February 15th, 2010
07:08 PM ET
12 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. Fantom

    LOL @ Crissy.

    You just described the democrat party during the Dubya' years. Today the extreme leftist obama agenda is so radical the democrat party has to bribe it's own members to even come close to passing it.

    Meanwhile the American voter is heaving in mass regurgitation at what they foolishly voted into power. Maybe, with any luck, the next election will stop the jackbooted leftist cold.

    February 15, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. Independent

    It unbelievably delusional to fall for the media-sensationalized idea that Dems ever had a so-called "supermajority," especially with Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, etc.

    The GOP should equally have to own up to voting AGAINST tort reform, purchasing insurance over state lines, co-sponsored deficit reduction, etc.

    Reform or eliminate the filibuster for America to end much of this nonsense in the Senate.

    February 15, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. MatthewDetroit

    Unfortunately many of you Democrats do not understand the system or how it works.

    The reason that Baracks plans have not gone through is because he can not convince his own party to follow him into socialism.

    Some Democrats are actually moderates and so in turn they do not believe in Socialism, Communism, Fascism.... They may lean left but they are not left wing liberals.

    Those same Democrats still believe in freedom and will not allow Barack to ram the issues down their throats.
    Personally I thank all the Democrats in the House and Senate that were strong enough to stand up against Obama.

    The Democrats have put Obama in his place and he is losing more control each day of his own party.
    He lost in Massachusettes and many liberals have not accepted the defeat. That is okay, keep the blinders on....

    America does not want socialism.
    America WANTS LIBERTY.
    America WANTS the Opportunity to succeed and to grow.
    America BELIEVES in Reward for Success and hard work.

    God Bless our Freedoms, God Bless America....NOW lets shrink goverment down and cut spending...25% across the board Now.

    February 15, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

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

    Polls ARE nice aren't they? However we the people that elected this President knew exactly what and whom we had elected make no mistake. What we did'nt know was how strongly the losing Party (and some chickenturd Dems) would block the Change we voted for. Remember, one of his main platforms during the campaign was Health Care Reform. We voted for that.

    February 15, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. Tony T

    Poor little far loony leftie.... I wonder if he realizes that it was the Dems that brought down the agenda? Thank God for Liberman and Cornhusker man, between them and the GOP slowing down the push to socialsim, WE THE PEOPLE were able to stop them. I guess John wishes all of the bribes and backdoor deals happened earlier in the process even after the American people said NO very loudly last summer. I love it, no progressive agenda BS getting jammed down our throats. Nov 2010, they will all be gone. Bye bye now.

    February 15, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Sucks is right.... all the Republicans care about is their own moronic party

    February 15, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  7. Liberal wing nut

    If a gov't is going to constantly push for unpopular items of course they will fail.

    February 15, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    He's right – it does.

    President Obama was elected by a majority of people, and yet the GOP is doing everything they can to thwart the will of that majority.

    And to what end? To regain power and control, even after 8 years of Bush/Cheney brought our country to the brink of financial collapse, gave us two irresponsibly-waged wars with over 4000 military dead (and thousands more civilian dead), health care in crisis, unemployment at an all-time high, no real movement on making us energy-independent ...

    Who gains under Republicans control? Certainly not the average American.

    Only the rich and the corporations, who have shown through actions and words that all they care about is money, benefit from Republican control.

    The GOP can squawk all they want about God and country, anti-gay and anti-choice, pro-military and pro-defense.

    Some people may still be suckered in by their hypocrisy, but the majority know that the GOP does not care about the United States and its citizens.

    And come November 2010, we're going to tell them at the polls in no uncertain terms!

    GOP = Party Before Country

    February 15, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. buckwheat

    It will suck less after the next mid term elections. This is a good lesson in third world government. You elect misfits to the highest office in the land you get what you paid for . Limit terms to two terms for the House and one in the Senate. Corruption, like mold, grows slowly but with the breeze off the Potomac and the cradle to the grave perks they get, it is deadly. Throw the Democrats out who have managed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , and you know who they are. Two Long termers that should have been gone 20 years ago. We have politically corrected ourselves to the edge.

    February 15, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. MatthewDetroit

    The Fact of the matter is that we need to vote out all Republicans and Democrats that will increase spending.

    We need drastic cuts in ALL programs, Defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, All entitlements, all Pork spending, ALL spending across the board needs to be cut by 25%.

    All the NEW school programs, all the new agendas that we have put in the last 20 years need to be eliminated. No New Spending.

    Cut spending back to what ever it was in 2000.
    Cut all the programs that are not necessary.
    Cut Cut Cut.

