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August 04, 2011 8:40 AM Political efficacy in the Obama era

By Steve Benen

Dave Roberts posited an interesting discussion topic yesterday: “Mitch McConnell is the most effective politician in the Obama era.”

I can certainly appreciate the underlying point. McConnell, despite being the leader of the Senate minority, spent the first two years of the Obama presidency keeping his caucus largely united, creating institutional dysfunction on an unprecedented level. McConnell will build on this record in this Congress, leveraging a series of hostage strategies to make policy gains he wouldn’t achieve through the legislative process.

But as Kevin Drum explained in a very smart post, the problem with the argument is that McConnell actually has “the easiest job” in Washington. By simply abusing inadequate Senate rules and norms, McConnell takes the role of Senate Obstructionist Leader. This takes a certain level of callousness, but it’s hardly evidence of an adroit politician.

So who is the most effective politician in the Obama era? Kevin argues it’s the president himself, and I’m very much inclined to agree.

On the specific issue of the debt ceiling, the obvious thing Obama could have done differently was to insist that it be included as part of the lame duck deal last year. But for all the grief he’s gotten over this, it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama got a helluva lot out of that deal. In the end, he got a food safety bill, passage of the START treaty, a stimulus package, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and a 9/11 first responders bill. Maybe it would have been worth risking all that over inclusion of a debt ceiling increase, but that’s hardly an open-and-shut case.

What’s more, Obama also won passage during his first two years of a stimulus bill, a landmark healthcare bill that Democrats had been trying to pass for the better part of a century, a financial reform bill, and much needed reform of student loans. And more: a firm end to the Bush torture regime, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a hate crimes bill, a successful rescue of the American car industry, and resuscitation of the NLRB. Oh, and he killed Osama bin Laden too.

I might also throw in new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices.

This isn’t to say there weren’t plenty of missteps, and I haven’t agreed with every decision. For that matter, there’s a lengthy to-do list in need of attention, and unless the electoral winds shift over the next year, Obama’s list of meaningful accomplishments may be frozen indefinitely.

But as Kevin concluded, “[I]n two years Obama has done more to enact a liberal agenda than George Bush did for the conservative agenda in eight. That’s not bad, folks. All things considered, I’d say Obama is the most effective politician of the Obama era. And the Bush era too.”

I’d go just a little further and say Obama is the most effective politician since Reagan, and depending on the day, perhaps even the most effective politician since LBJ.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Brian R. on August 04, 2011 8:49 AM:

    He's the most effective president since LBJ, hands down.

    And why some people on our side of the aisle are blind to that incontrovertible fact boggles my mind.

  • Celui on August 04, 2011 8:49 AM:

    I think that it is incorrect to have labeled McConnell as the SOL (Senate Obstructionist Leader). It would have been more clear to have used the appellation: SOB (Senate Obstructionist Boss).

  • DAY on August 04, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Hey, Steve, can I have a toke?

    But, seriously, folks, Obama HAS managed to begin to drain the swamp, even with all those alligators clogging the spillway.

    And he could use a little help from a Democratic congress, in 2012. A task WE can begin, right here in River City, Right Now. . .

  • Anonymous on August 04, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Ok. I have been so negative over the past few days that I am going to be positive today. I promised my wife, and my cardiologist says that I need to lower my blood pressure. Here goes. Republicans have been awfully cocky lately. Mitch was openly bragging yesterday about hostage taking. The GOP in both houses voted to eliminate Medicare. Daily they are making foolish statements like Cantor did. What IF, and I know this is a big if,Democrats have already made political ads, but do not want to show their hand until next year. If they destroy the Republicans now with all their good stuff, that would give them time to regroup and stage a comeback. What if this is really rope a dope? The dems have a lot of good ammo..

  • c u n d gulag on August 04, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Yes, he has done a lot - and whenever I say that, I get the "Obamabot" comments.

    Did we hope for more?
    Sure!
    But he has done what he could with the Red Dogs (ain't nothin' blue about 'em!) in both houses, and an inflexible Republican Party.

    Little Boots got what he wanted easier than Obama. But you've got to remember, he had lockstep lemming Republicans, and the Red Dogs, who went along with everything, and some sackless Democrats who were too chickensh*t to stand up for silly little things like, oh, say, Habues Corpus, or not getting into useless wars, or screwing the public on usurious credit legislation, or tax cuts that are helping to bankrupt a nation...
    Well, you get the idea.

