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. Lynn

    The only people paying for our 2 wars is the Military and their families. Gone are the days of everybody sacrificing, rationing and working towards a common goal – defeat the enemy. Now we fight each other and our enemies love it.

    February 15, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. yagottabe kidding

    What a joke....the deal is you all want something from the Gov but don't want the other guy to get it...get your morgage subsidized, parents on SS and Medcare (they need it don't they), new roads and new school for your kids, maybe a Pell Grant.......just don't ask me to pay for it and don't give it to the lazy bum over there. You need to work 60 hrs a week because when someone told you you need a good education you paid no attention...now it is someone elses fault.

    Spoiled, over-weigth whiners....its on you

    February 15, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. am

    I don't understand the complaints about spending. Had the Gov not spend lots of money, the economy would have been much worse. It is shameful that this country does not have healhcare provisons for its citizens, particularly for the underpriviledged and the unemployed. All leading countries have it, why can't we? Self interest and party politics must give way to public interest. President Obama is trying but the self interest of the Republicans and the stupidity of the Democrats, with their inability to get it done even with a majority, has prevented this urgently needed bill to pass. What a circus it is.

    February 15, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. gregory g

    the republicans are treating the democrats like the democrats are the terrorists and refusing to negotiate. Get your priorities straight and realize we are al americans aren't the enemy!

    February 15, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  5. The Lady

    I have to agree, our country is more concerned about scoring political points then we are about our problems we are facing. What a shame a good country falling apart because of inflated ego's.

    February 15, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. Dave, NE

    This guy is another joker. He had done enough damage when Clinton was there. Now Barack Obama has nobody who is credible. He has no experience and so he can use his brain as well. Bayh is leaving him now. I do not think any credible politician can work with Barack Obama. This is the worst president America had and I do not believe that anybody as bad and damaging than he is. Wake up America. YOU all brought him to power without knowing his agenda and experience. Big talk from teleprompter means nothing.

    February 15, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    This is where recess appointments and reconciliation come into play.

    Go for it, Dems and Mr. President! Do what's right for our country, NOW!

    The Republicans have shown they are intent on taking our country down the toilet – let's stop them any way we can!

    February 15, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. Peter Vaguely

    It's not politics that sucks, it's smug Republicans. 8 Years ruining the economy with needless wars and tax cuts for the rich and now you want to stop all the spending. It's funny how everyone wants the spending to stop as long as nothing THEY depend on gets cut. I got news for you. You're gonna love the next 3 years 'cause it's gloves off time!

    February 15, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  9. guy from NM

    wow, what a surprise!!! Its been sucking for so long you had to be blind not to see it before

    February 15, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  10. ED FL

    This is what happens when the likes of Pelosi and Reid are given positions of power. Neither has any integrity or honesty.The members of the house and senate must find a legitimate way to rid this country from these two scumbags in the leadership positions they hold. They also need to get rid of about 6 Hanger ons in each side of the senate and dozens in the house from both paries.

    February 15, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Everybody hear complaining about the deficit doesn't know diddly about how the budgeting process works, or understands that investing in infrastructure and job creation are what's going to reverse this recession and get our economy back on track.

    All you yahoos believe that if you give enough money to the rich, it'll somehow tinkle down on you.

    You'd think that after 30 years of this NOT WORKING, you'd catch a clue!

    February 15, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Chris

    The problem is that our elected officials have forgotten to put the good of the country first (rather than "pork" their way to reelection) and a distressingly large fraction of the U.S. population has done the same thing (cheap health care is NOT a right). The U.S. government is destroying U.S. productivity through pointless regulation and wasteful spending. We have close to 50% of the population who don't pay income tax but are more than willing to vote themselves benefits. Welcome to the real world folks ... the government is the "solution" in VERY few areas (space exploration, national parks, defense, etc). Hard work and compassion made this country great – we need more of both.

    February 15, 2010 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  13. AB

    You and your fellow leftists dished it out for years Podesta, and now you're getting a taste of your own medicine. WAAH! Get used to it...

