February 15th, 2010
07:08 PM ET
5 years ago

Podesta: American political system 'sucks'

The American political system 'sucks,' according to John Podesta.
The American political system 'sucks,' according to John Podesta.

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."


Filed under: Extra • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Bruce

    All you so called "independent" voters hear this: You can't stay on the fence and help this country's political situation out at the same time. As I see it, and as it stands right now, you have two choices: 1) pick one (Dem or Rep) or 2) stay home. The way the system is set up a third party is out of the question. Check out your history...the numbers are there...two major parties in every election! Mostly, in the American culture, there are generally two sides to everything/situation and the third side's voice is drowned out...you know, pro and con. In the end you'll vote either Dem or Rep because you know one of the two will win. PROTEST VOTES DO NOT WIN ELECTIONS. So here we are...In the purple states/districts the incumbents are about even, so in the end it'll be a wash. You'll (indepent voters) vote one candidate out because he/she's a dem and you'll vote the other out because he/she's a rep. The result...now here's a suprise...STATUS QUO.

    February 15, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Here He Comes Again

    Republicans and Democrats are just jockeying for position with the next election cycle. No one is governing... Washington is a ship at sea with no one at the wheel. All the players are down below deck stratigizing on how to clobber the other guy. We all know this to be fact.

    I am a staunch Independant... that's with the capital "I" ... because I am enlightened enough to know they are all full of crap!

    Now here's a thought... since the ship is taking on water fast and soon we will all be on the bottom of the sea, let's bring back probably the only president in recent times who at least appeared to care about this country. Yes, Im talking about Ronald Regan. He's gonna need a little cleaning up, I mean after all, he has been gone a while. However, Im sure the news stations have excellent make-up people who can lend a hand. Then maybe the spineless moderate Republicans and Democrats can then come out of hiding and take turns "working" the man who will again speak for the majority of us out here who have had a belly full of the Beltway Bandits!!!

    I sure hope they can at least sound like the former President when they stand behind him or it won't be believable at all!!!!

    February 15, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Danny

    Logan you're wasting your time. I've asked repeatedly on these pages for any of the President Obama/Democrat haters to explain how the country is in worse shape now than it was at the end of 2008. No one has ever responded to me. These rabid GOP supporters act as if the economic downturn started in January 2009, and that the T.A.R.P. program was initiated when Obama took office. They conveniently forget that Bush took over with a badget surplus and Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate and in less than 3 years we were in 2 wars and incurring deficit spending at an alarming rate. I'll continue to monitor the Ticker to see if anyone accepts my challenge.

    February 15, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

    Dominican mama 4 Obama states – "REAL CHANGE HAS come to America, we just have to stop blocking it out of fear. We the people elected what we have, but we are allowing others to block HOPE"......

    IF THIS IS TRUE then why is BHO's approval rating about 44%....because people got something they didn't elect

    February 15, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Marilyn

    Maybe he needs to just accept and get over the fact that most Americans just don't want what this president and congress are selling!

    It seems to me the system is working just fine. Democrats just don't like the results.

    February 15, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. seebofubar

    Don't worry, kiddies. You are having your 15 minutes, enjoy it while you can. Anyone who actually knows Obama's past understands that he has never accomplished anything. His inability to do anything should not come as a surprise, look at his record (or lack of) in the senate. Grown-ups will take over again at the end of the year and they'll try to streighten out this mess.

    February 15, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. aliou

    The president is dealing with the party of Joe, Sarah, and crazy talk show hosts. He is dealing with just say no joe. The French have a song: "C'est une poupee, eh ...eh... qui fait non, non, non, non, non !"
    Translation: It is a doll, a puppet that says no to anyhing. it never says yes...
    The whole song simply meant that the puppet was stupid.

    February 15, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Mark

    The dumb dems had a year for hope and change, they accomplished little to nothing in that year, now they want to blame the republicans? If they are looking for somebody to blame all they need is a mirror.

    February 15, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. MatthewDetroit

    Barack blames the Republicans but the fact is he can not get the Democrats to go along with his lying cheating ways.

    Barack could get something passed but not a plan that makes us into mother Russia, or another Venezuela....

    He has to work with congress and he has to work with the Senate.
    If he actually had an intelligent plan that did not become so Extreme...he would be able to pass something.

    Healthcare did not pass because America DOES NOT WANT socialized medicine. He could cut costs. He could cut entitlement programs. He could put in severe tort reform to cut down on lawsuits. He could let insurance companies bargain across state lines. He could allow employer based savings programs for heatlhcare. He could have CUT illegal aliens out of the equation. "He Lied on that".

