Countdown, Maddow show highlight more on Obama's self-inflicted wounds

by: Paul Rosenberg

Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 13:30

Segments on Countown and The Rachel Maddow Show last night--guest hosts on both--highlighted significant self-inflicted wounds by the Obama Administration that serve to undermine the narrative of a "deeply progressive" president who only delivers so little because of intransigent GOP opposition in the Senate.  On Countdown there was the revelation that EPA staffers had been politically over-ruled in their objections to letting BP use oil dispersents that actually do more harm than good.  And The Rachel Maddow Show highlighted news from the Washington Post about a sharp increase in deportation rates under the Obama Administration.

First, the Countdown segment, with Larry O'Donnell interviewing EPA senior staffer Hugh Kaufman:

O`DONNELL: Today is day 100 of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and a whistle-blower has come forth from the Environmental Protection Agency, charging the EPA with helping BP to downplay the environmental impact of its supposed cleanup efforts.... EPA senior policy analyst, Hugh Kaufman, is a veteran and legend of the agency, having had a hand in Love Canal and the creation of the Superfund and helped expose the EPA cover-up of air quality at ground zero. Mr. Kaufman, what should we know about the dispersants used in the Gulf that the EPA isn`t telling us?

KAUFMAN: Well, first of all, the dispersants mixed with the oil and the water is extremely toxic. Sweden has done studies on this. Israel has done studies on this. And the only real purpose of using so many dispersants with the oil was to cover up the volume of oil that was released from that well. So, that and lying about how much is coming out was a mechanism to help BP save billions of dollars in fines.

O`DONNELL: Should they have not used dispersants at all?

KAUFMAN: That`s correct. If they did not use dispersants, they would have been able to get most of that oil off of the surface and would not have endangered all of the fish and ecosystem underneath the water that now will be affected for decades on down the line. I was listening to some of the, quote, "experts" who are being paid by BP at universities who are saying that the oil has disappeared. It hasn`t disappeared. It`s throughout thousands of square miles in the Gulf, mixed with dispersants, and because the temperatures down there are so cold, they`re going to be around for decades.

This is not really surprising, since it was reported at the time that the dispersents were banned in Europe because of their toxicity.  Put that together with the information we've reported from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) about how staffers at a number of agencies continue fighting political battles similar to those during the Bush years, and this hardly comes as a surprise. But it's surely a disappointment.  No matter what type of spin they try to put on it, the Obama Administration's closeness and deference to BP has clearly visible, and clearly damaging to the President politically--for absolutely no good reason.  Now we're getting an even clearer picture of how much it has cost--and that cost will only grow larger and clearer in the years ahead.

The interview continued, on the subject of what went on within the EPA & the administration:

Paul Rosenberg :: Countdown, Maddow show highlight more on Obama's self-inflicted wounds
O`DONNELL: Now, were you and others at the EPA making this case within the system, that -- arguing that we shouldn`t be using dispersants there? And what was the response?

KAUFMAN: Well, the working level troops in research, some of the toxicologists who have experience and education, were trying to get management to pay attention to the data that EPA had and has had for decades, but to no avail. There was a political decision made to let BP take the lead as opposed to the government being proactive, as we used to be.

O`DONNELL: Now, when you say a political decision, are you saying that that decision was made by EPA administer, Lisa Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee? Or was it made outside of the EPA?

KAUFMAN: The decision was made outside of the EPA, by political appointees. But I don`t have the vision to see how high up that was made. My vision is limited, because I`m in the middle of the bureaucracy.

Openness?  Transparency?  Accountability?  Reality-based policy-making?  What happened to all that good stuff?

Note that none of that is--supposedly at least--inherently liberal or progressive.  It's supposed to be just plain Civics 101 and common sense.  Yet, here we are with an EPA acting more like Bush was still in office than a Democrat.

And speaking of Bush, in a segment called "Deporter in Chief", Chris Hayes, sitting in for Rachel Maddow, picked up on the Washington Post story "Deportation of illegal immigrants increases under Obama administration".

