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. Dennis

    Appears to me that the reason the climate 'sucks' is because the Grand OBSTRUCTIONIST Party (GOP) is still crying and acting like children because they didn't get their way in the 2009 Pres election. Grow up people and move on...let's get some business done!

    February 15, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. D.U.T.C.H.

    My sentiments exactly Mr. Podesta.

    February 15, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. USMC0300

    Mr. Podesta is in my opinion correct, but for different reasons. I am a Republican that voted for change, that voted for Obama. When Obama and the congress democrats voted for the Bailout I was utterly flabbergasted. I detested the TARP as well – but had hoped the democrats would not bow to Wall Street as easily as GW had done, but they did. I expected Mr. Obama to stand firm agains the Cuban embargo, to promote sweeping immigration reform – but nothing .. .yet. So, where does that leave us? Truth of the matter is Washington politics is going to have the same result no matter what party is in office. Special interests will prevail and fat cats will look out for fat cats – that is our system. New president same as the old president... It's a real shame too, cause Mr. Obama has the skills, insight and heart to do lots of good – but the machine we know as American politics simply won't allow him to do what's gotta be done and his powers are limited by the constitution – which, in the big picture is a good and proper thing. Therefore, yes Mr. Podesta, it sucks! Perhaps we must think on a grander scale and vote in to office a large body of independents? Hmmm . . . food for thought.

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

    Although it may not be politically correct, Podestra's point is absolutely true–the political system in Washington is broken.

    Senate Republicans are even voting/obstructing against bills that contain their own proposals. For instance, the Senate Health Bill contains TORT reform, ins over state lines, etc. (see Sections 6801 & 1333), and the GOP still voted against it. Dems have had similar issues within their caucus.

    The Fix:
    Reform the filibuster! Both sides have acknowledged the need to either eliminate the filibuster or change it to 55 votes once and for all.

    February 15, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  5. RTB

    Spoken like a true believer.

    Unfortunately he's right.

    Get rid of those phony Republicans in Democrat clothing.
    Elect some true Democrats.

    February 15, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. nick

    He's right: it does suck. This country is becoming more and more polarized and the heat ot the hateful remarks is growing hotter at an increasing rate (rea any of the 'Ticker' comments). But the saddest fact of all is that there does not exist one, not even one, true statesman in eiher party nor outside of them who can pull the nation together. We are fast destroying ourselves.

    February 15, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Terry from West Texas

    Examples of false reasoning by Conservatives:

    "...if you struggled this hard to pass legislation when you had a supermajority, how good can the proposed legislation really be?"
    The struggle is not between Democrats and Republicans. The struggle is between Conservatives of both parties and the rest of America. A majority of Democrats are either Conservatives or Professional politicians who do not intend to lose their jobs.

    "the absolute worst president in the history of this country" More absolute nonsense. Who added $8 trillion to the $11 trillion national debt? Reagan (1.5 trillion), Bush1 (1.5 trillion), and Bush2 (5 trillion). Who is the first American president to invade the wrong country? Bush2. What about Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Buchanon, and Andrew Johnson? You think they are superior to Obama? (Look them up.)
    The last competent Republican was Eisenhower.
    The last great Republican was T. Roosevelt (of course, that was back when Republicans were men, not Conservo-zombies).

    February 15, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. DEM in HI

    Finally someone who is telling it like it is. Washington DC is a dsgrace. Both parties are unable to do anything because their bases are so screwed up. The GOP cannot move to the center because of the fanatics on the right, and the DNC has the same problem with their base on the left. So centrists are just going to vote the incumbent out to send a vote to both parties, screw the base, it is the centrist that gets you elected. Both parties have solved nothing over the last 10 years and only care about their pay and perks, they have no wish to change the status quo.

    Look at how they jumped to save bankers and wall st, and still are screwing the middle class. Times have changed, but unfortunately it is the same old story in DC, money talks.

    February 15, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Meka

    REPUBLICAN'S have been DESTRUCTIVE for a very long time . . . We Independent's, wish that REPUBLICAN'S would JUST TRY EDUCATION!

    February 15, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    "He blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans and a newly "strengthened" conservative movement."

    Oh, yeah, back-room deals for Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and unions are all the fault of the Republicans. Yeah, sure...

    That's the sort of stuff that "sucks" about America politics, along with mutual-back-scratching earmarks, Nancy Pelosi taking all her family and friends on a European vacation at taxpayer expense, and on and on.

    Three-quarters of all Americans Democrats and Republicans, are angry at their own government. Almost two-thirds want to see every incumbent, all of them, kicked out of office this coming November.

    Government has become a self-serving entity the primary goals of which are to benefit itself, benefit the private interests of those in government, elected or otherwise, and to facilitate the re-election of politicians. Nothing else matters, certainly not the interests of of average Americans.

    That's</i what sucks!

    February 15, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Dean

    the Grand OBSTRUCTIONIST Party of NO is out to regain control and the Democrats in congress are just out to hold on to their jobs. Neither party is looking out for the people who elected their butts.
    It's sad to say this country is going downhill real fast.

