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

Podesta: American political system 'sucks'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/15/art.podesta.gi.jpg
caption="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. Rod from Indy

    Requiring a filibuster-proof vote to get anything accomplished in Washington shows the Republicans have gone back to their roots. They were formed in 1863 out of the Know Nothing Party, and they still don't know anything. They have become a complete obstructionist party who is bankrupt of ideas except the same ones Bush pushed down our throats for eight years, and from which we may never recover. It is funny that in looking at Wikipedia's take on the history of the American economy, it is stated that for the last two decades America's ecnonomy has been structured to increasingly favor the rich. You can believe the GOP out of fear and stupidity if you wish. But we all suffer for it. It is time to take care of the middle class.

    February 15, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Carlton

    All you hear about and read about in the political arena is a bunch of mad, angry, and hateful rhetoric from both sides!!! This country is so divided!!! And to think I sacraficed over 20 years for all this mess!!! America needs "JESUS CHRIST", not religion or politics!!!
    "A kingdom divided against itself can't stand"!

    Pastor Evans (Retired Army)

    February 15, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  3. Willy Brown

    Democrat , Sucks = synonyms

    February 15, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. Debbie

    The GOP has accomplished their task: divide, divide, divide. It's an old process they have used before. The DEMS should be ashamed they allowed it to happen. A good sign are people like Byah leaving. The GOP is mistaken if they think everyone from Nov 2008 have become their followers, they have not as poll after poll proves. What this tells us is the two party system doesn't work. If your representative voted in a block as in the GOP or couldn't agree on the sky being blue as in a Dem then vote them out.

    February 15, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  5. Karen

    They not longer have the interests of the people or American in sight. They spend way too much time getting re-elected and raising money for themselves or their party. They never listen to the people of America. They are supposed to be a team representing the people, but they are just a bunch of big egos!

    February 15, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. Tim

    He also said that the Obama administration was a mess, but then had to retract it after he got a call from the One.

    February 15, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. Mike in Memphi

    This country desperately needs a three-party system so we can end this ridiculous us-vs-them political grandstanding that focuses on turning voters into nothing more than knee-jerking sheep. ALL of the current US Representatives and Senators have lost the ability to debate and negotiate.

    February 15, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. PacificView

    Joe Lieberman is not a Democrat, he is an opportunist. The 60 vote majority was just a myth.

    But anyway, should every vote require a super majority? When did democracy start meaning it takes 60% to win?

    February 15, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  9. Mark


    Obama is such a disgrace!!!!

    February 15, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. Col Kilgore

    The system is set up to be corrupt and line the pockets of the lawmakers and their business pals. Its working as intended.

    February 15, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  11. JLW in Indian Springs,Al.

    Being an Independent, I feel free to offer criticism of either/both Parties. The GOP is nothing but a "good ole Boys" club that fosters HATE and obstructs anything the Dems want to do no matter how well intended or badly thought out the issue may be. The Dems are utterly spineless in their efforts to make something happen whether worthwhile or just plain stupid. They didn't properly use the veto proof majority when they had it. Podesta is absolutely correct that politics in Washington "sucks".

    Whatever happened to the term "loyal opposition". Now it has to be either NO just for the sake of saying no or initiating personal attacks on members of the opposition. It just seems that we can't even be civil when we disagree and personal destruction is a way of life in D.C. The system we now have cannot survive much longer with this mentality. Democracy is in danger.

    February 15, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  12. Nolan

    I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. – Thomas Jefferson

    February 15, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  13. Jay

    The system doesn't work when you need 60% in the senate to pass ANYTHING. Republicans filibuster everything and block every nomination. They even blocked health care reform even though they got a ton of concessions (Dems original plan was for a single payer system but they bargained that away for a public option only to have the Republicans filibuster it anyways. Our system should allow the winner of an election to be able to govern. Bush and the Republicans got their way for 8 years and look what that got us. Now it should have been the Dems turn given their big election win, but Republicans have abused the filibuster and blocking of nominations only to score political points – Its a disgrace.

    February 15, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  14. badger bill

    Gary stop blaming our problems on people who you claim are lazy and on disability. I have first hand knowledge that the amount this country spends on welfare and disability, which, by the way is very hard to get is dwarfedby the amount of corporate welfare that is spent in this country As far as health care goes, we are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have nationalized health care. Health Care is a right not a privelage!

    February 15, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Mickey

    In 2010 and 2012, go ahead and vote for Republicans...the new domestic terrorist. If you think for one minute that a Republican president would have let ANY bank that was "too big to fail" collapse, or allow ANY car company to close it's doors NO MATTER WHAT THEY TELL YOU, your ability to reason is virtually non-existent. Your mental capacity is severly challenged, probably due to watching too much "Short Attention Span Theater"...FoxNews. These fearmongering, hatred-spewing bigots are lying to you. It's that simple.

    The only problem with T.A.R.P. was that it didn't go far enough...it simply wasn't big enough.

    This is not a game! Get with the program, or get out of the theater. Any right-leaning, holier-than-thou, rightous, self-annointed Patriot who can't reason beyond this simple analogy really is part of the problem.

    Stop being part of the problem, and be part of the solution.

    Be careful what you ask for...you just may get it.

    February 15, 2010 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  16. Ruth Dausener

    say you have health insurance at $10,000 per year for 5 years, total $50,000. then you have an illness that costs $100,000. the insurance company pays. who pays the extra $50,000? not the insurance company which has only the money paid in by customers. I DID! I HAVE THE SAME INSURANCE AND I DID NOT USE ANYWHERE NEAR MY $10,000 PER YEAR, YOU TOOK MONEY FROM ME FOR YOUR ILLNESS. health insurance payment is the same as government funded health care: i pay for yours when you need it, you pay for mine when i need it.

    February 15, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. Albo58

    Pedesta is a party hack! Perhaps it has escaped his notice, but even with the Republicans not voting for this President's big ticket ripoffs, the Dimwits had a veto-proof majority in the Congress for over a year? It's not the fault of the Republicans that some Dimwits found a lot of problems with this President's visions!

    February 15, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
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