It’s time to emerge from the twilight zone and bring in some new old blood

Usborne in the USA

Share
Related Topics

Apparently it takes an Arctic snap to wake up Washington. Or maybe it’s the realisation that 2013 is almost at an end and the record thus far has been, well, more or less pathetic. This Congress, by the way, is set to be the least productive of any in the past six decades. As of 1 December, 6,375 Bills had been introduced while just 56 had become law. Its most notable achievement of the year: closing down the federal government for two weeks in October. Bravo. As for lacunae, you might ask yourself whatever happened to the plans for immigration reform and new gun controls.

No wonder that Gallup is reporting an average approval rating for Congress for the year of just 14 per cent – the lowest in the polling organisation’s history. Meanwhile, the White House is still reeling from the botched roll-out of its healthcare reforms. If there was the equivalent of a Razzie for the year’s most atrocious website, Barack Obama would have it on his mantelpiece now alongside his Nobel Peace Prize trophy.

Yet with Advent has come a stirring. The majority Senate Democrats finally had the guts to change the rules on filibustering, the chamber on Tuesday managed to confirm Patricia Millett as a new judge on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Now, several other previously stymied key Obama judicial appointees should similarly emerge from the twilight zone and get their promised posts.

And rejoice in the astounding news that the bipartisan panel convened after the fiscal debacle of October to agree a  two-year budget framework, to spare the country any repeat shutdown melodramas at least for that period, has not only done  a deal, but got there a full 72 hours before it absolutely had to. That’s not meant  to happen. It is even looking as if Republicans are ready to fall in line behind the package to ensure quick passage by  the full Congress.

The flurry in the White House is about personnel. Some recently have dared suggest that the Obamacare mess was a symptom of a wider problem for the president: that his inner circle had become too insular and was possibly peopled by dunderheads. A few among the party faithful – notably Robert Gibbs, his former spokesman and now a TV pundit – even demanded that he start firing some people. That, however, does not come easily to Mr Obama, which explains why the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is still employed. He is, however, moving to bring in some new blood. Well, new old blood.

The West Wing is hardly unfamiliar territory to John Podesta, the eagle-featured Democrat heavyweight whose appointment as new senior counsellor to Mr Obama first emerged on Monday. Nor are Mr Obama’s thought processes. He ran the then President-elect’s transition team at the end of 2008 and was White House Chief of Staff in the tumultuous second term of Bill Clinton.

After freeing himself from government, Mr Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank in Washington that gives intellectual heft to the Democratic Party and is a favourite forum for its leaders for delivering set-piece policy speeches. Within it, he also recently founded the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, conceived to address America’s income inequality crisis. There are slight signs in some polls that Mr Obama may be over the worst. Yet, the extent of the political pummelling dealt him by the healthcare fiasco can’t be overstated. That one poll showed his approval rating recovering from 41 per cent to 45 per cent was taken by the White House as good news. So advanced are his second-term blues some of his supporters have a hard job believing that his second-term inauguration was only at the start of this year.

Now they are praying that Mr Podesta has the muscle to turn things around. He did, after all, help save Mr Clinton’s skin during the whole Monica Lewinsky, impeachment trial humiliation. He is also an advocate of the President using his executive powers to circumvent Congress when necessary to get things done. In a 2010 report he co-authored, Mr Podesta said those powers are an “opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage.”

If shame has returned a modicum of sanity to Congress, then we should be glad, even if, with next year’s mid-term elections looming, it may not last. It will  be Podesta’s job to make sure Mr Obama re-harnesses his magic to run his country in more convincing fashion than he has  managed of late.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Jamie Oliver joins children as they celebrate Food Revolution Day 2014 by cooking bread, making smoothies and creating salads at St Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary School in London  

Teaching children to cook at school is a recipe for self-respect

Grace Dent
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before