Stoller on Schneiderman & Obama

Matt Stoller has been consistently writing thoughtful analysis about the Obama administration and what’s happening in American political life, but this piece at Naked Capitalism is undoubtedly one of his sharpest pieces of writing, pulling together a number of different threads of analysis around what we’re seeing out of New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman. Stoller pushes the analysis (bold in its rarity) that Schneiderman, like Obama and any other politician, is doing what he wants to do.

In all the absurdly stupid punditry, the simple application of free will to our elected officials goes missing. Yeah, Obama got money from Wall Street. But Obama is choosing to pursue a policy of foreclosures and bank bailouts not because of any grand corporate scheme. He just wants to. He thinks it’s the right thing to do, and he’s doing it. If you don’t think it’s the right thing to do, then you shouldn’t be disappointed in him any more than you might have been disappointed in Bush. Obama is not trying to do the opposite of what he’s doing, he’s not repeatedly suckered by Republicans, and he isn’t naive or stupid. Obama is simply doing what he thinks is right. So is Eric Schneiderman. So is Tom Miller. So are any number of elected officials out there.

In positions of power, the best expression I heard is that “up there the air is thin”. That is, you have enormous latitude, if you want to use it. Power can be wielded creatively and effectively on behalf of whatever it is the wielder wants. Now of course there are constraints, plenty of them. Smart politicians spend their time working to maximize the constraints they want to impose and weakening the ones they want to overcome. But the basic Reaganite liberal argument defending supplication towards Obama these days is that Obama is “disappointing”. In this line of thought, powerful corporate interests and Republicans are preventing him from enacting what his real agenda would be were he unfettered by this mean machine. Eric Schneiderman, who is in a far less powerful position as New York Attorney General, shows that this is utter hogwash. Obama is who he is, and anyone who thinks otherwise is selling something.

The rest of the piece is really sharp and definitely worth reading. There aren’t many people consistently putting out clear-minded analysis of the Obama administration and political dynamics in America today, but Matt is one of them.

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