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:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail