieving your headache by pickup up a pistol and putting it to your head.  That’s what the Dem Party—along with its close relation, the GOP—is:  a loaded gun that won’t solve anything for us.

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By eir, November 5, 2010 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

No Bob, “choice” trumps everything else in the world.  It was voted on by the Committee of Over-Privileged, Self-Absorbed People (CO-PS-AP).  Right now, they’re taking up the fight for “Nerdy Apple Bottom.”  You can suggest they take up the cause for addressing imminent hyper-inflation and economic collapse but they don’t see how this concerns them, anyway they’ve got a full calendar.  Await further instructions.

Had to break your balls (ovaries for Ruth Marcus) on this, otherwise good post. 

Dignified and graceful of you to apologize to Nader.

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By SoTexGuy, November 5, 2010 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Take note Mr. Chris Hedges! Having been widely and officially recognized as a most prominent prophet, among prophets and prognosticators and even a few souls in the wilds of Texas .. be very wary!

Congregations and mobs (and political movements) are historically harsh with their prophets and leaders when they aren’t quickly gratified and then go looking for someone to blame!

Luck to you good sir!

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