  • TR on August 04, 2011 8:52 AM:

    And he could use a little help from a Democratic congress, in 2012.

    Yep. As effective as he's been, if we could get Nancy back as Speaker and throw out the teatards in the House, he'd be even better.

  • del on August 04, 2011 8:52 AM:

    And you never hear about his accomplishments or the public would not have such an unfavorable opinion of the President. We hear that he's given the rethugs all they want but no one talks about the many bills/laws passed in 2 years time. This needs to be presented in a larger light. Thanks to you and Kevin for pointing out what he has achieved in the short time he took over the mess the previous administration left America in.

  • Marc on August 04, 2011 8:54 AM:

    And yet there are plenty of alleged liberals who insist he's no better than a Republican, no different from Bush. Unreal.

  • Live Free or Die on August 04, 2011 8:57 AM:

    @Brian R: "And why some people on our side of the aisle are blind to that incontrovertible fact boggles my mind."

    Because he repeatedly kicks them in the teeth and talks about "Washington" instead of Republicans. I have come to a point where i realize that I will vote for him, but my constant bitching about him is stressing me out.

  • Live Free or Die on August 04, 2011 9:03 AM:

    I might add, that I am pretty cynical about politics. I think he is purposely trying to piss off his base to appeal to independents. I do not believe in the hopey changy thing. But I cannot imagine turning the presidency over to the GOP. What would happen if, God forbid, one of the conservatives passes away on the USSC? Obama could flip the court and eliminate the Citizens United decision. Once that is gone, it will be a whole different ball game.

  • Danp on August 04, 2011 9:05 AM:

    Iíd go just a little further and say Obama is the most effective politician since Reagan, and depending on the day, perhaps even the most effective politician since LBJ.

    Ne's certainly got the biggest handicap, but if "effective" is in relation to goals and not to any objective outcome, I would say Bush wins by a mile.

  • boffo on August 04, 2011 9:05 AM:

    @Live Free or Die: "I have come to a point where i realize that I will vote for him, but my constant bitching about him is stressing me out."

    No offense intended, but you do realize that you have control over what you bitch and stress out about, right?

    I know politics can be frustrating sometimes, but don't let it, literally, kill you.

  • David on August 04, 2011 9:07 AM:

    Ezra Klein has been a bit mesmerized by Mitch McConnell as well. Thanks SB for pointing out that being a cheerleader for entropy is a very easy gig.

  • Brian R. on August 04, 2011 9:08 AM:

    "Because he repeatedly kicks them in the teeth and talks about "Washington" instead of Republicans."

    He repeatedly kicks liberals in the teeth? I'm a liberal and I watch the president constantly, and I haven't seen this at all.

    Google "Obama attacks Republicans" and you'll get 36 million hits.

    You're hearing what you want to hear.

  • KurtRex1453 on August 04, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Agreed. Anybody can get up and say, "Budgets need to he cut." That is hardly governing. It's easy to say, "Gut the government, cut useless regulations." It's harder to actually govern to clean up crime, to protect future generations from chemical pollution, to make policy which helps keep people well. It's easy to stop qualified appointees form taking office. It's harder to govern.

    The GOP does not govern, they just say no. This may work for a glib phrase opposing drug use it does not work as an instrument of public policy.

  • SRC on August 04, 2011 9:13 AM:

    All the liberal complaining that Obama hasn't done anything for them reminds me of that scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian:

    Reg: And what have the Romans ever given us in return?

    Xerxes: The aqueduct.

    Reg: Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.

    Masked Activist: And the sanitation!

    Stan: Oh yes... sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.

    Reg: All right, I'll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done...

    Matthias: And the roads...

    Reg: (sharply) Well yes obviously the roads... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads...

    Another Masked Activist: Irrigation...

    Other Masked Voices: Medicine... Education... Health...

    Reg: Yes... all right, fair enough...

    Activist Near Front: And the wine...

    Francis: Yeah. That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.

    Masked Activist at Back: Public baths!

    Stan: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.

    Francis: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order... (general nodding)... let's face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this.

