FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Return of Podesta

by ALAN FARAGO

The Washington Post opines that the return to the White House of John Podesta, former chief of staff in the Clinton administration,  who have been disappointed by the absence of focus in the Obama White House. Maybe.

The Clinton White House was a laggard on the environment. Senior staffers — Podesta, for example — were inclined to push signal aspects of federal environmental policies (ie. assertion of federal authority to protect the nation’s air and water quality) to the lowest rungs of the priority list. Today, former president Bill Clinton talks about the importance of addressing climate change with the best, but when he had the chance as a president, he did very little.

Podesta’s service in the White House was capped by the passage of NAFTA — an international trade agreement that sped the hollowing-out of the nation’s industrial centers, leading to profound economic imbalances that have only grown in the intervening decades. Passage of NAFTA required tremendous political skills, but one wonders how Podesta looks back on the results, now, and the extent to which those results changed him.

As founder of the Center for American Progress, Podesta has been a strong, impressive leader. The Center is providing a muscular response and push back against conservative foundations that helped to fill legislatures across the land with right wing extremists and anti-environmental policies.

If the Post is right — and if being a forceful voice for the environment is a purpose of Obama’s inclusion of Podesta in the White House inner circle — the first indication would be for Podesta to address the weakness in Obama’s (and Clinton’s earlier) environmental strategy.  That would be to pay closer attention to political appointees who run environmental agencies at the sub-cabinet level — mandating stronger leadership — and re-invigorate regional staff of agencies by replacing the survivalist culture that especially prevails in places like Florida.

“Visionaries” at the top of federal environmental agencies — the media routinely cites former Floridian Carol Browner, for example — are more often than not figureheads for immobile and often immoveable bureaucracies. The reason is that within federal environmental agencies the highest level of management are staffed by “survivalists”. These senior managers are not valued by initiative but rather by skill sets that ensure safety when political winds are howling.

This phenomenon substantially hobbled environmental policies and implementation. Surely Podesta understands how the revolving door between the regulated and regulators has eroded environmental protections, and how anti-government, right-wing extremists have chipped away at environmental protections at exactly the time and in the decades they have been most needed.

The nation needs a strong broom to clean out the cobwebs in moribund environmental agencies and executive ranks in the regions staffed by survivalists. Obama is a distracted president. Whether John Podesta can “make things happen”, especially in the face of a predictable and brutish push-back from the extremist GOP, is an open question.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail