Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 29, 2010

A RECESS APPOINTMENT CASE STUDY.... Listening to the Sunday shows, it seems Senate Republicans are pretty angry that President Obama announced 15 recess appointments over the weekend. I tend to think their complaints are, at best, disingenuous, but I'd nevertheless like to hear GOP leaders defend the way Alan Bersin's nomination was handled.

Bersin was appointed to serve as the new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after the Senate failed to act on his nomination. James Fallows took a closer look at Bersin's background:

Bersin was an all-Ivy star football player at Harvard. Then he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Then he went to Yale Law School. Then he was a U.S. Attorney in California. Then he was head of a Justice Department unit overseeing US-Mexico border affairs. Then the head of the San Diego school system. Then the Secretary of Education for California, under Arnold Schwarzenegger. Recently he has been an Assistant Secretary at DHS. Last month the past three commissioners of CBP, including two from the GW Bush administration, wrote to Republican Senators asking them, please, to get Bersin into the job rather than leaving this very important agency leaderless.

Instead the Republicans placed various holds on Bersin and the others and would not bring him to a vote. Thus, good for Obama in saying, Enough.

Bersin was nominated for the post seven months ago. In the midst of Senate delays, three former Customs and Border Protection commissioners said the failure to confirm a new agency chief is a "national security concern."

And yet, an up-or-down vote on Bersin's nomination was nowhere in sight. It's hardly surprising that the president got tired of waiting.

Matt Yglesias noted that this example "is a sign of an opposition political party gone mad." Agreed. But I'm nevertheless curious to hear some of the same GOP voices whining about how "outrageous" the recess appointments are explain why the president shouldn't have installed Bersin to the job. We're talking about an overwhelmingly qualified nominee, who enjoyed bipartisan support, and whose nomination had been pending for more than seven months.

What would Republicans have Obama do? If GOP obstructionism has undermined the Senate's ability to function, why should the country's interests suffer when a legal, frequently-used alternative is available to the president?

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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The repubs are pissed because Obama won't let them sabotage his administration.

Posted by: JoeW on March 29, 2010 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

I think they really preferred Clinton, and his personal failings. They just don't know what to do.

Posted by: Rathskeller on March 29, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

What would Republicans have Obama do?

That's easy: Resign and give them back 'their' country...

Posted by: JCB on March 29, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

What would Republicans have Obama do?

Well thats the obvious question, isn't it? I mean, they had to know that eventually Obama would do just what he is doing now and their big plan had to be to push it to this point and then complain publicly about how Obama was overreaching. They figured they could get some political mileage out of that.

I think, or perhaps I am only hoping, that they have miscalculated and this strategy will create more blowback for them than they were expecting. But looked at objectively, it had to be their plan all along.

Posted by: brent on March 29, 2010 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Obama bent over backwards to get them to work with him to get the country past the mess they created, at every step they tried to stop him from doing anything - they even touted their opposition from any media outlet that would listen, they wanted to break him. He gave it a year - I for one am overjoyed that now he has decided to govern without them. How can they possibly have the cheek to whine now that he will not listen to them - he changed the stimulus for them - even though his plan was better - they voted no, he put their ideas into health insurance reform - they voted no. I am glad that he has decided the business of governing has to go on with or without them.

Posted by: Joan on March 29, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

"What would Republicans have Obama do?"

They would have him make recess appointments so they can bitch about how polarizing he is. Duh. The only real question here is whether the MM will call them on their BS, though I doubt there's even much question about that.

Posted by: MudFunk on March 29, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is not the Republicans complaining about the Recess Appointments on the Sunday shows, it's the hosts of these shows not asking the Republicans about THEIR Recess Appointments.

Posted by: phoebes in santa fe on March 29, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

At times like these, I like turning to H.L. Mencken, who writing in similar times said:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The Republic-ists have learned that lesson well.

Posted by: Marc on March 29, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Just what has happened to the media, CNN has now gone right wing, nobody holds republicans to account when they are plainly lying,also here in NC some of the TV stations (locally)CBS and NBC are advertising that we will be able to get a new
Rush Radio station for 3 hours from noon to three in the afternoon. David Gregory will be at the Greensboro auditorium giving a talk, it is like we are being invaded with the right, please help us in NC to get rid of Foxx and Burr!!

Posted by: JS on March 29, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Driving them crazy is at least half of the objective.

Posted by: SW on March 29, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

You shouldn't perpetuate the idea that republicans are angry. Their response here is just a cold-blooded calculation that obstruction is the best strategy for them to regain control. You also shouldn't perpetuate the idea that there's anything to "do", because there isn't, if by "do" you mean something that would appease the republicans. They'll say no to anything, because any other response would be inconsistent with the strategy. Obama's doing the right thing. The time for hand-wringing is long over.

Posted by: jt on March 29, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are acting as if Barack Obama is the first President of the United States ever. Here's a short list of other things he's done that no president has ever done before:

1] He rides around in an airplane that ordinary Americans can't ride on.

2] He insists on being referred to as "Mr. President," "Mr. Obama," or "Barack."

3] He has spoken to our troops even though he refuses to pick up a gun and fight for his country with them.

4] He has traveled to other countries that are not America.

5] He beat a white man in a presidential election.

6] He went to college and got grades that make most American's feel inadequate.

7] He uses a TelePrompter just to prove that he reads better than everyone else.

8] He uses real words that he does not make up and he uses them correctly and in context.

9] He signs bills into laws without including a signing statement that changes the meaning of the laws.

10] He smiles and waves at people to force them to cheer for him.

