Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 11, 2010

IT'S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID, CONT'D.... The New York Times reported last weekend that there's a divide within the White House when it comes to the economy. Political advisors, including David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, see the polling data and are inclined to respond to public concerns about government spending and deficits. The economic team, including Christina Romer, Jared Bernstein, and Tim Geithner, see the economic data and are inclined to actually try to create more jobs and generate more growth.

We were reminded again of this divide today. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke to Axelrod about the economy, and the senior White House advisor took the expected line.

In his February budget proposal, the president requested $266 billion for additional stimulus for the economy. And just a month ago, the President called for $50 billion in emergency aid to states alongside the extension of unemployment benefits. This morning Axelrod called again for extension of unemployment benefits, but aid to states was not on his list.

"It's true that there is not a great desire" on Capitol Hill to spend more money, Axelrod said, "even though there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity."

"There's not a great appetite for it, but I do think we can get additional tax relief for small businesses -- that's what we want to do -- additional lending for small businesses," the President's senior advisor said.

And that was all Axelrod was prepared to endorse -- extended unemployment employments (Axelrod said it's something we "ought" to do, as opposed to "must"), and extended tax cuts for small businesses. Axelrod acknowledged that there's "some argument" for additional short-term stimulus, but it wasn't an argument he was necessarily prepared to endorse.

Here's hoping White House officials take a moment to read Atrios.

So let's say Obama's people have correctly deduced that there's no chance in hell of getting anything through Congress. They have two basic options. First, they could get on the teevee every day and say, "This is my plan to help. Republicans in Congress won't pass it." They could hold rallies in Maine. Allies could run ads. At least people would know who is for and who is against...and just what it was that people are for or against.

Option two is back off proposals you've previously made and have Axelrod get on the teevee and say, "there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity."

My sense is that President Obama really hates -- and actively avoids -- picking fights he fully expects to lose. Based on his public comments and proposals, I'd say the president really does endorse his economists' approach and wants additional stimulus, but doesn't want to go the mat to fight for spending he's not going to get. The defeat would leave him weaker, exacerbate intra-party tensions, and at the same time signal that the White House lacks confidence in the strength of the economic recovery.

But the current alternative is far worse, especially given the fact that the White House should lack confidence in the strength of the economic recovery. It makes a lot more sense to push an ambitious jobs bill -- like, now -- invite Republicans to do what they always do, give Democrats something to fight for, and have the debate.

Of course, the problem isn't exclusive to the White House. Indeed, the problem didn't originate with the White House at all -- Axelrod said frustrating things on "This Week" earlier in large part because there are more than a few hand-wringing Democrats on the Hill afraid to prioritize the economy over the deficit.

Here's hoping the entire party, after reading Atrios' post, also takes a look at Ezra Klein's latest piece.

[P]olitical scientists have a pretty good handle on what wins elections, so I began asking them the question that some say is bedeviling the White House: Should the White House focus on polls or paychecks?

The answers were unequivocal: "A policymaker reading polls who finds that people are concerned about the deficit and says I should rein in spending and I'll get credit for that, I don't think there's evidence that'll move voters," the University of Denver's Seth Masket says. "You want to get as much money in voters' hands in the months before the election as possible."

John Sides, of George Washington University, helped me run the numbers on presidential elections: We made one graph comparing the share of the vote the incumbent party got with the change in the deficit that it had presided over. It looked as if we'd spilled a bag of dots onto a piece of paper. The next graph plotted vote share against change in real disposable income. The line showing a correlation fit perfectly -- more perfectly, in fact, than I'd anticipated.

Yes, Republicans will block any measure intended to improve the economy, and it's largely too late for a new stimulus effort to boost the economy before November. But it's still worth having the fight -- force the GOP to stand in the way of job creation, and show the public that Democrats are prepared to fight to improve on an unsatisfactory status quo.

Steve Benen 11:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (88)

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Comments

History might well say of Pres. Obama, "He coulda been a contender".

Posted by: Mike on July 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

It ain't going to happen. Obama has no spine to fight for a jobs bill. He listens to Rahm way too much of the time.

Posted by: verberne on July 11, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is quite simple. If we enter 2012 with unemployment hanging around 9% (and given current trends I'd say the odds are for that) then Obama will lose. Hell the Republicans could dig up Nixon's corpse, run it for President and win under those conditions.

Obama needs to figure out that its sometimes worth it to lose a battle if it means winning a war.

Posted by: thorin-1 on July 11, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Verbene - just like he listened to Rahm for the HCR "small" bill.

Posted by: Daniel on July 11, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

The best thing Obama and the congressional Democrats can do at this point is, try to ram through a one year payroll tax holiday, giving the economy an enormous stimulus, encouraging small businesses to do a little hiring with their break on the tax too.

For a number of reasons the Republicans will try to stop it and they will look like fools. This is especially true if the payroll tax holiday is added to legislation to extend the Bush tax cuts on all but the top rate. Republicans will reflexively demand that the top rate be extended too or no deal. The biggest tax cut in history will be blocked by the GOP because it isn't fair to the people earning over 250K. That should go over big with the voting public.

Posted by: majun on July 11, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Political advisors, including David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, see the polling data and are inclined to respond to public concerns about government spending and deficits.

huh? Benen effed-up or just shilling? the polling data OF AMERICANS has been entirely consistent for months: their primary concern is economic, i.e., JOBS! with deficits a distant 3rd or 4th in their concerns. The only polling that yields a majority concern for deficit reduction is that of politicians, plutocrats, and insane tea baggers. No sane American has put deficit reduction in this economic climate as a primary concern.

Posted by: pluege on July 11, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK
Of course, the problem isn't exclusive to the White House. Indeed, the problem didn't originate with the White House at all -- Axelrod said frustrating things on "This Week" earlier in large part because there are more than a few hand-wringing Democrats on the Hill afraid to prioritize the economy over the deficit.

Correct. This is precisely the problem: the reason why bigger bolder action is so hard to come by is that there are those 12-15 (or more) Senate Democrats who don't support bigger bolder action because they want to run on "fiscal responsibility" because that's what makes them different from the Big Spending Liberals their opponents always want to caricature them for being. And if Obama made noises about bigger bolder plans, this cohort would _gladly_ thwart them, because it establishes that they aren't mainstream Big Spending Liberals. In other words, a big chunk of Democratic officialdom supports bad, stupid policies, and they're also feeling gun-shy after HCR.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 11, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has figured out that all those unemployed people just do not want to work. There are plenty of jobs in America, otherwise the Mexicans would not be trying to get here. There would be plenty of jobs if minimum wage was still 2.80 an hour.
He knows it is more important to make and keep wall street whole and making a profit so they can pay those taxes that the lazy non working Americans cannot. He knows that a watered down health care bill that is full of loop holes is just as good as universal health care. He knows if he tried to charge the last administration with war crimes he could no longer use those powers himself. He knows that just the thought of being in the military with gay people just gives him the heebeejeebees. He is just waiting for the republicans to get control of congress back so he can get things done.