    Reg: All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?

    Xerxes: Brought peace!

    Reg: (very angry, he's not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh... (scornfully) Peace, yes... shut up!

  • Brenna on August 04, 2011 9:14 AM:

    Well, it sounds like influential left-leaning bloggers are now pivoting to cast Obama in a positive light, after a very ugly, messy fight with unfair results. I think this is a good idea though. He was up against a wall of goose-stepping, brown shirts willing to tank the economy just because that's what they wanted, not because it was the best thing for the country. I'm glad Obama took the high road, even if it made him look weak and dems as well.

    I really believe reality is gonna catch up to the tea loving republicans. The next year and half is only going to get much worse. I think they've only just begun their quest to overreach.

  • slappy magoo on August 04, 2011 9:17 AM:

  • Grumpy on August 04, 2011 9:17 AM:

    "Oh, and he killed Osama bin Laden too."

    Tacked on as an afterthought because it obviously doesn't speak to Obama's "political efficacy." In its place, one could mention DADT repeal, though credit for that could also go to changing public opinion.

    Danp: "...I would say Bush wins by a mile."

    Bush certainly was transformative, which is why Obama gets credit for undoing Bush's transformations. But, as Kevin Drum points out, much of Bush's agenda was enacted without political arm-twisting or through unilateral executive action. The measure is not simply of effectiveness but of effectiveness as a persuader.

  • SteveT on August 04, 2011 9:33 AM:

    After the 2008 election the Republican Party was on it's knees, barely conscious and ripe for the (metaphorical) knockout blow that would have relegated the fraud of Supply-side economics to the scrape heap of history's failed ideas -- right next to the earth-centered universe and the phlogiston theory.

    But instead of delivering the (metaphorical) knockout punch, Obama reached down and helped the Republicans back to their feet and told Americans that the Republicans "have good ideas too".

    Two and a half years later, the economy is sliding back into recession and America is facing it's own "lost decade" that won't end until Wall Street -- which is now "too big to fail" on steroids -- creates the next bubble. And when that bubble bursts, the Republicans' incremental-but-relentless campaign to dismantle the New Deal will have weakened the country's ability to respond to the crisis so much that the United States will become another has-been power like Portugal or Spain.

    I fear that, not the Lily Ledbetter law and the repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, will be Obama's legacy.

  • Josef K on August 04, 2011 9:36 AM:

    He's the most effective president since LBJ, hands down.

    Perhaps, but the quality of the legislation passed (never mind if it lives up to its billing) is an open question.

    I'm not saying this to be contrarian, merely to point out that there are other measures involved.

  • kevo on August 04, 2011 9:38 AM:

    I do agree President Obama has provided our nation with leadership capable of making the changes the Drum article points out. He is often the smartest person in the room, so one would think his achievements would be recognized positively.

    Yet, the derision stirred by the Senate Minority leader, specifically through rhetoric and procedure, has caused a malaise to settle in among "the American people" (whomever they may be) casting the next election cycle into disarray for the low-information American voter. In that regard, Mitch McConnell has played out a masterful hand.

    It will be up to the American electorate in 2012 to realize the Republican brand can run an effective campaign to get elected, but can't govern a lick once in office!

    In 2012 I just hope American voters can tell the difference between those who would produce policy for the good of the Middle and Working Classes, and those who would offer the same crowd nothing but turd sandwiches! -Kevo

  • HMDK on August 04, 2011 9:43 AM:

    Basically, what we're seeing here is liberals taking up the Reagan mantle and conservatives taking up the Bircher loony one. How this furthers any sort of actual left agenda and not just an old reheated rightwing one, well...
    And it's funny how people claiming to be leftists are upholding Obama as some sort of liberal victory. Which he only is if you define liberal as "old consertive policy that no longer pleases the rabid conservative base".
    Talk about the Overton Window being moved right, holy crap.

  • Ned on August 04, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Actually, BUSH the SECOND was incredibly effective - for the Republican agenda. He drove up the debt while making the rich richer, thus setting the stage for the ridiculous debt discussion and a call to shrink government. He is the ultimate "stealth" President, achieving many of his goals while destroying the country.

  • June on August 04, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Great post, Benen! I couldn't agree more!

