Obama Needs to Hug a Republican. But Which One?No, Nate -- a single Republican backer of the president cannot give cover to fellow party members. No Republican governor, watching what happened to Chris Christie, follow suit and embraced Obama. Certainly no Republican member of Congress did. And what good did it do to have Pat Toomey embracing background checks? How many Republicans did that bring on board? Cohn suggests that Obama hug Toomey, Kelly Ayotte, or Mark Kirk -- as if Republicans from red and purple states calibrate their political positioning in a way that's even remotely similar to what Republicans in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Illinois do. It would have absolutely no effect. It would bring no additional Republicans on board.
The plaudits that the president and Chris Christie exchanged post-Sandy benefited both sides. Obama got a non-endorsement endorsement from an influential Republican just before Election Day; Christie scored points with New Jersey Democrats who've contributed to his sky-high approval rating. What would help the White House much more, though, is a Republican ally in the Senate, where a single backer can give cover to fellow party members (as well as red-state Democrats)....
That's one fail. Let's move on to Noam Scheiber. Scheiber thinks Obama missed a golden opportunity in the sequester fight:
For several weeks prior to the March 1 arrival of the automatic spending cuts, the administration spared no effort in making vivid the damage they would wreak on kids, seniors, military personnel, really our entire way of life. The White House dwelled on the coming cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which would result in travel delays not seen since our forefathers left Egypt.No, Noam -- you're confusing Americans with your friends and colleagues. The national press is obsessed with air travel because members of the national press fly all the time. So do the people they cover.
It was a shrewd move -- what better way to pressure the GOP to rethink the sequester than to threaten frictionless air travel, a convenience Americans claim as a kind of birthright?
The rest of us? A lot of us fly maybe once or twice a year. Many of us are too damn poor to fly anywhere. Yes, Scheiber is right that focusing on air travel to try to prevent the sequester cuts from happening and then turning around and carving out an air-travel exception to the sequester was terrible execution of strategy. But Americans as a whole aren't obsessed with frictionless air travel.
As I say all the time, Democrats failed to win the sequester propaganda war because right-wing talking points relentlessly pointed out all sorts of real and phonied-up examples of government waste. Many of these were for small dollar amounts -- but math is hard, and Americans can't weigh a $700,000 expenditure against a $2 billion program. They just think it all sounds like a lot of money. Republicans said "Waste! Waste! Waste!" -- a line of argument Americans always find plausible. And so Republicans won.
Scheiber goes on to tell us that Republicans are putting together a budget for next year that restores the sequester's cuts to the military -- and pays for them with deeper cuts in domestic programs:
That gives the White House another important source of leverage. Unlike the sequester skirmishing this past winter, when the GOP pretended to be blase about defense, the White House can now say: You've admitted you can't live with the cuts, and we hate the domestic cuts, so let's find a way out of this.Of course, the Republicans' answer to "let's find a way out of this" is always the same: OK, let's do things 100% our way. And there's no fallback position.
Republicans aren't really signaling that defense cuts are intolerable. They're just signaling that they'd like to add more money to the defense budget, while claiming to keep overall spending under control. That's a swell way of eviscerating domestic programs even more, which is something they'd greatly enjoy.
Jonathan Cohn notes that politicians, including a number of South Carolina Republicans, want ports in their states upgraded. Well, that's swell, and I'm all for doing any infrastructure upgrades we have the political will to do. But Cohn leaps to a conclusion:
Obama could use this opening to push for an ambitious infrastructure bill, one that funds all kinds of projects -- school repair, mass transit, improvements to the power grid -- alongside port construction.Yeah, he could.
And Republicans would respond the way they always do: What we want is vitally necessary. What you want is pork.
And there that matter would stand.
Fail. Fail. Fail.