Posted by: Peanut Gallery on July 11, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Obama fought for healthcare when Emmanuel and Axelrod argued against it, despite the fact that it was unpopular and that his ratings are down because of it. In fact, everything he's done that has been the right thing has made him more unpopular and hasn't polled well, so what is Benen talking about?

Posted by: Elizabeth Modderno on July 11, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

My sense is that President Obama really hates -- and actively avoids -- picking fights he fully expects to lose. Based on his public comments and proposals, I'd say the president really does endorse his economists' approach and wants additional stimulus, but doesn't want to go the mat to fight for spending he's not going to get. The defeat would leave him weaker, exacerbate intra-party tensions, and at the same time signal that the White House lacks confidence in the strength of the economic recovery.

This is EXACTLY right, so why then turn around and say he should take on a losing fight anyway?? Because EZ found three polisci majors who agree with him?

IF. THE. VOTES. AREN'T. THERE. HE. CAN'T. WIN.

How complicated is this?

Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

And never forget that when Republicans talk about being worried about "the deficit" they mean they're worried about spending money on Other People.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 11, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, six relevant and mostly insightful posts before noon on Sunday morning. Steve Benen, nominated for Hardest Working Blogger on the Nets.

Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK
Obama needs to figure out that its sometimes worth it to lose a battle if it means winning a war.

But what if losing the battle doesn't contribute to winning a war? What if it's just losing that compounds into further losing? That's the problem. I really don't think that the storyline by which Obama crusades for a bolder course of action, then gets hemmed in by the at least one-third of Democratic politicians who don't want it, then sees the plan get rolled back or pulled off the table, plays as "winning a war." IMHO the best it would play is--among the media--as "right on substance, wrong on the politics." And among the public, it would play as "Even Democrats think Obama's approach is wrong" and "Finger-pointing Dems have only themselves to blame."

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

CR,

No kidding. If you want to read politics on the weekends this is the only place for new content. TPM, with all their staffing, is pretty much silent from Fri night through Sun. I don't understand how Steve manages to do it. But I certainly appreciate it.

Posted by: JoyousMN on July 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Election Simple:
Disposable income buys votes.
Responsible policies don't matter.

Posted by: Goldilocks on July 11, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

politics vs policy. In this case good policy and good politics go hand in hand, even if the votes are not there.

Lower payroll taxes (not a holiday) by removing income cap. Social security was and is not a retirement program per se--it's the current working generation basically thanking the previous generation along with helping them care for their own relatives. The baby boom was recognized and a surplus was built in--one that is supposed to be drawn upon for the boomers.

This will permanently lower the cost of workers while increasing the cost of CEO's for businesses, especially those with excessive CEO pay packages.

Since Social Security is redeeming treasuries, more income tax income would be needed to cover those costs. This needs to be with capitol gains reform. There needs to be a difference between real business investment and gambling on the markets.

And what about the pension fund liabilities?

Posted by: golack on July 11, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and his advisors are NOT accurately reading the public. The public is concerned about the deficit because there are no jobs.

If unemployment dropped concern about the deficit would go away. That is the Clinton experience.

Posted by: bakho on July 11, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that I think Obama does want to do a big jobs bill but isn't sure it's worth throwing down for. It's not just his political advisers or the Blue Dogs but the fact that Usual Suspects (the Villagers, media, lobbyists) have all decided that as their stock options are almost back to normal, that everything is fine and the recession is over, with the Right Wing BS machine leading the way. As for the polls, aren't they all over the place with voters saying one thing and then saying the complete opposite next? And aren't they slowly going back to more money for jobs?

Anyways, this would be a lot easier if somehow somebody (Obama? The Press?) could have done a lot better of a job saying how the stimulus saved jobs or how giving money to the states saves jobs and how any sort of big deficit reduction thing would not only harm the economy but involve making huge cuts in things nobody has the guts to. It would also have helped if somebody (ahem, the press) would have given Obama at least any credit for doing a bunch of things that actually cut the budget now (ending obselete weapons programs) or in the future (health care, student loans). It's hard to argue that you've been trying to cut government spending when the David Broder's of the world don't pay attention to any of it.

I guess what I'm saying is it's the same ole same ole-- the right thing to do is blocked by people and institutions whose main job it is to be completely wrong about what the right thing to do is.

Posted by: JonS on July 11, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Things may change when another month's worth of economic data come out.

Don't forget that, as little as a few months ago, the stimulus was finally working, the economy was picking up steam, jobs were increasing, etc.

If we have another month of bad data -- or especially two -- I'd guess that the politicians will start coming over to the economists' side.

And yeah, it's too late to take additional action that will affect the economic situation appreciably before November, but it sure isn't too late to be SEEN to be doing something.

I'm willing to give Obama another month or two. It's the silly season now.

Posted by: bleh on July 11, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

The reason that ignoring the call for tax decreases claiming they would stimulate hiring and for ignoring the call to decrease the deficit right now is that US businessmen, especially small businessmen, are not stupid. They will not invest in their businesses if there isnt a market with people able to spend money. For any of this to work, pople have to get money. That means that unemployment compensation has to be increased. It means that jobs like teachers, police, road maintenance workers, and others who work for the state governments need to be kept. At the moment states don't have the money and are cutting those positions. Cutting taxes would only cause more of those positions to be cut. And cutting taxes doesn't do you any good if you don't have a job. That is not difficult to understand.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 11, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

@ CR:

"This is EXACTLY right, so why then turn around and say he should take on a losing fight anyway?? Because EZ found three polisci majors who agree with him?

IF. THE. VOTES. AREN'T. THERE. HE. CAN'T. WIN.

How complicated is this?"

Pretty damned complicated if you're one of those 9+% on unemployment insurance.

See also, @thorin-1:

"Obama needs to figure out that its sometimes worth it to lose a battle if it means winning a war."

I'm inept at HTML, so bear with me, viz. quotation marks instead of italicized print.

