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August 08, 2014 11:17 AM Do Something! No, Don’t Do Something!

By Ed Kilgore

The only thing funnier than those who (despite widespread mockery) continue to support the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Leadership is the phenomenon of the same people freaking out when the president assumes “leadership” to address a big problem.

Nobody is a bigger Green Lanternist than National Journal’s Ron Fournier, for whom the president, like God, is held responsible every time a sparrow falls to the ground. He’s now warning Obama not to take unilateral executive action on immigration policy. The Prospect’s Paul Walman skewers Fournier for blaming the “polarization” that might ensue on Obama alone; we abundantly know by now that savage GOP opposition to Obama will be at maximum levels no matter what he does or does not do.

But I cannot get over the more basic issue that Fournier’s idea of presidential “leadership” now requires bipartisanship, even on issues where it’s obviously no longer possible.

Putting aside Ron’s questionable and irrelevant argument that Democrats are (of course) equally responsible for gridlock on immigration reform because they “cynically” didn’t act on it in 2009 and 2010 (you may recall Obama and Democrats had a few other fish to fry during that period), the problem right now isn’t that Democrats aren’t “reaching out” to Republicans; it’s that Republicans are hopelessly divided and adrift. Now their current trajectory seems to be coalescence around the idea of deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants, which is hardly anyone’s definition of “reform.” So is Obama supposed to wait around for that? And even if he did, is that “leadership?” I don’t think so, unless James Buchanan is your model of a president who leads by refusing to act.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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