  • jayackroyd on August 04, 2011 9:50 AM:

    Except....

    The health care bill doesn't solve the health care problems in the US. Forcing people to buy crappy, expensive insurance in a non-competitive environment is a FAIL.

    Dodd Frank hasn't reformed the banking industry. Nothing has changed, and nobody has been punished for, among other things, wrecking the cadastral system.

    The credit card industry still charges usurious rates in a low interest rate environment.

    I see no mention of HAMP. And rightly so.

    It's not the titles of the bills that matter. It's their effectiveness. It's evident that what they care about is perceptions--a bad health care bill is "historic" and therefore a success. A failed stimulus is the best that could be done. Enriching banksters, while retaining a robber baron tax code is just the cost of doing business.

    And, of course job 1 is the economy.

    Over and over again, the administration has failed to engage in obviously good public policy, and has retained, or expanded, obviously bad public policy, in service to those they see as key "stakeholders"--the oligopolists and oligarchs who fund them while in office, and employ them when out.

  • Danp on August 04, 2011 9:52 AM:

    much of Bush's agenda was enacted without political arm-twisting or through unilateral executive action

    Would Obama have been considered equally effective if he accomplished the same things Steve listed above, without having to fight? I think most would say his accomplishments were quite modest. But the obstruction is what I call the handicap.

    After 9/11, everyone jumped to give any assistance to Bush they could. After the bank crisis, Republicans merely looked for ways to shift blame. They couldn't have accomplished this had Obama been more effective in reaching the public. And despite being hamstrung by blocked appointments, he probably could have done more through executive action.

  • RinMass on August 04, 2011 9:55 AM:

    My eyes popped when I read Kevin's piece - one of the most provocative items in a good long while. Very glad to see it discussed so smartly here. It's a strong, concise rundown of real Obama successes.

    But I'm having some trouble with the "Bush=ineffective" portion of the thesis. The policies of 2001-2008 were epic fails, but they _were_ the stuff of conservative dreams. _Something_ made this an era dominated conservative policies and process. If this was not Bush's "effectiveness", was it Congress's? Does Kevin's construction support the notion that "conservatism hasn't really been tried"?

  • Th on August 04, 2011 9:56 AM:

    Nancy Pelosi has saved Obama's ass over and over even though he still refuses to listen to her. When the national debate is between how great the Republican agenda is and how awesome it is, you know your side has not been effective.

  • jayackroyd on August 04, 2011 9:59 AM:

    Adding--

    But I don't disagree that he has been effective. I think these policies are the policies he wants, and the policies he believes in. He used the debt ceiling to do some budget cutting his base otherwise wouldn't have tolerated. He has acted unilaterally when he could not rely on support from the legislature. The health care bill came out, in the end, looking just like the Dole/Daschle, American Heritage/PPI plan that the New Democrats have been advocating since the turn of the century.

    I just think, like Hoover, he is disastrously, obviously wrong in his policy choices.

  • berttheclock on August 04, 2011 10:01 AM:

    Once again, you tout the Credit Card Bill, Steve. But, you fail to mention, as usual, he tossed the capping of interest rates as requested in the Bernie Sanders amendment over the side. But, What A MaHvelous Victory, eh?

  • Johnny Canuck on August 04, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Celui on August 04, 2011 8:49 AM:

    I think that it is incorrect to have labeled McConnell as the SOL (Senate Obstructionist Leader). It would have been more clear to have used the appellation: SOB (Senate Obstructionist Boss).

    I think Celui is correct. Mitch is SOB; SOL is what he and his hostage taking suicide bomber thugs are doing to USA.

  • cmdicely on August 04, 2011 10:17 AM:

    And you never hear about his accomplishments or the public would not have such an unfavorable opinion of the President.

    Historically, economic conditions are the biggest drivers of Presidential approval, and Obama's approval ratings actually aren't at all bad for the economic conditions, largely because the American people don't -- as polling shows -- tend to give him most of the blame for the economy.

    This suggests that, whether or not the media is presenting them very well, people are, in fact, hearing about the positive accomplishments Obama has made and understanding where the obstacles to even better results are coming from.

  • boffo on August 04, 2011 10:26 AM:

    @jayackroyd: "The health care bill doesn't solve the health care problems in the US."