    February 15, 2010 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  14. Charles Buck

    Mr. Podesta is disgruntled about the nature of politics and the tactics of the Obama administration. His myopic view and lack of understanding is typical of the progressive politicians and policy wonks currently in power. He cannot accept that the citizens of the U.S. are overwhelmingly sick and tired of big government, deficit spending, and quasi-socialist ideas. We want small, un-intrusive Federal Government, more local control, and most of all, lower taxation. Not minor tweaks, but real lower taxation, like a 10% flat tax or national sales tax, and THAT'S IT. The Federal Government needs to go back to constitutional principles.

    February 15, 2010 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  15. valwayne

    Mr. Podesta takes time to lament the problems with the American political system and turns it into an attack on the Republican party and Sarah Palin? Last time I checked Gov Palin wasn't holding any political office. With Obama and Democrats in constant attack mode is it any suprise that they can't get the Republicans to cooperate? And do they really expect Republicans to side with them against the American people and vote for the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback, and the $60 billion union payoff, and the additional trillions and trillions in corrupt spending? Do they really have so little respect for the voters?

    February 15, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. jvd4486

    There are two problems with politics in the US today.

    First the only thing the Republicans care about is blocking anything the Dems do. They're single minded. They don't care about the problems this country faces. They're act like spoiled children. When their parents tell them something is good for them but they want the opposite, they'll kick and scream until they get their way.

    Second the Dems are too scared to stand up to the Repubs. They need to do what Bill Clinton did in 1995- hold their ground until the Repubs give in. Repubs are just really good at lieing about how much compromise they would accept... theyre usually willing to give in much more than they say they will. The Dems need to call their bluffs more often, they would get a lot more done.

    February 15, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Conan the Librarian

    Hmmm...we vote in the same two parties of self-serving crooks in every major election, reduce every political debate to a bunch of talking points and crybaby partisan name-calling, and then expect our political system not to suck? Riiiiight...

    February 15, 2010 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. MJ

    We continue to reward those who make bad choices. Government is making people who have worked hard, earned the right to a decent life, to be responsible to those who choose otherwise. This is killing America. To have children just to increase the Welfare Checks is morally wrong. What the government is doing is nothing short of Socialism. It truly does suck.

    February 15, 2010 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  19. sifto77

    love how "supermajority " libs try to blame conservatives for their problems–now they are trying to suck up to republicans knowing Americans are not leftists and do not like their policies.Too little smarts, too late–they (the Dems) are not to be trusted–

    February 15, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  20. Mike in SA

    What sucks is a guy in his position that can't count. His party had a large majority of the House, had a filibuster-proof Senate with 60 Senators caucusing with the Dems, and the presidency. The reason nothing happened has nothing to do with a Republican party that didn't have the numbers to block anything. That he "blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans" shows that A) he is an idiot who somehow graduated from Georgetown but can't count or B) he needs to ask his therapist what "projection" means. That he points his finger at the other side when they were helpless in blocking any legislation shows that he...John Podesta...is what makes the politics of today "suck".

    February 15, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  21. mojo

    I love hearing "more handouts to lazy people" considering the banking, energy, insurance, drug, agriculture industries (to name a few) all thrive and depend on government services, handouts and protections.

    Speaking of socialism...

    February 15, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  22. Dan

    To the point! Finally!

    However, don't blame just one poltical party here. This game is a constant for Washington.
    Unfortuantely, it has become a model for most all offices. Most common folk as myself feel as though we have no say at all. Same crap as always. Do whatever you have to to get elected, then do what you want to until approximately six months before it is time to try and hit the gravy train again.

    February 15, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    ...and we all know what system Podesta and his fellow Obama Kool-Aid drinkers would like to see it replaced with. Can you say диктатура?

    What sucks most about our political system is the uneducated, uninformed, gullible electorate which is so easily manipulated by the media and has elected an unintelligent, inexperienced marxist president. ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES PEOPLE!!

    February 15, 2010 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  24. Big Joe

    Democrats only think it sucks when they can't strongarm the people into doing something the people don't want.

    February 15, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  25. Glen

    Now the Democrats are victims of the system, cry me a bucket. They had everything going for them for almost a full year. There was nothing the Republicans could do AND they still couldn't pass their favorite little programs. Didn't hear too many complaints while they were skewering Bush with the system. What a bunch of idiots. No wonder the independents are turning away from these cry-baby, do nothing Democrats

    February 15, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
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