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. mjm

    AAAHHHHH......did someone stop the little liberals from passing their social medicine? Poor babies. That would suck now wouldn't it?

    Never mind that past presidents and congress didn't need to rely on having a filibuster proof senate to pass all their bills. They wrote bills everyone could support.

    I hate to break the news to you, but this is exactly why it takes 60 votes. It protects the people from a runaway congress.

    The system worked....doesn't that suck liberals?

    February 15, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    Podesta is correct – WE have been saying that for years.

    WE need to vote obstructionists on either side out and vote in a new batch with the message "Work for the betterment of the entire USA, or you'll be voted out next time".

    If they don't want the cushy job on those terms, they should NOT RUN.

    February 15, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. RAG

    The Republican Party and their "AstroTurf" tea-bagger brownshirts are ready to take this Republic down in order to regain power (so that they can finish the job...).

    February 15, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. Jim in San Mateo

    So we have a bunch a boneheads in the Senate that are firmly opposed to doing any work. Can't we just fire the lot of them and start over with people who can work together to get things done?

    February 15, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    Podesta ... expressed deep concern about the White House's ability to pass big ticket items in the current political climate.
    Obama couldn't even pass his health care reform when he had a fillibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate! You can't blame that on the Republicans. They had no say in the matter.

    But the reason Democratic politicians couldn't pass health care is that they got too greedy holding out for hundreds of millions and even giving away $60 billion to their favorite big unions. Republicans had nothing to do with that awful mess. Thank goodness the Massachusetts voters stopped these greedy pigs from ripping off America blind. Now Washington has to think about what's best for the country. Notice the change now?

    February 15, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. Mr. Podesta......

    in any organization, be it a corporation, football team, music studio, etc:,
    when it's not working, the problem is at the top.

    The Dems have had control of Congress for a year and have gotten nothing done.....time to fire the manager.

    February 15, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. geecee

    John Podesta is absolutely right, of course. The Repuglicans will go to any length to prevent Obama from succeeding at anything – regardless of whether it hurts the American people or not. The party of No will never, ever allow Obama to look good and will continue to bash, slam and demean everything he says or does. This isn't just ordinary politics, there is something virulent about their opposition – something truly insidious. I think I know what it is, but it's just my opinion!!

    February 15, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. 1GregM

    Why should the 'word' be one that is't very nice? It is an accurate description of what this sock puppet – in – chief and his band of criminals in DC are trying to do to the working people of America's wallets, the history of what we have accomplished in the world, the relationships we have established over the years and the way the backdoor deals,bribes and lack of transparency has become business as usual. This face plant in real time administartion has made us the laughing stock of the world with it inept, boorish and gaffe ridden appearance every time it speaks. VOTE in November. Send a messsage we do not want government as usual. CLEAN THE HOUSE and 1/3 of the Senate of those who would believe their jobs are nothing better than a life time appointment to the perk bin and do not have any reason to react to what their consdtituents want or need. VOTE in November and begin the healing and then again in 2012 to rid us of the absolute worst president in the history of this country.

    February 15, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. Steve (the real one)

    Can't Podesta be honest enough to even consider the problem just might be the wildly liberal agenda? 2 words for you, Podesta... ..SUPER MAJORITY. Your party got nothing accomplished even with a super majority! You can now blame your party!!
    "he is dealing with the party of Palin and the party of McConnell and the party of Boehner,"
    That 's because the GOP is dealing the party of Reid, Pelosi, Frank, and Dodd!

    February 15, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Democrats for the Next 20-Years

    So, President Obama has been standing out there all by himself, while every other democract sits on the sideline to see 'how he's doing'???? He's got to do it for us. He's got to walk on water for us.

    How many coattails rode in to the front of the election and won during the 2008 Obama for President campaign.

    How many speeches did he give in 2004 and 2006 and 2008 to raise money for and elect senators and representatives to office paving the way for this presidency to have the majority he has now.

    And what has he got to show for it. Lazy Democrats in the do-nothing senate sitting on their hands letting all those bills Nancy Polosi sent over to their side just set there. Lazy Dems and spiteful Republicans.

    Podesta needs to dress down some senators, like that scarty-cat Evan Bayh – instead of statments of ...gee wiz its sooo bad ..isn't it.

