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I think you're spot on. As Yglesias says, Taibbi seems to forget that Presidents don't pass laws. They can set goals, agendas and tone, but they're dependent on legislators to put those into practice. When the Senate has concluded that everything needs a 60-vote majority (as Steve Benen at WaMo says), very little will remain of those goals after the pushing/hauling needed to get 60 votes.

We need to persuade the Senate that 51 votes are all that are needed to pass legislation.

Pinko Punko

Some of the other folks have weighed in and decided that Tim F. is not all on target with his TAPPED piece.

Warren Terra

Pinko Punko, I tried reading those comment threads and was repulsed by the torrent of bile directed at Fernholz, which despite its vehemence I did not find particularly convincing as it was almost entirely lacking in substance. If you have particular insights you've derived from the threads, or for that matter that you've discerned for yourself, that you feel argue against Fernholz's criticisms (or, for that matter, Yglesias's rather more important overarching criticism that Taibbi's basic understanding of the problem is blinkered), I'd appreciate your presenting them. A simple reference to a thread I've already discounted as being composed more of heat than light is unlikely to sway many people.


Some of the other folks have weighed in and decided that Tim F. is not all on target with his TAPPED piece.

I was underwhelmed by Fernholz's piece. DeLong's takedown of Taibbi was much better.


MikeF, well, DeLong is a trained economist; Fernholz is not (to the best of my knowledge). That said, DeLong's piece is indeed more firm. It's here, for those who wonder who the heck DeLong is.

Ken Houghton

Fernholz has made his rep with the Cool Kids by lying and deception.

Taibbi reported the truth, and is being pilloried here for noting connections.

Sad, really.

And all the idiots who talk about how "Presidents don't pass laws" appears to have decided to ignore that the entire Democratic Party organization has been reorganized and centered around BarryO. Who himself has subsequently done jack of what he said he would--even things that don't require Congressional action--and failed to lead in any sense, save possibly being the only person to talk about the need for war while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. (Not even Henry K. did that.)

Bill Clinton fought some Good Fights--bailout of Mexico, very nominal gas tax increase, two well-balanced budgets. BarryO won't even fight for what he believes--or claims to believe. And that his inner circle is Rubin-related is sadly empirical, as Taibbi notes.

But he's a mean person, while Tim Fernholz lies and distorts, and therefore, somehow, becomes "a journalist." I do not think that word means what you think it does. Or, sadly, perhaps it does.


No, Presidents don't pass laws. But they generally get what they FIGHT for. No one believes that the President has "secret powers" that he won't use, but BHO has not fought for one single solitary thing that comes readily to mind. Period. That change we thought we could believe in? Business as usual for the Masters of the Universe. Which means we all get shat upon. And that is what has people so riled up.

BTW, Taibbi's response to Fernholz is at

You can take it or leave it. I'll take it.

Ken Muldrew

Kevin Drum is quoted as saying, "The finance industry...has...convinced nearly everyone that what's...bad for Wall Street would be catastrophic for America."

It seems to me that they have been much more thorough than that. That they have actually arranged things so that anything that is bad for Wall Street really *is* catastrophic for America, whether one is "convinced" of it or not. Changing that will require far more than legislative tactics and presidential chops. Nothing short of Lincolnesque leadership will be needed to even convince the American people that it should be done.


You mean it's NOT TRUE what Taibbi wrote about Obama bailing out fat cat bankers?


Lance: This is the smartest thing I've read on the whole Taibbi incident. I'm pretty appalled at the eagerness of some liberal bloggers to defend him on the grounds that "facts don't matter, in light of the Big Picture"--especially given the way that kind of thinking was used by "liberal hawks" to excuse so much of what Bush did. At the same time, you're quite right that journalism is about more than fact-gathering, and that a lack of accuracy is not necessarily the biggest problem here.

Those who feel Obama isn't "fighting" enough, or that he has somehow been anointed the puppet-master of all Democrats need to read the Constitution, and a few pages of American history. Look at the way FDR and Truman were forced to capitulate to the reactionary Dems to get what they wanted. Look at the caution with which Lincoln, over the course of many bloody years of military and political struggle, redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for Union, but for "a new birth of freedom." And look at what Obama has actually done, in terms of "leadership" on Health Care: he's made his case to the public, over and over and over, he's been involved (albeit mostly in a "behind-the-scenes" way) at every step of this protracted Congressional battle--and it's still teetering on the edge of defeat, because he DOESN'T control Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and Lieberman (or even Harry Reid), and because he can't just shut off the pipeline of lobbyist dough flowing into Congress, and because he actually needs to keep some of these yahoos, as bad as they are, inside the tent, if possible.

I'm not saying he shouldn't be criticized, or even that he couldn't do more. But a lot of the criticism from the left reminds me of Ygelasias's "Green Lantern Politics" observation. No amount of "will" or "fight" can just make obstacles melt away. And for a politician, "fighting" can backfire, badly.

FDR told Civil Rights leaders that he couldn't support a federal anti-lynching bill, because he needed the support of the segregationist Southern Dems to pursue his New Deal policies. Sadly, he was probably right about that. As bad as some of Obama's compromises may look, I don't think any of them are quite THAT bad. But there is literally no place for an "uncompromising" leader in our system. It's not that kind of system.


Joe, depends on what part of what he wrote about Obama bailing out the fat cats. Of course, it was Bush who bailed them out to begin with, but nevermind that. It's Obama's bailout now. And so yeah, he did. But the key question in judging Taibbi's article is Why?

I think it's because the President honestly thinks he needs the bankers to keep the economy from tanking again. I don't think he's right. I just think that's what he thinks. Taibbi thinks that the President is essentially corrupt. The writer of the post you link to does too. That's an opinion, though, not a fact. And the evidence supporting that opinion is the same as Taibbi's---the President isn't doing what the writer thinks he ought to do.

Policomic, thanks, and thanks for the comment and raising those points. It's true that if a lot of us had been around to see FDR and Truman we'd have accused them of being on the side of the banks and the other malefactors of great wealth too.

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