Froma Harrop column: Timid Obama Succumbs to Old Politics


This has been a tough week for the hopeful ones who believed President Obama’s vow to break with the old politics. Every day, it seems, the president caved in to another Democratic interest group working against the public weal.

Let’s start with the mayors’ conference just ended in Providence, R.I. One hundred Obama administration officials canceled their plans to attend, rather than cross a firefighters’ picket line set up to embarrass the host, Providence Mayor David Cicilline. The mayor was trying to curb the workers’ gold-plated benefits in a city reeling under an 11.3 percent unemployment rate. The no-shows included Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The mayors were none too happy. Their cities are in economic crisis. They had a lot to discuss with administration officials. And dealing with their own public-employee dramas, they could imagine themselves in Cicilline’s shoes.

As Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, put it: “None of us in this room are insulated from the economic challenges faced by the city of Providence. This will not be the last time this administration will be asked to make a similar choice.”

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