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. Shel in GA

    Can any Conservative tell me why the Democrats or Liberals should act like the Republicans or Conservatives? For eight years, the elected Republicans lined up like a bunch of Lemmings and drove us over the cliff. Also, do any Republicans or Conservatives understand that our founders called for a separation of powers? For eight years, the Republicans, Conservative or not, acted as one with the Republican Party and the White House. No wonder we ended up in dire straights.

    February 15, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. MatthewDetroit

    Serving Country...

    I do agree with you and your statement.
    The last budget I would like to cut is the defense budget.
    I do in fact agree that it is already week and we probably should add to it.
    Unfortunately, we do need to cut spending and with that we have to cut the major programs down to size. I would cut all entitlement programs. We have bred in the last 70 years in this country the entitlement menatlity. Everyone feels they will and worst should be taken care of. I think that spending Must be cut and cut severely. In order to do that I think that you will have to cut other programs as well as the Defense budget. If only to build some sort of a bipartisan coalition.
    No one likes to cut spending but we have all had to do it the last few years. It is time for our goverment to again be responsible and cut spending. Each day they think of new spending, no one thinks of cutting. We are broke. Flat Broker.
    SS is broke. Medicare is broke, Medicaid is broke. Period.

    February 15, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. John

    Blame the GOP? What?

    The problem lies with the agenda, not the GOP. Obama had filibuster majority for an entire YEAR. The reason why his policies sat in limbo was due to their partisanship. D's in several states were extremely wary of casting their votes on such socialistic policies, and even with the backroom deals, it still came to a halt.

    And to the person who said liberals abolished slavery. Care to check your history? Lincoln was elected as a Republican president. His main foe in the 1860 presidential election was Stephen Douglas (Democrat) who said local settlers should be free to choose whether to allow slavery or not and could overrule the Supreme Courts Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.

    February 15, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. Bob (Illinois)

    Good grief! Some of you folks need to have a few sessions in anger management!

    Podesta is 100% correct: The American political system as it currently stands is NOT DOING THE JOB! In short, it sucks.

    February 15, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. buckwheat

    In the hard knocks of life you sometime have an identity crisis.I suggest the next time we have an election, and before you push the button, ask your self ,are you voting for this person for what they promise to give you or are you voting for them because they promise to take less from you.

    February 15, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  6. scott p.

    The U.S. government totally sucks right now and we helped to put them there. The Republicans and their Bush ruined this country and then they blame it on Obama who wasn't even there! Right now we have the republicans enjoying a 41-59 advantage in congress. The Democrats are afraid of their own shadow and terrified of the republicans. We need to take a serious look at how the Republicans so outnumbered can completely control all legislation. When Bush was in charge the republicans with help from the democrats put through every bad idea ever thought of. Why do the democrats have no backbone? If I were in charge I would push through the most intellectual progressive agenda since ancient Greece. I'd run right over the neo-fascist republicans and their wrong-headed agenda. A Democrat with a backbone should be put on the endangered species list!

    February 15, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. MatthewDetroit

    Lets try this.....

    Stop blaming and start fixing.
    Write your Senators and Representatives.
    Tell them where you stand.

    The spending has to stop. It does not matter which party you are from.
    Goverment is too big and I for one would like to see it smaller.
    No using the terms Republican or Democrat.
    Lets talk beliefs. Lets talk ideas. What do you suggest. No more using catch phrases or ripping on commentators.

    If you have an idea post it.
    If you like an idea post it.
    Do your homework and dont just follow a party platform.
    Get an original thought and then voice that thought.
    Good day all.

    February 15, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  8. Gary

    The American system work! The politicians just aren't listening to us and therefore we are angry.....STOP SPENDING MONEY THAT WE DON'T HAVE!!!! STOP PROMISING PEOPLE FREE STUFF!!!! STOP TAKING FROM THE HARDEST WORKING PEOPLE AND GIVING TO LAZY PEOPLE!!!

    Look, we all need to work (everyone!). We all need to pay some taxes (everyone!). The wealthier people should pay more (30 to 40%) income taxes than poor people (5 to 10%). But you can't promise people free healthcare, food stamps, public housing and expect the workers to pay. I would 60 hours per week and if someone else is working 60 hours per week and can't afford healthcare then I think we should help them...but frankly, I'm tired of helping people who don't contribute. I'm tire of politicians borrowing against my children's future to give out free stuff. I'm tired of wars we can't afford, Unions that demand too much money, lazy people who think welfare is fair. I'm tired of people with pretty mild injury thinking that they are disabled and should get a free check. If politicians listened to us everything could be fixed and the economy and our country can succed.

    February 15, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. Liberalism is a Mental Disorder

    most intellectual progressive agenda since ancient Greece. –

    Itellectually progressive – Don't know how you can consider you and the policies "intellectual" even though they continue to fail everywhere they are tried and why most socialistic countries are swing back toward capitalism...that kind of reminds me of the definition of INSANITY!

    Speaking of solcialistic failures – Greece is truly thriving with the progressive policies they had in place aren't they?

    February 15, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. NO POWER

    If you think "NO" is the answer then wait and see what happens when the Republicans get back in. It will still be a big "NO" as far as answers to our current situation coming from them. Here's what they will want: a bigger Patriot Act bill, more military spending, and more money for the rich and big corporate businesses while you die fighting for oil. You think it's bad now.

    February 15, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  11. usualone

    The liberal agenda, as some call it, is for most Americans. It is clear the "no" Republicans are united in destroying that party, and in that event they are destroying our country. What a selfish party. Even if the Democrats don't like everything that the President proposes, perhaps they should act like the Repubs do and stick together as one unit. At least they won't be destroying the country as much. Once policies are passed, then they can be tweeked. At least it is a start. Maybe we will have to get a third party?

    February 15, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. cmoore

    Yeah it sucks for you when Americans stand up for themselves and reject this spoon fed communisim that Obama is pushing!!!!
    Get a life!

    February 15, 2010 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  13. al in memphis

    This is the reason we as American are starting to lose our world rankning for intelligence. Doing what right for health care reform, education improvement, debt reduction, is not that hard.

    If people where willing to use their smarts, all they would have to do is follow the money trail. Money is the reason things don't get done–special interest believe they are entitle to the taxpayer piggy bank. Fortunately for them, there are enough mouthpieces willing to spread so much misinformation and commentary on what does not work.

    Couple that with voters who are willing to believe anything that support their partisan views , you get no progress and special interest gets to keep robbing the piggy bank for things that do not move this country forward.

    February 15, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  14. Hows that Toyota workin for ya?

    Lets just be friends?Not.

    February 15, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  15. Dan

    Matt from Detroit may be onto something. Here's something to chew on. While watching a debate, people of a certain "political persuasion" tend not to rationally process counter-ideas, instead, their emotional center is activated in resisting the opposing idea. So the fact that politicians on both sides of our political spectrum emit populist rhetoric rather then reasoned argument says just as much as the voting block of this country as it does about the people we elect to "lead." It's the same phenomenon throughout history. We can only hope, one day, that all the education that has been brought to us by the success of this nation may allow us to use that very large part of our brains that evolved over millions of years. It's this part, unique to humans, which will pave the road, not that very small and primitive part of our brain, of which we share with the rest of the animal kingdom.

    February 15, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  16. arch

    I love these guys! They are so good at blaming everybody else except their own party or themselves! I bet if you were to ask this guy about Obama he would tell you that Obama is doing a great job and that our country is much better off now than before and on and on! He is right when he says the system sucks. The only thing he forgot to mention was the fact that his former boss also sucks! He will go down as one of our worse presidents ever. He is not a leader at all. He doesn't know how to manage anything. When he tries something he is always trying to micromanage. He should go back to being a community organizer. He is also a big liar. But none of Obama's buddies will say that even though they know it is true.

    February 15, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. Ancient Texan

    The Republicans haven't blocked anything! They don't have the votes. The Democrats can pass any bill they want to, but can't agree among themselves. So quit calling the Republicans the party of NO and get on with it, BUT be prepared to have to live with that smelly, corrupt Healthcare Bill for a long time. THE PEOPLE do not want the government to run Healthcare! Also you libs that are so educated and make fun of everyone else as stupid.........Most of you can't put together two coherent sentences in a row. I believe I can live with my stupidity.

    February 15, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. No Longer Hopeful in America

    Evan Bayh and others leaving is like the canary in the mine shaft. It's over...Congress has become irrelevant to any effort to solve problems in this country. The senate has become a dysfunctional joke...and people like Lieberman and Cronyn and Nelson and McConnell among so many others are the punchlines.

    They are playing an insider's game and very soon they will play it alone. Don't they understand that there is more at stake than their simple minds?

    I for one do not intend to take part any longer by voting, contriuting or even watching thse egomaniacs on TV.

    February 15, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. JP

    Its Obama agenda that sucks. He will take this country down the same path that Greese went.

    February 15, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. Dean

    I realize that you liberals will blame the Republicans for blocking everything. But you seem to forget that the Democrats have a filibuster proof majority and they still can't get anything done.
    I know, it's all Bush's fault.

    February 15, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  21. ted

    Politicians are by their very nature stubborn, ignorant, and arrogant. They care more about themselves than the folks at home that elected them to represent them in Washington. Once they get to Washington, they are all about themselves and screw the electorate that put them there.

    This is epitomized to the fullest by the so-called conservatives, The Grand Obstructionist Party AKA the Party of NO. They just don't care about the people and would rather play politics and obstruct all the good things that Barack Obama wants to do.

    Basically the GOP is rascist. As far as I am concerned, they can all go to hell.

    February 15, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. albert

    People say, " write your congressmen",, har har har,,, I've done that so much and it is a total waste of time,, most often I get form letters or emails back that have nothing to do with what I write about or no answer at all. Iam fed up with it and relly fe up with both party's doing nothing but bad mouth and bicker bicker bicker , our system is a failure and I see to many people getting hurt...

    February 15, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  23. bennie new york

    A little simplistic, but pretty much dead on. At a time when we need bold, capable leaders, we have people in Congress from both parties who corrupt and incompetent. Above all, politicians are representing people anymore but instead are representing corporate interests. There's too much corporate money in politics. We need public financing of elections, or at least some kind of meaningful reform so that voters can take the power back.

    February 15, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  24. Shelly

    Republicans DO NOT I repeat DO NOT care for the American people. Their only agenda is to fail President Obama and this country in hopes that stupid people will vote them back to power. Then they can lower taxes on the rich and corporations; engage in more wars to fill pockets of their buddies;laugh at science and inventions; distance the USA from the rest of the world; intrude into the privacy of their citizens and promote right wing radical Christian values.
    Their appalling disregard for doing the right thing for the America is extremely disturbing. If you do not see it, you are blind!

    February 15, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  25. Biased

    It must suck to be a democrat who has a majority in the House and senate and could pass anything they want and can't because of their own party disunity and then feel they have the right to blame it on a party with absolutely no power to stop them? Yes, it sucks to hear democrats whining over their own inadequacies and then pointing fingers as if all of us are deaf dumb and blind and are too stupid to figure out what is going on.

    February 15, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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