When Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi penned his much-discussed article
on the influence of bankers, discussion first centered on whether banks run the White House
But another, broader debate has emerged out of Tabbi's piece: Is
President Obama too moderate? Liberal bloggers have long argued that
Obama would be able to get more done if only he worked harder to pursue
the ideals of his progressive base. But Obama's defenders say that's a
myth and that governance requires compromise. Which is it?
- Betrayal of Liberal Advisers Rolling Stone's Taibbi insists Obama shifted right as soon as he got elected. "Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake
the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead
was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off
to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic
positions in his White House with the very people who caused the
crisis in the first place."
- Obama Limited By Congress Matthew Yglesias calls
Taibbi's argument "the latest in the endless series of articles and
blog posts by everyone under the
sun claiming everything in the world would be great if only Barack
Obama were more left-wing. [...] It suffers from the same basic
conceptual flaw as the vast majority of this literature—it ignores
congress." Yglesias insists this "is just wrong. That's not how things
work. The fact of the matter is
that Matt Taibbi is more liberal than I am, and I am more liberal than
[economic adviser] Larry Summers is, but Larry Summers is more liberal
than [Senator] Ben Nelson is.
Replacing Summers with me, or with Taibbi, doesn’t change the fact that
the only bills that pass the Senate are the bills that Ben Nelson votes
- Obama Ran As Economic Moderate Digby writes that this should be no surprise. "Taibbi's apparent belief that Obama ran as an economic progressive
rather than a fairly doctrinaire Rubinite undermines his piece a little
bit, I think. But that's a criticism that could apply to many people
who ignored Obama's essentially moderate record or chose to believe
that he only said the things he said during the campaign in order to
A Dangerously Wrong Idea The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz
fact-checks Taibbi's piece, finds it wanting, and blasts his agenda.
"This is pernicious for a lot of journalistic reasons, but politically
bad for progressives beacuse conspiracy theories stand in the way of
good policy analysis and good activism, replacing them with apathy and
fear," he writes. "Are White House advisers too centrist for
progressive tastes? Sure. But
when you try and tell that story with a lot of lies and innuendo, and
misunderstand the basic policies that these people are producing, you
don't hurt them. Now anyone who criticizes the Administration will just
be lumped in with Taibbi's meandering conspiracy."
- Not Meant To Be Taken Seriously Reuters's Felix Salmon says, "Taibbi is not interested in an writing an even-handed examination of
Obama’s economic policies: he’s interested in writing an enjoyable
screed which jumps off the page [...]
This stuff isn’t meant to be taken nearly as literally as Fernholz is
Yes, Taibbi is polemical and one-sided, and he exaggerates his thesis,
and he’s entertaining; I daresay he’s learned a lot from watching Fox
News. And no, I would never want to live in a world where everybody
wrote like that. But Taibbi is one of a kind, and we can enjoy him and
learn from him as such. He might not end up changing policy in
Washington. But he’s doing a much better job of making the policy
debate relevant to Rolling Stone’s readership than anything Tim Fernholz has ever done.
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