    February 15, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Tim from Tampa

    How can he say it sucks? Our system is the best political system that money can buy.

    February 15, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. Meka


    February 15, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    How does 59 democratic senators plus Joe Lieberman equal a supermajority? Have a nice day!

    February 15, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. wake up

    That's why the founders called for limited federal government. All these liberal elitists, who are soooooooo smart, forget to read that.

    Obama is the worst thing that could happen to this country.

    February 15, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. S.B.

    He's absolutely right. I don't understand though why the Senate Democrats don't just let the Republicans filibuster. They're not getting anything done anyhow, and it would give the public a chance to see how obnoxious the Republican Party has become. Also after talking themselves silly for days on end, maybe some of the Republicans would change their minds about the value of filibustering everything.

    February 15, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. American Political system..."sucks"

    Well, Mr Podesta is it the present administration with Pres Obama at the helm...or is it accused "no" GOP...or is the system just lacking?

    ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;If, its all the above then we are in trouble;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

    February 15, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Leon

    You are right Mr. Podesta and YOU are one of the chief architects of the current situation.

    February 15, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. Right Leaning Independent

    I think Obama's advisers are his greatest problem! Obama has gotten bad advice from the apology tour to closing Gitmo! In between he tried to reform health care in a radical liberal manner rather than crafting a truly BiPartisan plan which we really do need! He wants to hurt business with cap and trade and even though he needs jobs from the business community, he continues to strike a populist tone by berating Wall Street and threatening new taxes on business. This has nothing to do with Repubs and everything to do with his inexperienced staff of advisers....

    February 15, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Sgt. USMC

    I agree with his criticism of Republicans and health care. I will say this, saying no or being opposed to everything the WH proposes might be an effective strategy until 2012 when people ask "What have you done for us lately?". Inaction is worst than trying and failing and even more damaging is keeping the other side from progress while keeping Americans hostage to a political game. If you have ever played ball you know that there's nothing worst than a kid who is so upset when things don't go their way that they take their ball and go home, leaving the rest hanging.

    February 15, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Can You Hear Me Now?

    How can it all be the Republicans fault yet again? There has been a filitbuster-proof Congress for the past year (and still an overwhelming majority – for a little while longer) plus a far left administration. The problems are that 1) there is dissension within the Democratic party itself and 2) the American people don't want what the Democrats are trying to ram through (or how they're doing it). THAT is where the problem is. Reality check time.

    February 15, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    he is dealing with the party of Palin and the party of McConnell and the party of Boehner,"

    How sadly true. He's dealing with the Party of No Concern and No Class.

    This is what it boils down to America: The GOP is so power-hungry and ANGRY at having lost power to a Black man that during one of the darkest hours this nation has faced (financially) they are ALL perfectly fine in not lifting ONE FINGER to help repair the damage. And what makes it worse is that there is a loud faction of the populace that is perfectly okay with them doing just that, probably for the same reasons.

    It would be laughable if it wasn't happening to us. Our short term memory, maybe due to too many mind-numbing drugs, is shot to hell. We are allowing the other major political party in our nation to engage in this type of "politic". AND we are rewarding them with Tea Parties, and more Me-First-Screw-You members in Congress. It is really uncanny. To further solidify our standing as Totally Confused Morons (TCMs) we are besotted with stomping on the ONLY individual that is doggedly trying at least to help us out, our President.

    No matter what political party you belong to, you gotta admit that something's wrong here WITH US. How can those that talk the talk but won't invest an ounce of positive, constructive, effort towards helping the country be rewarded, lauded, and quoted. Yet those that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work on our behalf are mocked and derided.

    The Party of Lincoln is indeed dead, and I fear our moral compass with it.

    February 15, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. Four and The Door

    nick February 15th, 2010 4:23 pm ET

    ...But the saddest fact of all is that there does not exist one, not even one, true statesman in eiher party nor outside of them who can pull the nation together...
    Obama claimed in the 2008 campaign that he was that guy. Just one of many things you can chalk up to," Say whatever your political handlers put up on the teleprompter. Make it believable." In 2012, Americans will vote on action, not empty words.

    February 15, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. Right Leaning Independent

    Want to make a Liberal really upset? Lets do away with the filibuster after November!!

    February 15, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. logan

    If someone on here could please explain, without all the buzz words and jargon, how this is socialist medicine I would appreciate it. If someone could explain how it was good for Republicans in 1994 but not good now, I would appreciate it. This is not a republican bashing, i just really want to know why it's socialism to want for people to be insured. Why was it ok for Bush to spend us into oblivion with no tea party movement but it's suddenly socialism for this president to do so? Please, lets not tap dance around it with "quit blaming bush" stuff. Tell me your reasons so I can make sense as to why there is so much hate. The political climate is sickening. The hatred is so hypocritical its amazing. What's the purpose? If the Republicans have so many good ideas for health care, why are they just coming out now? Why wait until Obama starts pushing his agenda before Republicans come out with ideas of their own? Please explain.

    February 15, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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