QUOTE OF THE DAY…. A smart observer offers a smart assessment.

John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, can describe the state of Washington politics with a single word. And it’s not a nice one.

Asked in an interview with the Financial Times to comment on “the health of American political system,” Podesta responded: “Sucks.”

Podesta made the remark with a chuckle, but the man who chaired President Obama’s transition team expressed deep concern about the White House’s ability to pass big ticket items in the current political climate.

He blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans and a newly “strengthened” conservative movement.

“I think the president is trying to re-engage with Republicans, but quite frankly he is not dealing with the party of Lincoln, he is dealing with the party of Palin and the party of McConnell and the party of Boehner,” Podesta said in the interview, which was filmed and posted online Monday. “They have a political strategy, really, which is that fierce opposition, trying to say no to everything will endure to their political benefit, and so far it looks like that is working for them, so I don’t see them changing all that much.”

Imagine, however, what the health of American political system would look like if the United States Senate operated the way it did for the better part of two centuries — with a majority party that’s allowed to bring its agenda to the floor for up-or-down votes. Imagine how much healthier the system would be if presidential nominees for key posts and for the judiciary were allowed to be approved with the support of a Senate majority, the way the American system used to operate without controversy.

Imagine the strength of our system, in other words, if a party could win national elections and then have the opportunity to govern with the agenda it had presented to voters during a campaign.

If the Senate majority were allowed to bring legislation up for votes, this Congress would be among the most productive and successful in a generation, approving economy-rescuing recovery efforts, health care reform, energy and climate packages, Wall Street reform, and a sweeping new student-loan bill.

And that wouldn’t “suck” at all.

The only thing stopping this from happening — literally, the only thing — are Republican obstructionist tactics with no precedent in American history. The result is a system that Podesta described quite effectively.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.