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. Tony T

    "Podesta is 100% correct: The American political system as it currently stands is NOT DOING THE JOB! In short, it sucks." It has nothing to do with the system, the system works just fine. Its with the politicians that have no idea the majority of tje country is center-right. The push to the far left is what America is fighting against and winning. So Podesta is right in the fact that he can't force his progressive socialist ideas on the country, so to him maybe he thinks he is 100% right.

    February 15, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. u2canfail

    It seems we have forgotten how this works. When writing the American Constitution things were a bit heated. But you know what, they came up with a compromise. It has stood the test of time, with only a few modifications. These days you stand for yours and never ours. Then there is all that money, can we say bankers? Why do we not have a banking bill? Lack of banking laws that work caused this. MONEY Those banks are going to do the same thing again. They have bought our Congressmen, both Parties.

    February 15, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. Darko

    Funny how they blame the party that had no way to stop them...

    February 15, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. malclave

    He's got a point. How else would you describe a political system that would allow a neophyte like Barack Obama into the White House, without a shred of scrutiny by the Fifth Column... um, I mean the Fourth Estate.

    February 15, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. john ross

    "Right now we have the republicans enjoying a 41-59 advantage in congress."

    wow so this is how liberals see the world....except of course that it doesn't explain the past year.....but hey facts should never get in the way when you trying to explain your failure

    February 15, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. Buridan

    Washington and Jefferson are known to have disagreed on whether or not it was necessary to have the Senate. I believe Jefferson has been proven correct. The Senate is perfectly useless in today's America. It doesn't serve the people. It's a Buridan's Ass. Legislation upon Legislation is clogged up there. They can't even pass a Job's bill while all agreeing that jobs is the number one priority in the nation at this time.

    February 15, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Gerry NH

    Poor Pedesta whin whin whin. Both parties are equally to blame neither of them seem to care about what the people want. We need to clean out congress.

    February 15, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. michael

    How can Podesta say that it sucks and blame the republicans? did I miss something or didnt the democrats have the all powerful super majority. they could have passed anything they wanted. they couldnt because they couldnt even convince some members of their own caucus to vote with them. could it be they were trying to take the country too far to the left??? this democratic majority is incapable of providing anything close to leadership. stop blaming the republicans, the tea party and everything else. you had the supermajority and still couldnt get anything done. youre the one that sucks.

    February 15, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  9. Mark B.

    The system does work. These rediculous pieces of legislation born of back room buy-offs and late night shennanigans are a misuse of government. Perhaps if the democrats would choose to work within the constraints of checks and balances as dictated by our constitution,
    some GOOD legislation would get passed. The president needs to focus on REAL solutions and leave the socialist agenda in the dust. The right doesn't want it. The left won't pass it. The American people are fed up with it.

    February 15, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  10. Tom in Delaware

    Podesta is as Left as they come...his disappointment is music to the ears of true Americans.

    February 15, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  11. Rick

    The only one to blame is The Bilderberg Group....They are running both parties simultanously... Look them up, they are incharge of the Rep/Dem they are actually one party... look in the 2004 election Kerry vs. Bush , it strange the both belong to the small club, the Skull & Crossbones society.... They both are members in the same club, put 2 & 2 together people ....

    February 15, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  12. D.

    Blaming the other party while holding absolute majorities in both houses and the presidency indeed sucks!

    February 15, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  13. Doug

    Oh yeah, it sucks that his bother and sister have carte blanche to the White House thanks to him. They made millions Working on Health Care with my President, Barack "no lobbyists" Obama.

    February 15, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  14. They call me "tater salad"

    I don't need anyone telling me our government sucks..........I've been well aware of that for quite some time now........ But thanks for the heads up anyway!

    February 15, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  15. Bill Brooker

    Another reason Washington sucks is because the constituents in the red states don't know what socialism is, listen to blowhards who don't have a clue, are anti-intellectuals, and fail to realize that 95% of this increase in spending was done to avert economic catastrophe– and it's these wacko constituents that are threatening their congressmen with their livelihood, thus stalling any real work. America is bound to fail because as the years go by, the general public just gets dumber and dumber.

    February 15, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  16. Jake

    The party of NO-the Dems-NO jobs NO improvement NO plan NO hope NO change NO truth just alot of blame it on someone else come Nov. mumble to your self on the way home morons

    February 15, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. Russ

    One thing for sure is that Republicans have shown their true colors this past year...cracks me up actually. Especially the ones who claim to be Christians...

    February 15, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  18. Butch

    It all seems to be "coming to a head" now. Thank goodness for Tea Parties!

    Obama shouldn't have made so many promises if he didn't intend to keep them! He has disappointed a LOT of people! LOTS AND LOTS! On the campaign trail, if he was just reading the words of his Script writers (make that Fiction Writers!) he should've deleted the parts he had no intention of following through on. It appears he did because it looked good, or looked like it'd garner a vote.
    Too much emphasis was on getting elected, and not enough on what he would DO, once he got there. Now, lacking leadership ability – he has the mess that HE made for himself!

    February 15, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  19. Nick in Virginia

    It seems that Podesta has just come to the realization that conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have major differences of opinion as to how the country should be run.

    And please give up on this "Republicans are causing the gridlock in Washington" crap. For the past year the Republicans COULD NOT STOP ANYTHING THE DEMOCRATS WANTED TO DO, if they were 100% united. With a huge margin in the House and a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate, the ONLY thing that could stop the Democrats was other Democrats.

    And son of a gun, the "moderate" Democrats did indeed hold up some of 0bama 's plans, which just demonstrates how bad some of that legislation was.

    February 15, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  20. Viralam

    Unfortunately things will get even worse with the probable Republican party gains this November. The President has to threaten obstructionists (where Bush had his bipartisan success), not verbally sway them.

    February 15, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  21. ProfBill

    Ben Franklin's disgust at the chosen form of government in the 1770's ("It's A REPUBLIC, IF you can keep IT!") is proving to be all too warranted. He was well versed in the former two failures (Greece and Rome) of such "governance" and wanted nothing to do with it. The herd is ungovernable.....

    February 15, 2010 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  22. lilacluvr

    It's funny to see some Republicans actually think they are going to carry 2010 and 2012. The country is sick of BOTH parties and is in the position to punish both parties if there happens to be a third party candidate that taps into the anti-incumbent mood of the voters.

    The Tea Party is nothing more than a clown act that is fronting for the same old angry white guys that got us into the economic mess and the two unnecessary wars. Do you really think the same old white angry guys are going to change their tactics and bring real change?

    Yeah, right. If you believe that, I've got a bridge for sale in Alaska real cheap and that rainbow stew is scheduled for tomorrow's lunch!

    February 15, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  23. David In West Virginia

    It's a sad state of affairs when politicans can cause this country to sink, send our jobs overseas, create two wars, looking for #3, tell us the economy is great when it tanked, yet be favorites to win political office. What has happened to the American public that they are being blind sighted by the republican party. We need jobs, health care, but all we have is two wars and Wall streeters getting richer. It appears the LOBBYIST RULES, along with the Republican party. Where are the cowards, called the Democrat Party. It's no wonder they are losing in the mid-terms. They are being cowardly , letting the minority rule like the majority for fear of their jobs. Well, send them home (Lincoln), and the like and let the republicans destroy our country, then, just maybe, eyes will open – if it's not too late!

    February 15, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  24. l d blake

    Amen brother!!

    it is stupid to not work with and support our USA PRESIDENT

    WHY IN THIS WORLD WE CANNOT GET OUR CONGRESS help us to pass his great vision for America

    February 15, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. Marvin

    It sucks to be a loser.....

    February 15, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
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