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Budowsky: Obama’s sin, Clinton’s choice

The original sin of the Obama presidency is that the man who was elected in 2008 on an eloquent promise to change the way Washington works, close the revolving door of special interests and transform the way government functions, never really meant it and never tried to do it.

As Americans are tired and Democrats are depressed by Obama fatigue, as the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy is gravely endangered in 2014 by a surplus of Democrats who may not vote, as Hillary Clinton embarks on a book tour that could reveal which hard choices she is prepared to make, a great battle has begun for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and the political future of the nation.

{mosads}Recent elections in Europe are the latest example of the great populist wave that is advancing around the world, as well as the battle between the left and right to ride this wave and the fierce resistance from oligarchs with cash and dictators with guns.

Regarding the great populist debate Obama is a talker, not a player. His first Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, has written a book in which he demeans the champion of American progressives, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), suggesting that when she was overseeing the financial bailout for the Senate, at the suggestion of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), she seemed more interested in YouTube videos than financial inquiries. More false and contemptuous words have rarely been spoken against a leader with the integrity, depth and idealism of Warren.

Can you imagine former officials of the Roosevelt or Kennedy presidencies speaking this way against the base that elected them?

Geithner also says in his book that he is uncomfortable with people having strong convictions. I propose in opposition to Geithner the pleas of Pope Francis for financial reform and economic justice.

In the latest example of Obama’s original sin of failing to change the way Washington works, The New York Times reports Wednesday about the “battle of Britain” in which former top Obama aides, instead of fighting to save his presidency, instead of battling to save Democrats in November, are absconding to Britain to make big bucks promoting British politicians.

Can you imagine FDR’s political brain trusters, Louis Howe and Harry Hopkins, or JFK’s inner circle, Robert Kennedy and Kenny O’Donnell, leaving America at critical moments for their presidents, as Jim Messina does today, to make profit promoting foreign conservatives?

Obama cannot blame his predecessor, Republicans or Congress for his original sin of continuing the old politics of insider Washington. He owns his own revolving door. This is a major reason the word “Obama” is most often associated with “disappointment.”

Regarding Clinton’s new book, Hard Choices, ignore the pundits, dismiss Benghazi, forget Lewinsky. Read the book, and above all, watch the book tour. The hardest choices Clinton must make involve the future, not the past. What causes will she champion and whose interests will she fight for with the passion and conviction Americans want in their next president?

What will Clinton’s answer be when asked during the book tour: Do you support bringing back Glass-Steagall? What do you think of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring? Do you support massive eavesdropping? Will you fight to provide more food for the hungry? Do you stand with Geithner or Warren on the great matter of economic justice in our age?

At a recent conference of populists, Warren brought the audience to its feet with calls for a fairer and more just economy. “Run, Elizabeth, run,” answered the audience. Warren will not run against Clinton, but the voices in that room were the heart and soul of the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy.

As a progressive populist, I have been very encouraged by a series of recent Clinton speeches. Hillary Clinton should not be a carbon copy of Elizabeth Warren, but as Shakespeare wrote: “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

The tide today is enlightened populism. If Clinton makes the hard choice to seize this tide, the fortune could be a lasting political realignment and the first great Madame President to lift the nation and light the world.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at

Tags Elizabeth Warren Harry Reid Hillary Clinton
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