Washington (CNN) - John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, can describe the state of Washington politics with a single word. And it's not a nice one.
Asked in an interview with the Financial Times to comment on "the health of American political system," Podesta responded: "Sucks."
Podesta made the remark with a chuckle, but the man who chaired President Obama's transition team expressed deep concern about the White House's ability to pass big ticket items in the current political climate.
He blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans and a newly "strengthened" conservative movement.
"I think the president is trying to re-engage with Republicans, but quite frankly he is not dealing with the party of Lincoln, he is dealing with the party of Palin and the party of McConnell and the party of Boehner," Podesta said in the interview, which was filmed and posted online Monday. "They have a political strategy, really, which is that fierce opposition, trying to say no to everything will endure to their political benefit, and so far it looks like that is working for them, so I don't see them changing all that much."
But he also reserved a healthy dose of criticism for the Obama administration, which he said focused too much on the inside game of Congress during the health care debate, instead of communicating their broader goals to the electorate, particularly to independent voters.
"All the concentration was on working the inside legislative process and I think they paid a price for that, in my mind, the administration paid a price for that because I think the narrative was all about the deals and not what was in it, what the substance of what the legislation was and how it connected to the broader project" of improving people's lives and strengthening the economy, Podesta said.
Podesta, who was also Bill Clinton's final White House chief of staff, said he is optimistic that a health care bill can still be passed, along with new energy legislation.
"I'm not as despairing as all that to think that he still can't move forward," he said of the president. "He still has avenues open to him."