Howard Fineman, the Establishment, and Barack Obama

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

As Eric noted, Howard Fineman doesn't bother quoting or paraphrasing anyone in "The Establishment" in his column about the Establishment turning on Barack Obama. That's because Fineman, though he tries to pretend otherwise, is a member of that establishment. He doesn't need to quote it, he is it.

So let's look at the complaints the Establishment has with Barack Obama, according to Establishment spokesman Howard Fineman:

By recent standards—and that includes Bill Clinton as well as George Bush—Obama for the most part is seeking to govern from the left, looking to solidify and rely on his own party more than woo Republicans. And yet he is by temperament judicious, even judicial. He'd have made a fine judge. But we don't need a judge. We need a blunt-spoken coach.

Yes, that's right. Barack Obama is too judicious; what we need is a "blunt-spoken leader." Didn't we just have one of those? How did that work out?

More Fineman:

The president gave up the moral high ground on spending not so much with the "stim" but with the $400 billion supplemental spending bill, larded as it was with 9,000 earmarks.

First, those earmarks amounted to about two percent of the bill, so it's pretty dishonest to say it was "larded" with "9,000 earmarks." Second, Fineman doesn't bother to tell us why a single one of those earmarks was a poor use of money.

Then Fineman says the Establishment is unhappy that Obama has not called for sacrifice:

The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to "give up" something.

Obama has, of course, called for the very wealthiest of Americans -- those making more than $200,000 -- to make some sacrifices, in the form of higher taxes. So what Howard Fineman and the Establishment -- many of whom make more than $200,000 -- really mean when they complain that Obama isn't calling for sacrifice is that he isn't calling for sacrifice from the working class. If only Obama would demand higher taxes from laid-off autoworkers and middle managers and single mothers working two jobs, Howard Fineman and the Establishment would be euphoric.

Another Fineman/Establishment complaint:

A willingness to give too much leeway to Congress to handle crucial details, from the stim to the vague promise to "reform" medical care without stating what costs could be cut.

This from the same Establishment that has long contended that an unwillingness to allow Congress to handle the details of health care reform is what undid Bill and Hillary Clinton's efforts in the 1990s.


A seeming reluctance to seek punishing prosecutions of the malefactors of the last 15 years—and even considering a plea bargain for Bernie Madoff, the poster thief who stole from charities and Nobel laureates and all the grandparents of Boca. Yes, prosecutors are in charge, but the president is entitled—some would say required—to demand harsh justice.

This from the same Establishment that has spent the past three years insisting that Bush administration malefactors not be subjected to "punishing prosecutions" or "harsh justice."


Obama is no socialist, but critics argue that now is not the time for costly, upfront spending on social engineering in health care, energy or education.

And others think that's easy for the Establishment to say -- the Establishment already has health care and education, and can afford energy. Not to mention that many consider fixing those things essential to fixing the economy, so now is precisely the time for them.

Fineman's eagerness to speak on behalf of the Establishment is, indeed, creepy. What he says is even worse.

Fortunately, there is no reason to put any stock in Fineman's warnings of peril for Obama. After all, this is the same Howard Fineman who wrote a late-2005 column arguing that Democrats had good reason to be "gloomy" about their political prospects, in part because they supposedly lacked "star power." Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and somewhere north of 50 new members of Congress would probably disagree with that assessment ...

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