    February 15, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    Yes. One word was all that was needed.

    February 15, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. OldUncleTom

    Am I the only one to notice that every Republican speaking clearly is a "former" something? The currently serving group seems a bit thin on policies, and in many cases, simple logic, compared to past times.

    As many downsizing companies have discovered, sometimes you are left with those you wish you didn't have. There is still a big difference between keeping a job and doing one.

    February 15, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Tracy

    All I can say though, is if you struggled this hard to pass legislation when you had a supermajority, how good can the proposed legislation really be?

    February 15, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  14. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Thank you Mr. Podesta, you speak the truth that nobody wants to hear. Republicans have played the NO game too long and if Americans want to play along with them it will be the end game for us all.

    February 15, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Ken in NC

    I am of the opinion that congress is in sucj gridlock, it could be said that it is constipated. Right now, if it wanted to do it, congress couldn't pass gas. Democrats are so scared of re-election and Republicans are so busy being bullies, none of them is concerned about the welfare of the nation. Many of them are in the pockets of big business and most of the rest of them are to scared to do anything about it out of fear of the Republican bullies.

    February 15, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Joe from Ohio

    I understand Podesta, this country is not moving fast enough to socialism for him. So of course Washington politics suck for him.

    Wait until November 2010 John, things will really suck then for you and your tax and spend friends!!!!!!

    February 15, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. Barb

    Lets hope that Obama figures a path to success,or I fear for our country. I see a Republican party in which the Civil War is being fought again, only this time the confederates may win. The next thing on their agenda will be "states rights".

    The American public needs to start taking some responsibilty to educate themselves on the issues and policy and not let right wing ideologues do the spelling for them whether it is Palin or Fox news.

    February 15, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  18. Randy

    Mr. Podesta obviously isn't a student of history. Thomas Jefferson threatened to use the military to claim the Presidency. Only the courage of thrice-decorated Medal of Honor winner prevented a group of business leaders from staging a coup in the early days of the 20th century. So today's political blowhards are rookies when it comes to seriously messing up. That said, Podesta has long been among the more bitter, rancorous partisans, a James-Carville-wannabe without the balance of an intelligent spouse.

    February 15, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. mavcal

    Obama has no one to blame but himself and the people who elected him to a position he wasn't ready to assume. He doesn't know what he is doing – plain and simple. His arrogance and over inflated ego are causing resentments among the very people he needs to pass his grandiose policies. You can't keep "lecturing" "moralizing" "blaming" and yapping all the time and expect people to meet you half way. His Presidency is turning into a fiasco.

    February 15, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. greenfish

    The right wing is completely nuts. Calling Obama, Reid and Pelosi left wing socialists has no basis in fact. The gridlock is attributable to a republican obsession with regaining power for power's sake at any and all costs. How do I know this? Because nearly all the republican objections to the current health care reform bill is opposition to ideas they once supported. For example, Grassley and Hatch now oppose mandatory health care coverage. But in 1994, they advocated for that!

    If we're going to disagree let's at least argue on the FACTS. ANd if the hate could be put back in the little box in the closet that would be helpful, too.

    February 15, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. kathleen

    oh listen to him now....crying...ask yourself...do you think your losing?

    politics is a bloodbath...get out if you can't take the bath!

    February 15, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. SocialismBad

    Quite AMUSING!!

    The Progressives like Podesta have hijacked the Democratic Party and can't convince MANY OF THEIR OWN DEMOCRATS to sign onto their far agenda and they blame the Republicans and THE POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT GOT THEM ELECTED???!!!

    The system is working PERFECTLY!! THANK GOD the politcal system has protected the American people and this country from this leftist band of idiots! Our Founding Fathers were GENIUSES!!!

    Now go whine, cry and tell your lies to fools dumb enough to believe your drivel Podesta...

    February 15, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. Ken

    John Podesta – Liberal hack, is upset that the voters are waking up and rejecting the massive increases in government control and spending that the Obama gang are trying to shove down our throats.

    February 15, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Do republicans have an agenda that will bring help to Americans? Hell no!

    February 15, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Tracy

    People say "Party of NO" like it's a bad thing...

    February 15, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
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