But the larger point is that if the Democrats expect--actually expect--to lose control of Congress this fall (which they do), then one would expect--actually expect--them to be willing to take a few lumps in the name of sound economic policy. They're going to lose a larger battle come the midterms the way things are going, right? So why not try this? It's ideological fortification for when things continue to suck. In other words, if they try to promote a jobs program, i.e additional stimulus measures, and it fails due to partisan rancor; and if the Republicans get nothing of economic merit done with their projected Congressional majority (could one expect them to at this point?), Obama has a record of saying, "Look! I friggin' tried, and the friggin' Republicans wouldn't play ball." Will that excuse his job-creation performance in the two years in which he had crazy-majorities in Congress? No, it will not. (That said, he did help prevent utter economic calamity.) But it will provide him traction when he's claiming that he was legitimately concerned about the jobs situation early in the game, before 8- and 9-percent unemployment numbers became the rule, not the exception.

Just saying. Otherwise, I gotta think he's a one-termer, and we get stuck with wingnuts for four long years.

(Not that I'd ever vote for a wingnut, I hasten to add. No firebagger, this)

Posted by: T-No-Money on July 11, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

@t-n-m

I have no idea what "war" will be won by losing a significant battle to republicans and right-wing dems right before mid-term elections. With more than two years left before he's up for election, Obama has plenty of time to win other victories. Isn't it obvious to everyone by now how Obama plays the long game. He's not going to say, "Oh, well, I really sure we can't win this right now, so let's fight hard, lose, and hope something good comes out of it." He's playing many moves beyong that.

That said, I believe here will be enough heat generated to get UI extension and some state aid before November. Additional stimulus money (and other goodies) will come once the new (still democratically-controlled) congress is elected and senators vote to change cloture and hold rules.

Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I wish some people here would have original ideas rather than generic insults and lies about the president.


ANYWAYS, I think they should do a stand alone unemployment extension, wall street reform and climate change bill before the elections. Then have the Dems run on a proposed jobs bill that won't come to fruition unless Dems remain in control. Then like HCR, deliver the bill once Congress is in session. Except get it done in one month - not nine months like HCR.

I'm just guessing, I don't know if any of that will work.

Posted by: Alli on July 11, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Apologists for Obama, like Mr. Bennen here, continue to find excuses for his decisions (e.g. My sense is that President Obama really hates -- and actively avoids -- picking fights he fully expects to lose.), which cannot be justified on any rational basis, to the great detriment of and peril to the progressive agenda, Obama, themselves, and the country at large.

Posted by: gregor@null.com on July 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

My sense is that President Obama really hates -- and actively avoids -- picking fights he fully expects to lose.

I agree with you Completely. And I think I could probably find a lot of short-term political excuses for him to think that way. But I think he is overlooking the long term damage he is doing to his own power by missing the chance to create a media-attractive conflict leading into the midterm election.

I was willing to accept it as long as the battle for health care was going on. That win, poor as it is right now, was the best long-term win that Obama could have in his Presidency. But since Spring Obama seems to be both avoiding immediate loss and at the same time building the enthusiasm gap to his own detriment.

Obama's other big battle right now is, of course, the economy. Not the deficit. That's crap right now. It's a pittance compared to the deficit of WW II. Right now the problem is the economy and unemployment.

So why isn't Obama either visibly and actively dealing with unemployment or forcing the hand of those who prevent him from doing so? Is he afraid of playing into the tea bagger's big government rhetoric, or does he perhaps even agree with them that government can't do anything right? He won't reduce conservative enthusiasm this fall by trying to placate them, but he is for damned sure lowering Progressive/liberal/Democratic enthusiasm. Targeted elections just won't cut it.

It makes no sense.

Or is it possible that the media-created split between the politicians and the economists in his White House is pure fiction and something else entirely is actually going on?

Posted by: Rick B on July 11, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think everyone has made some good points here. The bottom line is that the Dems have set themselves up to take a significant hit in the fall. As far as I am concerned, they deserve to.

Posted by: KC on July 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Will Clarence Thomas resign now that his wife is taking contributions from corporate donors. He has corrupted the supreme court beyond repair.
Will Daryl Issa face an ethics enquiry for the shady deals he has been making millions on while taxpayers are losing savings?

Posted by: Joan S on July 11, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Rick B: So why isn't Obama either visibly and actively dealing with unemployment or forcing the hand of those who prevent him from doing so?

The Obama administration HAS BEEN "visibly and actively dealing with unemployment." Legislation has been introduced (passed in the House), adminstrative rules have been changed, speeches have been made, press conferences have been held, etc. What do you want?

And what specifically does "forcing the hand of those who prevent him from doing so" mean, if anything? You either have sixty votes in the Senate, or you don't.

Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

"...This is quite simple. If we enter 2012 with unemployment hanging around 9% (and given current trends I'd say the odds are for that) then Obama will lose..." thorin

Then please tell me the alternative. Lose??? Lose to what ...to whom. Republicans have no policies only criticisms. WHO IS OBAMA GOING TO LOSE TO...OR FOR THAT MATTER...WHAT POLICIES WILL WIN? Repubs offer nothing but proven failure.

Obama and the dems may disappoint but the alternatives are 100Xs worse. We need better dems but definitely not this republican know nothing disaster waiting to continue. I mean who you gonna vote for Palin, McCain, Romney...republican spending freeze and tax cuts for billionaires? A plutocracy?

Just think a little deeper when you say Obama is gonna be replaced or repubs will take the majority because if you think dems are bad...ha, just compare the last 8yrs under Bush.

There is really only one solution here that will ensure our survival and our freedom. We must pressure the dems to be more progressive. Demand Obama stand up against these "economic royalists" and stimulate growth over the deficits republicans created to ensure governmental failure. They have never been deficit hawks when they were in power running it up so dems cannot function in the majority. Here's hoping they don't fall for it again.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 11, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

And what specifically does "forcing the hand of those who prevent him from doing so" mean, if anything?

One might start by asking why Ben Nelson is still chairing two subcommittees.

Posted by: Brautigan on July 11, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

"BTW, six relevant and mostly insightful posts before noon on Sunday morning. Steve Benen, nominated for Hardest Working Blogger on the Nets.
Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 12:33 PM |

I second that. He's incredibly motivated or something. Truly amazing.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 11, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, ALL Presidents avoid fights they fully expect to lose. (Although unusually, you saw Obama take a very big chance with the televised healthcare discussion with Congress.) But it makes no sense to push an ambitious jobs bill into the partisan squabbling just four months in advance of a very competitive midterm election. The debate you hope to instigate is unlikely to be successful unless a huge number of people can give themselves a bachelor's degree in economics in four months. (And even then, there are a lot of econ BA's walking around babbling neoclassical nonsense.) Back in reality, midterm elections go district by district. People are worried about jobs but a lot of them are also worried about the deficit, and it is likely that there are plenty of districts full of voting boneheads who will swing Republican because they don't like government spending, indeed they blame unemployment on government spending, because they couldn't think their way out of a paper bag. In advance of the midterms, Democrats should propose a Republican-orientated stimulus (tax cuts for small business, let's say) just so the Republicans can vote it down. After the mid-terms there will be a different political environment for policy, no matter how the elections turns out.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on July 11, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

force the GOP to stand in the way of job creation, and show the public that Democrats are prepared to fight to improve on an unsatisfactory status quo
This argument all the potential of the "Jedi Mind Trick," it will work with the "weak minded," but the power of that argument is undercut by the obvious non-success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AKA "the stimulus").

