Syria and Summers Prove the Power of No

Ideas and Issues
President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin

New Orleans  The progressive forces can suddenly count coup on the Obama Administration over two issues in the matter of recent weeks for both economic progressives and anti-war advocates.

            The irony of having a Nobel Peace Prize winning President caught in a web of his own weaving and left with only military options in Syria and virtually no support from the United Nations, the international community, the United States Congress, or his own party is nothing short of amazing in its proof of a fundamental detachment from basic governmental process.  The schoolyard axiom was always to “think before you speak,” the political rule has always been to “count your votes before you speak,” and the President seems to be leading with his mouth rather than his mind in these matters.  Now luckily for all parties, we are back in the muck and murk of diplomacy with an agreement to take control of Syria’s chemical weapon supply even as there are reports that Syrian military operatives are running around that country trying to hide them away before the turnover.  Nonetheless, even in the worst case scenario, if we are forced to act, we won’t be a pariah country this time, and we are finally giving peace a chance.

            Domestically and to our great relief, Larry Summers, the brusque and arrogant economist and former Treasury Secretary and President of Harvard, has thankfully withdrawn his name from consideration as head of the Federal Reserve Board.   This was the same guy whose fingerprints were all over the deregulation of the banks and rise of risky derivative speculation as well as the “no help, good luck” policy for homeowners facing foreclosures.   Obama was supposedly grateful to him for his help in dealing with the Great Recession, but this was more of a case of someone who was called in to fix something they had helped break, and certainly not someone you could put in charge of something as important as the money supply for our economic future.  Once again, the lack of vote counting was front and center.   In a recent piece I asked who thought Montana’s Senator Jon Testor would really sign up to vote in favor of a big bank apologist.  Sure enough he joined Democratic Senators from Ohio and Oregon and likely Massachusetts in the “no” camp on the Senate Banking Committee on Summers’ potential nomination in a huge victory for progressives.

            These victories are important reminders of the power of saying NO.   The Tea Party has been using such leverage to great effect, so it’s actually past time for progressives to stand up as well, and it’s working.

            Unfortunately, a negative tactical power doesn’t create constructive victories that might win immigration reform or better voter protection or funding for social programs, but at least maybe the President and his people will stop taking our votes for granted and start seeing what he can put on the table to persuade us to stand with him in the future.