    If the standard is the eradication of the problem, then I think virtually all, if not all, major legislation would fail your test. Certainly, the major initiatives -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- would not meet your standard. None of them solved (i.e., eradicated) the problems they were intended to solve, which is why they've all been subsequently modified or expanded since their primary variant.

    So I think it's more appropriate to ask whether or not the implemented legislation helps ameliorate the problem. I think that's a more reasonable, justifiable standard. When that metric is applied to the legislation on Steve's list, including healthcare (and its expansion of coverage to 32 million previously uncovered individuals; requirement of free preventative care; prohibition of rescission due to preexisting conditions, etc.), it becomes apparent that the legislation listed absolutely ameliorates the problems it was intended to address.

    That's precisely why I disagree so strongly with the incessant diminution of the many progressive bills Obama has signed into law. It's not that I'm blind to their imperfection. It's that I understand that virtually all major progressive legislation is imperfect in its inception, but is still is able to ameliorate fundamental social issues.

  • Johnny Canuck on August 04, 2011 10:28 AM:

    Your 18th century constitution was designed and works well to block change and positive government action.

    Yes, eg he used a Republican design for health care, but do you really think Ben Nelson, the 60th most liberal vote in the Senate would have gone for anything more? and do you really think if today's "Republicans" had been in charge that any bill would have been passed, let alone one that will add coverage for some 30million?

  • Danny Gail McElrath on August 04, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Steve, you and I have obviously not been drinking the same water. I agree with jayackroyd.

  • PTate in MN on August 04, 2011 10:35 AM:

    I've been deeply critical of Obama since about March 2009 when the stimulus package was obviously too little. His pattern of compromising progressive positions before he even gets to the negotiating table makes me deeply fearful. He has allowed the Republicans to frame the argument (deficits, not jobs.) His hands-off approach to health care (and sacrificing the public option) seemed self-defeating. It makes me worry that he will not provide real leadership; the conservatives can paint him as "weak," "passive" or --ouch!--"another Jimmy Carter."

    But over the past couple of weeks, while still anxious and suspicious, I've begun to think differently. I'm beginning to comprehend what "rope-a-dope" means. If I allow myself to think this way, rather than be disappointed in Obama, I remember that, as well as causing the most damage to the nation, Bush was the most polarizing POTUS, ever. His power came from his ability to divide, to pit one part of the nation against another.

    So, of course, tit for tat, I want a general to defend and lead my side, and I am disappointed that Obama isn't that. Of late, however, I have been thinking about Gandhi and the principles of non-violent resistance which seeks to eliminate hostility by transforming in the antagonist. Gandhi wrote that "There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause."

    So, while I lack faith and would prefer more Intolerance, I am beginning to see that Obama may be providing deep leadership that will--if successful--eliminate the delusional divisions that currently characterize American political culture. That would be a very good thing.


  • T2 on August 04, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Drum's column was strong. When the accomplishments of Obama's first term are stacked up, it's a very impressive list, considering it was against a GOP intent on denying him any accomplishments at all....yet he got a lot of things done. But scanning lefty blogs you'd be hard pressed to find a "job well done" or a "thank you Mr. President" - just a lot of griping about how weak/non-progressive/stupid he is. I find that interesting. But that's the Democratic Party - a big tent.
    I am quite upset that he continues the Afghan War - but he told us he would before he was elected. I don't think he's been an effective Bully Pulpit user.....he doesn't beat us over the head with tough talk like Bush did...and the one time he did get a bit hot the GOP Media went berserk.
    The simple fact is that we must have a Democratic President at this time in the nation's history, and Obama is that person. Either support him through thick and thin, or vote for Ron Paul or Rick Perry and see how "progressive" they are. Actually, at least Paul would get us out of Afghanistan.

  • homeruk on August 04, 2011 11:07 AM:

    PTate: You say "I've been deeply critical of Obama since about March 2009" - how very gracious of you to give him 2 months into the job before coming to your conclusions.

  • homeruk on August 04, 2011 11:11 AM:

    I would also say that this common meme that President Obama was "hands off" during the healthcare debate is generally repeated by the same people who say that Obama "sacrificed" the public option. I don't think you can have it both ways.

