Sunday, January 31, 2010

(now updated)

Here's a fable for you all, taken from the long story in today's New York Times about ACORN pimp James O'Keefe and his co-conspirators in the break-in at Mary Landrieu's office.

Among [Joseph] Basel's stunts [as a student] was one in which he put up posters all over his campus in Minnesota that said "End Racism & Sexism Now: Kill All White Males." The posters prompted such an outcry that...

Yes? Yes? What was the horrified reaction to that?

... he was asked to speak at a campus forum....

Well, there it is. That's what lefties, liberals, and Democrats do: you attack us and we seek to engage in dialogue with you. Hey, it's only fair, right? Isn't it only fair for us to invite you to keep insulting and attacking us, to give you a forum in which you can do so?

I bring this up because I'd like to believe that President Obama's confrontation with House Republicans on Friday was helpful for him. My fear, however, is that Digby is right:

... I remain concerned that the message is not as clear to the rest of the country as his supporters think it was. ("Don't mess with Obama.") I watched Clinton do this type of thing over and over again and it didn't change the dynamic at all. He was personally successful, but liberal ideology was degraded every time he conceded something like "I think we raised taxes too much" or "the era of big government is over." People loved his ability to out talk his accusers (in his case it was a real high wire act) but the agenda suffered greatly from his ceaseless efforts to cajole a psychotically hostile opposition into working with him. It resulted in passage of center right policies and his own impeachment.

...if the Republicans continue to successfully obstruct and then criticize Obama for failing to achieve his promise of bipartisanship, I think it exacerbates the problems we already have coming up in November. I suppose the American people may see through their ruse, but I think it might be just a little bit too complicated: they just see Obama unable to achieve bipartisan agreement with people he repeatedly portrays as rational actors. Therefore, he is weak and the Democratic agenda isn't mainstream.

Right -- if the consensus takeaway isn't "Obama was laying down the smack" but, rather, "Obama was making yet another appeal for bipartisan cooperation" -- which we know will be futile -- then did it really do any good?

Digby cites a Washington Post article about the event in which an American Enterprise Institute hack is quoted; given his professional affiliation, we know his ultimate aim (the destruction of the Obama presidency), and we see what rhetorical response he thinks is a means to that end:

"The main benefit is that greater interaction builds a measure of trust between the president and congressional Republicans," said John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute. "Trust opens up possibilities for collaboration on some future issue with a more bipartisan character. It also builds trust, which might come in handy if there is a different future political dynamic, like narrower Democratic majorities after the midterm election, or even possibly GOP control of one house."

That's not what Fortier thinks is happening. That's what he wants you to think is happening. Isn't this wonderful! We've made progress toward cooperation and bipartisanship, which could really happen ... er, someday. Maybe when we control one house of Congress.

By the way, guess what might be the key to breaking the partisan gridlock. Electing more Republicans! From a Times story by Carl Hulse about the possibility that the Scott Brown win will be followed by more GOP victories in the Northeast, including a (likely) one by Mike Castle in the Delaware Senate race:

The addition of even a few moderate Republicans to the Senate could change the dynamic in that institution. Conservatives are so dominant now that Ms. Collins and Ms. Snowe face intense pressure to vote with their party, particularly after they broke ranks to provide the crucial votes to pass the economic stimulus measure early in 2009. Mr. Castle, should he prevail, would add another strong and experienced moderate voice.

Tom Friedman -- who for all his obnoxiousness has been genuinely disgusted by GOP obstructionism -- sees the potential for a new wave of GOP moderation that he thinks could be just the ticket:

The sad and frustrating thing is, we are so close to being unstuck. If there were just six or eight Republican senators -- a few more Judd Greggs and Lindsey Grahams -- ready to meet Obama somewhere in the middle on deficit reduction, energy, health care and banking reform, I believe that in the wake of the Massachusetts wake-up call the president would indeed meet them in that middle ground to forge not just incremental compromises, but substantial ones on these key issues. But so far, the Republicans are having a good year politically by just being the Party of No.

Yes, they are (and Tom, I hate to tell you this, but Gregg and Graham are part of the problem) -- but they may have an even better year being the Party of No and seeming to be just on the verge of not being the Party of No, if only the president will reach out just a bit more, and if only non-right-wing voters will elect a few more Republicans, who, if given that privilege, will be nice and cooperative, swear to God.

And we'll keep falling for it. Because that's what libs/Dems/blue staters do.


UPDATE: Damn, I almost left out Matt Bai in the Times Magazine:

... you could argue that rather than shudder at the thought of a more balanced Congress, Obama and his aides should embrace it.

... Liberal skeptics might argue that Republicans would shun Obama no matter how many seats they controlled, but the laws of political self-interest suggest otherwise; the more districts and states you represent, the more varied your constituencies and the more self-interest compels you to compromise. (The newly elected Scott Brown, for example, may sound like Rush Limbaugh now, but when the furor of the moment subsides and the polls on issues start rolling in from Massachusetts, he may find the Tea Party thing harder to sustain.)

Yeah, right. I seem to recall that we thought something along those lines here in New York when Al D'Amato replaced Jacob Javits, one of the last liberal Republicans, as a senator from New York. As it turned out, we couldn't get rid of D'Amato for eighteen years.

More Bai:

A dialogue between Obama and a more powerful Republican minority on health care, for instance, might yield a bill that included deeper cost cuts and some kind of meaningful malpractice reform. And if a bill like that received more support from independent voters, moderate Republicans would be reluctant to oppose it.

Well, no, they wouldn't. Republicans, even so-called moderates, feel free to oppose any legislation whatsoever if that opposition will hurt Democrats. They know that no Republican, even a moderate one, is ever punished at the polls for being obstructionist in this way -- too many voters (and too many opinion-shaping pundits) believe it's always acceptable to punish Democrats (those dirty hippies).

Nevertheless, Republicans aren't going to take any chances. They're never going to negotiate this way, just in case there is a small price to pay for failing to support a bipartisan bill.

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