In its patronizing desire to instruct us on what is wrong with our politics, No Labels ends up being a damning indictment of just how alarmingly out of touch the mainstream political-media elite remains with the grievances that have driven Americans to cynicism and despair in the 21st century’s Gilded Age.I am sad to hear this. I was hoping that a 'third party' centrist movement might address the very political issues cited by Frank Rich. But the name 'Evan Bayh' doesn't impress me much...he's always come across to me as a corporate toady.
The marquee names on hand included Michael Bloomberg; Senate Democrats (Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, the incoming Joe Manchin of West Virginia); moderate Republicans drummed out of office by the Tea Party (Charlie Crist, Mike Castle); and no fewer than four MSNBC talking heads. Despite Bloomberg’s denials, some persist in speculating that No Labels is a stalking horse for a quixotic 2012 presidential run. At the very least the organization is a promotional hobby horse for MSNBC.
Yet what’s most disturbing about No Labels is that its centrist, no doubt well-intentioned leaders seem utterly clueless about why Americans of all labels are angry: the realization that both parties are bought off by special interests who game the system and stack it against the rest of us. Indeed, No Labels itself is another manifestation of this syndrome. Its two prime movers are a political consultant, Mark McKinnon, a veteran of the Bush and McCain campaigns known for slick salesmanship; and a fund-raiser, Nancy Jacobson, who, along with her husband, the pollster and corporate flack Mark Penn, helped brand the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a depository for special-interest contributions.
No less depressing is the No Labels veneration of Evan Bayh, the Democratic senator from Indiana who decided to retire this year rather than fight for another term. For months now, Bayh has been positioning himself as a sacrificial lamb to broken Washington; when he made the rounds plugging No Labels last week, he was greeted as a martyr on MSNBC. What goes unmentioned in the Bayh morality tale is that in quitting the Senate without a fight, he became part of the problem rather than the solution: his exit facilitated the election of a high-powered corporate lobbyist, Dan Coats, as his Republican successor. Then again, Bayh’s father — another former liberal Democratic senator — is also a lobbyist. (Evan Bayh has so far been mum about his own post-Senate career plans.)
This is exactly the kind of revolving-door synergy between corporate power and governance that turns off Americans left, right and, yes, center.
WHAT America needs is not another political organization with a toothless agenda and less-than-transparent finances. The country will not rest easy until there are brave leaders in both parties willing to reform the system that let perpetrators of the Great Recession escape while the rest of us got stuck with the wreckage.
Our political leaders seem more inclined to hasten the next bust — and perhaps cash in on it — than prevent it. Massachusetts Republicans can’t be blamed if they react with anger, not civility, to The Boston Globe’s new revelations that Scott Brown raked in off-the-charts donations from the finance industry while toiling to weaken the financial regulatory bill. Democrats are equally entitled to be outraged that Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, has followed the egregious example of his mentor, Robert Rubin, by moving from the White House to a job at Citigroup — and only four months after leaving government service.
As The Times reported, Citi is now marketing all-new lines of loosey-goosey credit cards to debt-prone Americans much as it stoked the proliferation of no-money-down mortgages during Rubin’s tenure in the housing bubble. It can do so with impunity, since the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus, has already guaranteed institutions like Citi a pass. As Bachus’s instantly notorious pronouncement had it, “My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”
In truth, this congressman’s view has been the prevailing view in Washington under both parties since the Reagan administration. If No Labels is the best our centrist political establishment can come up with to address the ills eating away at America, its culture is as bankrupt as Citigroup would be if taxpayers had been allowed to let it fail.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
No True Reform in Sight from 'No Labels'
Frank Rich pans the new 'independent' organization 'No Labels', for not getting to the heart of what ails 21st century America: