Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I agree with Dave Weigel that John Boehner's call for the firing of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers was meant to grab headlines more than shape governance, but this analogy of limited usefulness:

Look: Calling for members of an administration to be fired is a political tactic, not a plan. The four years that Democrats spent calling for John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld to be fired were tactics, too. Their problems with the DOJ got worse after Ashcroft left. Their problems with the Iraq War got worse, too, in a way, when Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates -- they didn't want a surge, they wanted a troop drawdown.

But here's the difference: When Rumsfeld and Ashcroft left after Republicans suffered big midterm losses in 2006, President Bush at least had a free hand in choosing replacements. Barack Obama may also decide he has to shake up the team after next November's losses -- but if Geithner and Summers go, the Republicans are literally not going to let him choose replacements. At the very least, they're not going to let him choose freely -- even if he tries to get their replacements confirmed in a lame-duck session with 59 Democratic senators, Republicans are going to filibuster anyone who's not right-wing enough, just on principle. And next year? Forget it.

As I've said about Obama and the Supreme Court, after the midterms, Republicans are going to tell Obama who is and isn't an acceptable appointee. And if he resists, positions simply aren't going to be filled -- even high court seats or the position of treasury secretary.

No, I'm not saying this out of a naive belief that Obama's would name neo-New Dealers to replace Geithner and Summers. I know he'd name two more corporatists. But he'd name Democratic-leaning corporatists. They'd be right-centrists. He wouldn't name hardcore supply-siders. And I really believe the GOP won't let him do that.

The next two years are going to be years of ritual humiliation for Obama, unless he finds a way to make the GOP's tactics a liability for Republicans. This is just going to be one example.

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