President Obama's Press Conference
One thing that was clear from tonight's press conference was why the White House keeps wanting to get Obama out in front of the cameras and on TV. Obama has a ready and mainly unflappable command of the issues confronting the country, which I think people find reassuring in itself. In a climate of crisis such as this, I don't think most people's focus is ideological. They're looking for competence and command, a sense that someone is sailing the ship, at helm with a clear sense of where they're going.
There's been a lot of justified anger over A.I.G. and the bonus mess, but our economic crisis wasn't created over a couple of months and won't be solved in a couple of months. I'm not totally happy with Obama's economic team but at the moment I'm more disappointed that some progressives seem to be losing sight of where we are. The Democrats, for example, don't have 61 stalwart progressives in the Senate; instead, on the most crucial votes of a progressive agenda, they have maybe 51 votes they can count on, if they're lucky. We've known that since November. Democrats and their allies should be doing everything they can to add a handful of more progressives by 2010.
If anything, I wish people would work a little harder to turn people like Evan Bayh into more of a 21st century pragmatist instead of being stuck on what a pragmatist was assumed to be back in 1996. Things have changed dramatically. If the United States is to continue to thrive, Obama is right to target energy, education and healthcare. If it were up to me, I would make the focus global warming, energy and education, though I would dearly like to see something done about healthcare as well (for the record, I'm having trouble getting health insurance. The system really is broken).
I could still be wrong but I think I've been right all along that Obama is a pragmatist in a very real sense. If he really is a pragmatist, he has no choice but to address some fundamental changes we have been avoiding in different ways for the past thirty years.
Like most progressives, I'm very angry with the corporate world, more than half of which has seemingly divorced itself from any responsible connection to American society. But the last thing we need is a lot of corporations suddenly setting up headquarters in the Bahamas or any number of other 'friendly' locations around the world in a further effort to pursue a personal wealth agenda. Given how literally crooked the whole real estate boom became, the world can't afford too many more episodes of corporations behaving like what we've seen in the last ten years. Obama understands that. It's Congress I'm not so sure that understands (never mind what passes for the Republican Party these days).
Washington and the media love gossip and that's more what drove the A.I.G. episode than anything else. Progressives can't just be about electing people or critiquing the government. We need pressure put on Congress and we need to help the better people in the media raise their game. We're in trouble, and have been for a very long time. There's a lot more work to be done. Obama's press conference and public appearances in recent days have been major steps in the right direction.