    We dont need a new healthcare bill that throws 40Million more people into the mix. We can NOT pay for 40 Million more people. They will have to work harder or they will have to live without.

    LIfe is Rough. Nothing is guaranteed and we can not afford to take care of everyone.

    February 15, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. Eric, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Thankfully American voters wised up just in the nick of time to derail Obama's healthcare takeover. Too bad they couldn't get rid of his TARP and corporation take-overs...thankfully November 2010 is just around the corner and the Voters will show, once again, that we DON'T WANT SOCIALISM.

    Obama will be a one-term President and go down in history as the second term of Jimmy Carter.

    February 15, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Terry from West Texas

    Here is a partial list of Liberal accomplishments: The abolition of slavery, anti-lynching laws, the 8 hour workday, the 40 hour work week, free public education,giving the vote to minorities, giving the vote to women, equal rights for minorities, equal rights for women, equal pay for minorities, equal pay for women, unions and collective bargaining, workplace safety regulations, the minimum wage, every single proposed increase in the minimum wage, overtime pay, desegregation of public schools and colleges,
    desegregation of public facilities (public transportation, airports, bus stations, etc.), desegregation of private facilities (private colleges, restaurants, stores, housing, employment, etc.), desegregation of the Armed Services, child health care programs, abortion rights and availability, ending child labor, affordable day care, laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, equal treatment of women in the workplace, fair hiring practices, clean air regulations, clean water regulations, ending dependency on foreign oil, higher wages for the middle class, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Family Leave, Maternity Leave.

    Conservatives opposed every one of them with spluttering rage. Conservatives STILL oppose every one of those Liberal reforms (with the possible exception of the abolition of slavery) and would undo them if they could.

    Here is a complete list of Conservative accomplishments: Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens.

    February 15, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  13. AccountableToThePeople

    He is correct, it does suck! But don't blame Republicans or the voices of middle America for not putting up with a partisan agenda that has quadrupled the deficit, increases government control, and cannot provide tangible proof to the millions of unemployed Americans that our economy is getting better.
    Simple cheering and continuous lectures from behind the podium does not mean a thing to the average American. Results that include jobs to pay the bills, put a roof over the heads of American families, and feed those same families are the only real examples of true economic progress. Americans wanted "positive change" that included a different and better approach to how DC works and increased transparency. Instead, we have seen change that is negative and the lack of transparency and accountability.

    February 15, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. Ruth

    You idiots can't blame it on Obama. Cheney , Bush, McCain and idiot Palin have caused most of the uneasiness in this country.

    February 15, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. MatthewDetroit

    Seriously, If you libs cant see past your own failures then you must be blind and idiotic.

    You had 60 Senators.
    Now you have 59.

    Maybe if you negotiated a little, just a smidgeon, you could have passed the bill. Dont get me wrong, I am glad you didnt. The bill was a joke and NOBODY on the left even read the thing. They admitted as much each time they were questioned.

    The funny part is its like a fat girl blaming the baker because she ate the entire cake and gained 10 lbs. Maybe you should just stop eating for a while.

    The republicans can NOT stop anything without help from democrats.
    IT is IMPOSSIBLE for Republicans to block everything.
    The problem is that you are EXTREME and will not come back to center. I dont agree with your center, but the fact is the only thing stopping the Democrats agenda is the Democrats themselves.
    Wake Up.

    February 15, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. sgurdog

    Republicans have such great ideas for cutting spending. I just haven't heard one yet. They're the ones who renegged on the budget commission that would have given them the opportunity to put their names by one of those budget cuts. They truth is they are lying through their teeth whenever they call for such and fail to produce. Our deficits have been growing for years...GWB doubled it under the Republican spend-a-thon that diverted tax payers money into bloody profits for Blackwater and Haliburton. They should just shut their mouths on that subject.

    If the redfaced howlers at the townhall meetings would have shown the same contempt for government intrusion into the personal lives of its citizens via warrantless wiretapping, then you'd have a leg to stand on, but as such, you're idea of freedom and liberty is quite twisted.

    February 15, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. John D

    Why don't you put the blame squarely where it belongs? On the shoulders of Obama! All his lying is why the dems are where they are at. That and all the dishonest backroom, closed door deals they made just took the wind out of everyones sails. He could have been the most effective President ever but he choose the low road with Reid and Pelosi. These people are the lowest for of life on the planet. I am sick of listening to them blame everything on Bush. Get over it you Lame Duck Liar!