Here's Hayes, in one of the best on-air commentaries he's made to date:

The "papers, please" law in Arizona may be at the center of the national immigration debate, but there's another immigration story that you really need to know about. it's being obscured by all the screaming election year hyperbole surrounding this issue, but it's both politically significant and frankly pretty shocking. It's the story about the Obama Administration and deportation. the Obama Administration is deporting substantially more people than the Bush Administration did. they're actually changing immigration enforcement policy so they can kick more people out of the country. As a matter of fact, President Obama is expected to deport 10% more people this year than President Bush deported in 2008.

Now, officially, the Obama deportation policy is focused not on undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, but on those who commit crimes while they're here. But the Washington Post reports this week that President Obama has been presented with evidence that thousands of ordinary illegal immigrants continue to be targeted and deported often for minor violations. And an advocate for day laborers tells the Post that the Obama policy has created, quote, "a huge drag net and it's structural. basically, it's anyone they can get their hands on"....

Deportation is the most heavy-handed way of dealing with the immigration problem in this country. It has a massive potential for splitting up families and otherwise inflicting misery on people who don't have any good options in this world. And it's a way of treating the symptoms of illegal immigration rather than the causes. So that's why it's bad policy. But the politics are even worse. Because no amount of deportation short of 100% will satisfy the people the President appears to be pandering to with this policy shift. For one thing, most people vehemently opposed to current immigration levels haven't even noticed he's deporting more people than President Bush, because they don't get their news from the so-called "lame stream media". But even if they're aware of the change, they don't to be in a big hurry to admit it. It does not in any way involve giving the president credit for all that old-fashioned law enforcement. Let me read here from the script. Steve King said of the President, "The President doesn't want to enforce immigration law, because he's vehemently opposed to those laws." It goes on.

Now, here's the thing, not only is he alienating the people who are already -- not only has the President decided to pander to people who are not going to support him anyway, but he's alienating the crucial bloc that won him the 2008 election. It was Latino voter's twinge toward president Obama in 2008 that provided the margin of victory in many swing states. and if you're the White House right now looking at polling data about approval data for the president, you're very scared. just months ago, the president's approval rating among latinos was coming in at 79%. it's now down to 55%. When the midterms come this fall and the Latinos decide to stay home because they're seeing people deported every day, the White House is going to have no one to punish but itself.

Why does Obama to pander to people he can't possibly succeed with?  What makes him such a terrible panderer?  It's his ideology, stupid!  He believes as a matter of faith that if he just panders long and hard enough, eventually "men of goodwill" on the other side will just have to see what a swell guy he is--even though such men do not actually exist.  Verily, so strong is his faith that his pandering will single-handedly call them into being! And then they can sit down and make beautiful "grand bargain" music together.

You know he used to smoke pot.  So did millions more of us.  Used moderately, it's less problematic than alcohol.  

But this sort of behavior suggests he sniffed glue, too.  And that stuff really messes you up.

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Even with an inclination to snark, (4.00 / 1)
But this sort of behavior suggests he sniffed glue, too.  And that stuff really messes you up.

one really has to reach to explain Obama's choices.

I've just about convinced myself that Obama is a place holder; a one-off.  The gnomes of Zurich gave Democratic Party loyalists a small reprieve just to keep them in the game until the Republicans can take over again.  

Those of us who voted for him [:: raises hand ::] were given an opportunity to believe we could make a difference and can only sit back in horror and watch as Obama codifies the worst of the GOP's power grabbing instincts.

It's like having a bad feeling about one flight, cancelling a reservation to take a later one, only to have the captain announce while you're over the Atlantic, This plane has been hijacked.  Please follow all instructions from your cabin crew.

It's a genuinely "awesome" experience.

Why pander? (4.00 / 1)
I think Obama believes that he can talk the opposition into anything as long as he has enough time.  The one thing he believes in is himself.

There is no evidence that this is working.

I also believe that he puts high value on the people from grandma's world: bankers, corporates, the very wealthy.  She and her group have been his ticket to the good life and to th fulfillment of dream after dream after dream..  The suckers like his mom who went around the world helping the poor and downtrodden should have helped their own families more.

Latinos and gays were leery about Obama in the primaries.  Maybe they were right.

An honest assessment of Rahm Emanuels' influence would help.. (4.00 / 1)
Why in the hell did Obama stuff his cabinet full of Republicans and Moderates but not one solid Democrat, like a Howard Dean or even a Chris Hayes??

