Village Markers Laid
I am a little late to this party, but Howard Fineman's barbaric yawp on behalf of the political establishment is a truly amazing document. It should be put in a time capsule so that future generations can understand why American politics became so corroded in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. What Fineman appears to be saying is that the public, who elected Barack Obama with the belief that he would fulfill his agenda, supports him in that effort; but that the "establishment," who is unelected and self-appointed, is very unhappy about all this agenda-fulfilling going on, and that might sink the President. He cites a bunch of data points that I think he picked off of random Twitter feeds from the Gang of 500 to prove his point, but then he admits that they are all contradictory:
"The stimulus was too small. The omnibus was too big. He's doing too much in the budget. He's doing too little for housing. He won't nationalize the banks. He's doing too much "social engineering" on health care and energy and education. He's not explaining enough. He's doing too much explaining while "outsourcing" the details to Congress (who write the laws). And his Treasury Secretary was lampooned on Saturday Night Live.
It's just a mish-mash of various complaints of Obama from across the ideological spectrum, not from any named source or based on any reporting or significant of any one constituency. But Fineman has read the entrails and decided that "the establishment" is unhappy. And guess what, he's just a trusty observer, your man in the Beltway, not one of those elites himself:
Other than all that, in the eyes of the big shots, he is doing fine. The American people remain on his side, but he has to be careful that the gathering judgment of the Bigs doesn't trickle down to the rest of us.
Did you know that Fineman's just a ham-and-egger Newsweek reporter, the guy who likes his meat red and his arugula off his plate?
Jamison Foser takes these complaints one by one so I don't have to. It's really a bizarre mix, with establishmentarian Fineman, for example, accusing Obama of not wanting to prosecute "the malefactors of the last 15 years" - when his magazine Newsweek employs Stuart Taylor and recently ran a cover story entitled "What Would Dick Do" encouraging the President to "see things Dick Cheney's way." Then there's the familiar "he's doing too much" argument, which says more about Fineman's attention span than his conception of the size of the federal bureaucracy and their capacity to implement multiple policies because the President isn't the only guy working for the government.
What I think is interesting is that all the Beltway types who welcomed George Bush and his gang into the family when he was trading off his 48% mandate and passing humongous tax cuts early in his term have all these doubts and troubles with Barack Obama trying to make good on his campaign promises. But more than that is this mindset that the "establishment" chatterers are the real constituency in this country, and the people on the outside, the chattel, the hoi polloi, the dumb rubes in flyover country, they're nobody off of which to base a winning electoral coalition. The Village still thinks that the role of the President is to please the Villagers, but public opinion isn't bearing that out. Congress' approval has jumped since they passed a stimulus package and health care for kids and equal pay for women. People trust government to fix the economy and not big business - part of the "establishment" in Fineman's scenario.
I'm not saying that all of these bits and bytes in Fineman's bill of particulars are without merit. But people are very scared right now at what they are seeing in their own lives, and they are desperate for leadership to see them through it. They are fairly uninterested in the opinion of "the establishment" and are clearly willing to give Obama more than the two seconds Fineman and his Twitter pals are.
It's not the criticisms themselves that get me - it's the sense of entitlement, that these unelected pundits still think they hold veto power over the government, that they see their role not as reporters, not even as adversaries, but as a constituency.