    Barack could get things done if he ruled from the center instead of being what he is....The MOST extreme left wing liberal to ever hold the office. He makes Bill Clinton look like a Right Wing libertarian.

    February 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. Jimmy James

    Blame the party that was completely neutered? You had a super majority. You claim they are the party of "No" yet block them out the first year. Now that you lost the super majority, you are gonna call them obstructionists. Who were the obstructionists the first year? Obama says they aren't going to lay down and accept all the republican ideas yet he never met with republicans the first year because he knew he didn't have to. With Bayh's retirement and his reasons, democrats should see the writing on the wall. "1 and done" and November will be a massacre when it comes to incumbents on both sides but mainly democrats.

    The left thought Nov 08 was a mandate to socialism. It wasn't and now it's too late to change course. Voters see your true intentions. Remember , liberal laws only become laws through activist judges, not through elections.

    February 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. buckeye

    Most elections have decayed into auctions years ago. The recent decision by The Supremes will guarantee that all are auctions in the future. RIP American democracy.

    February 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    If Obama can't even get his agenda through with 60 Senate votes and a huge House majority, it says his leadership or lack thereof is the problem, not Republicans. Why could Clinton get stuff trough a Republican Congress? Answer, he focused on where there was agreement. Reid just pulled a jobs bill the had bipartisan authorship and support. As long as these bozo keep trying to cram through their leftist agenda, there will be gridlock. Just wait unto next year when there's a Republican majority. Obozo won't be able to get a resolution passed saying the sun rises in the East.

    February 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. SueAnne

    mjm wrote, "The system worked..." Yeh, sure, like under Bush/Cheney who piled up 80% of the current US debt, and started a war (Iraq) that wasn't necessary to the national security of the US (except US oil interests' security). How soon Republicans forget. The true elephant never forgets, guys. Better change your mascot–and your attitude.

    February 15, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Mike in MN

    A majority of voters agree with Podesta.
    When the majority party refuses to listen to the will of a clear majority of voters and insists on craming bills down their throats they do not want, the process sucks.
    And now we are hearing that the Democrats are meeting behind closed doors to work out a compromise of the House and Senate health care bills. This is not happening on C-SPAN.
    If this is true, don't expect Republicans so serve as a prop for Obama's claims to transparency by have a so called bipartisan summit televised on C-SPAN when the Democrats backroom deals remain in the dark.
    And if the Repiblicans do show up, expect them to trash the current partisan Democrat bill(s) and to point out that based on the 9 most recent polls, 53% of the voters are opposed to the health care bills with only 38% for them. And that a new Rasmussen poll shows 61% of voters want the bills killed and to start over on a new bipartisan bill from scratch while only 28% want to go forward with the current bills.
    Expect the Republicans to say the current bills are too bad to waste time trying to fix by compromises. Expect the Republicans to say they are egar to support the will of the people by getting started on a new bipartisan bill and to list out their ideas they will bring to the table.
    Republicans risk little obstructing the current bills that voters clearly do not want. The meeting will demonstrate to voters that they both have ideas and are willing to work in a bipartisan manner on a new bill.
    Obama on the other hand will be left defending the current bill(s) and telling the American people they don't like them because the just are not smart enough to understand them.
    I think I know which position the voters will find most to their liking.
    Podest is right, the current process sucks. Voters want a new start.

    February 15, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. sgurdog

    How can a political system get any worse than the one we have now? There are too many embedded politicians willing to score points for doing absolutely nothing.

    Too many idiots, not enough leaders.

    February 15, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Chris

    To all those Conservatives out there who like to assert since the Democrats had a super majority their success or failure resides solely within themselves and that since the Republicans were in the minority they are completely blameless – the other week a single GOP senator single handedly stopped over 70 of the President's appointment to key positions. During the Health Care debate they bused people in and distriubted instructions specifically to disrupt town hall meetings. When the bill was brought to the floor, they kept using delaying tacticts, such as insisting the entire bill be read aloud, so as obstruct until Brown was elected and they could fillibuster. The Republicans have attacked, delayed, and set up a campaign of misiniformation for the specific purpose of destroying the President of the United States. They care nothing about this country and only about returning to power.

    February 15, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I'm not sure about any one else but I'm a little tired of being told the reason health care didn't pass and the reason for the administration's problems passing any thing substantial is because "we citizens" didn't understand what they meant. Actually we understood perfectly and didn't like what we saw. Maybe if this administration spent less time blaming Bush and republicans and calling every one who doesn't support them stupid they may be able to have some success.