    February 15, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. annie against biased news

    The Republicans should not be the party of 'no' – they should be the party of "HELL NO"! Enough of these wacky, incoherent, criminal, anti-constitutional programs that the demmies and obama are trying to cram down our throats. What part of NO doesn't obama understand? It is two letters professor N – O can you comprehend?

    February 15, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. Dan

    I love reading the vomit from everyone on each side of the aisle trying to put blame on one specific group. Everyone's to blame and their will always be inherent friction to the political process. It was built into the system so every time one party is given a "mandate" by the American people, they don't go out and completely change the status quo. It's always been this while, regardless of the claims to the contrary that politicians used to work together and accomplish things. It's the very reason why Democrats are not able to pass some type of socialized medicine dressed up as something else or Republicans can't pass some ridiculous national security agenda which in the end denies us the very freedoms this country breathes on. Everyday the beauty of the system is revealed more and more by the frustrations of the polar extremes in this country. The founders continue to baffle us with their foresight.

    February 15, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Tony T

    "Here is a partial list of Liberal accomplishments: " Yea, that's great...ummmmm how much did some of those programs cost me? And what did I get out of them? Answer: Way too much, and nothing. The more FREE entitlements we hand out the lazier our people become and the more angirier real workers get. But its a nice list anyway, though most is wrong, but you tried to make it sound like you knew what you were talking about....

    February 15, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. ServingCountry

    To Matthew in Detroit, you make a valid point regarding spending especially with deficit to consider. And while there is always a good case to be made for less waste and more prudent spending, I ask that you consider for a moment reducing military spending and taken into account our current national defense situation.

    Although we should be winding down soon from two wars, concerns with Iran are increasing while there is always the need to keep an eye on North Korea and China. Our military does need to focus on pursuing terrorists. So it is my opinion that while our military is extremely stretched, and systems are operating well past their service life limits, decreased spending might not prudent while we are still involved with military efforts directed by our Commander in Chief.

    In fact, I would suggest increased spending to even grow our military further so that we could afford more volunteers. And think for a second, for those like me who were not ready for college 25 years ago and enlisted and have served eversince, it has proven a secure occupation that has provided income, tuition for a college education, health coverage and skills attractive to the civilian sector. Perhaps increasing funding to grow our tired military force could in some small way addressed the unemployment concerns and provide people another option to consider: whether as a career or just for one enlistment to help get back on their feet and provide for their families.

    Just a thought.

    February 15, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. hinckleybuzzard

    America to Washington: Podesta sucks. This psychopath has done more to contaminate the political process than any corrupt lobbyist, or even despicable sellouts like the wretched "Abscam" Murtha. In a simpler, more direct age, the likes of John Podesta would have been decisively dealt with, long since.

    February 15, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Tired of Ignorant Blogs

    I read a few words in some of the posts and the venom is palpable. It is hard to have a discourse when everybody is insulting each other.

    While the Republicans stand on their "principles" and stop everything, and while the Democrats quibble, in the end the entire country ultimately suffers.

    Case in point, Senator Shelby having a hissy fit over his earmarks and blocking 70 appointees....not much comment from the Rght about that. Abrogating the Constitution under Bush, again not much outrage there either.

    I am an independent and its getting really hard to take the current Right wingers seriously when they rage about socialism, Obama is an extremist, etc. Offer real suggestions, not just hubris. Tort reform – let's see how their K-Street lawyers feel about that.

    You all need to get a grip and face up to the fact that WE are all Americans and there needs to be real give and take in the political discourse. But in the end, there needs to be action and compromise. That is politics, deal with it.

    Adams had it exactly right when he said the two party system would be the death of our democracy.

    February 15, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. sgurdog

    I know it must hurt Republicans feelings to keep hearing George W. Bush. Fact is, they had full control of congress and the white house when they laid the groundwork for what was to come.

    Hey Republicans, here's an oldie but a goodie. How bout "the great ownership society" to break you out of the doldrums. Remember that one? That's the one where GWB hailed the incredibly out of control housing bubble as a legacy of his administration. It was that signal to the industry that said keep it going...at least til he was out of office. Too bad he missed that one by a few months, otherwise you could pin the whole economic crash on Obama. Yeah it's too bad you can't pin that on him too. Talk about blamers and whiners, you people are insane.

    February 15, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. Independent

    "Negotiated a little?" Are you serious?

    Please look up the Senate Health Bill, Sections 1333 & 6801 to name a few. The GOP still voted against the negotiated inclusions of tort reform and interstate insurance purchase.

    In fact, the Senate bill almost mirrors the GOP positions in 1994. Political negotiation has to be a two-way street.

    February 15, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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