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Top Democratic strategist has harsh words for U.S. political system

February 16, 2010 |  8:06 am

Clinton Chief of Staff Tony Podesta John Podesta is a passionate runner and cook, a wiry man, intense and moody, but with a keen sense of humor. The chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House, he chafed at the Pentagon's penchant for slapping a "top secret" stamp on all kinds of documents. If he'd already learned of a development off cable news, he often put a counter-stamp on the docs, "Embarrassing."

Now Podesta, who led Barack Obama’s presidential transition, has a few choice words about the U.S. political system. With Washington still reeling over the stunning departure from the Senate of Democrat Evan Bayh -- who had $13 million in his campaign war chest and a 20-point lead over his Republican rival -- Podesta told the Financial Times that the U.S. political system “sucks.”

“It feels like a very frustrated country, a country frustrated with the inability of Washington to do anything to get the economy going again, to get jobs going again,” he said. “And I think that there is tremendous anger [and] frustration about the inability to improve people’s lives.”

On healthcare, Podesta blamed the White House. “They lost the narrative,” Podesta said. “They lost the perspective of how all of the activity they were engaged in was knit together.”

But he faulted Republicans -- mentioning former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in particular -- for subbing sound bites for substance.

Obama, he said, is “not dealing with the party of Lincoln, he’s dealing with the party of Palin.”

Of course Podesta, who now heads a think tank in Washington, was talking to a British reporter. Maybe he thinks we should return to our parliamentary roots.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Bill Clinton and John Podesta. Credit: The White House

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