Change is relative only in comparison to Bush — RM-

Obama’s cabinet is complete. There are few real reformers. The cabinet will be different than Bush’s because the occupants are pragmatists rather than right-wing ideologues. There will not be a philosophical dislike of science. On the other hand, no guiding principles are apparent other than faith in Obama’s leadership.

The lower level nominations still offer some hope to those who want more than minor reform and an end to the outright criminality. Middle-of the-roaders dream cabinet. By Carrie B. Brown and Nia-Malika Henderson. Politico

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Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

14 Responses to Obama cabinet is middle-of-the-roaders dream

  1. avatar kt says:

    From the Establishment article:

    ““Obama has always engaged in a careful dance with the establishment,” Sirota said. “He largely plays by its rules and avoids frontal challenges to the power structure. So the fact that he’s appointed an Establishment Cabinet isn’t shocking.”

    And the Establishment on public lands has become greedier and worse over the years. And with all the many Bush regulatory changes – there are so many hurdles in place that we will see continuation of many of the Bush policies – more predator death and many species sliding to extinction.

    This is from a Firedoglake Post yesterday:

    http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/20/obama-serves-up-five-star-science-and-rancid-food-choices/

    “Describing Salazar as “uninspired” is putting it mildly. I fear that the five star scientists are going to be window dressing, or focusing on only SOME issues, while public lands grazing, logging, mining will continue little-altered. If that is the case, it will be a real disaster for many species like sage grouse and the great potential of undisturbed lands to buffer climate change and global warming will be further reduced.

  2. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Do you really think Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination by bucking the Establishment? Really?

    Why is everyone acting so surprised and shocked Obama is governing from the center? It was the center that got him elected.

    Democrats (under Obama’s leadership) have made extraordinay and surprising gains in many states that went strongly for Bush. Who believes Obama is so politically stupid he would throw that all away by electing left-wing extremists and super-liberal appointees only to see those gains disapear in 2 years?

    I am very grateful Obama and those around him are not so naive and politically ignorant as so many posters sound on here, otherwise in 2 short years the Democrats would be on the outside looking in once more as they lost the Congress.

    Sheesh. And, Ralph, you say: “Change is relative only in comparison to Bush.” What other political leader would you expect to compare Obama’s change to? Jefferson? Jackson?

    Obama has made the correct choice in his appointees to date, because his goal is to be a 2-term President and not to lose the House and Senate like Clinton did.

    Surprising so few on here are able to grasp that.

  3. avatar Steve C says:

    I guess center is better than far right. If he wants to be re-elected i guess he cant immediately go far left.

  4. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    SmokyMtMan,

    the idea that picking strong political appointees early on is automatically a political liability is ridiculous. “Moderates” did not deliver Obama his candidacy – progressives delivered Obama the primary. Obama rode the money and organization (including internet) of grass-root progressive political organization – that’s how he beat Clinton and amassed a huge arsenal of small-donor dollars to take into the main event. Progressives organized and delivered Obama’s message to millions of door-steps – progressives described Obama’s positions face to face on progressive issues to millions of americans, and millions of American’s liked that progressive message enough to hit the polls. Center-of-the-road voters are not those that get galvanized and are not those that give direction or oxygen to an agenda. In many ways, the lion’s share of voting “moderates” are simply unaware of the issues and are influenced by the political conversation via the media, internet, (progressives knocking on their doors) etc. more than the substance or merit of an issue involved.

    This is why Obama was so important – because his unique rhetorical skills seemed to have the potential to break down/transcend/confront the tired dualism of “left” and “right” – of farcical labels of “extreme” or “moderate” that always seem to project corporate excess and establishment voices as beneficiaries of the “moderate” or “pragmatic” label. He had the ability to lead the conversation into real solutions and frame a new direction. He has the responsibility to do.

    He does not have the ability nor the experience to micro-manage change out of a cabinet of establishment stalwarts. That’s just not possible given how many issues are involved..

    Obama’s thus-far apparent decision to move to the so-called “center” (right) of the political mandate that the voters delivered to him is an indication of his endorsement of the same political conversations that care more about labels of “extreme” or “moderate” than the actual reality of the issues given on-the-ground experience, knowledge. This re-investment in the same conversation more interested in one’s position on a projected political spectrum than what it actually means for whatever issue you care about keeps integrity a political liability. His “pragmatism” is an endorsement of the dishonest political conversation that keeps the same people in charge and enriched.

    Bottom line – there is no “change” when we’re still talking about how “you” are “extreme” and this guy is “moderate” (you don’t even need to know the issue or its condition to have this conversation) and how that makes the “moderate” guy more right or more important than the one describing the actual reality of the conditions on the ground.