  • Danny on August 04, 2011 11:13 AM:

    @jayackroyd

    How is your "Dems for Romney" idea coming along, Jay? Do you still think a McCain/Palin administration would have been better than Obama? Still think Reagan was a good president for the jobless?

    Ratfucking business is good these days...

  • Sean Scallon on August 04, 2011 11:48 AM:

    "Kevin argues itís the president himself, and Iím very much inclined to agree."

    No surprise there.

  • JackD on August 04, 2011 12:49 PM:

    Considering the fact that the Democrats controlled both houses of congress the first two years (actually the Senate was controlled by the Republicans and blue dog Democrats), it's not surprising that the bulk of his accomplishments were during those two years. One can legitimately contend that he should have done better during that time.
    Then there is the fact that he got shellacked in the mid terms. Doesn't he bear some leadership responsibility for that? In contending with a Republican controlled House in the second two years, his negotiating tactics have reinforced and made permanent Republican hostage taking and virtually guaranteed no further progress.
    Ominously, his adoption of the Republican insistence that deficits are the major problem facing the country and his willingness to bargain significant cuts in social security(which doesn't contribute to the deficit), medicare and medicaid, had substantially reduced the likelihood of taking back the House. Should we fail to do so, a second term is likely produce no accomplishments whatsoever or, more likely, significant harm.
    These things need to be balanced against the accomplishments in assessing leadership and how effective it is.
    In the meantime, it would behoove us all to do what we can to turn the current white house policy direction around. It won't be easy in the face of the advice he's getting from Axelrod and Plouffe.

  • E.Hatt-Swank on August 04, 2011 1:15 PM:

    In discussions of this issue, we must never forget the Republicans' "Wrecking Crew" philosophy: they assert that government can do nothing right, they get into power and screw everything up, they use that as evidence that their original assertion about government was correct.

    And then the voters, many of whom haven't really been paying attention, reward them for this behavior. And then it takes a massively horrible president like Bush to finally get the reality to start to sink in ...

  • Midwest Yahoo on August 04, 2011 1:47 PM:

    McConnell is definitely the most effective if you live in China. I have no idea what the highest civilian award that the Chinese bestow is but he definitely deserves it. No one is doing more to destroy the American Empire.

  • Johnny Canuck on August 04, 2011 4:36 PM:

    PTate in MN on August 04, 2011 10:35 AM:

    I think you have got it.

  • Left Wing Conservative on August 04, 2011 4:40 PM:

    Sorry but Steve's argument doesn't hold up. The USA is in arguably the worst shape it's been in decades with the enormous inequality gap and the frightening jobs prospects for millions of Americans. What Obama hasn't done is change the theme of the discussion, he rather reacts to whatever new horrible idea the Republicans have come up with and today it looks like a balanced budget agreement. Wait and see if Obama doesn't capitulate next to this disastrous idea. Obama hasn't sold the public on a different vision of America and the huge enthusiasm gap in the last election is the most visible sign of that.

  • John on August 04, 2011 4:52 PM:

    I agree with Ned. GWB accomplished quite a lot of what the right wanted. Don't forget he nominated Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court which changed it to a right wing majority. He undercut the regulatory agencies, stuffed them with right wing appointments, fired a large number of IRS auditors, hired mercenaries and contractors at great expense to assist the military. Not all of what the right wing wanted required Congressional approval.

  • Lisa on August 04, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Yeah. Obama's a genius. He's like Lex Luthor, except on the side of good. He's playing the GOP for fools. Fools, I tell you!

    Just wait. You'll see. He's gonna ... he's gonna get Citizens United revoked! Yeah, that's the ticket. Then ... then he's gonna reverse course and increase Social Security benefits. And and and LOWER the eligibility age for Medicare! Then he'll convince Fox to bring back "Arrested Development" and "Firefly," and legalize marijuana and and FIGHT A SHARK! With his bare hands, man.

    OMG, it's gonna be so cool.

    So so cool.

    He is the greatest.

  • howie on August 04, 2011 7:21 PM:

    He's greater than LBJ only in that he's going to get himself reelected. And if the GOP could nominate Nixon this time, that wouldn't happen either.

    Yes, he has a list of watered down accomplishments. He's good at getting moderate rethug bills passed.

    We're in three wars, we still torture, and most programs to help the working class are going to end on his watch.

