"At a certain point, welfare got separated from the idea of work," Obama said. "There was the welfare rights movement, and people started talking as if you were just entitled to an income, whether you were trying or not. And ordinary working people — black and white — would hear that and say, 'Now hold on a second. I'm getting up at 4:30 in the morning and taking a bus two hours to get to a job, and you're telling me that you have a right to something,' and they resent it. Work has to be an important component of any anti-poverty agenda."
Sounds good, though it would be more reassuring if Obama didn't typically express such sentiments by putting them in the heads of others (e.g., "ordinary working people," whom progressives have to placate). The main trouble is the flexibility in the joints of his sentences. I could write a welfare bill completely consistent with that paragraph that would completely gut the 1996 welfare reform law. You'd require that someone determine recipients were "trying"--but define "trying" as attending a day of a community college class. You'd make work "an important component" but not rigorously require it--and indeed you'd prevent states that wanted to be too rigorous from trying the tougher approach.
More important, there are plenty of House Democrats who will want to write a welfare bill completely consistent with that paragraph that would completely gut the 1996 welfare reform law! Obama may not want them to do that--he may personally opppose it--but unless he has someone like Bruce Reed watching them like a hawk they're going to try to send him that bill. Triangulation ain't easy!
What kind of President would watch them like a hawk? A President who was scared to death of being labelled a backslider on welfare and work, who was heavily invested in his or her image as a neolib reformer on the issue. At the moment, Hillary Clinton seems more like that potential President. 8:32 P.M. link
[Senator Clinton] was asked a question from a Politico.com reader in Santa Monica, Calif., who was seeking assurance that "no new business or personal scandal involving Bill Clinton" could erupt if she were in the White House and give fodder to Republicans.
"You know, I can assure this reader that that is not going to happen," she said. "You know, none of us can predict the future, no matter who we are and what we are running for, but I am very confident that that will not happen."
Isn't that the LAT's cue (and everyone else's too) to run with whatever undernews they have on Bill? ... P.S.: I was nowhere near Santa Monica. ... OK, I was in Santa Monica. But it wasn't me. ... P.P.S.: Elsewhere in the interview Hillary sounds suspiciously Edwards-like in advocating confrontation rather than cooperation with opposing interests:
I will work with Republicans to find common cause whenever I can. But I will also stand my ground because there are fights worth having.
Taking Edwards' campaign advice for a day or two, of course, would be an inexpensive way to suck up to him while seeking his endorsement. ...