Yesterday, as I watched Rachel Maddow interview Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner it occurred to me that Obama might be playing a very skillful game of three-dimensional chess.
Rachel Maddow asked Geithner a question about the Wall Street bonuses and why him and the Obama administration didn’t regulate them more fully. She included that the American people were very angry.
Geithner’s reply was: “…the people should be very angry…”
Wait a minute. Did you just say that the people should be angry over a mess you helped cause? Is that what I just heard you say? Really?
He went on to say that people should watch the finance reform bill to make sure the Democrats don’t allow the Republicans to water it down anymore than it has been.
Ahhhh…and on goes the light above my head.
Let me explain what I mean about the three dimensional chess:
I feel that Obama, through his mostly lackluster support of the public option in the healthcare bill, allowed it to die. And this in turn has motivated the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to mount a vigorous campaign to get the public option reinstalled. (These are the majority of people that worked so hard to get Obama elected). It now appears there are the votes in the Senate to pass the public option through reconciliation. We just need a little more pressure to make it a reality.
Could it be that Obama knew there probably wasn’t the votes for it and knew his “I support it, though don’t care if it is in the bill” attitude would help kill the public option, thus angering the American people so they would mobilize and force Congress to include it?
The Bush administration and then the Obama administration gave a lot of money to the big banks and investment houses on Wall Street with no provisions or regulations covering executive pay, though it appeared most of the American people wanted it.
What would have happened if Obama had capped executive’s pay and regulated their bonuses? The American people would think the problem had been fixed and would no longer pay attention. That would then enable the financial sector to kill the real reform silently and behind the scenes where no one would know until it was too late.
Instead, the Obama administration didn’t do that and those Wall Street firms that got taxpayer money gave out bigger and more bonuses this year then ever before.
And as could have been predicted, the American people got quite angry, and there are more people watching the finance reform bill than would have been had the bonuses been restricted.
Obama organized and led a huge hunk of the American voting public. Through his campaign he was able to motivate millions to volunteer and donate that had never done so before.
The people that worked to get him elected are being mobilized again. And this is mostly because of decisions that Obama and his administration have made that haven’t set well with the Progressives.
Obama is, in effect, creating somewhat of a citizen backlash against the healthcare insurance companies, and soon against the “too big to fail” financial institutions in this country.
This theory comes from personal experience. I am one of those that donated to, and volunteered for, Obama for the first time. Having engaged in the political process like that, along with the millions like me, I had some expectation that I would have some of my agenda, what is important to me, passed into law.
If Congress had not worked with the Republicans for so long, if they had been a little stronger and had passed a healthcare bill last summer with a strong public option in it, a portion of the electorate would stop paying attention. They would leave it to Congress to get it done since they had done so well with healthcare.
Instead, the opposite happened, and a lot of people have stayed engaged in the process because of it.
If this is true, if this is what Obama is doing, then he is a more skillful and brilliant politician than most people give him credit for. And he is essentially forcing the American people to be engaged in the political process in this country. And that is a good thing.
So. Is Obama playing chess, or am I just giving him more credit than he deserves?