Posted by: Neo on July 11, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I really don't think that the White House staff is waiting for Atrios or any other on-line pundit to point them in the right direction. I really think it is incredibly arrogant for anyone in the MSM or cyberspace to imagine they have a pipeline to elected officials. I know we are brilliant but really.

Posted by: hornblower on July 11, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I fully and completely supported this President for several reasons, but the most important one was the fact that there has been no one in my lifetime other than JFK who had Obama's ability and charismatic authority to convince the American people to do WHAT MUST BE DONE even though they couldn't be sure and are afraid to do it. He hasn't done that, either because he is listening too much to his handlers or is allowing the polls to influence his thinking. WE CAN STILL PULL THIS OUT if we allow Obama to be Obama and not just a mouthpiece for a scared and defensive Democratic party.
Mr President! You promised to do the right thing even if it wasn't popular. Do it NOW! Fight for the spending that is the only chance to pull us out of the hole that GWB and his republican cronies left us in. Do a JOBS BILL, and then go out there and fight for it. You uniquely have the ability convince America. USE IT!!!

Posted by: Cybrguy on July 11, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

totally agree with CR that this is the only blog worth reading - frequently - on weekends, AND through the week

saw something a while back about how many of the tea baggers - er, tea partiers, are out of work and thus have time on their hands to protest; give those poor blokes jobs and they won't have time to complain so much

happen to be in France right now - the unemployment roles get converted to jobs with city parks departments for beautification projects - constantly rotating plantings in the parks all around the country, which keeps people gainfully employed and out of trouble - they have honest work and income and no time or energy to be creating crises

Posted by: withay on July 11, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Not to put too fine a point on it, the country is royally screwed. It doesn't matter how many wise men run the government if a majority of the electorate are idiots.

Posted by: Goldilocks on July 11, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

What CR said. Losing on a jobs bill going won't look heroic, it will just look like losing. Since Dems can't run on 'Happy Days Are Here Again,' they have to run on at least acting like they know what they are doing, and put some lipstick on the pig. You don't do that by losing high profile fights on the Hill.

Notice that by comparison, approval for HCR has been improving (now just above break even, per Pollster.com). It won't drive the fall election, but it is turning into a modest plus. The lesson is that you win by winning, not by losing.

Losing the battle and winning the war is ever popular in romantic legend, but it only rarely works out that way in real life.

Posted by: al-Fubar on July 11, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"I think everyone has made some good points here. The bottom line is that the Dems have set themselves up to take a significant hit in the fall. As far as I am concerned, they deserve to."

1. Four months is a long ways off in politics.
2. So instead of putting better Dems in power, you'd rather have the GOP back?

Count me out.

Posted by: Penny Dreadful on July 11, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

So since Obama won't pick a losing fight I guess he won't run again.

Of course that isn't true, it is just the latest excuse for WHand DC democrat incompetence. This is about the four hundredth it is fate argument made in which Obama is hep less and must submit to the predetermined. Great. All yup aparatchiks can make it easier for those of us without precognition. Tell us now what is predetermined for the next three years. If you can't, stfu.

Obama has completely forsaken the population as a source of power and of solutions in exclusive favor of vested interest elites. Those elites have advanced their own interests but not tjose of the population. Obama has managed his brand with exactly the same skill LrBron James just showed in going from a liked and respected talent to someone despised for showing utter contempt for the game for which he has talent and who love the game. Obama's brand managers and vote counters might do well to read about the new coke. Fools. Incompetent fools. But they get their excuses faithfully repeated here, reality be damned.

Posted by: Razor on July 11, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

The so-called political team in the WH is hopelessly clueless. The WH and the Democratic Party did a lousy job of selling and defending the stimulus and failed to explain just how close we were to global economic collapse when Obama took over. The Democrats, as always, let the GOP set the narrative and now they have to face a public that thinks the stimulus didn't work, the deficits are a bigger problem for the economy than unemployment, tax cuts are the best way to stimulate the economy, and government action on the economy is socialism. Atrios is right: the Democrats should play hardball with their jobs bill and back the GOP into a corner. But that would take political savvy, smart messaging, and a backbone. The Democrats lack all three and run into the shadows as soon as the GOP or Fox launches its first strike. There is no hope for the Democrats as long as the current dynamic continues: the GOP are the hunters and the Democrats are their prey.

Posted by: ameshall on July 11, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Her Majesty's Government's appointment of a new moneyman who intends to impose the most sweeping spending cuts in a generation is a bellwether - Europe is going for austerity in a big way, and it's not just a buzzword any more. People (being the generally undereducated herd animals they are) have convinced themselves that sacrifice and putting money under the mattress on a national scale are the way to go. That this is wrong is irrelevant now; the cattle have scented smoke, and are ready to be stampeded against their best interests and judgment. This virtually assures that the U.S. will turn the wrong way as well, and go for deficit reduction instead of keeping its foot down on the accelerator and pulling out of recession.

You know who's laughing? The Chinese, who have pretty much cornered the market on outsourced manufacturing, and who are the only country that would likely benefit (which is to say they won't lose as much as everyone else) from a downturn in world trade and a fever of nationalism, Buy *insert own nationality here*. The cost of energy will likely drop hard, which will hurt countries with an energy-driven economy (like Russia), but a global austerity drive and turning inward will not see a corresponding rise of the traditional great powers, as has happened in the past.

Trying to impose a savings economy during a weak job market is a recipe for failure. However, many here agree that the president must listen to the people, just as if they actually knew what they were talking about. If that were true, why elect a smart guy to run the country, when you could just take turns on a rotational weekly basis?

Remember where you heard it; you had a smart president, but you were too stupid to appreciate it while you had it. Your lot will be to wail about what you should have done once the thieves have the lid off the cookie jar again. And you might not come back from it this time.

Posted by: Mark on July 11, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe it is a forgone conclusion. There is still time to make a push forward and get a jobs bill and money for states passed. It just takes commitment. And it MUST come from the top.

Posted by: Cybrguy on July 11, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

When the Administration backs off its earlier goals and seems to agree with Repubs' argument to cut spending now to deal with the debt and deficit rather than increase spending to reduce unemployment, lots of voters (who were too distracted by Amer Idol during the Bush years to realize what's happening) probably think, "If both sides basically agree on this, why not go w/ the Repubs this time as they are the ones who first called for cutting back spending. Maybe they are right or better at cutting."