    What a hero!

  • CDW on August 04, 2011 8:06 PM:

    You have to understand, Steve, that Kevin admitted recently to having very strong neoliberal leanings. So one man's liberal is another man's Heritage Foundation health care bill.

  • Anonymous on August 04, 2011 8:54 PM:

    @Live Free or Die: What "hopey changy thing", exactly? Did you "believe" in compassionate conservatism, or a thousand points of light, or morning in America? All candidates have slogans -- all of them about change, and all of them bearing little relation to actual governance. That said, Obama has accomplished plenty of things that give me hope, and changing Washington is not up to one man.

  • Anonymous on August 04, 2011 9:18 PM:

    @Live Free or Die: What "hopey changy thing", exactly? Did you "believe" in compassionate conservatism, or a thousand points of light, or morning in America? All candidates have slogans -- all of them about change, and all of them bearing little relation to actual governance. That said, Obama has accomplished plenty of things that give me hope, and changing Washington is not up to one man.

  • Doug on August 04, 2011 9:51 PM:

    "Basically, what we're seeing here is liberals taking up the Reagan mantle..." HMDK @ 9:43 AM.
    The ACA, the repeal of DADT, Lily Ledbetter Act, HAMP (however badly implemented), refusing to defend DoMA; THESE are Reagan's mantle? I'd suggest you look up not only what Mr. Reagan campaigned on, but any Republican legislation of that era that he supported. It might keep you from making such egregious errors. Again...

    "So, while I lack faith and would prefer more intolerance, I am beginning to see that Obama may be providing deep leadership that will - if successful - eliminate the delusional divisions that currently characterize American political culture. That would be a very good thing." PTate in MN @ 10:35 AM

    I wonder if "eliminate the delusional divisions" isn't what (then) Sen. Obama wasn't referring to when he spoke of "Hope and change" in 2008? If so, then he'll need a LOT of help.

  • Say What?! on August 05, 2011 1:08 AM:

    What are you talking about? The health care law that ended up passing is a piece of sh*t that even i think is unconstitutional (since it forces you to buy from for-profit companies; I'm FOR universal healthcare, but not like this). He extended the Patriot Act, both wars, Guantanamo is still open, whistleblowers are treated like terrorists (whatever happened to the soldier that leaked the cables to WikiLeaks?), he extended the Bush tax-cuts and now folded on increasing revenues during the debt ceiling fight (which he could've avoided entirely had he tied the increase to the tax-cut extension).
    Sorry, but I'm sorely disappointed so far. He's still better than any alternative, but that's not saying much.

  • FreakyBeaky on August 05, 2011 1:19 AM:

    Obama and the Democratic congress were elected to do one thing; get the economy going. That was the one strategic imperative to have a successful presidency. Instead of moving boldly and aggressively, he chose an incremental strategy and trusted to Republican reasonableness; a colossal, mind-numbing blunder right up there with invading Russia. In the end, not only did he not get an adequate stimulus, he DIDN'T EVEN TRY to get one as large as his OWN STAFF thought was needed, and the window of opportunity slammed shut with a bang. And don't get me started on the banks - if he'd been as tough on them as he was on GM, he and we would be in far better shape.

    And now here we are. As far as the economy goes, he's out of bullets. He's staring down the barrel of a double-dip recession he can do nothing to prevent, after claiming his economic policies were not to hot and not too cold, but just right. And he's screwed himself (and everyone else) even further with the debt deal. He's at the mercy of events, hoping for good news and an obviously insane Republican candidate in 2012.

    Better hope he gets both, because otherwise Benen's list of accomplishments will melt like a spring snow under the withering assault of a Republican congress and president - and you can be guaranteed they won't make the mistake of seeking consensus.

  • Upset Moderate on August 05, 2011 7:27 AM:

    Reads like out-of-touch, technocratic, inside-the-beltway-think. Your expectations are astonishingly low.

  • Kat on August 05, 2011 8:05 AM:

    The wisest pronouncement since "Dow 36000!".

  • bandit on August 05, 2011 8:37 AM:

    He's been fantastically effective at destroying the economy and creating persistent long term unemployment. Wait, that's someone elses fault.

