Those on the left can talk about a great betrayal as Garry Wills does today on TAC, but there are reasons for this apparent act of Brutuism. If there is one major threat to Obama’s presidency, it doesn’t come from the Republicans right now, it comes from within and that is a split between Obama and Clinton supporters.
For an administration elected on the promise of change, it’s amazing how many retreads from the Clinton Administration fill the Obama Administration. You have Hiliary of course. You have Bill as a roving goodwill ambassador. You have Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, you have Larry Summers and more throughout the bureaucracy. This is by design of course. The last thing Obama team wanted was to leave the Clintonites out of the loop and have them plotting an insurgency against them using their influence in the centers of power (Wall Street, Hollywood, D.C). Given how close and personal the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination was, this was smart politics. Remember PUMA?
But smart politics has given way to policies that leave one wondering where the “change” was? Heck what was interesting about Obama’s speech last night was how similiar he sounded to Bush II. And not only are we getting a “surge” but the very Bush II policies that Obama campaigned against have been kept mostly in tact with a few minor changes here and there. This has led to the more idealistic Obama advisors jumping ship even through the Administration is not even a year old yet. What all this suggests is that the Clintonites have won the internal debates within the administration and those who have lost, those who thought Obama really was going to change things in Washington, now have two choices: leave or bite their tongues.
While on the surface it didn’t seem like their was much different between Clinton and Obama, suffice their genders and races, there was actually one important difference. The message of the 2008 Clinton campaign was that the competent people, the who ran things during the prosperous and peaceful 1990s, were back in charge again. Clinton never attacked the substance of the Patriot Act or military commissions to name just a few Bush II policies. They never even attacked the principle of the war itself. They were just going to do things better because the war required competent people in charge and Republicans had screwed things up royally given their disdain for government as a whole.
Obama gave the impression, although without too many specifics, that he was for changing the whole system, how everything worked in Washington. That’s why his campaign was supported by the netroots, who mobilized their numbers in the key caucus states to give Obama decisive victories that won him the nomination. They believed he really would do things different and his administration would not be a rerun of the 1990s. Unfortunately, many Democrats still retained their Clintonite loyalties, which led to a close primary campaign which required a lot of finesse to smooth things over. Such finesse meant including the Clintonites inside the Administration. It also meant adhering to the war which many of them support.
Ultimately this is why Obama is doubling-down in Afghanistan, because he feels if he did not, it would split the administration and split the party. Actually the policy doing this anyway, but Obama is making the time-old political calculation “where else can you go?” to the party’s left wing. Well, if thousands of Obama voters aren’t going to become Greens, there is one place they can go that can still have affect on the party: home, on Election Day 2010.