Furthermore, when the Administration and other Dems look like they care more about polls and getting reelected than principles -- or, when Dems compromise so much that their laws don't seem that different from the Repub's (I agree there are important differences but many people don't read these blogs and don't see any difference) -- then voters lose confidence that their vote matters, they avoid the political news, and they don't bother to vote.

The Admin should do everything it can to support creation of long-term jobs with long-term benefit to our infrastructure and R&D (if they are already doing this, then TELL us) -- AND provide compelling arguments over and over (with easy-to-understand examples or similes) about why this is in 98% of the people's best interest. Aren't there any decent Dem marketing experts?

Posted by: pea on July 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Political advisors, including David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, see the polling data and are inclined to respond to public concerns about government spending and deficits. -- Steve Benen

I'm absolutely convinced that majority of the public doesn't think of "deficit" the same way the politicians do, so that their answers shouldn't really be considered, or not much. I think that most "ordinary" people personalize "deficit". As in: "I have no money, I cut the "frill" spending; I try not to contract new debts. And I try to pay off any debts I already have before the finance charges put me out on the street". End of story. They don't think "If I don't go out to eat, the restaurant owner will go out of business and won't have any money to spend on a car, so that the car dealer will go out of business and have no money to spend....etc. And all of us will end up on the street."

But the chain reaction is exactly what happens on the large scale. With no spending (and no taxes paid), the govt will be as helpless as individuals so that, everyone's way of life will be totally disrupted, never mind no available help from the govt for things we don't even give much thought to on a daily basis.

Just a small example: I know someone whose computer has broken down but she uses the (public) library's ones to search for jobs. Our library's funding has been getting cut, steadily, for the past 10yrs. First, some of the magazine subscriptions "went". Then, the number and kind of books they used to buy. Then, the number of hours it stays open. It's anyone's guess when the computers won't be replaced when they break down. Also, to some extent, the library was and is dependent on private funding -- the computer connection is provided, for free, by a local provider, for a couple of years individuals paid for magazine subscriptions, brought their DVDs etc. But with fewer and fewer people having "the extra fat" to spend on such support, that funding is getting less now too, just when it's most needed.

And so it goes, in every area of life... Short-term "financial responsibility", on the scale of the country, is *anything but*. But how many pundits make that difference explicit, in terms that every Joe Schmoe can understand? I don't know any, other than Krugman.

Posted by: exlibra on July 11, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

cr

What do I want? An active campaign to tie the obstructionists to their actions and broad publicity for that campaign. Threaten them with reprisals.

As it is there are few outside of those who closely follow politics who have any idea what the Republicans and conservadems are doing.

If the campaign is not actively and obviously supported by the White House the media will ignore it.

What we are getting from the White House is backroom deals and polite words towards bitter enemies. That's fine for a Senator who has no power not given him by the overall Senate and members of his party. But the President has inherent powers. He needs to use them, and - more important - he needs to get his ass in gear and start showing some public leadership.

And yes, I am aware that for the President to call out Ben Nelson by name could cause him to stop the limited actions in favor of Democrats he currently performs.

Posted by: Rick B on July 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

@razor

Hard to find anyone here who wrote that "Obama is hep less (sic) and must submit to the predetermined." Quite an interesting strawman you've propped up there.

Simple truth is, nobody has "precognition," we just know how to count to sixty.

As for the line that "Obama has completely forsaken the population as a source of power...," I'm afraid you must not be tuned into the same network as I am, where OFA is consistently asking for phone calls and visits to congressional representatives on a host of issues.

Problem is, "the population" doesn't vote on legislation, only the people who sit in the special seats of the big domed building in DC get to do that. And there's only so much that can be done to get them to vote the way we want.

Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Corporate and organized wealth has threatened to cut off Democrats' funding. Thus, it's better to lose quietly than be turned out by having no money.
It's a party of cowards, from Obama on down. I'm ashamed to be a registered Democrat. They deserve almost as much blame for the catastrophe to come as do the Republicans who will create it.

Posted by: JMG on July 11, 2010 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Let's assume Axelrod and Emmanuel are right, that means the Republicans will win the house this fall. What are they going to do with it? Nothing except impeach Obama. The economy is going back into the toilet. The Republicans are going to take a giant hit unless they can turn the economy around. They can't, they don't know what to do. Obama will then have his chance to lead. His ratings soar. He comes back in 2012.

That is the price Republicans will pay for not having a clue.

That is the most optimistic view of a Republican win. I don't buy it either.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 11, 2010 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Hell the Republicans could dig up Nixon's corpse, run it for President and win under those conditions."

Actually, given the current political spectrum, I would gladly vote for Nixon about now.

Posted by: nameless bob on July 11, 2010 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Corporate and organized wealth has threatened to cut off Democrats' funding. Thus, it's better to lose quietly than be turned out by having no money"

Bingo.

Posted by: nameless bob on July 11, 2010 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Problem is, "the population" doesn't vote on legislation, only the people who sit in the special seats of the big domed building in DC get to do that. And there's only so much that can be done to get them to vote the way we want.
Posted by: cr on July 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM |
=====================
Just stop. Poor Obama is held hostage by the Blue Dog Senators, like Blanche Lincoln?

Blanche only survived her primary thanks to Obama and company.

Obama is a DLC corporatist, just like Blanche and Ben Nelson.

He dealt away the very popular public option in a secret backroom deal with the health insurance lobby. Yet you want to pretend it's because of those mean Blue Dog Senators?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/ny-times-reporter-confirm_b_500999.html

Please. Go cheer for a unicorn somewhere else.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya����� on July 11, 2010 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats have the best chance in ages to frame an election as Roosevelt vs. Hoover thanks to the behavior of the Republicans. They are blowing it by refusing to enthusiastically embrace the policies of Roosevelt. What they are doing is bad for the country and bad for themselves.

We are in the mess we are in because Roosevelt's financial regulations, which had worked so well for so long to protect the financial system, were imprudently discarded. Now we are turning our backs on the policies that have worked so well to get the economy moving during economic downturns. I am stunned.

Posted by: david1234 on July 11, 2010 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Atrios option one will hurt the fee-fee's of Rahm's Blue Dog pals, who are perfectly willing to fuck over the President. Meanwhile, even if Obama decided to go for it, neither he nor Rahmbo the non-enforcer have the stones to enforce any party discipline.

Posted by: Steve in Sacto on July 11, 2010 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

This is all about losing well: nobody's going to give you points for being on their side unless you take a stand on their side.

Sure, he doesn't have the votes in Congress. The whole point of the exercise is to make sure the voters know who's trying to help them, and who, at every turn, is blocking the attempts to help.

He's not going to look weak for pressing the issue. He's going to look like a man who knows what he wants, and who is going to keep on pounding on the door to try to get it, rather than giving up at the first hint of resistance.

In January 2009, there was an argument for taking half a loaf and moving on to the next thing. There's no argument for that any more. The American people need help. If neither party is going to at least appear to be trying to help them, nobody's going to vote Dem because they're a little less likely to screw people over. Instead, prospective Dem voters will stay home because, once again, the Dems will have shown themselves incapable of fighting for anything. Useless kneebiters.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on July 11, 2010 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

51 is a majority in the senate not 60 and the Republicans have filibustered exactly 0 times.
Threatening to filibuster and actually doing it are two completely different things and the Democrats are either to stupid or to lazy to make them do it.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on July 11, 2010 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's not about wining or losing in DC. It's about trying to do what he said he would do:

http://www.americablog.com/2010/07/no-on-is-asking-obama-to-be-perfect.html#disqus_thread

So the Republicans are stopping everything. Tell me something I don't know. Maybe we can have them on TV every day stopping something that the American people want rather than having Obama NOT EVEN TRY.

Posted by: Glen on July 11, 2010 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will never challenge the dominant GOP-driven narrative. He just doesn't have the spine for that. The Republicans will block any effort to increase incomes. And anyway, it's more important to hold hands with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins than fixing the economy. That's how Democrats get bipartisan cred in Washington, and bipartisan cred is the be-all and end-all for guys like Obama, Rahm, and Axelrod, not jobs.

Obama is so desperate for Republicans to like him, he is alienating his own supporters. But as George Costanza said on Seinfeld, "That I'm used to."

Say hello to President Palin.

Posted by: Steve on July 11, 2010 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

CR

Aparatchik nonsense. 60 votes is not the issue. Please quit hiding behind it. The president has and did not use power to get sixty votes. But that is not the issue. The president had and did not use power to keep kennedy's seat. But that is not the issue.

The issue is political power comes at the ballot box. The president along with you aparatchiks are blowing those votes. Tell yourselves these little inside the Village stories. Turns out Obama is doing everything right. To bad the polls are wrong when you aparatchiks are so right. November will be a self inflicted disaster. Obama will have no choice to run on. Explain to the 55 percent who believe Obama is a socialist how Obama is perfect under the circumstances. Others of us will remember the closed door deal cutting with the healthy care businesses, followed by the bait and switch on the public option, and the sell out of medicare starting at 55, with over 60 percent approval. We will remember the negotiating against themselves to no end, the contempt lieberman and Nelson and Stupack showed for Obama with impunity while those who were for a popular public option were regularly mocked by WH gossipers in the NYT using Rush Limbaugh bullshit. The WH may not understand that political power comes at the ballot box but as congressmen start to run from an inept aparatchik administration you aparatchiks will see others understand. 60 votes isn't the problem. Hubris is.

Posted by: Razor on July 12, 2010 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

@ Razor -- It's really not hard to game this out. Let's say Obama plays it your way. Ben Nelson acts like a douche, you take away something he wants. Feels good.

So... How would you react if you were Ben Nelson? I would probably say -- being that, as Ben Nelson, I am a colossal douche -- "Fine, buddy, the next time you want 60 votes on something, go piss up a rope." And I would add, "You can hurt me all you want, but keep in mind that if you run me out of town, the only thing coming up behind me is an even douchier Republican." And I would add, "The next time I run for reelection, I'll run as 'The Democrat the President loves to hate,' so if I win it's a blow to you, and if I lose it's a bigger blow to you."

What's your next play if you're Obama? From that standpoint, the only thing more aggravating than having Ben Nelson on your side is _no longer_ having Ben Nelson on your side.

This idea of going directly to the people always sounds appealing. But what if the people who count don't like you? What's Obama's popularity like in Nebraska? How's that supposed to work? I can see the "going directly to the people" ploy paying off, in theory, in Maine; maybe in Ohio or Iowa or Florida, states Obama carried, aimed against troublesome Republicans. Going directly to the people of states where Obama isn't popular to embarrass a Senator from his own party... This is not a good strategy. It's like exploding in rage and cursing out your idiot coworkers and quitting, which would spark massive drama and feel _sweet_ for like one wild night. But then you have to figure out what you do _next_.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

All can add is if OB starts losing lifers like me, he's in deep shite. What do the D's mean to me (other then not being bat shit crazy)? Jobs. If they can't deliver them what the hell good are they? Not saying I won't vote D, just that the enthusiasm to fight won't be there, ala Jimmy Carter.

Posted by: KK on July 12, 2010 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

Are we crazy or what!
It took 8 years of a repub administration to send all the factory jobs overseas and destroy this country. All the whining that Obama has not made it whole after 17 months in office just shows what a bunch of whining children we are. With everything he has to fix he also has a far right activist supreme court.One, with a wife getting corporate money to fight against Obama. All I can say is, if the repubs once again get the majority we deserve what we get. It will not be pretty!

Posted by: Joan on July 12, 2010 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

Joan, it ain't pretty now, and the Dems are coming after Social Security with the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

Posted by: gesneri on July 12, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Tapper bludgeoned Axelrod with Jeffrey Immelt's comments about fears of government "over-regulation", etc.

Wasn't GE a corporation whose finance arm drove it into a ditch, and which took TARP to save itself?

If I were Axelrod I would make sure GE's bid for the second engine contract on the F-35 is deep-sixed for good, at a minimum.

Posted by: bob h on July 12, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ever notice how some folks here love to call Obama a coward? "He doesn't have the spine..." "He doesn't have the stones..." "He won't stand up to them..."

Seems a real pattern here and on some other (cough--FDL--cough) blogs. And this is despite the fact that Obama consistently gets high marks in the polls for "character," which one would think includes courage.

So, wonder where this strong urge to denigrate Obama's courage, his "manhood," you might say, comes from?

Anyone, anyone...Bueller?

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Obama's people" ??

... and which "people" are "Obama's people" ?

Posted by: Neo on July 12, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

cr: When a politician fails to follow through on explicit or implicit promises, there are two options: The politician lacks balls or the politician was a liar.

As applied to the economy and the unemployment rate more specifically, either Obama wants more stimulus and won't fight for it (lacks balls) or doesn't want it and is using Congressional obstruction as an excuse (liar). There are no other options.

Stop psychoanalyzing Obama's critics and accept that politics is not that complicated: If you give your constituents what they want, they will like you. If you don't, they won't like you.

Obama's liberal critics (including FDL) want a Democratic President to fight hard to reduce the unemployment rate. If he fights (even if he fails), they will like him. If he doesn't, they won't. This isn't rocket science.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

FDL et al have a notion that fighting hard and losing that fight is something that people respect. Trouble is, it's not true. Fighting hard and losing would greatly impress a few thousand diehards on FDL and DailyKos. It would get chalked up as just plain losing among every mainstream media outlet, who would write more stories about how Obama can't get his groove back. And, furthermore, because it would soon become clear that the episode was playing as a loss rather than a moral victory, "Obama's liberal critics" _wouldn't_ like him anyway, because they would immediately commence finger-pointing over how he shoulda done everything differently, or it was too little too late... because the whole raison d'etre of "liberal critics" going back to Carter and Clinton at least is unceasing bitching about how the president won't do what they want.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe they've just watched Cool Hand Luke too many times and keep forgetting that, despite the fact that he's SO COURAGEOUS and keeps getting up and then knocked down again by that big guy, he still gets killed in the end.

They probably believe that poor folks are really happier than people who have more money, too. And that Black people are afraid of real fight.

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

FlipYrWhig:

Voters respect politicians who have strong principles. They understand that individual politicians are not omnipotent. Indeed, the ability to point to the obstruction of your articulated agenda is critical for a majority party to grow once in power.

Yes, it is true that in Obama's particular case it is more difficult for him to blame failure on the obstruction of the minority. Failing to push through your agenda does look worse when you have huge favorability ratings and the control of both houses of Congress. But that is hardly unfair. Obama SHOULD be able to get more done in this environment.

You provide absolutely no evidence that if Obama demonstrably fought hard for more progressive policies, but still failed, that "Obama's liberal critics" wouldn't like him anyway.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they've just watched Cool Hand Luke too many times and keep forgetting that, despite the fact that he's SO COURAGEOUS and keeps getting up and then knocked down again by that big guy, he still gets killed in the end.

We don't forget it. We respect it. Or as Atticus Finch said: "I wanted you to see what real courage is...It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

Some of us simply respect this philosophy more than the philosophy of Obama and Rahm that says that you never start a battle unless victory is assured.

Deep down I think a lot of Obama's defenders know which philosophy is more deserving of respect, but just don't like being reminded of it.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Flip.
Anyone who thinks the only WH leverage over Nelson or Lieberman is to call him out on the health care vote is a moron. To even tell the story the way you tell it is to admit to covering up ineptitude. Unlike the oil spill, the Nelson drama did not just happen. It was the result of the WH choices. Enough with this inevitability nonsense. And by the way, not even the oil spill just happened, but unlike hcr, the oil leak did not have WH hands all over it.

And cr, in case you haven't been paying attention, and clearly you have not, spineless has been one of the usual words applied to craven DC democrat behavior for at least a decade, because it is the word captures there behavior. You are a cough, aparatchik, cough. But go ahead and imply false motives like a cough aparatchick cough by using rush limbaugh ploys. Aparatchik.

Posted by: Razor on July 12, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

@ square1:

You provide absolutely no evidence that if Obama demonstrably fought hard for more progressive policies, but still failed, that "Obama's liberal critics" wouldn't like him anyway.

The Obama administration is making slow progress on several aspects of gay civil rights, including military service and partner benefits. It's painfully slow progress for gay people and gay-friendly people, to be sure. But mostly what he gets from the gay blogosphere is a lot of "too little, too late"-ism.

I cannot imagine that articulating a bold liberal agenda that would please people like you and me, and especially the people like you who are more actively dissatisfied, would result in anything other than a series of 40%-60% or 35%-65% votes in both houses of Congress. 50% of the American public -- which is a stretch for approval for any policy once it gets run through the media filter; e.g. health care, which people supported enthusiastically until they heard about its many fantastical failings and costs -- doesn't translate into 50% of the votes of politicians. Ideas that are "liberal" may start out popular but they get made less so by a well-oiled noise machine.

This is the problem. You can't get self-interested politicians to change towards a more liberal position by rallying the public. Even if you could rally the public in the first place -- and more and more I find that a tall order -- you can't leverage that into flipping votes in Congress. If it hasn't worked in Maine, I'm not sure it can work anywhere. If it hasn't worked on energy/climate after a devastating oil spill, I'm not sure it can work on any issue.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks the only WH leverage over Nelson or Lieberman is to call him out on the health care vote is a moron. To even tell the story the way you tell it is to admit to covering up ineptitude. Unlike the oil spill, the Nelson drama did not just happen. It was the result of the WH choices. Enough with this inevitability nonsense. And by the way, not even the oil spill just happened, but unlike hcr, the oil leak did not have WH hands all over it.

So what's your suggestion about what they should have done _next_ if Nelson or Lieberman said "Fuck you, do your worst"? You still haven't said that yet.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

There aren't enough hours in the day to explain the number of carrots and sticks that Obama has at his disposal to use against at obstructionist Senator.

As but one example, when LBJ ran the Senate he actively worked with House leadership to punish wayward Senators. My guess is that the key constituents of a Senator from Nebraska might start to care if important agricultural legislative provisions started getting yanked out of House bills every time Nelson acted like a traitor to his party.

Remember, we aren't even asking Nelson to VOTE for key issues. All we are asking is that he not join a Republican filibuster to kill legislation that is supported by the majority.

If you can't get your entire caucus to not filibuster your signature legislative proposals...I'm sorry but I can't get the phrase "big fucking pussy" out of my mind.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

We don't forget it. We respect it. Or as Atticus Finch said: "I wanted you to see what real courage is...It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

Another good fairy tale where you conveniently leave out the fact that Finch lost and that Tom Robinson, the BLACK GUY that Finch was supposed to be defending, got shot and killed.

But as long as the white guys FEEL ALL WARM AND FUZZY, I guess it okay to lose a few blackies along the way.

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

@razor

OMG! Did you call me an aparatchik!!! OMG! I'm simply devastated.

You go right ahead and work and vote for your SWP candidates. I'm sure they'll make a BIG DIFFERENCE.

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry but I can't get the phrase "big fucking pussy" out of my mind.

It's okay. Many children are very upset the first time they see their mother naked.

Posted by: rollover on July 12, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

There aren't enough hours in the day to explain the number of carrots and sticks that Obama has at his disposal to use against at obstructionist Senator.

They _used_ carrots. Nelson got stuff for Nebraska. Landrieu got stuff for Louisiana. Lincoln got with the program after a long drawn-out period and got rewarded with stronger efforts on her behalf in the primary against Halter. And, for that, everyone from Atrios to FDL bitched and bitched and bitched some more. They want a stick-only approach to obstructionist Senators. There's no reason to think it could work.