  • Pathman25 on August 05, 2011 10:36 AM:

    Steve, time to get out of the beltway. It's rotting your brain. Save yourself before it's too late.

  • CayVoo on August 05, 2011 12:09 PM:

    It appears to me that Democrats that still support Obama believe that no progressive legislation can come from Washington anymore. And when none does, they pronounce themselves satisfied.

    They have given up the fight.

    That's why those of us outside the beltway have got to engage. And obviously commenting online is not enough - no matter what Al Gore says. We've got to start meeting in person.

  • Bobbyk on August 05, 2011 12:22 PM:

    So how much money did you get from the administration to write this crap?

  • lawguy on August 05, 2011 12:42 PM:

    Actually, I was going to comment because it appeared as though most commentators were as delusional as you, but I see that some people who really live in the real world have also started commenting.

    We have been participating in a constant downward slide since shortly after I became aware of politics (in the late 60s) has simply been continued by Obama.

    He did a couple of nice things, but on the important things he continued the entrenchment of the plutarchy in our politics. We are hosed.

  • George on August 05, 2011 2:05 PM:

    For a more realistic view on how Obama is screwing liberals read these two links.

    Obama's budget priorities- social security cuts for defense funding

    http://www.salon.com/news/pentagon/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2011/08/05/military

    Obama isn't weak-he just isn't a liberal

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/barack_obama/index.html?story=/news/david_sirota/2011/08/05/obama_fdr_debt_ceiling

  • Seedee Vee on August 05, 2011 2:22 PM:

    I take it that Steve Benen is running for some position in the next Obama Administration.

    Otherwise, his analysis is a joke.

  • CCPony on August 05, 2011 4:33 PM:

    Benen - what is it about being a liberal that makes it impossible to distinguish "legislation" from "good legistation"? Why is it that the liberal's default position is that "more legislation is better"?

  • CCPony on August 05, 2011 4:34 PM:

    Benen - what is it about being a liberal that makes it impossible to distinguish "legislation" from "good legistation"? Why is it that the liberal's default position is that "more legislation is better"?

  • tgeer on August 05, 2011 7:23 PM:

    Obama has never been a "liberal". He has never even pretended to be. He has always been a middle of the road Dem. Part of the problem, I believe, is that Fox, and the talking heads, have been saying that he's a liberal for so long that a great many people actually believe it. Of course, look at how many people think that the high ratings that Fox gets indicates that they tell the truth. lol

    The "change" issue, and "Yes, we can". Those of you who are using those to deride Obama have not, quite apparently, not watched his electoral campaign. All you are doing is repeating what you have heard.

    "Change" and "Yes, we can" indicate that Obama, and the people who voted for him, believe that he could not change the way we did business in D.C. without the support of the voters.

    Miss-using those phrases just shows the people who do so to be less than honest.

  • aliasalias on August 05, 2011 9:08 PM:

    Yeah Obama's Executive Order for Indefinite Detention is just so great, just like the other one for having anyone, anywhere in the world killed without any judicial process (charges?)and all without review by anyone because it's a "State Secret" ya know.
    Then there is that wonderful, progressive type policy that led to more Predator Drone strikes in 9 months than Bush ordered in THREE years, and that was in Pakistan. He has since eclipsed that record. Maybe people don't care because it's citizens in other Countries that live in terror of the indiscriminate bombing.
    Then there is the other record on which he has eclipsed Bush, more prosecutions of whistle blowers.
    But hey those people aren't voters! But guess what Hispanics are and he has hit the ONE MILLION mark in deportations and that will matter.
    Obama is also the one that put, and continues to put Social Security cuts on the negotiating table.
    Wikileaks has also shown this administrations work to stop prosecution of any torturers in Spain and Germany (all investigations have been stopped here too).
    We still do renditions, warrantless wiretapping of Americans, and many other wonderful things I'm sure all liberals love. Right.

  • SocraticGadfly on August 06, 2011 1:48 AM:

    Steve and his Obamiac minions are effing self-delusional crazy. GRover Cleveland Obama, Herbert Hoover Obama, or Buck Buchanan Obama, take your pick, is horribly ineffectual, except *to the degree he wanted shit like this to go down.

    Glad I stopped visiting Obamiac blogs like this long ago; Greenwald's link is the only reason I'm on this post now.

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