Let's Play the World's Smallest Violin for the Pod Save America Boys

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On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote a column on some of the biggest failures of the Obama administration, which Manjoo concludes were due to the administration’s reliance on neoliberal solutions to problems that required Roosevelt-level government intervention.

The column—which was pegged to a pair of new books, A Crisis Wasted by former FCC chair Reed Hundt, and Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by frequent Obama critic and Open Markets fellow Matt Stoller—was remarkably fair, crediting Obama and his administration for helping to put the brakes on a recession that otherwise might have slipped into another Great Depression. But Manjoo also criticized the administration for how it handled the stimulus package, as well as its broader adherence to Clintonite neoliberalism on issues like healthcare:

By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.


Manjoo’s column was sharply-worded, but, again, fair. Nonetheless, it shot out like a bat signal to Obama administration alumni, including the Pod Save America boys, who are definitively the biggest chodes in the world of podcasting. Co-host and former senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer was first:

As radio host and Massachussetts politician Bill Humphrey pointed out, Manchin wasn’t even in the Senate at the time. It’s also worth mentioning that Obama himself endorsed Lieberman’s campaign over anti-war candidate Ned Lamont in the 2006 Democratic primary. (Lamont won the primary, but lost to Lieberman’s third-party campaign in the general.) And then, after Lieberman endorsed John McCain over Obama in 2008, Obama helped convince the Senate Democratic caucus to give Lieberman a slap on the wrist and let him keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee.

Joining Pfeiffer in his defense of Obama (and then, oddly, Larry Summers, perhaps the single biggest factor in why the stimulus didn’t go far enough) was fellow Obama/podboy Tommy Vietor:


Later, former Biden (and Gore) chief of staff and non-podboy Ron Klain jumped in the fray:


I, for one, am reassured by the former chief of staff for Joe Biden—a man who wouldn’t even campaign against Mitch McConnell because it would’ve been impolite—saying that they fought “very hard.”


We have to go back to Pfeiffer for the most incredibly tonedeaf line, however:


Really? That’s your burden? Because it pales in comparison to the burden tens of millions of people, including some in my own family, face by navigating the world without health insurance. It pales in comparison to all of the people who needlessly lost their homes or went into crushing debt to keep them due to the administration’s pisspoor handling of the housing crisis. It pales in comparison to the burden faced by undocumented people, who were terrorized by ICE well before Donald Trump took office. It pales in comparison to the burden faced by workers—those who want to join a union but are forced to jump through hoops to do so because card check wasn’t deemed enough of priority to publicly pressure the Blue Dogs, and those who are fighting tooth and nail for a higher minimum wage that’s woefully inadequate at this point.

Those are real burdens, Dan. Getting mad online because someone’s criticizing how your old boss—then the most powerful man in the world—handled these problems? Not so much.


Correction, 9/20/2019, 11:08 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story wrongly said Reed Hundt was the FCC chair during Obama’s tenure. He was the FCC chair from 1993-1997, during Bill Clinton’s presidency.