    Obama’s choices are made of the same spineless Democrats’ fear of what they are supposed to believe (what they claim to believe in) — fear of what those that put him in this position believe in. He is not willing to articulate a new direction – a new conversation. If fear of controversy is how they make their decisions – then we must be willing to hold fast to the truth of the conditions of our public landscapes – even if it’s not “happy”, the threats to them and wildlife, and if this administration is not responsive to that reality – then perhaps it will be responsive to the controversy we must be willing to stir up to make “change” a reality.

    Obama is bumming out a lot of the people that carried a lot of water during his campaign. He may be able to craft a so-called “centrist” cabinet that won’t agitate the powers-that-be – but he’d better lean in and the conditions on the ground better significantly improve across a wide swath of the thus far disenfranchised issues-based coalition that put him into office – because if it’s more of the same, the activists will be the ones that know it – and a growing coalition of “extremists” may be more and more willing to decide its time to speak up.

  5. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Brian,

    When Clinton took office, he made several policy choices that galvanized the republican opposition. These political “controversies”, like health care reform, for example, motivated the opposing party and led to widespread losses for the Democrats.

    In 2 short years, Clinton’s political choices (his policies and appointees) led to disastrous elections in which the Democrats lost both the Senate and House to the Republicans.

    I believe Obama is clearly one of the greatest orators of our time and a political genius, and he is not going to make those same mistakes that Clinton did in his first term. He is obviously going to great lengths to lead from the center to deny the Republicans any opportunity or issue that would be used to great effect by the Republicans in the national elections coming up in 2 years.

    You say it was the progressives that got Obama elected? I disagree. The Republicans, through their bumbling of the immigration issue, went from 60% to less than 40% of the Hipsanic vote. This led to Democrats showing surprising gains in many Western states that several years ago no one thought would be competitive, because Bush won them by solid majorities. This alone turned many states blue from red.

    Also, no one can discount the effects of an unpopular war in Iraq, Republican scandal after scandal (Stevens, Delay, Foley, “Scooter” Libby, and on and on), over-reaching in the war on terror and the curt-tailing of civil liberties, the politicization of the Dep’t of Justice and other agencies like the FDA, the Katrina disaster, and on and on.

    When 85% of the American public thinks the country is heading in the wrong direction, how could the Democrats have lost? It would have taken another Kerry or Dukakis.

    It was the middle that made the difference, as it always is. Why? For the simple reason Republicans always vote Republican, Democrats (progressives) always vote Democrat, and the independents decide the elections.

  6. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Another thing, Brian said: “Obama is bumming out a lot of the people that carried a lot of water during his campaign.”

    Who? The gays, over the Reverend overseeing Obama’s inauguration? Somehow, I doubt if they are going to be voting Republican in 2 years, no matter the temporary noise over this minor issue.

    The enviros? Yeah, to a good degree this is true. However, what percentage of the electorate votes along the environmental line? 1%? I don’t believe 2%…..

    10 years ago, Colorado had a Republican governor, 2 Republican Senators, and the state house was Republican. Now look again. A Democrat governor, I think both Senators are Democrats, and the state House is Democrat.

    I don’t think anyone thought was possible 6 or 7 years ago. Look at New Mexico. It was a swing state. Not anymore. Doesn’t Wyoming have a Democrat governor and senator? That’s amazing.

    So, why jeopardize these incredible and historic politcal gains into the West by appointing some super-liberal to the Dep’t of the Interior or Dep’t of Agriculture when this would galvanize and highly motivate the Republican base? It would piss off and alienate the citizens of the western states and make them feel detached from Obama’s administration. Then you lose their vote.

    That would cost you far more politically than it would gain, by far. Politically, it would be stupid, wouldn’t it? Of course it would be.

    And the basic reason is that enviro issues can hurt you far more politically than they can help you. Because, much to my regret, the reality is that Americans love the environment in polls, but they vote with their pocketbook or wallet every time.

    The environment always loses. Remember how fast the Democrats over-turned the offshore drilling ban once oil neared $150 a barrel? Exactly. The public opposed that drilling until it cost them economically, right?

    See my point? I think it’s quite valid.

  7. avatar jburnham says:

    SmokyMtMan, in your last post I think you summed up the DLC philosophy perfectly. To paraphrase, “we shouldn’t do anything that might be politically risky”.
    This was the argument for why the Dems shouldn’t oppose civil liberty violations after 9/11, why they wouldn’t take a principled stand on the Iraq war, why they shouldn’t hold the Bush Administration accountable for their actions, and why they should give in on offshore drilling. Now too much ‘change’ on the environment would be risky.

    The obvious question is what good are these “incredible and historic political gains” if the price is that we have to govern like Republicans?

    I would argue that if the Democrats took a sincere stand on anything, rather than always worrying so much about the political calculations, they would pick up a lot more support. As it stands now, our choices (especially in the west) are Republicans, or Democrats who act like Republicans. If they don’t support issues we care about, then what good is a ‘D’ next to the name?

  8. avatar kim kaiser says:

    one more opinion here,,

    you give hussein way to much credit for being a politcal genius,
    One month before the election, mccain had a sizeable lead, and the pleasure of the convention had worn off and his lead was a legimate lead, in two days, the anouncement of the economic crisis came out, and his lead turned and he never got it back. Thats not political genius, just pure luck. SUre they exploited it, but any regular politician could have seen a winner there, so nothing new.

    Fancy talker,, yep, but fancy talkers have gotten more people in trouble than strait shooters, THink Jim jones, he convinced people to leave there families, give them all there money, fell at his feet when he spoke, and then, fell at his feet dead, because they didnt use there brains until it was too late,

    Hitler, no more need be said there,

    the goofy guy that convinced people that if they drank the cool aid, they could catch Hale Bopp comet.

    Edwin Edwards was as fine a speaker one could ever hear (Lousiana governer who was tried about 5 times on federal charges and finally convicted) and he ran louisiana into the ground, much like illinois, and was just as crass as blago, but Edwards could give a hell of a speech. Our political and economic is littered with fine speakers with very little substance.

    Too many people were just plain tired of Bush and the war. They didnt really care who ran, and convinced themselves he was the new messiah with no willingness to listen or actally check him out and then, when concerns were brought up, simple ignored them as politics,, and that, in it self is no reason at all to elect someone else. All these young people thinking it was great to get a text message about send me more money. What a novelty! These are the same people driving a car down the road, trying to type on a 2 inch keyboard and drive at the same time, But novelties will wear off. He has promised “tax cuts to 95% of the people, which assuming the entire population was employed to 100% would be just dandy, but we all know that the number who actually pay is not 95%, so he pulled the wool over the uneducated there, result will be bigger welfare checks for the non productive and higher taxes for most of the middle class. Government employment system that is not condusive to growth, its just welfare by getting people to show up somewhere beside the local welfare office. Promotes no promotion, creativity, just get out the ignorant stick (shovel) and dig the hole for the post or shovel the rocks out the hole. How does one expect that to lead to higher wages, its just more people on the government tit, doing there 8 and waitin on friday and about 40 damn holidays,,Its just not sustainable.

    I can go back and point out how many of you had such high hopes for all this change, more specifically to the western situaition of public lands. Just knowing he was gonna right things, had his picture taken with stray dogs to promote less puppy mills, whatever it took, you took the bait, and then when it was time to give the satisfaction you knew was coming, the reversal of all the wrongs, what did he do, he appointed the political rancher who believes in poisoin to control predators,

    The first sign of his willingness to betray should have been obvious to the blind and deaf. When the polls said about 60% of the population (even californians of all people) wanted off shore drilling, and he saw mccain numbers surge by also going that direction, he suddenly became very interested in the proposition, but during his run with billary, he was fully against it. That should have been the environmentalist first tip off he will do what is politically expediant. Then, he dropped the money issue on politcal public money for campaigns, Republican money was not coming in anywhere near what it had been for the so called swift boat people, and that was his excuse for crawfishing out, he needed his money to fight the swift boats. His run against billary was completely different from the run he made at mccain. he got the way out left to take his bait and then turned on you even during the main campaigin with his changes in belief, (using terms like we can revisit that, or vaguely worded responses that sounded good but said nothing) He will simply do what ever he needs to keep him where he wants, HE IS A CHICAGO POLITICIAN! its a way of life there, look at the city itself, some of the hihgest property taxes anywhere, fuel cost as high or higher that anywhere in the country, sales taxes some of highest in the country, horrible traffic all hours of the day. 5 governers convicted of various frauds, horrible murder rates, and this is what people want as a leader. who has never lead anything, except for a fancy education, (have you researched who paid for that?) i have more qualifications for president adn i would suspect at least half the people on this forum have had more hands on expericence in leadership than he has.

    look at this Ill gov thing, first, he said no one had contacts with the office, then, two days later, there were contacts with the office, then, sure enough, emanual had contacts, and of course, AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION OF HIMSELF AND THE STAFF., theres another trust gaining novel idea. Its not a new ploy, but where is all the ‘transparency” he touted.

    I suspect there will be a lot more political expediant moves that are going to piss off more and more people, he made a promise to everyone and every group, and as some one above said independents had brain farts and put him there, will finally clear there heads of the gas, and re-sort this thing in 4 years.

    you give me crap about calling him hussein,, but here the way i see it. during his campaign, you couldnt make his name an item, he was just Barack obama, he didnt want you to associate him to mooslims for image sake, but, when its time to get inaugurated, suddenly hes, barack HUSSEIN obama, now, he uses it.. OH, dont call me a black candiate, i am just a candiate for the people, stupid ass bill clinton took the bait, but now, its historic, hes the first BLACK president, all the things that couldnt be discussed as part of the campaign, are now the front an center. I for one will tell jb, you said once about no matter what, we will have either a black preisidet or woman vice president and that was good, I, responded that I didnt think that is a reason to vote for either, if neither is qualified, why the hell would you vote for either, just because they are either black or woman, thats irresponsible, I dont take my decisions on important things that lightly, niether him or her were right for that those two high designations, right person for the job, but not just because of color or gender, but, no matter what anyone says, she has handled a govt check book, and that is way more than he has.

    As far as this kenndey thing is concerned, what is up with this kennedy legacy thing, teddy got out of murder, manslaughter at least, one nephew was arrested and tried for date rape, one was convicted of murder by golf club after some of the kennedy stigma had worn off an people finally were no longer afraid, another one drives his car through the barricades in DC, swears he not on drugs or booze, and then two days later, a press conference with all the clan around, hes checking himself in to a unit, what a legacy? and people clamor over these thugs, theres arnolds wife, shriver, she says she has written children books on how to raise children,, now if i were a hard working woman, i would be majorly pissed off by a woman who has never worried about bouncing a check, worrying about paying for daycare, or anything that regular, mid class, working women and men face each day and she is gonna write a book and tell them how??? what a crock of s–t..

    thats my opinion

  9. avatar Phlogistician says:

    Bush won two terms AND appointed hardcore anti-enviros.

  10. avatar April Clauson says:

    kim kaiser Says:
    December 22, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    now if i were a hard working woman, i would be majorly pissed off by a woman who has never worried about bouncing a check, worrying about paying for daycare, or anything that regular, mid class, working women and men face each day and she is gonna write a book and tell them how??? what a crock of s–t..

    thats my opinion
    ___________________________

    Wow, guess you did not vote for Obama. Just reading what you wrote and seeing that that “If I were a hard working woman” maybe you should take all that free time you have since you seem not to have to work and educate yourself.
    Thats my opinion….
    – – – – –
    Note: April. Kim Kaiser is male
    . Ralph Maughan

  11. avatar kt says:

    And those Hardcores that Bush appointed were mean, vicious, and greatly efficient. The Bush Managers went head-hunting from Day One for the lowliest BLM Resource Area Biologist who stepped out of line – and either forced them to do another job, shut up, or retire and get out. Appointing a conservative rancher like Salazar sends the clear message: Industry still rules. The brought in people, too, like retired military folks who got high GS ratings or knew Repub. Pols., to be mid-level Managers – and help carry it out as well. The Bruneau Resource Area in Idaho is a perfect example. This retired egomaniacal Marine sergeant-type brute, a boyhood friend of the same ranchers he was in charge of administering permits for, somehow ended up in charge, and terrorized anyone who cared about anything on his staff.

    During the first Bush term , before the 2004 election was stolen (again), I thought You Know if the Dems ever get back in charge, they need to be ruthless like the Repubs. have been. Clean out the Bush enabling riffraff from Day One, Rollback all the changes efficiently and quickly.

    Ain’t gonna happen – we are in for namby pamby capitulation and industry bootlicking from Day One, as Salazar signals. The Repubs went after all levels of all agencies with a vengeance. Without sweeping changes, Industry wins big time.

    Plus there is what seems to me a propaganda effort by folks like Kemmis in MT and the Boise fellow Freemuth that is regurgitated and repeated endlessly “to win the West, the Dems must be more repub than than the repubs”. But they don’t mean vicious – they mean cringing, backing down, giving industry everything they want, lest someone in a Big Hat get offended. Utter nonsense. Repeated endlessly by newspapers with no questions asked. The Dems buy this swill, and quiver, and back down. No going for the jugular allowed.

  12. Kim Kaiser of course is one of the stronger Republicans that posts in this forum.

    One thing he wrote relevant to KT’s comment is that Obama is a Chicago politician.

    Not to defend the Chicago political machine, but one thing they do which Obama hasn’t is to reward their own. Already key parts of the Democratic base are feeling stiffed. This, of course, doesn’t mean that trend will necessarily continue. Obama could be promoting a fake centrism until Bush/Cheney are gone. I think a majority wants change that Republicans would call left-wing change. Even the New York Times, which was hardly brave during the Bush years, is now demanding a tribunal to investigate war crimes committed by high Administration officials.

    I think KT describes Western Democrats very well — namby pamby, afraid to confront anyone. That’s why they are usually collaborationists.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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