If you can't get your entire caucus to not filibuster your signature legislative proposals...I'm sorry but I can't get the phrase "big fucking pussy" out of my mind.

Again, you're not explaining how the stick is supposed to work. The carrot, which did work on HCR, made the people you called "Obama's liberal critics" go apeshit. This is the whole problem. What do you do, tangibly, if you can't get your entire caucus to not filibuster your signature legislative proposals because a third of them don't favor those proposals (because they represent places where liberals are few and far between) and see their reelection as contingent on keeping it that way? No one ever explains how the stick works. They just call for more and bigger sticks and say that not using them--don't worry about how, just start swingin'--makes you a "big fucking pussy."

This isn't just you, square1, and I may be imputing arguments to you that you haven't made here. But this is up and down every blog I read (and many more I stopped reading). Calls to get tough and stop being a pussy. But how? No suggestions, just gestures in the direction of how it's obviously possible.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

cr: What a stupid comment. If Finch did nothing, Robinson would have gone to prison and been killed anyway. Although Finch's efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, he was willing to put his own reputation, and the safety of himself and his family, on the line in order to do the right thing...defend an innocent man.

We'll have to agree to disagree. You want "leaders" who won't fight difficult fights. I do. Just a difference of opinion.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that the key constituents of a Senator from Nebraska might start to care if important agricultural legislative provisions started getting yanked out of House bills every time Nelson acted like a traitor to his party.

"Obama to Punish Farmers" doesn't sound like a winning message. It's just like the sanctions on pre-war Iraq or the blockade on Cuba. You're hurting the people to punish their wrongheaded leaders, and there's no reason to think the people will thank you for it.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

You want "leaders" who won't fight difficult fights. I do.

You think people will remember the strength of the fight more than the scale of the loss. I don't think it works that way in American politics. The lasting feeling after a political loss is _inevitably_ that they should have fought harder, but they didn't, because they're a bunch of wusses. It's never that they fought the right amount but, Oh well, jolly good show.

I think your view is that Democrats have never fought hard enough to test the proposition that a hard fight might win. My view is that at least a third of Democrats don't believe in many of the key agenda items of the Democratic party, and no amount of hard fighting can make up for that; only horse-trading and self-interested bargaining that might look a lot like outright bribery can. But the fight-harder people don't respect that, because it's the approach of a big fucking pussy. And that's where we are.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

@sqare1

Strawman much? Never said I wanted leaders who wouldn't fight "difficult" fights. Obama has already done that quite successfully. Or do you think healthcare reform was easy? Ask the other dozen presidents who tried.

The argument is whether we want leaders who fight losing fights. I don't. Apparently you do, cause it makes you feel good. You're a fool.

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Although Finch's efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, he was willing to put his own reputation, and the safety of himself and his family, on the line in order to do the right thing...defend an innocent man.

That's when there's only one fight to fight. It's easy to be admirable in a losing cause when that's where the story ends. What if each successive fight saps your strength, so that losing this fight means you're even more likely to lose the next one? Would you still fight it?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, Whig, many of us liberals feel like we have to draw a roadmap for Democratic leaders. No, Obama should not have a Rose Garden speech announcing that, as a punishment for Nelson's behavior, there will be drastic cuts in funds to Nebraska farmers.

I am talking about behind doors threats on more obscure, but still important, farming regulations or taxes, that by and large will not get picked up by the media or average Americans, but will be received loud and clear by a Senator from Nebraska.

Part of the problem with discussing this vis a vis HCR is that I think that Obama largely used Nelson, Landrieus, et al. as cover for pushing policies that he wanted all along. It was Kabuki. Obama didn't want, for example, a Public Option. So imagining how Obama could have pushed Nelson harder on the Public Option is pointless.

But on areas where Obama may legitimately want more progressive legislation, it is instructive to look to the past at Presidents who were successful at driving their agendas despite intense opposition, including in their own party. Both FDR and LBJ were very effective and they did not hold back from confrontations with their own party members.

The tactic that you so quickly dismiss out of hand, was routinely employed by Lyndon "Master of the Senate" Johnson. LBJ continued to use hardball tactics as a President and rammed key civil rights legislation through Congress despite the massive obstructionism of Dixiecrats in his own party.

I have absolutely no problem with horse-trading to achieve legislation. Just don't do it in such a clumsy fashion. The Cornhusker Kickback was such a stupid idea -- both bad politics and bad policy -- that even Nelson ended up running away from it. Showing that liberals wouldn't defend a stupid political horse-trade does not prove that they will not defend a smart political horse-trade.

Posted by: square1 on July 12, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Get fucking sick and tired of people who credit LBJ for civil rights legislation and conveniently leave out MLK. But then, you seem to make a habit of praising the white guys and forgetting about the black guys, squarepeg.

Maybe you need to find a white guy who can create the kind of public sentiment for Obama that MLK did for LBJ.

Posted by: cr on July 12, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

LBJ continued to use hardball tactics as a President and rammed key civil rights legislation through Congress despite the massive obstructionism of Dixiecrats in his own party.

That was when there were still Republicans who cared about policy (and civil rights). Mitch McConnell's Republicans would have said that it was worth more to spite LBJ and deny him a victory than to improve the well-being of people of color. There was also a media consensus that the treatment of African Americans in the South was unconscionable (in part because it was embarrassing in the context of the Cold War and Third World decolonization/national liberation movements). A sympathetic media made it work such that people who saw images of violence were likely to bothered by what they saw. The media doesn't do that anymore. Probably at least half of people today would watch the same images and cheer on the guys with the firehoses.

Part of the problem with discussing this vis a vis HCR is that I think that Obama largely used Nelson, Landrieus, et al. as cover for pushing policies that he wanted all along. It was Kabuki. Obama didn't want, for example, a Public Option. So imagining how Obama could have pushed Nelson harder on the Public Option is pointless.

I'm getting off topic, but... I think it's a parallel case: IMHO Obama wanted a public option but ran up against a substantial bloc in the Senate Dems who didn't want it and wouldn't budge. Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson were just the spearhead. There were many more just behind them: there were skeptical statements from Baucus, Carper, Bayh... some of the lower-profile "centrists" like Pryor and Begich and Webb were probably in the mix too. They just didn't leave their fingerprints at the scene of the crime.

You can't swing the stick at all of them. So if you want your bill to stay alive you have to drop the very good legislative provision that polls well and makes economic sense. It sucks. It's the price of having a Democratic caucus stocked with too few believing, observant liberals.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

While Congress moves forward on making the R&D Credit permanent, the IRS continues to penalize tax payers who claim a Credit without supporting, project-level documentation.
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Posted by: Brian Lefever on July 16, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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