    February 15, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    @Matthew Detroit:
    "The fact is that Obamas agenda is so far left and into the realm of socialism that he cant even get 60 democrats to agree."

    Obama is a centrist. The problem is one of perspective. This nation has been ruled, with a few gaps, by the batsh!t crazy right since the days of Ronny Rayguns. Americans have such short attention spans, that anyone left of Rayguns appears to be a crypto-trotskyite or similar bugbear. Anything that doesn't make the rich richer while destroying the middle class is "socialism." How much have your real wages gone up in the last 30 years? How much has corporate profit gone up? Hmmm... That's what I thought. Have a nice day!

    February 15, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Tracy

    "A majority of Democrats are either Conservatives or Professional politicians who do not intend to lose their jobs."

    Right... Because everybody in the left wing are 100% altruistic selfless angels. Please. How do you pass legislation? You make it appeal to as many people as possible, not just appeal to you.

    February 15, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. JA/TN

    it comes down to self-serving, big business serving, closed minded, policy makers, are a majority, that is no secret, no study needed

    February 15, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. Tom in Wheaton, Illinois

    Have all you "Socailism Haters" always been there or is this something new. We have had "Social Security" now for some time.And all of you who continually lump Socialism and Communism in the same sentence should refer to your Funk & Wagnall's; there's a huge and fundamental difference. It is the Republicans who actually are closer to being "Communists" in the Soviet Union sense – they would prefer a one-party system of government and a two-class system of citizenship. Socialism is more about making sure the streets are repaired and the water mains get fixed...

    February 15, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  22. ib

    This clown is putting down republicans; give me a break. Obama's way is my way or the highway. Obama doesn't want to work with anyone who doesn't go along with his agenda and they have the nerve to say something about other people not bowing down to their every demand. Pathetic!!!!!!!!!!

    February 15, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  23. Marshall

    That is right it was the republicans fault that the democrats with a majority could not pass the health care bill. The democrats are playing with each other and now blame the republicans. When will we have a real 3rd and 4th party? The two party system is broke. Thanks partisanship.

    February 15, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  24. DemsRMarxists

    This is hilarious. Barely a year has passed and everyone on the liberal Democrat side is either a) spraying blame at anything and anyone in their midst; b) refusing to acknowledge that they have had a blank check for that full year (WH, House + Senate); and c) "choosing" not to run for re-election. It's been a year. Even BHO said that it would take at least 8 years to fix the "mess" he inherited.

    The liberal elitists love to call the American voter "dumb" any chance they can get. The Massachusetts voters were "stupid" for electing Scott Brown. Anyone who supports Sarah Palin is an "idiot." We supposedly have the smartest president in US history and yet cannot talk "off the cuff" about the important issues or build consensus among his own party, let alone work across the aisle (as he promised, I believe).

    This is terrific theater. Thanks, Mr. Podesta Keith Olbermann will likely applaud you and Rachel Maddow will almost certainly canonize you.

    February 15, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

    Danny – you state ". I've asked repeatedly on these pages for any of the President Obama/Democrat haters to explain how the country is in worse shape now than it was at the end of 2008. No one has ever responded to me. "

    I will be glad to answer this question (can you at least bring a difficult question next time) because obviously you haven't been paying attention:

    * Over 4 million additional jobs lost (even after rushing through a $1 trillion nonstimulus bill that was suppose to keep unemployment under 8%)
    * Largest Deficit in history the last two years....projected Debt increase during his term 10 Trilllion – twice as much as QWB.
    * on a side note you referenced Clintons imaginary surplus (Clinton increased the debt EACH and EVERY year he was in office and never spent less money than he took in – NEVER) but increased the debt 1.2 trillion, Bush less than 5 Trillion, BHO more than 10 trillion
    * Our country is now at risk of losing our AAA rating thanks to the out of control spending
    * The great uniter divided this country more than it has ever been – showing down his policies – shoot he couldn't even get his own party to agree with him when he had the supermajority – how is that for unity huh?
    * Dollar continued to fall with his out of control spending – finally seems to have stabilized since some of his radical policies and out of control spending did not pass.
    * My unemployment costs have increased significantly thanks to BHO irresponsibly extending benefits for over 2 years now.

    Should I continue or is that enough for you – not to mention his repeated lies – no lobbyist, post bills on line for public review, HC debate on CSPAN, close gitmo in a year, etc – this list of lies goes on also.....

    We are far worse off then we were when he took office...

    February 15, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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