If you read your must-reads last week, you know that former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta has officially joined President Obama's "inner circle." The founder of the Center for American Progress has a reputation around Washington for being a skilled political strategist. He's also known for his prowess as a progressive policy guru. Specifically, Podesta is a fan of a strong executive governing model.
"Concentrating on executive powers presents a real opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage," Podesta has written in the past. "It would be a welcome relief from watching legislative maneuvering to see the work of a strong executive who is managing the business of the country through troubled times." Given President Obama's fondness for law-by-executive-orders, you can imagine that Podesta fits right in within the current administration.
But today, as Politico wonders if Podesta can "save" Obama's presidency, it's clear he intends to push presidential power to its limits.
This is not just about providing added muscle to a beleaguered and undermanned West Wing staff. According to interviews in recent weeks with an array of Obama insiders and a dozen current and former senior aides, Podesta’s hire is explicitly meant to shake things up inside the White House. In effect, I was told, it represents the clearest sign to date of the administration’s interest in shifting the paradigm of Obama’s presidency through the forceful, unapologetic and occasionally provocative application of White House power. Podesta, whose official mandate includes enforcement of numerous executive orders on emissions and the environment, suggested as much when he spoke with me earlier this fall about Obama’s team. “They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress,” he told me.
Jonestown, as you may recall, was a murderous communist cult led Jim Jones where hundreds died in 1978 by "revolutionary suicide" cyanide poisonings. With a death toll topping 900, it was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.
So yeah... just like the Republican Party. And because the GOP is just like this murderous cult, Obama must push the historical parameters of the presidency to protect the country, or something.
Predictably, conservatives were not amused.
The party of President Selfie McHalo, faceless Julia & Obamacare #pajamaboy accuses GOP of cultism. Funny that.— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) December 18, 2013
On Wednesday, Podesta took to Twitter to apologize for his "old" Republicans-mass murderers comparison.
In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) December 18, 2013