11] He walks around all black and stuff.

The audacity!

Posted by: chrenson on March 29, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Obama should just do his thing knowing there will be "no" help coming from the right whether he puts out his hand or not. Period. Run the country as if there were no "other party" and see how it plays in the 2010 midterms. My guess is that if things get done, all the howling from the right won't mean a lick of difference at the polls.

Posted by: stevio on March 29, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

If you look at the past week, Obama and the Dem's done good!
1. They passed HCR, not once but twice!
2.They took the profit centers away from fat-cat lending institutions so the government can use their fat and apply it to Pell Grants, etc.
3.Obama held his cards close and made Putin (or his puppet, Medvedev) blink and then fold, and re-started START.
4. He got his recess appointments in.

All in all, that's the best week a Democratic President has had in, well, I don't know when.
Now, onto jobs, banks and Wall Street!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 29, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are still playing 'Mad Dad'. The thing is they are playing mad dad after the divorce when they are living in an efficiency apartment over a 7-11 and there is a restraining order against them. There is no real reason to take them seriously. Except for all the guns.

Posted by: SW on March 29, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Stevio: Run the country as if there were no "other party" and see how it plays in the 2010 midterms.

I'll go one further. Run the country as if there is no presidential election in 2012. We've seen that the man is focused on accomplishing the agenda he set forth in his campaign. Each time he accomplishing something, the country gets a little better off. Even if he is a "one-term president," his accomplishments will outweigh any two-termer in recent memory. I say go for broke.

Meanwhile, I really hate Maggie Rodriguez on the CBS Early Show [yeah, I'm the one who watches it] who this morning said, "President Obama returns from Afghanistan to more trouble at home." Then CBS ran a story about how the TeaBaggers are doing their 42-state tour with Sarah Palin leading them on. They even said the movement is "growing" because they feel that no one is listening to them.

So much for a week of riding high.

Posted by: chrenson on March 29, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Well the media considers the Tea Bag thing an investment and they aren't going to give it up easily. Wag the Dog baby.

Posted by: SW on March 29, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Two Words: John Bolton . Thats all you need to say

Posted by: John R on March 29, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Have you ever noticed how the MSM pukes like David Gregory frame their questions to the Republican Obstructionists. It is always: "Senator, do you think the President has poisoned the well by making recess appointments." Never "why won't you give the President's appointments an up or down vote."

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 29, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

chrenson: "Run the country as if there is no presidential election in 2012. ... Even if he is a "one-term president," his accomplishments will outweigh any two-termer in recent memory. I say go for broke."

i agree with you. i think the more he acts like he doesn't care if he gets re-elected, the better his chance to make a lasting difference...and get re-elected.

the only thing that worries me is how much damage the eventual Republican nominee against him could do, if he doesn't get re-elected.
so i'd rather have 8 years to get used to the idea.

Posted by: els on March 29, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think that the Republican response to the recess appointments has been relatively muted. Statements about "disappointing" and "not conducive to bipartisan cooperation" are about the most extreme statements I've read that have been made by Senate Republicans. Perhaps they realize that this isn't an issue they want to push--it highlights their obstructionism. Of course, their rhetoric on this may escalate at the beginning of this week.

Posted by: DRF on March 29, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

This is what I think is interesting. No Senate approval on lots of National Security posts. What's the worst that could happen? In other words, a Republican's wet dream? Another huge attack. Who would catch the blame this time, a man who didn't get blamed last time? The President.

In the midst of Senate delays, three former Customs and Border Protection commissioners said the failure to confirm a new agency chief is a "national security concern."

That's what the Republicans really want.

Posted by: boc on March 29, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Dem's were angry over Bush\Cheney's election, the Iraq War\War on Terror and Tax Cuts for the wealthy. That anger was irrational and the MSM mocked it. Rep's are angry that Obama was elected, that he is mending relations with the world and that he passed health insurance reform. That anger is rational and demonstrates how far the Dem's are off base. The MSM trumpet it (Run Sarah run). Amazing.

Posted by: steve on March 29, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Could anyone on the right please awaken me when Obama reaches the warp speed of 22.3 appointments per year set by Shrub.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 29, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

chrenson: Here's one more to add to your "short list of other things he's done that no president has ever done before:"
- He pronounces words correctly, including the correct names of foreign countries.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on March 29, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

That we are talking about Bersin and not Dawn Johnson is an indication that Obama played this just right.

There is exactly nothing unprecedented about singling out a half-dozen or so appointees and making them poster children. Democrats successfully did it to Bork and unsuccessfully to Bolton but with the latter made Bush spend some capital. But Republicans overplayed their hands by blocking everybody. Could Republicans have prevailed going mano-a-mano over Becker at the NLRB? Maybe. But instead they gave Obama coverage to package him in with 14 needed and necessary and largely unchallenged on merits appointees.

You can argue, and I would, that the recess appointment of John Bolton in the face of open and principled opposition was an outrage. But it is hard to maintain that outrage when it comes to appointing the Under-Secretary of Treasury for Something Boring but Sounding Kind of Important.

Republicans went All-In on making HCR a Waterloo. Funny thing so did Napolean, didn't work out so well for him either.

It is worth noting that the appointment of Becker to NLRB was the result of a compromise that had Obama appointing two D's and one R to fill out the NLRB. In the end he recess appointed the two D's and let the R going hanging. Republicans are on notice that unless they start allowing some Up or Down votes the next time they recess they are going to get Dawn Johnson like it or not. Exercise your right to Advice and Consent or lose it.

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