Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I don't think the United States has a president anymore. I don't the country will have a president for the next two years.

The Republicans certainly don't think we have a president -- oh, they know some guy works in the Oval Office, but now, in addition to blocking everything he does, they're not even pretending to acknowledge that on paper he has some authority and power:

The Politico has a story up tonight about how and why the bipartisan, everybody-get-along summit between President Obama and congressional Republicans ended up getting postponed. And a key part of it, according to Hill Republicans, is the GOP's distrust of Obama after he "crashed" their caucus retreat last January.

... was it an ambush? Well, My God, not even close. Here's the press release from Mike Pence, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, thanking the president on January 13th for "accept[ing] our invitation to meet with the Republican Conference later this month." And here's the Politico's write up from January 12th, the day before. In other words, that's more than two weeks before these House Republicans who must have spent the month in a sensory deprivation chamber were stunned to see the president's motorcade driving up announced to crash their party....

I have to confess that I find it genuinely distressing that these folks can whip up a heap of blatant nonsense like this and it gets played pretty much at face value....

This comes just after Jon Kyl's announcement that he's going to block ratification of the START treaty in the lame-duck session, apparently for no substantive reason (although there's not much new here -- once again the White House has pinned its hopes on one Republican to get something done, and that Republican has pulled the football away at the last minute).

I know, I know -- Bill Clinton suffered a similar midterm shellacking, and faced questions (particularly from Republicans) about whether he still relevant to the process in D.C., and he clawed his way back to some degree.

But Obama's next move seems to be ... um, a push to get the DREAM Act passed in the lame-duck session? Apart from the utter futility of this -- please tell me the president realizes that there isn't a chance in hell he's going to get anything passed that helps undocumented immigrants attain citizenship, even those who've served in the U.S. military -- this particular push tells me that Obama isn't governing anymore, he's already campaigning. This is when he needs to reassert authority -- and instead he's looking ahead to 2012, thinking of the nation in terms of voting blocs, and trying to solidify support with a bloc that delivered for Democrats.

That's not what he needs to do now. It can be part of what he does now, but, primarily, what a president in his position needs to do now is articulate a broad-based idea of where we should be going as a country , which means, first and foremost, focusing on economic solutions that would be broadly popular (not just popular with one bloc). Then (as Atrios often says), if he can't get anything done, he should clearly identify the obstructionists.

We know how unlikely all that is. But Obama doesn't even look as if he's thinking even remotely along those lines. I think he may be in permanent campaign mode from here on. So, for the next two years, we really may not really have a president.

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