Monday, June 27, 2011


Matt Yglesias's looks at the leadership styles of Andrew Cuomo (on gay marriage) and Barack Obama (in general), and I think he's got this all wrong:

I would say that the bigger difference isn’t so much about the leadership style as it is that Cuomo won. Suppose that the New York State Senate operated according to the rules of the United States Senate and a bill failed unless it secured a 60 percent supermajority. What would people be saying about Andrew Cuomo now? Well, it seems to me that many people would be castigating his failed leadership. Instead of Michael Barbaro's account of his behind-the-scenes leadership reading like a virtuouso performance it would be reading like a story of a failed inside game. The meeting with high-dollar pro-equality Republican donors would seem not savvy, but naive and weak.

Well, no, that's not true -- because it seems highly unlikely that Cuomo, if he'd faced similar obstacles, would have very publicly stuck his neck out and made an effort to deliver on gay marriage a centerpiece of his first year in office. Cuomo saw a path to victory based on the conditions on the ground where he was; he did what he thought he needed to do -- and, obviously, his assessment of what it would take to win was correct. Obama, by contrast, seems flabbergasted by the impediments and stumbling blocks Republicans have thrown up in his way, and never seems to know when he's promised something he can't deliver -- closing Gitmo, for instance. I don't care if he sweet-talks or arm-twists, but if he's going to promise big changes, he should have some idea of how he's going to get them to happen.

It's not as if the existence of the filibuster was a sudden surprise that was explained to Obama on inauguration day -- he knew it was there, and if he was surprised by the intransigence of the Republicans and their united front, well, in sports terms, it was his job to read the defense and make adjustments. Or perhaps it's more appropriate to say that he should have had a detailed notion, back in '08 when he was promising big changes, of just what levers he was going to push to get his agenda past reluctant Republicans (and Blue Dogs). Read the story Matt links and you see Cuomo working several different angles. Bottle an Obama agenda item up and he never seems to see even one angle to play.

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