To use the potential argument that he didn't want any drama with such openly Leftist members ignores the fact that one of his his first moves was to bring in Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic equivalent of Tom Delay, and a guy who repeatedly worked to undermine Congressional Democrats by packing Congress full of pro-business Moderates.

The Left blasted the choice but so did the Right : "..undermines his promise to 'heal the divides'. Rahm Emanuel is a partisan insider who played a lead role in breaking Washington. The White House needs a chief of staff - not a chief campaigner like Emanuel. Our nation will be ill-served if Obama runs the White House the way 'Rahmbo' ran the Democratic Congress."  " ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center."

While Pelosi can and has countered pushing Moderate pablum our pablum sucking Senate has done Emanuel and Obama's bidding undermining the desires and futures of the majority of Democrats.
I'd seriously like to read OL senior writers tack these questions:
How much did Rahm's involvement undermine Obamas' original campaign agenda, overall?  
How much did it play on the Senate Republicans hostility to all things Obama and our Senate Democrats hard lean to the Right and it's refusal to use it's majority powers?

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
Pander? (0.00 / 0)
I'd like to think he's pandering.  But he isn't letting anyone know what he's doing.  The vast majority of Americans probably don't realize he is deporting so many people. I sure didn't before last night's report.

Looks like I picked the right week to START snifffing glue. (4.00 / 1)
I rarely watch those shows anymore, mostly because they hardly ever do any original reporting. I don't need them to tell me how to see this stuff, so it's rather redundant.

But after a long period of not being terribly impressed with O'Donnell, I saw something very different this week. He's really pissed off now, as in a deep moral outrage I haven't seen before that wasn't just the usual partisan sniping--his glaring into the camera was pretty heavy, man. Pretty compelling stuff. I do wish the EPA WB was on for 30 minutes, instead of the usual 5 minute seg.

Hayes is also hitting them outta the park. I'm starting to think Obama is in real trouble now. Good luck to Robert Gibbs dealing with that kind of critique. That would require a complete reversal of administration priorities.

Just wait until more people start looking more at Kenneth Feinberg's efforts on behalf of BP. It's becoming increasingly difficult to believe that Barack Obama even wants a second term.

But now that I'm sniffing glue, I expect I'll be able to better digest the rhetorical effluent emanating from the White House!

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

I Dunno, Dude (0.00 / 0)
If you're gonna sniff glue, I think that Hannah Arendt is gonna have to go.

When I was in high school, the glue heads were into heavy metal.  "Ina Gadda Da Vida" and all that.

(Boy that song sounds so much better when you only hear it once every five years or so.)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Good point. (0.00 / 0)
I'll really have to dumb down the tagline. Rand is out, since her quotes are roughly 30 pages long. Bush is a good one. Sarah Palin is sufficiently brain-damaged. Obama should suffice too. But those aren't fun.

I know! The Ramones' Teenage Lobotomy, or Cretin Hop, or Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment!

Five, six, seven... all good cretins go to heaven...

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
No Need To Get That Excited (0.00 / 0)
"I Wanna Be Sedated" will do just fine.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
whether Obama's presidency fails or succeeds is a moot point to him (0.00 / 0)
Even if it does collapse, and causes millions of people to suffer into the bargain, he can still have a great life. Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon lived long, long lives and successfully rehabilitated their image.

I'm sure that thirty years down the road, we'll see the then-president consulting a venerable, white-haired Obama on matters of state. Obama the elder statesman, writing yet more books with his now-lined and care-worn face on the cover. (Elder statesmen are said to be "distinguished" rather than "old". Less pejorative that way).

People won't ask questions about his targeted assassination program, any more than they asked Nixon about his treasonable attempt to scuttle peace negotiations between the Vietnamese and the Johnson administration to help his electoral chances.

Being the first black ex-president gets you into a lot of swanky shindigs. Free cocktail weenies and hordes of adoring socialites hanging on your every word, even if you only tell the same three stories about your NBA brackets and Barney the dog. And if you give a speech you can charge half a million (what am I saying? A million) dollars a pop.

John Huston's character in Chinatown nailed it:

'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.

Of course (and I must warn you: spoilers) he gets away clean in the end. So too will Obama. That's why I'm not crying too many tears for him right now. He'll have it easy in the end.


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