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Obama Gets His FDR On

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Mar 30, 2010

The comparison of presidential candidate Barack Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt was overblown. It was made by a few Democratic Party campaign boosters to puff up TV pundit sound bites. Obama might have been flattered by it, but he never encouraged it.

Now he seems finally to be acting like FDR to the delight of many, like this writer, who hoped for exactly that in the first months after the inauguration.

Obama knew, as FDR did, that he was in a political life-and-death war with his political enemies-- the GOP, ultra conservative Democrats, Wall Street, the big bankers and big manufacturers. But unlike FDR, for months he soft-pedaled, coddled and placated his opponents even as they made absolutely no effort to mask their loathing of his policies and presidency, and made it abundantly clear they would stop at nothing to hound him from office. FDR, by contrast, hit back hard at his enemies as obstructionists and economic royalists. He never wavered from his commitment that the workers and farmers, the common man, came first.

Now President Obama has done the same. His in-the-trenches fight back started when he admitted what everyone knew: Making nice with the GOP and making futile appeals to them for bipartisanship sounds good in White House interviews and Congressional speeches, but in the ruthless party-eat-party world of real politick its a surefire prescription for an ineffectual and hapless presidency.

In quick succession, hes rammed through a drastically retooled consumer-friendly health care reform law that is not the pharmaceutical and private health insurer goody-laden bill from six months ago -- with the added FDR touch of beating back the furious lobbying by banks and private lenders, and making the government the lender of first resort for student loans. He added millions to back it up, with a special nod toward expanding aid to financially strapped historically black colleges.

A tweak of the financial reform package takes a strong first step toward reining in the orgy of Wall Street speculation, trading, swaps and scams that nearly wrecked the economy. Although the creation of an independent consumer agency with full power to oversee and regulate lending practices in the financial reform bill did not happen, the new agency will not be under the direct grip of the Fed.

Obama has also endorsed enactment of a modified version of the Glass-Steagall Act, a tough FDR-era bank regulation act.

The watered down and grossly underfunded Senate jobs bill wont do much to dent the near double-digit unemployment. But Obama has signaled that hell plough stimulus dollars directly into government-run job training programs, job banks, and public works projects. The other FDR touch is to virtually order the banks to lend more to distressed homeowners, cut borrowing rates, and terms, and promise more aggressive government intervention to aid strapped homeowners. These are the programs that will do much to help the working class, and the minority poor. It makes the accusation that he pushes a black agenda seem even more silly, ridiculous and self-serving.

Obama ignored the squeals of the GOP obstructionists with appointments to judgeships. And he pushed through a slew of recess appointments of sensitive, moderate, first-class scholars and professionals to diplomatic, commerce, and labor regulatory board posts.

He drew the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by holding firm on his demand to halt renewed Israeli settler expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On a personal level, one should note Obamas magnificent gesture of donating every penny of his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award to solid charities and community help organizations and causes. The big banks and Wall Street could learn a lesson from this example.

FDR did not substitute high-profile media posturing for tough leadership. When the GOP and the press wrote the epitaph for him midway through his second term in 1938, he continued to swing away. He took to the airwaves and hit the road to blast the economic royalists and the obstructionist judges and those in Congress who opposed his reform program.

In the final stages of the health care reform fight and its immediate aftermath, Obama snatched a page directly from FDR and mobilized millions of Americans to fight for real reform. As long as he continues to do that, hell continue to look and act like FDR.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His talk show is on KTYM-AM 1460 AM Los Angeles, Fridays 9:30 AM and KPFK Pacifica Radio 90.7 Los Angeles, Saturdays Noon PST.

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Time for Obama to Get His FDR On

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